Insomnia is defined as a sleep problem that’s continues for a few weeks, and one you’re unable to do anything about it. For example, you might have tried hot baths or listening to soft music, but you’re still awake and watching the clock well past midnight. Or you can fall asleep, but you wake up during the night, or before you’re ready to get up in the morning.
That’s insomnia, and it can be a difficult problem to solve. One reason is the many variations in sleep patterns and in how people can’t sleep. Another reason is the many causes behind the condition, which might be anything from jet lag to an underlying health issue.
If you haven’t done so already, you’re advised to contact your doctor for a thorough review of your sleeping problem and your health. Hopefully your doctor will help you diagnosis the problem and won’t simply offer sleeping pills. These medications have side effects. They don’t always let you remain in deep sleep for as long as your body needs it, and they aren’t effective after a short time. A better solution is to uncover the cause of your insomnia and then correct it.
Blood sugar imbalances are often associated with insomnia. You adrenal glands release hormones that regulate your blood sugar. The main hormone released is cortisol, which you might have heard called the “fight or flight” hormone. The normal pattern is for cortisol levels to be higher in the early part of the day and to gradually lower as the day goes on.
Blood sugar imbalances can occur for a number of reasons. Lifestyle examples are constantly doing too much, or living with too much anxiety or worry, or dealing with ongoing stress. Even dietary issues such as drinking too much caffeine or sensitivities to certain foods can be factors.
Cortisol levels that are too high or too low can both lead to sleep problems. Adrenal hyper function occurs when your cortisol levels are too high in the evening, and you may not be able to fall asleep. Adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol to keep your blood sugar at a steady level over the course of the night, and you may not be able to stay asleep.
Diagnosis and treatment of an adrenal problem is a complex process. Doctors test for cortisol and thyroid levels, and sometimes do this multiple times, and they often use patient questionnaires.
The basic treatment approach is to regulate cortisol and its natural cycle in the body. Natural treatments include dietary changes, exercise, and stress reduction. For example, you can time your meals and snacks so that you don’t eat too much later in the day and so that you don’t get hungry, and it helps to avoid caffeine and refined carbohydrates because the energy you get from these foods doesn’t last.
Exercise increases cortisol, so heavier exercises are best earlier in the day and more gentle exercises later in the day.
While you make these changes and wait for your blood sugar to come back in balance, you might also benefit from changing your sleep habits. For example, sleep experts recommend setting up a sleep schedule in which you go to bed and get up at the same times every day, and that you make the early evening a calm and restful time in preparation for going to sleep.
Some doctors may suggest cortisol replacement, but before doing this you are advised to seek advice from a few doctors, and to make sure you understand the pros and cons of such treatment before making a decision.