Are you sleeping at night? Many times I hear my patients say that they are not sleeping–for a variety of reasons. One it that they are getting up to go to the bathroom many times to empty the bladder. Another reason is that they can’t go to sleep–they are thinking about too many things at night and they can’t get their brain to slow down. Another reason is that they can’t get comfortable, or their legs seem to have spasms or they fall asleep quickly, but then wake up and can’t get back to sleep. And as women age and go through the menopause, having hot flashes and night sweats is a large reason! So to address these myriad of potential reasons a person has to evaluate where he/ she is and take a careful stock of the situation. Questions such as are you getting enough exercise to balance off all the mental energy needed for the day, and if you do exercise, are you including enough strength training? If your problem is hot flashes and night sweats then you need to discuss with your doctor how to normalize your hormones naturally. Hormone imbalances can be diagnosed with saliva testing and urinary neurotransmitter testing. If you are getting up to the bathroom frequently during the night, it is important to cut down on your liquid intake in the evening and if you take a diuretic ( which will make you urinate more) it is important to take it in the morning, not at night. If it is the leg spasms, find out why–is there a nutritional deficiency in calcium, magnesium or some of the B vitamins? Or do you have sleep apnea and are you waking up frequently just to breathe, but not awake enough to realize that you have been waking up frequently, so by morning you have not gotten a sufficient quantity of either deep sleep or REM sleep and so you feel like you have not slept at all?
It is important to address the sleep issues as insomnia is a source for many health issues including depression, fatigue, inflammation, car accidents, weight gain, poor immune function and a high risk for heart attack and blood pressure problems to name a few. Plus when you don’t sleep well it is a lot harder to manage the daily stressors; a person can be very irritable, function poorly at work, and make bad decisions and life choices. So you will want to see a holistic/functional medicine specialist to help you figure all of this out. Taking a prescription sleep aid has actually been shown to increase your risk of heart attack and frequently has residual side effects the next day of still feeling drugged and not having clarity in thinking. It is not as simple as taking an over the counter sleep aid as it is a very complex problem, and even though there are many companies selling some form of a sleep aid, it is important to be careful in what you select as some of these supplements can interact with other things that you may be taking such as prescription medications.