Archive for the ‘Insomnia’ Category

Why do you have Insomnia?

There are 4 primary reasons why people can’t sleep:
1. Copper imbalance
2. Biounavailable Calcium & Magnesium
3. Hypoglycemia
4. Emotional imbalance
 Copper is not something that most of us think when it comes to sleep, but it is the single most common cause of insomnia. Copper is important for many activities in the body such as the cross-linking of elastin and actin, the formation of superoxide dismutase (a critical antioxidant in our cells), and the formation of the pigment of our skin, hair, and eyes. So how does it interfere with sleep? Through 3 main ways: increasing levels of norepinephrine & epinephrine, reducing levels of serotonin, and causing a GABA/Glutamate imbalance. Copper increases norepinephrine by increasing its conversion from dopamine, and stimulates the production of epinephrine. Norepinephrine & epinephrine are excitatory neurotransmitters that are especially relevant when we are in “fight or flight mode,” when they are secreted from our adrenal glands. This can lead to symptoms of:
-Anxiety
-Hyperactivity
-Heart palpitations  
In fact, it was in 1984 that Dr. Pfeiffer and Dr. Goldstein discovered that the administration of copper can be equivalent to that of amphetamine in its CNS stimulation.
Copper interferes with the function of zinc and vitamin B6 to catalyze the formation of serotonin from 5-HTP, leading to lower levels of this neurotransmitter. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which is important for regulating mood and appetite. It’s also the precursor to melatonin—one of the most popular supplements people use for insomnia.  However, another important function that serotonin has in the body is regulating the flow of thoughts and information. When levels become low, one can experience:
-Racing thoughts
-Obsessive thoughts
-Anxiety
Not surprisingly, the class of drugs called SSRI’s is used in these conditions, which enhance the effects of serotonin.
Also, copper interferes with the function of vitamin B6 to catalyze the formation of GABA from glutamate, resulting in lower levels of GABA in relation to Glutamate. Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, and GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Together, they make up over 80% of brain activity. When there is an imbalance, one might experience:
-Anxiety
-Stress
-Muscle tension
In these conditions, the class of drugs called benzodiazepines are commonly used, which enhance the effects of GABA.
So would most cases of insomnia resolve just by lowering the copper? Yes, but not in the manner of “chelation” as one would think to remove the mineral. Copper has an intimate relationship to your adrenals that one must fully appreciate in order to correct not only insomnia—but also most health problems. According to Hair Analysis, at least 80% of the people are Slow Oxidizers, meaning their adrenals are suboptimal. When the adrenal activity is low, copper accumulates in the tissues such as the brain, kidneys, and liver. Whenever the adrenals are stimulated, copper in the tissues are pulled out, increasing its levels in the blood, and some are eliminated through the bile. In most patients who have copper-related insomnia, their adrenal activity or cortisol levels are high at bedtime, leading to copper dumping into the blood, causing the symptoms of high norepinephrine, low serotonin, and/or GABA/Glutamate imbalance that go along with it. Why is their cortisol high at bedtime? This is because the Slow Oxidizer upon getting out of bed has to whip their adrenals into action throughout the day whether it’s through caffeine, stress, or physical activity. By the end of the day, the adrenals are too stimulated, and it’s hard to unwind to sleep. Additionally, the elevated cortisol breaks down tryptophan levels (the precursor to serotonin) and reduces GABA levels, adding to the sleepless assault of copper.
What about Calcium & Magnesium? They are both sedative minerals, which relax the mind and can help many people fall asleep. Calcium helps to catalyze the formation of 5-HTP from tryptophan, and magnesium helps to catalyze the formation of serotonin from 5-HTP. Magnesium has also been found to possess benzodiazepine-like effects, in enhancing the effects of GABA. However, in many people their benefits are not fully felt because of sluggish adrenals. Adrenals have the ability to ionize a mineral, meaning it becomes the bioavailable form for the body to use. In many Slow Oxidizers, calcium & magnesium levels are above the normal limits, because low adrenal activity has failed to adequately ionize them, so they build up in the brain, arteries, and kidneys. They will then experience symptoms of calcium & magnesium deficiency such as:
