The downlow on insomnia
Chronic insomnia is very common, it affects around a third of the adult population on a regular basis (Bhaskar, Hemavathy & Prasad, 2016). Studies show that there is a considerable difference cognitively between people who sleep well and insomniacs. Cognitive differences were particularly notable for memory, attention to a target, time estimation and executive functioning (Haimov et al., 2008). This condition is largely neglected by the medical community, even though there can be long term health consequences from a lack of sleep (Bhaskar, Hemavathy & Prasad, 2016).
Being chronically tired is associated with:
- Slower reaction time – increasing the risk of accidents
- Reduced performance – concentration and memory at work and school
- Poor food choices – when we are tired our body craves high and quick release energy and more food to chase an energy hit which can lead to poor gut health, nutrient deficiencies and weight gain
- Health issues – chronic insomniacs are more prone to health issues such as diabetes, gastrointestinal issues and heart disease. Studies show that restricting sleep causes blood pressure to rise, inflammation and metabolic changes and trigger the sympathetic nervous system (Byrne, 2019).
- Mental health issues – a lack of sleep affects the health of the brain and is connected to neurological and psychiatric disorders (Byrne, 2019).
Research shows that older adults and those with poor metabolic, medical and mental health were the most likely to be afflicted with insomnia (Bhaskar, Hemavathy & Prasad, 2016).
Are you an insomniac?
The definition of an insomniac is having impaired sleep for 3 or more nights a week for a duration of 3 months or longer (Bhaskar, Hemavathy & Prasad, 2016).
Supplements that assist with sleep
Chamomile tea – is a mild sedative which helps with insomnia, the sedative effect may be due to the flavonoid apigenin binding to receptors in the brain it also has a host of other medicinal properties, research shows that it reduces inflammation the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria which is known for contributing to stomach ulcers, reduces high blood sugar levels and anxiety and soothes skin irritations (Gupta et al., 2010)
Magnesium – studies show that magnesium can improve sleep quality and duration for many people, particularly women (Zhang et al., 2021). This mineral has also been proven to promote relaxation and muscle recovery along with hundreds of enzymatic processes in the body.
Valarian – is a natural herbal supplement from the root of Valeriana officinalis which has been used for centuries by many cultures to promote sleep and reduce anxiety.
Adrenal cortex – this natural supplement helps balance stress hormones, it is made out of bovine adrenal cortex tissue. It can work wonders for reducing stress if it is required by the body
Reishi mushrooms – research has indicated that Bifidobacterium and other bacteria that create serotonin increases when taking reishi, this effect disappeared when antibiotics were administered (Yao et al., 2021).
Niacin – this is a form of vitamin B3, B3 is most commonly available as niacinamide because niacin causes the skin to flush. The flush may be extremely uncomfortable
Melatonin – this is not the first choice I would go to for insomnia as it is very powerful and cause grogginess for the remainder of the day. It most famous for the ability to enduce sleep, melatonin is also an antioxidant, hormone, Take at least a couple of hours before bed to reduce the lethargy it may cause the next day, start at a low dose of 1mg and increase until you get the desired effect. Research on melatonin is conflicting, therefore to be safe it should not be taken for a prolonged period of time as it might interfere with the body’s ability to produce melatonin independently.
Parasite cleanse – if all of the above doesn’t seem to have much effect and you haven’t done a parasite cleanse in a number of years, this may be a reason why you have trouble sleeping, particularly if you grind your teeth at night. I personally do a deep cleanse every year, with young kids at kindy, pets, and even eating sushi, eating raw fruits and vegetables, undercooked meat parasites can be much more common than most people think.
Lifestyle changes that assist with insomnia
- Getting morning sunlight on skin – this assists with circadian rhythm and helps the body get into the wake / sleep cycle
- Yoga stretches – stretching out stiff or tight muscles even for 10 minutes can make a difference to relax and feel more comfortable as you drift off to sleep. Yoga with Kassandra on YouTube is one of my favourites, she has lots of different videos to choose from.
- Remove sunglasses – this is easier said than done for a number of people, however sunglasses confuse the body about what time of day it is as not enough light is getting into the eyes.
- No food 3 hours before bed – studies show that people are more likely to have trouble sleeping when eating a few hours before bed. This may be due to the body digesting food
- Exercise in the morning – helps with the body’s natural melatonin production, modern living often means a much more sedentary lifestyle in comparison to our ancestor’s lives
- Dim the lights – turn phone light on night mode and turn the lights down 2 hours before bed. Ideally don’t look at screens 2 hours before bed however I am living in reality lol.
Still having trouble sleeping?
If you still have trouble sleeping after trying all of these things it could be a sign of a deeper issue within the body. It could be high insulin levels, a micronutrient deficiency, a gut microbiome imbalance, liver congestion, hormones going haywire or high toxic burden – I can help you improve these things. However, it is best to first consult with your doctor to rule out anything more serious.
Disclaimer: any links to supplements are what I would use myself and recommend to friend’s, family and clients. The website these products link to is called iHerb www.iHerb.com which is one of the world’s largest and most affordable online stores for health and wellness needs. I may receive a small commission if you purchase something, however this doesn’t affect the retail price – it remains the same price regardless.
Bhaskar, S., Hemavathy, D., & Prasad, S. (2016). Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities. Journal Of Family Medicine And Primary Care, 5(4), 780. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.201153
Byrne, E. (2019). The relationship between insomnia and complex diseases—insights from genetic data. Genome Medicine, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13073-019-0668-0
Gupta, S., Shankar, E., & Srivastava, J. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future (Review). Molecular Medicine Reports, 3(6). https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2010.377
Haimov, I., Hanuka, E., & Horowitz, Y. (2008). Chronic Insomnia and Cognitive Functioning Among Older Adults. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 6(1), 32-54. https://doi.org/10.1080/15402000701796080
Yao, C., Wang, Z., Jiang, H., Yan, R., Huang, Q., & Wang, Y. et al. (2021). Ganoderma lucidum promotes sleep through a gut microbiota-dependent and serotonin-involved pathway in mice. Scientific Reports, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-92913-6
Zhang, Y., Chen, C., Lu, L., Knuston, K., Carnethon, M., & Fly, A. et al. (2021). Association of Magnesium Intake With Sleep Duration and Sleep Quality: Findings From the CARDIA Study. Current Developments In Nutrition, 5(Supplement_2), 1109-1109. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzab053_102
By nutritionist Chrissy
Chrissy is a university qualified nutritionist who graduated with honours at La Trobe University in Melbourne. One of her favourite hobbies is to read the scientific literature on how to optimise health. When she’s not reading, writing or working she’s with her 3 children outdoors, practicing yoga, jogging or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Chrissy has overcome some debilitating chronic health issues (low mood, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, very bad acne to name a few) with the power of nutrients and correcting gut health, at 39 she now feels better than she did in her 20’s.