Typical types of insomnia include sleep initiation and early morning waking. I generally see early risers waking between 2-4am and struggling to fall back asleep. Prior to initiating sleep treatment I like to unravel the cause of the insomnia.
Difficulty Initiating Sleep:
Ideally you fall asleep within 20 minutes of head on the pillow and lights out. For some folks that can take upwards of 3 hours! What is going on here?
There are two major events I see regularly that affect sleep initiation:
– too much caffeine
– too much light exposure too close to bedtime
It’s surprising how a little too much caffeine or coffee too late in the day can wreak havoc on your ability to fall asleep. Try cutting down to 1 cup in the morning before 9am as a trial to see if that does the trick. I’ve had some patients be intolerant to ANY constant use of caffeine as well. It’s dependent upon your body’s metabolism and sensitivity.
It’s not so surprising with the increase in amazing serial TV shows how many people are watching a LOT of TV, often in their bedrooms. Or staying up late looking at their phones, iPads or computer screens. It can take up to 2 hours for some people after turning off the screens to fall asleep properly. Light stimulates circadian phase delay and melatonin suppression, the natural hormone that makes you sleepy.
Major events that cause early waking:
– High stress causing adrenal overload
– Anxiety or depression, neurotransmitter imbalances
Adrenal overproduction increases cortisol (and DHEA but that’s another story) to mitigate the damaging effects of stress in the body. Chronic high unrelenting stress can cause an early rise in cortisol levels around 2-4am instead of around 6am, leading to early waking. This feels like waking up and feeling wide awake and calm but knowing you are still tired and needing to sleep. Often times sleep is difficult or light after this point.
Mood disorders are more complicated but regularly affect sleep in a variety of ways. Typical experiences are a feeling of “monkey mind” or anxiety while lying awake. Excessive worry. Other times it’s alongside a landslide into a depressive episode or an extended phase that’s more manic or obsessive. Can you correlate your insomnia to mood shifts? This gives great insight into your sleep disturbances.
There are definitely other causes to sleep disturbances not covered here. A lot of people suffer through their insomnia and never think to look for answers or have no idea what to try. Please contact your naturopathic physician if you struggle with your sleeping, we have lots of tricks up our sleeves!