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Improve Your Sleep for Optimal Health

May 12, 2016

Do you wake up feeling tired, foggy, achey? Do you tend to have a sore throat or a headache in the morning? If so, it’s likely that you have disturbed or insufficient sleep. Why is this important? Beyond just feeling tired, poor sleep is actually a leading cause of death and disease.

Recent studies show that disturbed or insufficient sleep predictably cause overeating, weight gain, and type II diabetes. “Sleep deficiencies and circadian disruption associated with metabolic dysregulation may contribute to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes potentially by altering timing and amount of food intake, disrupting energy balance, inflammation, impairing glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity.”(1) Other studies showed that chronic insuficient or disturbed sleep is directly linked to inflamation. (2) In this study participants were given a 4h/night sleep opportunity for for five nights and found increased levels of all the major inflamitory cutokines: IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-17 and hsCRP.

CDC Sleep StatisticAccording to the CDC, 35% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. You can use the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test to see if you are more or less sleepy than the general population. If you rate “very sleepy” on this test, you should speak to your physician.

Even if you dont have apnea, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep from changing your sleep environment (light, sound, bedding), modulating activities near bedtime, moderating caffeine and alcohol intake, reducing allergens, optimizing nasal breathing, supplementing melatonin, and many, many more. If you are concerned about your sleep, contact Dr. Morris or to help you optimize your sleep and give your health and vitality a major boost.

We all tend to make less melatonin as we age. This vital hormone is made in the pineal gland. If you are having trouble falling asleep then quick-dissolve melatonin tablets are probably for you. Take 0.5 to 5mg about 45 minutes before you want to be feeling drowsy. Word to the wise, don’t take melatonin less than 7-8 hours before you want to be awake. Taking them with less than 7 hours to go in your sleep-night will have you feeling groggy when you wake up.

If you have trouble staying asleep, then you may need time-release melaltonin tablets. These don’t have a dramatic effect on falling asleep, but they can help prevent middle of the night wakeups. Adults with middle of the night wakeups often benefit from taking 1.5-6mg before bed.

My front-line therapy for insomnia from an overactive mind, anxiety, and stress is L-Theanine. This is a simple amino acid with a variety of health benefits. It is abundant in green tea. It relaxes the mind and body by increasing GABA and glycine levels in the brain. GABA and glycine are inhibitory neurotransmitters that work to offset overactive excitatory neurotransmitters. Theanine promotes a state of relaxation and calm and thereby, reduces stress, anxiety, and ADD. Chewables or lozenges can be VERY effective. Click the picture on the left to buy my preferred brand. Paired with breathwork, L-theanine can help you find and explore a new normal of calm and relaxation.

If you are having really bad middle of the night wakeups, especially if you are feeling wide awake, worried and stressed in the middle of the night, and can’t fall back asleep for more than 15 minutes, you may benefit from Phosphatidylserine (PS) capsules. PS tempers evening cortisol spikes. Take 100-300mg at bedtime, or 100-300mg with dinner and at bedtime. Start at low doses and work your way up with this one. More is not better, and too much can make midnight wakeups worse. PS is not for everyone, so I save this intervnetion for last with really tough cases of middle of the night insomnia.

menopause sleep problemMenopause can be a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change for women. During the perimenopause, womans ovaries gradually (over several years) decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. If a woman has her ovaries surgically removed (oophorectomy), menstrual cycles end abruptly and menopausal symptoms become more severe. One year after menstrual periods have stopped, a woman reaches menopause, on average around the age of 51.

Screenshot 2019-03-25 13.28.06Menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. From peri-menopause to post-menopause, women report the most sleeping problems. Most notably, these include hot flashes, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing. These sleep problems are also often accompanied by increased depression and anxiety which can also disturb sleep. When appropriate, bioidentical hormonal replacement therapy B-HRT with estrogen and progesterone can help with these and other menopausal symptoms. If night sweats and insomnia is the major complaint, or if hormone replacement is not appropriate, I often like to start with black cohosh which has a good track record of helping women from with sleep. The exact pharmacodynamic properties of black cohosh have not been established. Some studies suggest a selective estrogen effect, and others describe a serotonergic and dopaminergic receptor blocking effect.

OSA DiagramSleep apnea is very common, as common as type 2 diabetes. It affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of 40, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs where your airway becomes obstructed by your tongue or relaxed airway muscles as you fall asleep. When this happens, it causes a severe dysruption to your sleep as your body gets starved of oxygen and is jolted awake–some times hundreds of times a night.

More than just making you severely tired, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that causes high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Suprisingly, most people with sleep apnea do not remember these sleep interuptions where they gasp for air or even sit bolt upright in bed. It often takes a sleep partner or a medical sleep study to determine if you have apnea. Snoring, being overweight, having difficulty breathing through your nose, swollen tonsils, a narrow throat, a large tongue are all risk factors for having sleep apnea. You can take the American Sleep Association Sleep Apnea Questionaire to gauge your risk of having sleep apnea.


For snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea, a simple Breathe-Right nasal strip can make a world of difference. Even if you don’t snore or suspect apnea, many people who try nasal strips report feeling more rested and alert in the morning. They may even remember dreams more indicating more efficient REM sleep. Weight loss never hurts either. In more severe cases, an oral appliance to keep your lower jaw forward or a CPAP machine may be indicated.

White noise is the last recomendation I’ll make. I think the best way, by far, to generate soothing white noise is with a high quality HEPA air filter in your bedroom. The improved air quality is a bonus that may also improve your beathing and sleep. This is especially important if you have cats or dogs that like to sleep on your bed–or on you, like my velcro-kitty, Tommy.

TR +Tommy Face Snuggle 2016

 

 

 

 

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