Insomnia



Insomnia refers to the difficulty in falling and staying asleep. Poor sleep quality has a large impact on overall quality of health and increases the risk of certain chronic diseases.

 
  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Related Info
  • Success Stories

Overview


A lifestyle of consistent exercise, proper sleep habits, and a Nutritarian eating style can help resolve insomnia.

Insomnia is a common complaint affecting almost 10% of the population.1 It is a symptom that accompanies many chronic diagnoses. It also leads to chronic mood disorders, as well as addictive behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse.

The symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Not feeling rested after waking up
  • Fatigue and daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Poor memory
  • Distracted and tend to make mistakes easily

The risk factors/causes of insomnia are multifactorial:

  • Increasing age
  • Female gender especially during menses or menopause
  • Medical conditions such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and circadian rhythm disorders
  • Psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression.
  • Prescription medications like beta-blockers and oral contraceptives
  • Recreational drugs like marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas, and energy drinks
  • Working the night shift or rotating shift
  • Lack of daytime light exposure
  • Use of electronics (laptop, ipad, kindle) closer to bedtime
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Standard American Diet with processed foods, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and low amount of micronutrients
 
References
  1. Roth T. Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. J Clin Sleep Med 2007, 3:S7-10.

Action Plan


Diet

  • A Nutritarian diet with an array of cruciferous vegetables, other colored vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds can improve micronutrient stores needed to maximize cell function, increase detoxification, stabilize glucose levels, and promote weight loss. This will help reverse chronic diseases, which will result in improved sleep quality.
  • Avoid caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Exercise

A combination of regular aerobic exercise, along with strength training sessions, can improve sleep quality. Avoid exercising prior to bedtime.

Other

  • Exposure to morning light or a therapeutic lamp, sleeping in a very dark room, and practicing proper sleep hygiene will aid in regulating sleep cycles.
  • Keep a consistent relaxing bedtime routine avoiding any stressful, stimulating activity. Use the bed only for sleeping, not for reading or watching TV.
  • Avoid using electronics like laptops, iPads, and kindles one hour prior to bedtime.
  • Avoid naps during the day, which will disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Progressive relaxation of muscles can promote a deep state of relaxation resulting in improved sleep. This involves contracting muscles for 1-2 seconds and then relaxing, starting with facial muscles and then going progressively down to the feet. Meditation and other relaxation techniques will also help.
  • Avoid sleep aids at all costs. They are addictive and can cause many adverse effects including increased risk of death.1
 
References
  1. Kripke DF. Chronic hypnotic use: deadly risks, doubtful benefit. REVIEW ARTICLE. Sleep Med Rev 2000, 4:5-20.

Ask The Doctor


The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)

Q.

I am a 38-year-old male with no known health issues, except insomnia. I am mentally tired during the day from not sleeping well at night. I exercise nearly every day and generally am a very happy person. I am 6’3”, 180 pounds. I work in front of a computer all day and also at night when I get home. Could this be keeping me up? What else could it be?

A.

You may have success incorporating this into your routine:

  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  2. Sleep in complete darkness with lower temperature.
  3. Turn off devices an hour before bed and remove TVs, laptops, and other devices from bedroom.
  4. If possible, get outside in the sunshine the same time every morning to help reset melatonin secretion cycles.
  5. Avoid exercising later at night. 
 
Q.

My teenage son has been suffering from insomnia for a couple months now. Living in the college dorms has made it worse. He is having a hard time functioning during the day because he is so tired. Do you have any suggestions?

A.

He should learn how to meditate and truly relax and rest without even trying to sleep.

His diet needs to be better; he should take the typical supplements recommended and maybe try some of the herbal sleep aids, but overall, this is a problem likely exacerbated from stress and fear of not sleeping, and he has to get out of that cycle by learning how to get into a relaxation trance that is almost as good as sleeping. When he can be taught and convinced about totally relaxing his body and mind, he will eventually be able to sleep better again.

Also, morning sunlight, more outdoor activities, and more exercise can help.