Insomnia and Sleep Interruption
Dr. Fateh Srajeldin BSc., N.D.
Sleep disorders affect normal sleep patterns
Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a sleeping disorder described as a pronounced inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired. Thus, insomnia is most often thought of as both a sign and a symptom that can accompany several medical, and psychiatric disorders characterized by a persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep or poor quality sleeping. Insomnia is typically followed by a functional impairment that presents itself while a person is awake. Insomnia can occur at any age, but it is particularly common in the elderly. Insomnia can be either
- short term (up to three weeks) or
- long term (over 3–4 weeks),
The condition may lead to memory problems, depression, irritability and an increased risk of heart disease and automobile related accidents.
The average person requires approximately 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. During a sleep cycle, the Pineal gland, located deep in the brain, begins it repair while a person is sleeping. The repair brgins with sleep and stops at sun rise. The repair continues on until sun rise. Sun rise is the limiting factor that terminates sleep benefits. The Pineal gland senses the sun rising even if the person is sleeping in a dark room. Upon the sun rises, the pineal body stops its activities including all tissue repairs.
All sleeping disorders are not the same; but rather, they vary from person to person according to the symptoms presented by the disorder during sleep. Normal sleep patterns differ from person to person. The amount of sleep one person needs to feel fully rested may be more or less than others need depending on the activities a person carries on day to day. If sleep is interrupted for any reason or if sleep does not last long enough, then the phases of sleep will not be completed and the brain may not finish all the required tasks that help to restore the body and mind. The following is a list of disorders:
- Classical insomnia: being unable to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Sleep apnea: a breathing disorder that occurs during sleep in which the physical rhythmic action of breathing stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep.
- Hypersomnia: a condition where a person is unable to stay awake during the day.
- Circadian rhythm disorders: are problems involving the sleep-wake cycle, preventing a person to sleep and wake up at the right times.
- Parasomnia: a condition described as acting in unusual ways while falling asleep, sleeping or waking from sleep, such as walking, talking or eating.
Other symptoms that may complicate sleep such as:
- Anxiety tends to propagate insomnia and enhances sleep disturbance patterns
- Depression also tends to propagate insomnia and enhances sleep disturbance patterns
The need for Neurotransmitters (Serotonin)
Serotonin is similar to catecholamines. It is made from the amino acid, tryptophan. Serotonin is converted to melatonin in the pineal gland. Tryptophan, derived from food, is transported to the brain to make the neurotransmitter, serotonin. At the appropriate place inside a brain cell, two enzymes and vitamin B6 transforms tryptophan to serotonin. Serotonin is then transferred to the sending end of the neuron, where it is used as a molecular messenger to carry information across the synapse to the receiving neuron.
Serotonin production is sensitive to the supply of tryptophan in the diet. The effects of serotonin were first observed in the digestive tract where it causes contractions of the smooth muscle. Serotonin is released from blood platelets and elevates blood pressure. Serotonin circuits arise from the brain stem arousal complex and reach into all areas of the brain. Increased serotonin circuit activity tends to activate abnormal behaviors. Too little serotonin is associated with sleep disturbances, loss of appetite and depression. Some anti-depressant drugs increase serotonin activity and these drugs tend to decrease appetite.
Serotonin itself isn’t in food. It’s a neurotransmitter released into the synapse and bloodstream. However, certain foods cause serotonin to be released like candy, cereal and pasta. Anything with plenty of carbohydrates will increase serotonin levels. However, the effects won’t last long, only 2-3 hours.
Inability to fall asleep or difficulty to stay asleep may make it harder for the average person to stay alert and get involved in sensitive activities during the day. Sleep disorders may hinder the person’s ability to remember treatment instructions and may affect decisions making. Being well-rested can improve energy and help a person adjust better with our daily stresses.
Insomnia can be grouped into primary and secondary, or co-morbid insomnia. Primary insomnia is a sleeping disorder not attributable to medical, psychiatric, or environmental causes. It is described as a complaint of prolonged sleep onset latency, disturbance of sleep maintenance, or the experience of non-refreshing sleep. A complete diagnosis will differentiate between primary or secondary conditions.
- Long-term stress depletes serotonin levels. Short term stress actually increases serotonin, but after a short period of time, you get burned-out and it becomes increasingly difficult for the body to produce serotonin. So reduce stress. This can be as simple as adding exercise and meditation to the daily routine or as life changing as choosing to leave a really stressful job.
- Avoid stimulants because they deplete serotonin over time; this works the same as stress does. We’re talking things like caffeine, refined carbohydrates, chocolate, sugar as well as the heavier stimulants like cold remedies, alcohol, street drugs, diet pills and tobacco.
