Around 1/3 of people in the UK have bouts of insomnia, or disturbed sleep. This may take the form of finding it hard falling asleep or waking in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep. Nearly everyone has problems sleeping at some time or other – but for some, lying awake night after night with simultaneous exhaustion can seriously impact quality of life.
Sleep is a state of consciousness which gives your body time to rest and your mind to recharge. It’s essential for a well-functioning brain, for reducing disease risk and keeping weight under control.
The sleeping body goes through different stages at approximately 90 minute cycles. These include light sleep, deep sleep and dreaming, also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Difficulties with sleep can appear in a variety of ways:
- Difficulty getting to sleep (sleep onset insomnia)
- Waking in the night (frequent nocturnal awakening)
- Waking early in the morning
- Not feeling refreshed after sleep
- Waking when you have been disturbed from sleep by pain or noise
Insomnia can last for days, months or even years and can be split into three categories:
- Transient insomnia – lasts for 2-3 days
- Short-term insomnia – lasts for more than a few days, but less than three weeks
- Chronic insomnia – sleep difficulties that are experienced most nights for three weeks or longer. This can lead to problems such as depression or misuse of medications or alcohol in order to gain sleep
Hormone imbalance: fluctuations in hormone levels just before menstruation and after the menopause can disturb sleep.
If your insomnia seem to be linked to your menstrual cycle or the menopause, a Hormone Test can pinpoint any imbalances.
Melatonin imbalance: melatonin is the primary sleep hormone. Levels gradually rise in the evening and peak at the point we fall asleep. Shift work and travelling across time zones can interfere with this cycle, leading to sleep problems.
Melatonin imbalances can be detected using a simple saliva test. Smart Nutrition can also design you a protocol to help restore your natural day and night rhythm, as well as minimising the impact of jet lag or shift work on your body clock.
Stress: stress is a common cause of sleeping difficulties. Worrying about health, money and work can keep any of us awake, and people with stressful jobs or who spend time in challenging environments are prone to sleep problems.
People who are stressed don’t always realise this, but wonder why they can’t sleep: one of the ways the body manages stress is to make us feel as if we are coping.
If you have a demanding lifestyle, a Stress Test can tell you how well your body is really managing. The test works by measuring the levels of different stress hormones and making it possible to identify any imbalances. If you’re suffering from insomnia, it makes sense to also test for the hormone melatonin which is linked to sleep and the stress hormones: these can be tested together.
Imbalanced brain chemistry: insomnia can stem from slight imbalances in the chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Imbalances can be caused by many factors, including a lack of correct building blocks in the diet and of the nutrients necessary for the body make these vital substances.
Deficiencies in these building blocks can be determined via an Amino Acid Urine Test. Smart Nutrition can also help you to balance your diet, ensuring that you’re getting all the nutrients needed for a good night’s sleep.
Hyperthyroidism: the thyroid is the gland that runs the body’s metabolism. Some diseases can cause it become overactive, creating disturbed sleep, nervousness, feeling hot, weight loss and loose stools.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, a Thyroid Test can give you vital information about the potential cause of your insomnia.
Nutrient levels: certain nutrients are very important for helping our bodies to unwind at night and to cycle through the phases of sleep. Deficiencies of any of these nutrients can make it harder for us to get to or stay asleep.
Low nutrient status can be identified with the simple but comprehensive NutrEval Test. If you discover that you do have a deficiency, Smart Nutrition can also advise you on dietary changes and supplements to help restore healthy levels and support a relaxed state of mind and body.
Stimulants: regularly consuming stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate, nicotine or alcohol can aggravate insomnia.
Smart Nutrition can help you to reduce dependency on these substances using a combination of diet and supplements to reduce cravings while gradually replacing stimulants with healthful alternatives.
Blood sugar imbalance: a diet high in refined foods and sugars tends to causes rapidly fluctuating blood sugar and energy levels. If blood sugar levels drop during the night this can cause disturbed sleep.
Blood sugar levels can be checked using an Insulin Resistance Test. Smart Nutrition can also design a blood sugar balancing diet, supporting sustained energy levels through the day.