Sleep is a vital component of true health and well-being, and chances are that you aren’t sleeping as well as you’d like. You’re not alone. Between sleep labs and prescription sleep aids, Americans spend an average of $10 billion on the sleep industry. But what if the key to a more restful night’s sleep wasn’t inside a pill bottle or a diagnostic center?
People who feel they sleep perfectly well may still be at risk for an undiagnosed condition.
Before my autoimmune diagnosis, I required an insane amount of sleep to function. My body was constantly fatigued and exhausted and that left me needing 8-9 hours of dead-to-the-world sleep every night. I used to require so much sleep, that I was a little afraid that sleep deprivation from having children would leave me unable to function at a safe level.
While I didn’t seem to have any trouble sleeping, that didn’t mean my sleep habits were considered healthy. In fact, my extreme exhaustion and need for so much sleep was actually a symptom of much larger conditions.
Sleep conditions are usually a symptom of other diseases or disorders, rather than a primary sleep disorder.
I ask about sleep habits with all my patients because those habits give an insightful view into their health, and one of the keys to a solid Foundation of Wellness.
To have a restful night’s sleep our brains need to be signaled to “turn off” or go into Rest or Digest mode. To do this, our body sends messages in two ways:
• With neurotransmitters via the central nervous system.
• With hormones via the endocrine system.
These chemicals are essential to the network of communication between the brain and the body. They carry messages to the major bodily systems that are responsible for regulating our functions and rhythms for optimal health.
Although sleep is one of the four rooms fundamental for a solid Foundation of Wellness, sleep patterns and disturbances can indicate a problem in any one of the four rooms.
Some common problems that I see:
a) A patient has difficulty falling asleep. This might signal to me that their serotonin levels should be checked. It is estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract so focusing on gut health is essential. Read The Power of a Healthy Gut here.
b) If someone is waking between 1:00 am-2:00 am, then it could be that their blood sugar has become too low. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, it can cause all sorts of issues including the fluctuation of glucose levels and energy homeostasis. Read Blood Sugar: Biohacking My Way to Health.
c) Or, if a patient has Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. This is a stress-induced neuro-endocrine dysfunction of the body. When the brain picks up stress signals, it responds by sending a message to the adrenal glands to make cortisol. Deep breathing has been known to reduce stress and most sufferers of adrenal fatigue are shallow breathers. If you breathe in a shallow way, with short, sharp inhalations and exhalations, then you communicate to your body that your life is in danger. I might recommend breathing exercises among other lifestyle changes.
Other external factors, such as room temperature, meal times, screen time, and stress influence sleep patterns. By assessing sleep habits, we can gain insight into our natural Rest and Digest rhythms.
At my practice, we focus on a root cause approach so that I can recommend the right tools and wellness plan for your individual needs. Together we can brainstorm any additional measures that may play a role in your sleep.
For decades, doctors thought that “trouble sleeping” was the disease that needed treatment. Now we are discovering that by treating the root cause we can bring the body to a better state of true health.
Join me in my next blog post to learn about the next room in The Foundation of Wellness.