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Sleep & Insomnia

The life of the modern North American is interesting. A lot of modern illness is a result of what we call a 'broken lifestyle', and that is a lifestyle that is in opposition with our biology, as a result of modern technologies so readily available. Instead of having a lot of our health behaviours be predicated on survival behaviours, we now have an option to really not engage with things that keep us healthy. Like, getting our food, being outdoors, physical exercise, etc, and so, therefore, if you want to be healthy, you have to actively cultivate and maintain a personal health practice. This brings us to Insomnia and poor sleep; one of the first things that be thrown off with a busy, stressful lifestyle.

Insomnia can be defined as inability to get to sleep or stay asleep, for 3 or more nights a week, for 3 months or longer. This may be something you're familiar with, whether it be more of a chronic (long lasting) problem, or perhaps you're normally a good sleeper, but sleeping difficulties can be something you deal with once in awhile. Sleep is universally regarded as precious, we all love it and literally cannot go on without it! It's not something to be taken lightly either, our bodies and brains are not turned off during the sleep phase, in fact, this is a crucial time for repair and recovery. There are parts of the brain that become more active during the sleep phase than any other time in the 24 hour period. When we miss out on sleep, all kinds of things go awry and risks arise; ability to cope with stress, hormonal regulation, weight gain, premature aging, the list goes on.

What can you do about it?
Try the following for 21 days, and get back to me on how it helps.

1) Focus on resetting your body clock
The circadian rhythm (your clock) is set by light exposure. When we are exposed to indoor lighting, as well as TV/Computer lighting, and miss out on outdoor sunlight, our melatonin can be decreased by over 50%. Melatonin is a hormone that governs sleep. How can you fix it? Get OUTSIDE for 15 mins at 3 parts of the day; Sunrise (or early morning), Noon, and Sunset, *WITHOUT* sunglasses. You can maintain protection with a hat, but your eyes need to be exposed safely to sunlight (for a short amount of time) in order for your melatonin to be regulated. Therefore, increase your outdoor light exposure and decrease your indoor light exposure.

2) Regulate your Blood Sugar!
One cause for nighttime waking could be a dip in blood sugar. If your blood sugar gets too low, it will wake you up. Low blood sugar in the middle of the night can be a result of poorly managed sugars during the day; sporadic meals, not eating enough or eating too little, foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and more. The obvious would be to improve your dietary choices, get a large, nutrient dense meal (think; eggs OR other protein, sweet potato with olive oil and vegetables) in the mornings, followed by smaller and smaller meals as the day goes on. Try adding in 2 handfuls of Organic European Pumpkin Seeds right before going to bed; these contain Tryptophan (amino acid that helps induce sleepiness) as well as healthy fats to keep your blood sugar stable as you sleep.

3) Stress
The age old saying "never go to bed angry" had your best interest at heart! Your brain likes when problems are solved and the coast is clear. Whatever problems arise during the awake period; and remember, problems can include things on the News Channel, movies/tv shows, personal arguments, work related issues, the list goes on! Of course, issues cannot always be solved immediately, so write it down on some paper, to get it out of your head. Insomnia is a sign of anxiety, as we tend to lie awake and ruminate over things, and then become anxious about not sleeping. Working on stress management is one way to get to the root cause of your insomnia.

4) Move your body!
In one study, 65% of people had improved sleep outcomes with just 20 minutes of exercise a day. A well-rounded way to improve sleep would be to aim for the 20 mins (or more!) of exercise with outdoor time. Try a 20 minute brisk outdoor walk daily. Remember, this can work in opposition if we jack up our adrenaline too late at night; avoid intense physical activity in the evenings as this may cause a rise in cortisol, and prevent you from sleeping well.

Whew! I know it's a lot to absorb, but my goal is to empower you by educating you. The more you know about your health and your body, the better you can take care of it. I know it can be overwhelming to take it all on yourself, so talk to your local Naturopathic Doctor about getting to the root cause of YOUR Insomnia. I am happy to help; I offer Complimentary Discovery Calls for all new, inquiring patients, as a way to get to know each other, and for me to outline how I can help guide you to optimal health. I have my clinic in beautiful Downtown Oakville and am currently accepting new patients.