Suffering from Insomnia?
There are few things worse than feeling exhausted and unable to shut off your mind. Insomnia has been called the world’s worst torture. While taking sleeping pills may help some fall asleep, prescription sleeping pills come with all kinds of side effects including dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, allergic reactions, depression, hallucinations all while leaving you feeling groggy the next morning. There is a better way
Melatonin & Cortisol
The sleep-awake cycle is called the circadian rhythm and disruptions in this rhythm cause a condition that over 70 million American experience every night in something called insomnia.
But what is insomnia and how does the Circadian rhythm affect it.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to cycles of light and dark.
Your pineal gland’s main job is to help control the circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness by secreting melatonin. The pineal gland is shaped like a tiny pinecone, which is how it got its name (“pine”-al gland)
When properly aligned, a circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep. But when this Pineal gland circadian rhythms is thrown off, it creates tossing, turning and feeling exhausted the next day.
Research is also revealing that Pineal gland circadian rhythms plays an integral role in a variety of mental health disorders as well. Research shows that this circadian rhythm also effects our Sex hormones, Blood sugar, Cholesterol levels, Metabolism including weight loss, White blood cell production, and cardiovascular disease
When people talk about circadian rhythm, it’s most often in the context of sleep and Insomnia. Here’s what happens.
Melatonin Makes Us Sleepy
As night falls, the Pineal gland initiates the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, and then keeps transmitting signals that help us stay asleep through the night.
During the day, light exposure causes the Pineal gland to produce less melatonin. When melatonin levels drop, we get an increase in other hormones that generate alertness and keep us awake and active.
Think about it like this. If you have a hormone messenger telling the body and mind to “wake up, don’t be sleepy” then you’ll have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep!
The primary “sleep hormone” is melatonin, and our key “awake hormone” is cortisol.
Hormones that make Us Sleep
Various hormones can impact our ability to fall asleep as well as stay asleep. Sometime these hormones will adversely impact our circadian rhythm sometimes the circadian rhythm affects our hormones. Some of the hormones that can cause insomnia include.
- estrogen and progesterone
- leptin and ghrelin
- thyroid hormones
Testosterone and Insomnia
Did you know that if you suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues like sleep apnea, low testosterone could be to blame?
Peak testosterone production occurs during your sleep hours, according to a review of testosterone and sleep research published in the February 2012 issue of the journal Sleep. So, if you’re losing sleep, you’re also depriving yourself of testosterone production time.
And while sleep deprivation lowers your testosterone, it also appears that low testosterone — also called hypogonadism — can contribute to insomnia, according to researchers who looked at hypogonadism symptoms in a group of male cancer patients and published their conclusions in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. (1)
Low testosterone also appears to be linked to lower quality sleep and fewer deep sleep cycles. Researchers have observed that as testosterone goes down, the hormone Cortisol increases. (2)
Elevated Cortisol levels contributes to wakefulness, resulting in shallower and shorter sleep, noted the February 2012 review in the journal Sleep. Feeling tired and fatigued is also a symptom of low testosterone, according to the American Urological Association.
Reduced testosterone can sometimes be linked to snoring and insomnia symptoms as well, which can create a vicious cycle of reduced testosterone levels and poor sleep.
Male hormone optimization may be one more thing to consider as part of the BIG picture when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep once again.
Cortisol and Sleep
Sleep regulates cortisol, often known as the “stress hormone.” However, this is only one of cortisol functions. Along with melatonin, cortisol is key to maintaining your sleep pattern.
When you wake up, your cortisol level temporarily spikes, this helps you wake up and get ready for the day’s events. As cortisol levels rise, melatonin production decreases.
As you approach your bedtime, cortisol production reduces as melatonin production ramps up, helping your body prepare for sleep.
Elevated cortisol levels can negatively impact your sleep by suppressing your body’s melatonin production.
Neurotransmitters and Insomnia
It turns out that hormones are not the only thing that cause insomnia and sleep problems. It turns out that neurotransmitters also play a role in the sleep wake cycle.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the body that enable neurons to communicate with each other.
Neurotransmitters in your brain cause heart beats, breathing, digestion, and can affect many other aspects of behavior. When they operate in balance, the body works as it should. If they get out of balance, symptoms can range from those that cause discomfort at least to severe illness at worst.
Some researchers believe that over 80 percent of Americans have neurotransmitters that are out of balance in some way.
Stress, eating the wrong foods, medications, toxins in the environment, and genetics are all possible reasons for this imbalance.
Two kinds of neurotransmitters function in the body and imbalances in either of these can cause insomnia.
Excitatory neurotransmitters function by stimulating neurons in the body to fire.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters function to help the body to relax and calm the brain’s activities.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters help in creating balance but can be easily depleted if excitatory neurotransmitters function becomes overactive.
Another neurotransmitter worth mentioning in relationship to sleep disorder and Insomnia is Serotonin.
Serotonin and Insomnia
While most people may be familiar with serotonin in relationship to depression, what you might not know is that serotonin is converted into melatonin. Low levels of serotonin may also be a cause of low levels of melatonin which can result in Insomnia.
Glutamate, GABA and Insomnia
Another one of the neurotransmitters that affects sleep and insomnia is GABA or gamma aminobutyric acid.
Low levels of GABA create and imbalance with Glutamate which is an excitatory neurotransmitter.
GABA is very significant in people suffering with insomnia. According to a study published in the journal Sleep. People who suffer with insomnia and sleep apnea have been shown to have up to 30% reduction in GABA levels when compared to people who sleep normally.
Low levels of GABA also tend to make the sufferer feel anxious and unable to relax.
Need Help with Sleeping problem?
Balancing neurotransmitters a complex and delicate process and is not something an individual should take on by him/herself. Understanding how neurotransmitters function requires supervision by a health care professional who knows what to look for and how to use substances that can help restore balance to your neurotransmitters.
Need help in finding out why you are having trouble sleeping? When you consider working with our clinic, we leave no stone left unturned. We would love to help you find the reason why you are experiencing insomnia and provide you with answers. Contact us today for more information.