Resolving Insomnia

Apparently, the world record for the longest time staying awake, achieved by a teenager in in the 1960s, is 11 consecutive days. Can you imagine how awful he must have felt? How irritable, illogical, and accident-prone, he must’ve been? Even chronic, small bits of sleep deprivation are associated with development and progression of chronic illness, and about twice the risk of a car accident. And yet, more than 1/3 of our population intentionally deprives themselves of sleep every day and another 10% struggle with a diagnosable insomnia disorder. Pills of all kinds, whether pharmaceutical or botanical, can help address the symptom but they often don’t address the underlying cause which, in many cases, has nothing to do with the person’s physiology.

Our circadian rhythm is an approximately 24-hour oscillating cycle in our bodies that dictates when our best waking hours and best sleeping hours are. This rhythm follows Earth’s solar rhythms and is orchestrated by the “master” clock in our brain, (the suprachiasmatic nucleus), that receives information from our eyes about how much light exists in our environment. When the light goes out, that’s when a main sleep hormone, melatonin, goes up. It’s no wonder then, given modern-day priorities, use of technology, and urban light pollution, that light may be the most prominent outside factor influencing our ability to sleep well.

Melatonin promotes high quality sleep, protects us from cancer and inflammation, and is secreted predominantly at night. But it’s sensitive. If you flip on the light between midnight and 4am, you may have significantly reduced your melatonin production for the rest of the night. Research suggests that if you can see your fingers on your outstretched hand, then there’s too much light in your bedroom at night.

Additional obstacles in the environment that can interfere with sleep, are allergens. People who are allergic to dust, mould, and their pets, for example, can experience a rise in histamine levels – an inflammatory chemical that can be quite stimulating. (This is why some people use anti-histamine medications to help them sleep.) Removing carpets and bookcases, and using a room air purifier, are effective strategies for insomnia in these cases.

Additional tips for a good night’s sleep are available in older blog posts, here. If you’d like some more support with diagnosing underlying causes of your insomnia, this Sleep Diary and Journaling exercise will help us get started. (Please feel free to share with struggling friends and family.) You can also find a mini-insomnia questionnaire on our clinic resources page.

fatigue, Insomnia, Mental health, Naturopathic medicine

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


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We respectfully acknowledge that Kingston Integrated Healthcare is situated on ancestral Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Since time immemorial they have cared for these lands and waters, and we are grateful. We recognize that a healthy environment is essential to the wellbeing of all people and all life.

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