-Muscle tension
-Irritability
-Restlessness
Hypoglycemia or “low blood sugar” is another cause of disturbed sleep, where the person might wake up several times after sleeping.  When the body’s blood sugar drops, epinephrine acts on the receptors on the liver to increase the production of glucose into the blood. As we know, epinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that will cause a wakeful state.  What can cause this hypoglycemia? Sluggish adrenal activity and/or a blood sugar insulin imbalance. It can be difficult at times to differentiate whether the cause of the insomnia is excessive adrenal activity or low adrenal activity (less common) causing hypoglycemia.  Some hints to indicate that it’s low adrenal activity: the person wakes up between 1-3 am, and the person feels hungry.
Emotions can be a strong factor in allowing one to sleep properly. Anyone who experiences stress, worry, or grief, will find their sleep disturbed. As important as it is to engage in relaxing activities before going to sleep such as counting sheep, meditating, journaling, reading, and listening to music, their true power tends to be overstated in most health circles. I am not discounting their benefit, but in most people with severe insomnia, their chemistry is so imbalanced that no matter how much they “will” themselves to sleep, they will have limited success. Often, balancing their chemistry will allow these relaxing activities to become more effective. Nevertheless, emotions must be ultimately addressed.  The use of essential oils and Bach Flower remedies are specific remedies that can help balance a person emotionally.
So what can we make of all this? How should we go about correcting our insomnia? First, knowing the severity of our insomnia can give us a good idea on how to start. If your insomnia is mild-moderate, then you might get by with the following supplements:
-Coffea Cruda 30c, Passiflora Plex, Inositol 500 mg, Doterra Balance, Bach White Chestnut, Bach Flower Rescue or Sleep Spray, Tryptophan 1-3 grams: Good for racing mind
-Dr. Schulze’s Nerve Formula, Dr. Christopher’s Relax-Eze, Valerian Root, Theanine, PharmaGABA, and Paramin: Good for relaxing
*Note: Avoid the use of 5-HTP since it can raise cortisol levels, which can be detrimental in insomnia patients.
If your insomnia is moderate-severe, then the above supplements might not suffice. If benzodiazepines or other strong drugs are necessary to put you asleep, then you probably have elevated cortisol levels. In that case, specific cortisol-lowering supplements must be used (under the supervision of a health practitioner) in order to effectively reduce cortisol levels at bedtime. As long as cortisol levels are high, many supplements and even pharmaceuticals will not work, and you will be “refractory” to treatment. In fact, this population tends to be at high risk to becoming hooked or dependent on strong drugs to allow it to sleep (Was it because of high cortisol levels at bedtime that Michael Jackson only got sleep from Propofol?). It is important in this case, for the person to not become discouraged. The beauty of holistic medicine is its love affair with human physiology, allowing a cause to be found for every ailment.  It is especially important in patients who have “refractory” insomnia, to get their hair analyzed. The overall state of their adrenal activity must be assessed and balanced with specific supplements. For example, if a patient is a Slow Oxidizer, and even if their cortisol at bedtime is sufficiently reduced, there will always be the risk of their cortisol rising again since the person has to “whip” their adrenals into action throughout the day. Additionally, the patient must undergo detoxification to eliminate copper and toxic metals that are stressing the adrenals. Emotionally, the patient must also be addressed. Reading relaxing books, listening to relaxing music, meditating, journaling, and positive thinking can be good tools in helping one’s insomnia. However, the power of these tools is often overestimated since most patients with insomnia have a significant amount of biochemical imbalance (as explained) that unless addressed first, will easily overpower these psychological techniques.
Thanks for reading.
 References
“Hypercupremia-High Copper.” Insight Naturopathy.  2012. <http://naturalinsight.hubpages.com/hub/Hypercupremia-High-Copper>
Ross, Julia. “Eliminating the Top Causes of Insomnia: Neurotransmitter Deficiency and Cortisol Excess.” The Townsend Letter Group. 2011.
“Nutritional Causes of Insomnia.” Analytical Research Laboratories, Inc.  1990. <http://www.arltma.com/Articles/InsomniaDoc.htm>

 

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