Adding the pill to the problem
Those who are having trouble sleeping sometimes turn to sleeping pills, which can help when used occasionally but may lead to dependence or addiction if used regularly for an extended period.
Stages of sleep
There are two main stages of sleep and both are needed in order to get “a good night’s sleep”. The two main stages of sleep are Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM):
- REM sleep, also known as “dream sleep” is the stages of sleep in which the brain is active.
- NREM is the quiet or restful stages of sleep. It has four stages, from light sleep to deep sleep.
- The stages of sleep repeat during the night in a cycle of a non-REM phase followed by a REM stages. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is repeated 4 to 6 times during 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Benefits of sleep
Physical and mental health requires sleep to function at top capacity. Sleep is a critical stage in human life that several bodily functions are dependent on. During sleep, our brain and body performs several important functions that help us stay in good health and function at our best.
Cognitive benefits of sleep
- Improves people’s ability to learn, remember, and solve problems.
- Reduces hypertension and provides a needed rest for the heart and blood vessels.
- Normalizes hormone controlled functions:
- Cell and tissue maintenance.
- Improves the body’s metabolism leading to a better immune system.
- Improves body’s energy synthesis by improving sugar metabolism.
- Improves body’s digestion by improving appetite.
- Improves lactic acid disposal from muscle.
Treatment of Insomnia (Physical)
- Chiropractic assessment and treatment
- Osteopathic assessment and treatment
- Massage therapy
- Take a hot shower one hour before going to sleep then take 2 capsules of Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin D.
Treatment of Insomnia (Remedies)
- 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) capsules (raises serotonin level. People with heart problems should not take it)
- Passiflora Incarnata (Passion Flower) Tincture drops
- Chamomile Tincture drops
- Valeriana Officinalis Tincture drops
- Melatonin capsules (Temporarily)
- Kava Kava capsules (Temporarily)
- Hypericum Perforatum (St. John’s Wort) tincture drops if anxiety is involved.
Treatment of Insomnia (Dietary)
- Increase foods that stimulate sleep
- Tryptophan, Foods rich in Tryptophan is an excellent choice for those who complain about insomnia. Tryptophan is an amino acid a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Whole grain snacks (sugarless) are sleep promoting carbohydrates. Foods rich in tryptophans whole grains, vegetables, legumes, finfish, shellfish, all meat products, eggs and dairy products,
- Magnesium, is a muscle relaxant that may help in sleep stimulation. Food containing magnesium such as whole grains, rice bran, bulgur, wheat , oat, seeds of (sesame, sunflower, flax, pumpkin, and watermelon), cocoa powder, Sesame Butter (Tahini), Nut (Brazil, Almonds, Cashews, Mixed nuts, Pine Nuts), molasses, dry roasted soybeans, bananas, dates, dark leafy greens vegetables, squash and fish.
- Food Rich in Serotonin
- Food rich in the following vitamins will enhance serotonin are:
- B-vitamins (brown rice, chicken, corn ,eggs, green leafs, legumes, meat, nuts, peas, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast),
- Calcium (almonds, brewer’s yeast, green leafs and cruciferous vegetables, fish with bones, sesame seeds, tofu),
- Magnesium (green leafs, brown rice, sesame seeds, shrimp, salmon) and Tryptophan (turkey, soy foods, peanuts, almonds).
- Marine food is rich with Serotonin precursors and stores Essential Fatty Acids such as:
- Omega 3’s (fish oils found in mackerel, salmon, sardine, tuna; walnut oil, flax oil)
- Omega 6’s (canola oil, chicken, eggs, flax, grape seed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, turkey, wheat germ oil)
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid (black current oil, blue green algae, borage oil, evening primrose oil). Most people have an excessive amount of omega 6’s and need to decrease the amount of 6’s in their diet in order for the 3’s to function well. Most of people are lacking in 3’s.
- Decrease foods that stimulate insomnia
- Food rich in the following vitamins will enhance serotonin are:
- Caffeine, causes sleeping disorders and anxiety disorders. Be a label reader of food, sweets (chocolate) and off the shelf medicine (cough medicine, allergy medicine and cold medicine)
- Avoid sweets, all white sugars and food that contains sugar consumption. It may give a burst of energy that may disrupt the initial stages of sleep and may lead to insomnia or sleep disturbances.
It is very critical for people to exercise every day. Yes, daily. All you need is 30 minutes of an uninterrupted and non-breath taking brisk walks around your block. Walks tend to burn excessive carbohydrate in the body and alleviate mood problems.
It is difficult for an individual who is taking synthetic medications to switch to natural treatments (vitamins minerals and herbs) over night. The body will not respond very well to natural treatment until all the medications are neutralized by the liver. A detoxification of synthetic medication is essential for some chronic patients.