Need more sleep? 3 Imbalances that may be the cause.

I cannot stress enough the importance of good sound sleep. Sleep is essential for weight loss. The optimal amount of sleep may differ from person to person, but research shows it is best to get at least 7 hours uninterrupted sleep each night. When was the last time this happened for you? With stress at the forefront of today’s fast paced society, sleep is an area in one’s life that can become affected. With work on the mind and family or personal stress, we lose the precious sleep that we need to live healthy lives. When insomnia ensues, there is a snowball effect and we start to see other health conditions arise such as weight gain, anxiety, depression, fatigue, poor memory, hypertension, diabetes etc.

Helping my patients to get sound sleep is a main goal for healing and vitality, not just for weight loss.

Here are some reason why you may be getting sub-optimal sleep.

  1. Cortisol level Imbalance. Cortisol levels normally rise in the morning to get you out of bed and gradually fall throughout the day, prepping your body for sleep. Those individuals who have trouble sleeping may have an inverted curve, where cortisol levels remain low in the morning and peak at night, which makes falling asleep difficult. Some individuals who have long term stress, have low cortisol levels all day and into the evening. Healthy levels of cortisol are needed for proper heart vessel function, metabolism, energy production, immune function and proper blood sugar regulation. Some research suggests that people who have low levels of cortisol tend to have interrupted sleep. Chronically low levels of cortisol can cause blood sugar levels to drop during sleep which can trigger you to wake up in the middle of the night. Does this sound familiar? It is best to get your cortisol levels tested and be clear about your stressors and how you handle or don’t handle stress.
  2. Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Those individuals who are low in neurotransmitter serotonin can have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Serotonin, which is our “happy hormone” helps to manufacture melatonin, which is needed for proper sleep and wake cycles. When serotonin levels are low, melatonin will not be produced, making it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. GABA, a calming neurotransmitter, also helps to promote sleep. Many sleep medications work on GABA receptors to induce sleepiness. Ensuring adequate levels of both can help you to sleep.
  3. Hormone Imbalance. When women enter menopause, the lack of estrogen/progesterone and declining testosterone in men can contribute to poor sleep. Supplementing with the appropriate hormones may be a good option for some. Research also shows that low levels of DHEA (our anti-aging hormone) has an effect on REM sleep, which is our deepest and most restorative sleep cycle.

There you have it! Some reasons why you may not be getting restorative sleep. If you have been suffering for a long while, don’t give up hope, consult with a health care professional for help.


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Dr. Jen Cisternino, ND

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