estimated 50 million Americans report they have trouble
sleeping. Ten million of them consult a physician
about the problem each year.
research has been done by medical science to solve the
problem, but sure-fire cures have not been uncovered.
Unfortunately, most people resort to sleeping pills when
many other natural, more healthful alternatives exist.
Experience gleaned by HealthSmart Nutrition over
the years has led to the observation that
generalizations regarding causes of insomnia are
inappropriate. From HealthSmart Nutrition's perspective,
it appears that causes of insomnia, like most health
problems, are individual matters. What helps to
alleviate the problem for one person may have no effect
on another. Further, if a biochemical imbalance
exists, what will help resolve insomnia in one may often
worsen it in someone else.
to a problem that is essentially physiologically based
such as insufficient HCL secretion in the stomach,
insomnia may involve a more complex psycho/physio/biochemical
it is believed that insomnia is an indication of
metabolic imbalance, whether physical, biochemical
and/or psychological. It has been observed that through
an attentive, detailed, systematic approach to the
problem, insomnia may often be combatted by eliminating
factors which contribute to imbalancing one's metabolism
and by properly addressing nutritional individuality, or
in HealthSmart Nutrition's parlance, your Metabolic
One or any
number of the following may apply to any individual case
of insomnia and therefore should be considered by any
- Reserve the bedroom for
primarily sleep activities
in the bedroom, using the bedroom for exercise, working
at a desk in the bedroom or doing paperwork in bed may
condition the mind for activity at that location
instead of rest. Make the bedroom a sanctuary for rest
and sleep only.
- Spend no more than 20-30
minutes trying to fall asleep
time, if you haven't fallen asleep, get up and do
something productive (out of the bedroom). Return to bed
only when you become tired. This will help habituate the
mind to sleeping in the bedroom. If you don't
- Engage in a regular
shown that regular exercise improves the quality
of sleep. Naturally, it is best not to exercise just
before going to bed. Be forewarned that occasional
exercise will not be of much help, but that regular
exercise can be.
- Regarding waking and
subject, there is considerable disagreement over what is
proper. It is HealthSmart Nutrition's contention that there
is no one answer that applies to everyone, that it
is a matter, once again, of individuality.
suggests that personal experimentation is usually
required to identify what is appropriate for each
person. One side feels very strongly that regular waking
and sleeping hours should be kept and that you should
get up at the usual time even if you slept fitfully the
night before--otherwise, you won't be tired enough to
fall asleep the next night.
side proposes just the opposite. From this perspective
it is felt that because people are different, they
naturally have different sleep cycles just as different
requirements for sleep. Just because the normal societal
work day is 9-5, this is not necessarily suitable for
everyone; therefore, one should sleep when one becomes
tired and arise when one awakes, even though the times
may be unusual and the patterns irregular. Put another
way, one should follow one's own natural rhythms.
- Buffer yourself from
noise when trying to sleep
might not feel that you are normally bothered by noise,
EEG (electroencephalograph) brain wave pattern tests
show that noise disrupts sleep.
- Try different methods to
help you relax before going to bed
A warm bath;
massage; mental relaxation techniques like meditation or
visualization; slow, deep breathing; and, some light
stretching or yoga may all help prepare the mind and
body for sleep.
- Regulate the room
temperature to be suitable for your needs
sleep more soundly in a warm room. Others sleep much
better in a cool room. Experiment to find out what works
best for you. A room that is too warm or too cold can
disturb sleep by causing the body to "work"
too hard to adapt to the environment.
- Leave your window open to
allow at least a little fresh air to circulate while
supply of oxygen assists your body while sleeping in its
repair and rejuvenatory activity.
- Don't linger in bed after
awakening from a normal rest period
found that excessive time in bed may be related to
fragmented and shallow sleep patterns.
- Consider sleeping alone
if you have insomnia
bed can disturb rather than enhance sleep for some
GENERAL BIOCHEMICAL CONSIDERATIONS
opinion of HealthSmart Nutrition, the quality of
one's sleep, like the quality of one's activity, is
dependent on the quality of energy production in the
body. When body chemistry is balanced, the body's
cells, organs, glands and systems function efficiently
and harmoniously. The result is defined as "good
health". Part and parcel of this state is the
ability to sleep well, both soundly and deeply.
In order to
maintain a state of biochemical balance, it is
necessary to address one's biochemical individuality
by eating those foods which help maintain balance and
staying away from substances which contribute to
imbalance. Research suggests the following should be
avoided by anyone having sleep problems:
products containing caffeine such as coffee, black
tea, chocolate, colas and caffeine "pep"
pills. Even if you think you are not bothered by
caffeine, EEG tests prove otherwise. Caffeine stimulates
the sympathetic division ("fight or flight"
part) of the autonomic nervous system, and the adrenals
and thyroid which are major energy-producing glands of
the body's endocrine system.
using tobacco which contains nicotine and the heavy
toxic metal, cadmium, both which act as stimulants and
contribute to disrupting sleep by imbalancing body
using alcohol. Although some may find that alcohol
helps them to relax or even to fall asleep, research
shows that sleep patterns will be disrupted and the
quality of sleep will be diminished.
using sugar, especially near bedtime. Sugar can act
as a stimulant, particularly in certain metabolic types.
But, regardless of one's metabolic type, sugar is a very
inefficient source of fuel for the body and will not
provide a steady "burn" through the night.
using sleeping pills on a regular basis. According
to medical researchers, sleeping pills, like alcohol,
disrupt normal sleep patterns. You may also develop a
tolerance to them, which means that in time you need
more and more to have the same effect.
