Insomnia Cause Cure

The Brain Chemistry of Insomnia - Let’s Put an End to “Midnight Madness” 

By: Dr. Barbara Custer 
More than 53 million sleeping pill prescriptions are given per year. That’s a lot of people not sleeping. There are many more people taking the so-called “non addictive” sleeping medications which are sold over the counter. These statistics do not include the number of prescriptions for anxiety. What are the real issues behind insomnia and anxiety, and what can we do to stop “The Midnight Madness”?

Insomnia Cause Cure ImageOur Body Rhythms and Brain ChemistryThe body has natural rhythms that have evolved over thousands of years. These rhythms are governed by light and the absence of light. When the sun rises and your eyes get exposed to natural light, the optic nerve signals the release of many different brain chemicals. These brain chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Some of the neurotransmitters are exciting, produce vital energy and brain function where others are calming and cause relaxation and sleep.

The neurotransmitters that are calming and relaxing are produced by the absence of light. When these nighttime neurotransmitters become more dominant, the body becomes more relaxed, tired, and falls to sleep.

We are a society of “Stress Junkies” who are over worked and sleep deprived We have a society of people who are working multiple jobs, raising families, and drinking tons of caffeine to push the body into a constant state of sheer exhaustion. The pushing, drive and over use of caffeine is like “trying to whip a little donkey up a hill when he has already carried 50 people up the mountain”.  Eventually this over-pushing, will cause the body to be in a constant state of adrenal fatigue.  It causes chronic exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Missing out on deep sleep can be damaging to our health because this is when most of the important repair work for organs and tissues happen.

Come out into the light!  Don’t be a “Cave Dweller” living in the 21st century This is the first time in history that masses of people work in offices, exercise indoors, and rarely see natural light. When we ask someone who works and exercises indoors, and drinks lots of caffeine, how well they sleep, 80% of those people will tell us they have some level of chronic insomnia, anxiety or depression. There are also many serious life situations that cause these problems as well.  The main point is that the body has thousands of years of genetic adaptation to evolve into this level of sophisticated functioning.  Now we are seeing what happens when we push ourselves too hard and live against the body’s natural cycles.

Meditation ImageWhat to do to stop InsomniaThe sleep center at UCSF San Francisco highlights “SLEEP HYGIENE” as one of the most important aspects for curing insomnia. It includes going to bed before 10 pm, which is when certain hormones start elevating causing a “second wind.”  They also recommend lying down, reading and relaxing.  Reading is the best activity to do at this time (no action movies or scary novels).   Reading also helps as it mimics the eye movement produced in REM sleep, which is one of the deepest levels of sleep.

Other tips to stop “The Midnight Madness”
•    Yoga and meditation are quieting exercises that can also be used to relax and calm the body in  the evening.
•    Caffeine has a half-life of 12 hours in the body, so any chocolate, tea, and coffee consumed at noon or after is still affecting you at midnight. This includes decaf coffee (one cup of decaf coffee contains 6% caffeine.)
•    Any strenuous exercise after 4 pm may be over stimulating to your adrenal glands, and turn on the stimulating neurotransmitters that may not allow your body relax enough to fall asleep.
•    If you have been taking sleeping pills for a long time, go off them gradually and take natural products so you don’t have withdrawal symptoms and rebounding insomnia.
•    All alcohol, especially red wine and hard alcohol are heating and inflaming to the body.   It then can cause a histamine reaction that may over stimulate the brain and body tissues and cause insomnia.

Insomniacs of the World!  There is hope for youThe most effective natural products that are used for sleep, anxiety and depression are Gaba, Taurine, Thenine, Valerian, and Melatonin. There are non-addictive and safe Chinese Herbal formulas that have been used for thousands of years.  If these products are accompanied with the important sleep hygiene guidelines, you will notice that your sleep cycles will improve greatly in just a few weeks.

For people who have been taking prescription start increasing natural products, outdoor exercise, and go to bed early.  If you have been taking prescription sleep medication for more than a few weeks, it is recommended that you wean off these medications slowly and gradually with the help of your doctor. For those with more chronic problems we recommend checking for thyroid, adrenal, and neurotransmitter imbalances.

About the Author
Dr. Barbara Custer, L.A.C., O.M.D, works in private practice in Mill Valley, CA. She teaches educational seminars, inspiring people in theareas of optimum health and wellness. She is passionate about educating clients on nutrition, natural supplements, and healthy foodpreparation. All of which can help reverse disease and restore the body to health and wellness. She was acknowledged by San Francisco Focus Magazine as one of the top Alternative Medical Doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was also voted the “Best of Marin for Oriental Medicine” in 2007 by the Pacific Sun.

Dr. Custer received her BFA in fine arts and is a graduate of North American College of Acupuncture, Vancouver Canada. She obtained her Doctorate in Oriental Medicine from Samra University in Santa Barbara, California. She completed a clinical internship with Master Tamura Heiji in Kyoto Japan. While in Japan she also attended graduate classes at the Meiji School of Oriental Medicine. Dr. Custer has done extensive training in Endocrinology with Doctor Thomas Alexander M.D. at the Renton Clinic, Renton Washington. Dr. Custer holds a California State and National license.

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