Do you have a problem staying asleep? … If your body doesn’t relax after falling asleep, you may have a particular form of insomnia.  Sleep nutrient deficiencies and other Naturopathic viewpoints associated with this type of insomnia are described herein.

The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health.  In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive upset, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, cancer and chronic disease prevention.  Fall 2014 blog themes will rotate between the topics of sleep, tiredness, and stress.  Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

Insomnia (Part 2): Sleep Nutrients & Problems Staying Asleep

Insomnia: A Three-Part Series

We divided sleep articles into three subtopics: i) problems falling asleep; ii) problems staying asleep (current blog); and iii) lifestyle factors affecting sleep. The nutrient and biochemical imbalances associated with sleep can be addressed with Orthomolecular and Naturopathic Medicine.  The human body has about 15 top syndromes associated with sleep and physical and mental health.

It is not uncommon to see poor sleep quality in today’s fast paced society.  Sleep nutrient imbalances are common in kids and adults.

Many people report an inability to stay asleep, and if sleeplessness becomes a cycle, the accumulated lack of it worsens your daytime functioning at a physical and mental level.

Sleep Nutrients and Biochemical Causes of ‘Failure to Stay Asleep’

A main cause of ‘failure to stay asleep’ is adrenal/thyroid sluggishness and magnesium deficiency, all of which are common in people with slow metabolisms.

Slow Metabolism

Typically, 80% of the population has a slow metabolism (in this context, a person with a ‘slow metabolism’ is a ‘slow oxidizer’). 

Physical or environmental stress can shock our bodies and propel us into a slow metabolic state, a state of energy conservation that struggles to maintain normal metabolic demands.  For example, after pregnancy or after a significant life stress such as a relationship loss, our thyroid system can give out on us creating profound fatigue or depression.  Slow metabolizers are often in a ‘couch potato’ state of tiredness.  In a slow metabolic state, both the thyroid and the adrenal gland go into a state of under-functioning.  Low thyroid states often encourage heavy metal (e.g. mercury) retention which can further disturbs sleep.  Slow metabolizers have poor digestion and poor nutrient absorption.

Slow Metabolism: The BodyMindLink

Slow metabolizers are prone to physical health issues including insomnia (especially problems staying asleep), sweet cravings (insulin dominance/resistance), weight gain (hips and legs), low blood sugar, poor food absorption, digestive complaints (bloating, constipation), fatigue, dry skin, and thin/brittle hair.  Slow metabolizers are also prone to mental health issues including apathy, depression, lethargy, brain fog, OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Sluggish Adrenal Function & Sleep Nutrients

The adrenal gland deals with stress and if this gland gives out on us we don’t respond to stress well.  Often in this scenario we see frequent waking in the middle of the night, lower back pain stretching into the morning, and an increased need for a mid-day nap.  Sleep nutrients that support adrenal function are vitamin C, B5, B6 and B12.

Sluggish Adrenal Function: The BodyMindLink

Physical symptoms of adrenal sluggishness include sluggishness on waking, mid-day fatigue, frequent waking at night (especially 3-5a.m.), stress intolerance, dizziness, low blood pressure, PMS, chemical sensitivity, low blood sugar, poor sex drive, and the inability to adapt to temperature extremes (e.g. can’t warm up or cool down fast enough).  Mental symptoms of adrenal sluggishness include anxiety, irritability, stress intolerance, post-traumatic stress, lack of joy, addiction, and phobia.

Sluggish Thyroid & Sleep Nutrients

Our metabolism is dramatically influenced by thyroid hormone and when this system is weakened, sleep is affected.  Thyroid hormones are the green light for all cells of the body to initiate at the DNA level, the production of protein metabolites (energy molecules, neurotransmitters, carrier molecules, enzymes, etc.) required for basic and complex functions.  The efficiency of all body systems depends on thyroid hormone.  Thyroid hormone helps improve our body’s use of sugar and oxygen to make energy.  The adrenal works in concert with the thyroid by negative feedback.

Sleep nutrient deficiencies associated with thyroid sluggishness include deficiencies in iodine/kelp and iron (both are components of thyroid hormone), protein, cholesterol (all hormones require cholesterol), magnesium, zinc, B-complex, and beta-carotene.

Sluggish Thyroid Function: The BodyMindLink

Physical issues associated with low thyroid function include insomnia, low body temperature, fatigue, chronic fatigue, constipation, indigestion, inefficient nutrient absorption, pain, headache, easy weight gain, low or high cholesterol, hair loss, frequent infection, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, and in women, PMS.  Mental symptoms associated with low thyroid function include brain fog, anxiety, irritability, depression, impaired cognition, schizophrenia, ADD, OCD, and poor memory.

Magnesium: A Key Sleep Nutrient in ‘Failure to Stay Asleep’

If your body doesn’t relax you never really get a restorative sleep.  Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and anti-spasmodic; people with magnesium deficiency often have twitching, muscle cramps, or spasms at night or during the day.

If the bladder muscle doesn’t relax we get the urge to urinate more often; here we see people that not only wake up at night to urinate but also have a problem falling back to sleep.  Bed-wetting bladder issues in kids (enuresis) are associated with magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium deficiency sleep disturbances in kids are common.

Magnesium is synergistic with calcium and that is why we often see magnesium supplemented along with calcium.  If however you are a slow metabolizer in a state of calcium dominance, taking too much calcium could keep you up at night. 

Magnesium often works with vitamin B6 and vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with poor dream recall.

Magnesium Deficiency: The BodyMindLink

The physical symptoms of magnesium deficiency include problems staying asleep, spasms, tremors, cramps, tics, tight muscles, bed-wetting, urinary urgency, poor heart health, weakness, nausea, high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory issues, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty swallowing, and calcium and potassium deficiency.  The mental symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency include anxiety, depression, poor memory, ADD, OCD, and confusion.