INDIVIDUALIZED BIOCHEMICAL CONSIDERATIONS
The kinds of
foods that one should eat are a matter of nutritional
individuality and can only be recommended after proper
analysis of one's metabolic type (Contact HealthSmart
Nutrition for information about determining your own
provides fuel for the body. Like the fuel for a car, if
the fuel is not correct for the engine, the energy
produced will be poor compared to what it can and should
be. The result can be disrupted sleep patterns at best,
and may prove to be a major causative factor in
full-blown insomnia. Since people do have different
requirements for nutrition, what may help one person to
alleviate insomnia may cause it in another.
Nonetheless, the following are the major areas of
concern in all metabolic types:
BEFORE BED To eat or not to eat, that is the
question....or at least part of the question. The
other part concerns what to eat!
metabolic types (parasympathetics or fast oxidizers)
there is usually a requirement to eat before
going to bed. If these types don't eat, they usually
will experience difficulty falling asleep, and if they
do fall asleep they will invariably awaken in the middle
of the night. Usually, their ideal fuel mixture is a
snack that contains a good amount of protein and fat. A
high carbohydrate snack may help some, but is usually
not sufficient to carry them through the night. In these
metabolic types, a high carbohydrate snack will actually
be stimulating (by increasing the oxidation rate) and
thus, prevent sleep.
metabolic types (sympathetics and slow oxidizers)
generally don't do well eating before bed. They often
complain that when they eat before going to bed, food
feels like a rock in their stomachs. If they do eat a
bedtime snack, they do best eating food high in
carbohydrate with just a little protein and fat, like a
small bowl of cereal with milk or some fruit and yogurt.
Parasympathetics and slow oxidizers tend to do better
including high sodium foods and some salt in their diets
to help balance body chemistry. But, in the sympathetics
and fast oxidizers, salt often has too strong of a
stimulating effect on the adrenals and if eaten around
bedtime may contribute to insomnia.
In the autonomic dominant, calcium usually acts as a
stimulant by innervating the sympathetic system. Thus,
in the sympathetic dominant, calcium supplementation
before bed is not recommended. However, in the extreme
parasympathetic dominant who has problems awakening in
the night with hunger pains, calcium may help diminish
the appetite by restoring autonomic balance. In this
type, calcium supplementation before bed may help
prevent the body chemistry from going too
parasympathetic during the night.
oxidative dominant, calcium tends to have a sedating,
calming effect by slowing down the rate of oxidation.
When the oxidation rate gets too fast, carbohydrate is
"burned" too quickly. The result is that one
also runs out of fuel too quickly as well. When this
occurs at night, insomnia may result. Calcium
supplementation before bed for the fast oxidizer may
help prevent this from occurring. (CAL-COM)
In the autonomic dominant, magnesium acts as a natural
tranquilizer by inhibiting the influence of the
sympathetic system. In the sympathetic insomniac
characterized by racing thoughts or an inability to shut
the mind off when trying to sleep, magnesium has been
found to be an excellent bedtime supplement.
Whereas calcium is the mineral which acts as the major
stimulator of the sympathetic system, potassium is
considered the major innervator of the parasympathetic
system. In the sympathetic dominant, magnesium and
potassium work well together in producing a calming,
On the other
hand, in the fast oxidizer, potassium tends to have a
stimulating effect. The result may be a strongly
increased appetite. (POTASSIUM-COM)
Whereas the sympathetic system is responsible for
energy, motivation, get-up-and-go, the parasympathetic
system controls immune function, digestion and all
repairing/rebuilding activity. Thus, it is the
parasympathetic system which normally dominates during
sleep. Certain glands are related to the sympathetic
system while others are more related to the
parasympathetic system. The thymus is considered to be
the major "parasympathetisizing" gland of the
endocrine system. Stimulation and support of the thymus
has been observed to increase parasympathetic tone,
particularly when employed along with magnesium and
parasympathetic glandulars, singularly or in formulas,
may be used along with thymus for a stronger
parasympathetisizing influence. (SYNERGY-COM #1, IMMUNO-COM).
This amino acid when taken before bed is known to
encourage sleep, particularly when combined with some
carbohydrate. It appears to be most effective for
parasympathetics, but has not been found to be of much
help in other metabolic types with insomnia. (TRYPTOTRATE)
In rare instances, insomnia may be related to adrenal
insufficiency. This type of insomnia is characterized by
being able to fall asleep, but "jerking" awake
20-30 minutes later. It may be accompanied by feelings
of panic and/or a racing heart rate. Some adrenal
support along with other nutritional support of the
sympathetic system may be very helpful. Often a bedtime
snack including meat or poultry is also of benefit. When
adrenal insufficiency is the case, an herbal blend of
capsicum, Siberian ginseng root, and gotu kola--normally
an energy-improving combination--may prove very helpful.
Herbs used in tea or capsules may be very helpful in
helping to support and balance body chemistry. Herbs are
almost always better when taken in combination as
opposed to individually. They are available from most
health food stores prepackaged blends.
root, wild lettuce, blue vervain, catnip, blue violet,
passion flower, and scullcap are likely best for
sympathetics. Comfrey root, horsetail (shavegrass), oat
straw, lobelia, chamomile and dandelion may be more
suited for parasympathetics.
evident that insomnia is a problem with many possible
causes. Nonetheless, if viewed as the body's attempt to
communicate in its own language that an imbalance
exists, it may provide an important clue to help restore
biochemical balance to one's system and health to one's
© 2005 HealthSmart Nutrition. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 23, 2007