February Sleep Challenge: Part 1
We fill hundreds of prescriptions each month for medications to help you sleep. I can’t imagine how many prescriptions for sleep aids are coming in your mailboxes (for those that no longer have the luxury of visiting a community pharmacy, but are required to use a mail-order service by their insurance company). The question is--- why can’t we sleep? Fatigue is one of the top 5 symptoms my patients tell me about, right after telling me about their insomnia. I wrote an article a few months ago with some helpful hints that you can ﬁnd here. I’m not going to review those tips in this article, but there is some good material there so I recommend you check it out also.
Back to the question: Why can’t we sleep???
I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons for insomnia, and a lifestyle change that would help to alleviate each cause. We’ll cover the ﬁrst 5 today and the next 5 will be posted later this month. The challenge this month is for you to pick from the list what might be causing your sleep issues, try the lifestyle modiﬁcation or take steps to meet with your physician to work on your sleep issues if needed.
- Anxiety or depression. Going along with this is anger, worry, grief, mental illness. This is a broad topic and I am not writing to make light of these situations. Certainly, there are instances where prescription medications are warranted. However, in many cases, the problem can be dealt with in a manner that does not require medications. In some cases, the problem is transient and will resolve over time. The information provided here can be used in addition to prescription medications when those are required. Get to the root of the anxiety/depression etc. For depression-- practice gratefulness by writing a list of things you are thankful for each day before bedtime. For anxiety-- evaluate “worst case scenarios” and imagine how you would work through them. Sometimes having a plan can alleviate anxiety. Sound simple? Sure it does! Have you done this? I’m guessing most of you haven’t. I urge you to try the simple things. Try a few simple things. Drugs are complicated. Messing with your body’s chemistry is complicated. Don’t assume your problem won’t respond to simple solutions.
- Acid Reﬂux. You know that feeling-- the burning and pain and acid taste in your mouth. You might prop up the pillows to give gravity a chance to help you feel better, but of course then you can’t sleep because upright sleep just isn’t comfortable. You take the calcium tabs...that help the reﬂux but also cause constipation, then you have another problem to deal with. If only there was a way to get rid of acid reﬂux without medications. Guess what-- there is!!! MOST people with acid reﬂux will be completely cured with a low-carbohydrate diet, and bonus, you might loseweight...which is the solution for problem #4.
- Sleep Apnea. See problem 3. Lose weight. I know that’s not simple for some people, but it is necessary. Again, I recommend a low carbohydrate diet because it works...it just works. And I talk to so many people that tell me they have tried everything to lose weight, but as soon as we discuss a low-carbohydrate diet they freeze. It’s a real conversation killer. And I don’t know why because a low-carbohydrate diet is SO enjoyable-- you can have bacon for crying out loud!
- Pain. Chronic pain is a real bummer and I suppose that is the understatement of the year. If you have chronic pain, my recommendation would be to try multiple solutions at once to get the most relief. If opioid pain medications are your only form of relief you are most likely not experiencing enough relief. You might need to look into additional treatments such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, meditation, or hypnosis. One of the biggest problems with chronic pain in regards to sleeping is the inability of your brain to ﬁlter out the pain messages your body is sending. Pain medications obviously help with this, but if you combine that power with the power provided by meditation or hypnosis you will get more results. I guarantee it.
- Medication Use. I see this issue literally every day. People have fatigue during the day so they take some form of medication/supplement/caffeine to wake them up. Then at night, the effect hasn’t completely worn off so they must take another medication/supplement/alcohol to bring them down. It’s a classic cycle of uppers and downers, stimulants and sedatives. There is only one way off of this merry-go-round and that is to break the cycle. You should taper yourself off of the stimulants ﬁrst-- as approved by your physician. As the stimulants are removed, you may ﬁnd that you are more sleepy at night and can begin to taper down the sleeping medications.
So, those are the ﬁrst 5 common causes of insomnia. Do any of these sound like you? What are you doing to fix it? We love to hear from you, so tell us like it is.