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With 30% of Americans suffering from sleep deficit issues, many have turned to medications such as Ambien, (3) despite highly publicized reports of its risks, such as “severe allergic reaction, swelling and “complex sleep-related behaviors” which may include sleep driving.” Sleep driving is defined as, “driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of event.” (1, 5) Scary!
In the light of new sleep studies, getting to the root of your sleep concern is more urgent than ever. Studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that if you get less than six hours of sleep, it can adversely affect the activity of 688 genes. (2) In the same study, insufficient sleep was linked to unhealthy weight, cognitive function and cardiovascular health concerns, (2) while other studies have linked sleep deficits to most degenerative health concerns. (4)
Perhaps most disturbing is the way sleep disturbs the body’s circadian rhythms. Lack of sleep seems to lessen the amplitude of the circadian rhythms on each gene. Our genes have evolved for millions of years by responding to the rhythms of nature. When the genes cannot “hear” these natural rhythms, they are affected in a negative way. (2)
Experts link rising stress levels and elevated cortisol (a hormone released in response to stress) to the rapidly increasing number of cases of insomnia. The problem is compounded when the lack of sleep causes more stress, which again raises cortisol levels, which further disturbs sleep patterns.
According to Ayurveda, repetitive and compounded stress can deplete the body’s reserves, forcing it to seek stress-fighting support elsewhere. The adrenals, of course, are initially exhausted, forcing the body to recruit hormonal precursors from reproduction, blood sugar and the thyroid to fight stress.
In the end, the body’s reserves are depleted, leaving the nervous system without enough energy to sedate itself or sufficiently lower cortisol levels at night. If the stress levels stay high (as measured by high cortisol levels), folks with sleep issues stay wired and tired. The ironic fact is that we need energy to sedate ourselves enough to get to sleep and stay asleep. Therefore, the key to most sleep issues is to discover the underlying cause of the energy deficit or adrenal strain.
Here are the top ten most common causes of deep adrenal fatigue that result in poor sleep:
- Going to bed late
- Waking up late
- Blood sugar issues
- Emotional stress
- Intestinal imbalance affecting microbiology
- Snacking vs. eating meals
- Exercising or working in excess
- Worry, fear and anxiety
- Inability to burn and use fat
- PNAS 2013 110 (12) E1132-E1141; published ahead of print February 25, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1217154110
- Clin Sleep Med. 2007 Aug
- Occup Med (Lond). 2010 Jan