Beyond “Band-Aid” Insomnia Remedies
The conventional medicine community looks at insomnia with the same view of so many other dysfunctions: they treat it as a symptom, without addressing the root causes. Sometimes, the “Band-Aid” approach with sleep drugs – either pharmaceutical or over-the-counter – can do more harm than good.
I approach all health problems with the question, “what are the underlying causes, and how do we treat the root causes so the symptoms disappear?” When it comes to insomnia, there are often these three factors (one, two or all three) at play:
- Imbalanced hormones, specifically melatonin and cortisol. The steps below all encourage balanced hormones. In addition, read my post 15 Ways to Balance Hormones Right Now.
- Disruptive blood sugar fluctuations. For more info, read my post 10 Ways to Balance Blood Sugar Naturally.
- Liver and gallbladder congestion. For more info, read my post 8 Ways to Improve Fat Malabsorption.
The following five steps primarily focus on the hormonal aspect of insomnia. After struggling with insomnia for most of my life, these were the most important changes I made to improve my sleep.
1. Ditch the melatonin supplements
Many people reach for melatonin supplements as a “natural” sleep aid. I’m here to tell you: there is nothing natural about taking a hormone into your body! Melatonin is supposed to be produced by your body according to the circadian rhythm, and supplementing with this hormone – especially without the guidance of a medical practitioner – can throw of the delicate balance of other hormones.
For more information, please read my post Melatonin Isn’t a Sleeping Pill: 3 Reasons to Avoid Melatonin Supplements.
2. Balance your melatonin naturally
Don’t think I’m hating on melatonin! It is a crucial hormone for healthy sleep and wellbeing. I just don’t believe it should be carelessly supplemented.
Here are the 7 steps I take to balance melatonin naturally.
3. Use a wakeup light
I’ve only been using this wake up light for a few weeks, but I am hooked. A wake up light produces an artificial dawn, also called dawn simulation, to wake you up in the morning. The gradual light – a type of artificial daylight – gently pulls you out of slumber and can support healthier hormone balance throughout the day.
A wake up light can help balance two hormones that regulate our sleep cycles: melatonin and cortisol. Studies show that exposure to daylight in the morning helps spike cortisol (a good thing – cortisol should peak in the morning and diminish during the day). Research also shows that dawn simulation supports better melatonin balance throughout the day (read more in my wake up light article).
The most significant change I noticed after switching to my wakeup light? I feel much more rested in the morning, plus I no longer experience heart attacks from my blaring alarm clock. With my wakeup light, it is drastically easier for me to get out of bed.
Are you intrigued by a wake up light? You can get one for free! Read the bottom of this post for the deets 🙂
4. Get into parasympathetic mode
The Autonomic Nervous System has two major divisions: Sympathetic Mode (fight or flight) and Parasympathetic Mode (rest and digest). When we are chronically stressed, we get stuck in sympathetic mode. Unfortunately, this is another stressor on the body and leads to health complications, including insomnia.
In order to fall asleep and stay asleep, we need to trigger the parasympathetic mode for deep relaxation. Here are three simple steps to get into parasympathetic:
- Tapping the back of your neck – This is one trick I learned from a Qi Gong master who gave a demonstration in one of my classes. Flatten your hands, with your fingers together, and use the palm of your hands and fingers to firmly but briskly pat the back of your neck. Go up and down the back of your head and neck a few times.
- Stimulate the vagus nerve – The vagus nerve connects the digestive tract to the brain, and is responsible for shifting the body into parasypathetic. You can get into parasympathetic mode by activating the vagus nerve through a few simple exercises, such as deep breathing and chanting “OM.”
5. Change your sleeping surface
I never thought I would get passionate about mattresses. But life is so weird… and here I am, researching and writing about how one’s mattress ties into one’s health.
It started when I learned the huge amount of toxins, including carcinogenic fire retardants, used to produce conventional mattresses. These chemicals offgass and are correlated with health concerns including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The point hit home when I realized the worst flareup ever of my autoimmune disease coincided with the week that I began sleeping on a new mattress, when offgassing is the worst.
Long story short, I got connected with IntelliBED because they create the best, safest mattress I’ve found. After struggling with insomnia my whole life, my quality of sleep drastically improved overnight when I switched to IntelliBED, because the mattress supports proper alignment and restorative sleep. Most importantly, I know that I am not inhaling off-gassing chemicals because I am sleeping on a non-toxic surface.
If you struggle with insomnia or are concerned about the toxins in your – and your children’s – sleeping environment, read more about my experience with IntelliBED here.
Where is the info for the free wake up light? I am desperate for answers…
My husband has suffered from insomnia for as long as he can remember. He’s had several en&t surgeries and brain surgery to decompress 9 and 10 cranial nerves. He’s left with all the same symptoms and now he has chronic headache and nerve pain in his extremities. He can’t find a doctor to listen or take him seriously. They just want to prescribe antidepressants and anti epileptic pills, which only seem to exacerbate the problem. He’s been hospitalized for admitting to thoughts of suicide, given several different medicinal cocktails to help him fall asleep and stay asleep with no avail. His whole life is his illness and he can’t escape it.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
I am so sorry he has gone through so much suffering. In 2016 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor that went from the bottom of my brain stem into my spinal cord. After it was removed I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was told I had damaged nerves in my neck and atrophy in my right shoulder. There were days when the pain was so bad I just wanted to cry. After doing so reading about the after math of any kind of brain surgery, I read that many patients may suffer from a lack of magnesium. I refuse to take prescription pain killers on a daily basis. I started taking the magnesium supplements 250mg and I took a cbd oil supplement as well. My chronic pain within a week was gone and I was sleeping like a baby. I hope you wil consider having him try magnesium and maybe even cbd oil. I hope and pray your husband finds the relief he needs and lives a full and happy life. God Bless You Both!
Hello, I am currently weaning off Lunesta after 15 years of use. I believe it is harming my brain function. Do you have any suggestions for brain nutrition for repair?