According to the Canadian Sleep Society, up to 40% of Canadians have insomnia symptoms and up to 13% qualify as having a sleep disorder. Generally speaking, if you’re distressed by poor sleep at least 3 nights a week for a minimum of 3 months, and there is no obvious explanation for your sleep problem (such as a drug side-effect or crying infant), then you qualify as having insomnia disorder.
I’m surprised at the number of people who initiate naturopathic care for chronic pain, fatigue, or other illness, but who have also been suffering from at least moderate insomnia for many years – sometimes unknowingly. Sleep apnea, for example, is self-reported by nearly 3% of Canadians even though 26% are considered at high risk. Identifying and treating this underlying disorder frequently offers significant improvement or resolution of the original health concern.
Don’t underestimate the importance of deep, restorative sleep. It’s one of the very few times most people engage their “rest and digest” nervous system (parasympathetic system), in which the body is biochemically wired to heal the damage that occurred that day. Over time, poor sleep can lead to an incredible array of symptoms that are actually compensations for this build-up of wear and tear. People with insomnia are at much increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, to name only a few.
Insomnia is a systemic health problem that sometimes requires a bit of investigative work to determine the underlying cause. Drugs, behaviours, or digestive concerns that impact serotonin levels, for example, can cause insomnia. Blood sugar crashes aggravated by stress hormones or mineral deficiencies, are also common causes of night-time waking. And many women experience insomnia only during hormone transitions, such as before their menstrual cycle or at menopause. Though health supplements and sleep aids are sometimes helpful, the key to successfully resolving the insomnia comes from identifying and addressing the underlying imbalance.
Some tricks are easy to apply and I’ve included a list here, on our blog. For more complicated sleep concerns, please contact your naturopathic doctor to explore underlying causes and connections to your broader health concerns.