Trouble Falling Asleep and/or Staying Asleep
Still having trouble falling asleep? Have you tried the sleep hacks from the last episode and still not falling asleep? Sometimes, for some of us, our brains simply can’t create the right mixture of melatonin and other internal chemicals to allow for a sound sleep all night long.
I want to preface this information - with 2 things - if sleep hygiene isn’t enough I encourage you to seek some help to overcome trouble falling asleep - I have a low cost sleep appointment available or find someone you can consult with that understands sleep at the physiological level. Second, when you are thinking sleep hygiene - those 6 steps I mentioned last week aren’t enough - make sure that you are being honest with yourself and that they are truly not working when you are saying "Audrey, I'm still having trouble falling asleep!"
It’s easy in our overly busy and instant gratification world to want to continue watching our horror shows while playing on our phones and expect to take some herbs to ease our trouble falling asleep. Then use them nightly to drift off to sleep and wake up feeling bushy-tailed, But that won’t work forever, and can cause more problems in the long run - those problems we talked about last week - inflammation, immune system, hormone disruption, autoimmune triggers, the list goes on.
Today we diving into the exact sleep remedies for when you are having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep when the 6 steps to good sleep aren’t enough.
RESOURCES AND LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
Episode 116: https://audreychrsitie.com/116
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Trouble Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep
Transcript (this is fairly raw transcript - there will be errors)
Trouble Falling Asleep: When Sleep Hygiene doesn't fix it
Hopefully after episode 116 - you are starting to understand the importance of sleep, right? While you are sleeping - your body is working to restock your hormones, process serious toxins, repair tissue damage, re-arm the immune system with vital white blood cells, eliminate the effects of stress, and process those big heavy emotions.
I like to use the analogy of a grocery store at night - from the outside when you pull up - not much going on, it may even look like the store is closed, no cars out front. But when you go in to grab whatever you need on that midnight stash the store is bustling with workers. They are cleaning and restocking and straightening, getting everything in order for the next day.
So when you don’t sleep - either by design or by the way your body is stuck in inflammation, immune system, hormone disruption, autoimmune triggers, the list goes on and on.
That’s why sleep is one of the first priorities we address in my CLEAR method.
Also before I jump into the natural remedies, a word about over the counter and prescription sleep aids. There are many sleep medications available to you today. And as you know I take a yes and approach to medication and traditional medicine. Sleep aids, whether OTC or prescription can be useful for short term things triage when one is going through short-term trauma or stress. Unfortunately, all of the sleep aids on the market today work essentially as mild sedatives and are not addressing the root cause of any long-term sleep disturbance. They also serve to disrupt your sleep in the long run and the sleep you are getting is NOT a truly restful sleep because important functions in your body are inhibited.
Remember that a sleep disturbance is a symptom, a downstream effect of an upstream issue.
These over the counter and prescription solutions come with a wide range of side effects that make them unacceptable for long-term use – from dry mouth to stomach ache to hangover-like fatigue the following day. Additionally, it is important for you to understand that many of these medications can increase the risk of both cancer and death – even with just occasional usage. And many people assume that if it's on the shelf at the store, then its safe to take indefinitely. If you are taking these types of medications routinely, then a slow weaning process is important to try to prevent chemical backlash and neurotransmitter imbalance.
I absolutely adore getting feedback from you - ratings and reviews on your fav podcast provider, comments and messages on social, and feedback from clients in my 1:1s and group programs...it helps me to help more people and sometimes I get the BEST questions too -
Last week I mentioned people reaching out about not being able to sleep - after that episode, I heard back from you that those reminders helped!
But I also got a lotta questions about how you couldn’t sleep and it didn’t help - so that’s what we are doing today -
Because as I said it’s not always that simple I assure you - sometimes it takes longer to reverse these things depending on a number of factors.
I have started to hear recently that “my phone is my only connection to my friends/family/world” and here's the thing - that is totally fine the other 10 hours in the day but it is an excuse (and not a very good one) for poor sleep that kicks off a waterfall of poor health.
Exactly How to Remedy Your Trouble Falling Asleep
Okay now let's dive into exactly what to do, if you have trouble falling asleep, even with the improved sleep hygiene, then you may need a wee little help. Many times I see people land here because of extended use of anti-inflammatory medications like steroids or even non-steroidal medications that are over the counter like Advil/ibuprofen and or high blood pressure medication.
The quick fix here is Melatonin, dosed very carefully, and used about 30 minutes before you lay down can be helpful. Starting with a super low dose and working up is important to reduce side effects. Now, this is used for a very short period of time, because if you use Melatonin long term- you will stop your pineal gland from making its own melatonin and effectively be dependent on supplementation for sleep. Additionally, look for 100% plant-based Melatonin supplements - otherwise, you are taking a chemical form of melatonin and that brings other toxic ingredients OR you are taking melatonin from cows or pigs (bovine or porcine) and that comes with another onslaught of side effects.
