Amber Belt, ND
I love sleep, but it tends to be a stumbling block for me and has been tricky for me since my early 20s. I know firsthand that insomnia is no fun, especially now that I’ve hit perimenopause. However, I’ve found a really great sleep groove lately (*knocks wood*) and I’d like to share six things that may be getting in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep.
Stimulants. This may seem like a no-brainer, but maybe not! I have seen patients inadvertently sabotage themselves for years by drinking or taking stimulants too late in the day for their particular physiology. I know that I can’t drink any caffeine past 2pm and it took some trial and error for me to figure that out. I have found that it works well to discontinue caffeine for a couple of weeks, then add it back in (if you’d like!). Keep your dose consistent, keep a journal, and closely track your stimulant intake in relation to your sleep.
Alcohol. This sleep barrier can be surprising to some people. Many people utilize alcohol to help them get to sleep because it does induce temporary sleepiness, but drinking alcohol will work against you if you are trying to actually stay asleep. Alcohol consumption has been linked to poor sleep quality and shorter sleep duration. You’ll definitely want to do an honest check in with yourself if you’ve increased your drinking during COVID and noticed that you are sleeping poorly. I see this pattern often.
Stress. This one is probably obvious, too, since most of us have had a sizeable increase in our stress over the past 36 months or so. Stress has been linked to more frequent waking, poor sleep quality, and other negative sleep effects. The thing about stress is that it will always be present. What we can work on controlling is our response to our stressors. We can also seek physiological causes, such as disruption of our cortisol rhythm, that may be dysregulating or perpetuating our stress response.
Sleep apnea. Do you snore or do you stop breathing at night? Are you a mouth breather? Do you wake up completely exhausted? Sleep apnea may be an issue for you, particularly if you are overweight or obese. In general, sleep apnea is underrecognized and underdiagnosed. But the impact that sleep apnea has on quality of sleep and, subsequently, the downstream health impacts cannot be underestimated.
Hormone imbalances. There are all types of hormone imbalances that can impact sleep. Perimenopause, menopause, adrenal dysfunction, and medications can cause insomnia. Hot flashes, night sweats, racing heart, and a racing mind are just a few of the symptoms that can keep us awake when our hormones are imbalanced. Your best bet to balance your hormones are to see your doc, get some good hormone testing, and treat accordingly.
Medications. There are many medications that can cause issues with sleep. Antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and steroids can all cause insomnia. Of course, there are other medications that can impact sleep and don’t forget that supplements (like B vitamins) can keep you awake too.
It’s easier to deal with something like insomnia if you can figure out WHY you aren’t sleeping. I hope this information helps you figure out your why. Many times, the causes of insomnia are interrelated and most people who are struggling with sleep have more than one cause.
I hope you sleep peacefully and deeply this week!
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Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes and is not medical advice. Dr. Belt is a doctor, but she is not YOUR doctor. Consult a trained naturopathic doctor/functional medicine doctor to ensure safety and suitability based on your health and history.