Monday, February 23, 2009

Question of the Week: I Can't Sleep Ever!

"I can't sleep ever! I actually took a sleeping pill the other night and it made me really? It made me really tired, so I laid down and just closed my eyes without sleeping for 3 hours! i go to bed every night at around 2/3 because of this, but i have to work most mornings from 7-4. I'm only ever getting like 4 hours of sleep. It is really affecting my weight and i recently started breaking out badly. I know its bad for me, but i can't sleep!"

"Sleep is a complicated thing. Apparently over one quarter of Americans have the same problem and take sleeping pills as well. This dilemma is partly because we as Americans don’t respect the importance of our sleep and want a fast and effective way of fixing a problem. Sleeping pills are not a long term solution.

To help you with your problem it may be a lack of education into what causes you to sleep. I’ll try to give you some information, tips, and hopefully a possible solution.

Circadian Rhythm:
You body goes in a 24 hour rhythm controlled by your brainstem that controls heart beat, body temperature, a lot of other things, and sleep. Most importantly to you it controls our sleep by the modulation of body temperature. This is why you feel hot at night and cold in the morning or if you stay up for too long you may feel different temperatures. Your body feels hot at night because when you’re your body is ready to go to sleep it starts to lower your core temperature and uses your body as a type of radiator in order to release that heat. The same thing is in the morning; your body temperature may be cold as your core temperature is trying to heat up.

You may want to try lowering the temperature of your room at night and heat it up in the morning. This will allow for your body to release that extra heat easier and to help it into that comfortable stage. Also make sure to go to bed at the same time every night. This will help your body to adjust when it should go to bed.

Melatonin is a natural hormone that is created inside of your pineal gland during the night. It is controlled by the amount of light that enters your eyes, so when you close your eyes the production starts; when you open your eyes it stops. Melatonin is a very potent sleep aid because it is one of the main reasons our body temperature lowers as well as it having other sleep properties. The production of melatonin naturally requires precursors (stuff that is turned into melatonin), a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin has many different precursors as well found in many different kinds of foods, but unfortunately many foods that we eat today are low in these precursors. Many people will agree with me that malnutrition is one of the main causes of sleep deprivation today. Not only does malnutrition cause sleep disorders but it also supports the cause of many mood disorders. Many psychologists will give people medication that deals directly in either raising the amount of serotonin in the brain, or helping reduce the breakdown of serotonin to ultimately have more.

The only way to get these precursors to serotonin is to eat healthier or take supplements that are precursors to serotonin. This would help in the production of melatonin and help you sleep, however it’s hard to tell you if you are deficient in serotonin unless you go to a doctor. Also I do not recommend taking melatonin supplements since not much research has been done on the possible build up of melatonin in the brain. I always recommend the more natural way if anything. Also since light is a huge problem for the production of melatonin, make sure to turn off excess light or wear eye shades when sleeping, this will help with the production of melatonin and help you sleep.

The Cholinergic System versus the Aminergic System
According to the Activation Synthesis Hypotheses created by Dr. Hobson and McCarley, REM (an phase of sleep) is caused by the Cholinergic (REM on) and Aminergic (REM off) system. These two systems are controlled by the release of certain neurotransmitters in the PONS and cause different sleep phases. The aminergic system is made of (what I consider) the main ingredient serotonin and the Cholinergic system, acetylcholine. This balance either pushes us to sleep or keeps us away from sleep. If there is an imbalance of the neurotransmitters of serotonin or acetylcholine we either experience an absence of deep sleep (NREM) or rapid eye movement (REM).

If you have an excess amount of acetylcholine it can cause issues with you trying to sleep. You may feel energetic and unable to stop thinking about things. To help with this imbalance you can either support your system with more serotonin or help try to balance the system out with what is called an MAOI (not going to explain how this works) like Saint John’s Wort.

Before going out and buying a bunch of supplements, stressful situations during the day may also create you problems to sleep, and focusing on relaxing may help with overcoming them. You should read some books on relaxation. It’s important to know that everything in your brain is a chemical reaction and your mind has a huge amount of power to control what types of chemicals are released. We can help our mind on the problems we have with eating good and getting a good amount of exercise. Those are things that should worked on first in order to help out body before introducing medication or supplements.

From my own personal experience, I have work out intensely at least three times a week without supplements, I have changed my diet and worked out, I have changed my diet and worked out and used supplements. Of all of those, the supplements have the biggest effect of my life and sleep. I advise you to do your own research in order to understand what would work for you best."


1 comment:

  1. Wow, great post L! Sorry I've been absent as of late.Things are starting to cool down over here and I think I can start to devote some more time to this amazing blog. Thanks for keeping the fire alive-