If you don’t have trouble falling asleep, but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t easily drift back to sleep, then you may have an insufficient supply of melatonin throughout the night. Your pineal gland isn't making enough or keeping it steady. Taking melatonin before bed probably won’t help much, you will have to use SO much that it makes you drowsy/hungover the next day.
Using something like the precursor 5-HTP might help. The body creates melatonin from serotonin, and we make serotonin from an amino acid called tryptophan. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, and in a healthy body, it can be converted to melatonin a few hours later to create that steady flow of melatonin. This helps you sleep more deeply, soundly, and without interruption. If this is you, jump on the sleep clinic schedule, as this is a situation that may require some quarterbacking from a holistic wellness practitioner, there are contraindications or reasons when and why it’s not safe to use 5-HTP.
If you have trouble with overnight “hot flashes” (particularly if you are not perimenopausal/menopausal women), then often you are having abnormal cortisol rhythms. If the flashes occur in the later hours of the night (e.g. 2-4am), that usually means your cortisol levels are high - they are rising to meet the day early and aggressively. This usually means that there is a pattern the body has adapted to expecting stressful circumstances. Swift and significant, sustainable stress relief is key to fixing this. There are many techniques here to begin this stress relief process. I often recommend scheduling heart-mind connection work, active stress prevention or mitigation, and taking of calming adaptogenic herbs. Some of those herbs include holy basil, ashwagandha, magnolia, l-theanine.
On the other hand, if the hot flashes are earlier in the night, especially if you wake up hungry, this could be caused by low cortisol/low blood sugar during your body’s normal fasting time. Essentially the body sends a surge of epinephrine to force the body’s blood sugar back up to an acceptable level. This can be solved by a little snack at bedtime with some protein and healthy fat - such as an apple with almond butter - or half an avocado. While this may temporarily fix the problem - it's still a case masking the symptoms so we need to do a little investigation to the true root of the issue.
If you have full-fledged insomnia, then I recommend a combination of melatonin (within the caveats already mentioned) and 5-HTP (yep, you can take both at the same time). This can be a super helpful solution when combined with the sleep hygiene steps I discussed in episode 116. This is still a temporary solution, and I recommend once your sleep is in the order we start working together to reduce your stress and increase primary food nourishment.
If you are having trouble getting stressful thoughts out of your brain at bedtime or cannot sleep due to pain, this is usually caused by an imbalance of 2 neurotransmitters - glutamate (which is an excitatory neurotransmitter) and GABA which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter OR emotions stuck in the body and when the world is quiet you can finally hear them.
A reliable solution here is to take some calming adaptogenic herbs about 2 hours before bedtime. Taking calming herbs one to two hours prior to bedtime. I have explored many blends with patients and find that 500mg of ashwagandha and/or holy basil leaf works best (perhaps combined with 1-3 capsules (~300mg each) of valerian in extreme cases). Holy basil, Ashwagandha, and or valerian root are long-standing herbal remedies for this situation. Again, caution is required to ensure safety because if you are ingesting a surplus of glutamate from your diet or we are fighting a losing battle.
If you have trouble sleeping when you’ve had a cocktail or two in the evening, this happens because alcohol interferes with that same GABA/Glutamate balance I just mentioned. Particularly if you are drinking something with glutamate in it - like a diet soda as a mixer. The difference is the sedative effects of alcohol increase the GABA in the early sleep hours and then once that is processed through your liver you are wide awake or at least restless - thanks to the rebound excitatory action of glutamate later in the night.
Now ideally if alcohol is causing a problem like this maybe you avoid i most or all of the time, personally I have been living that #soberlife for about 2 years now - but if that isn’t an option adding a supplemental calming neurotransmitter (and amino acid) called Taurine at bedtime to ease and reduce the rebound effect. Taurine works to increase GABA receptor binding and thus promotes an inhibitory state.
Don’t worry you don’t have to remember all these steps - you can grab these steps in my free pdf download at audreychristie.com/autoimmune.
Its a free resource I have created just for you, its called 5 Steps to take TODAY to stop Autoimmune Disease - print off the sleep page and mark them off over the next 5 days. You can even request my specific bulletproof sleep protocol or grab a quick sleep consult with me.
To wrap this up -
Let’s allow your body to do what it wants to do and heal each night with a good night's sleep.
If you are routinely not sleeping then this is a priority to fix - right away in order for your body to be able to do the work of healing, in order for your emotions to process, your hormones to restock, your immune system to function properly, and your autoimmunity to diminish and heal.
Thank you so much for tuning in, if you have a second it would mean the world to me if you could leave a rating or review! That helps me help more people get clear of autoimmune disease. I’d be oh so grateful.