9 conditions and other sneaky factors that rob your sleep

A question I ask nearly every patient I see is, “Do you sleep well?”  It’s such an important question because insomnia is much more than just feeling tired the day after a night of poor sleep. It’s also a major cause for many illnesses…

According to the National Sleep Foundation, between 30 percent and 40 percent of adults in the U.S. report having had insomnia in the previous year. 1 And, 10 percent to 15 percent report chronic insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep three or more nights per week).

If you are not sleeping consistently well, you can expect to experience one or more of the following: obesity, anxiety, depression, irritability, memory problems, poor immune system (get colds and flu easily), and a host of pain conditions. I most often see muscle, tendon, or joint aches, headaches, heartburn, and even relationship trouble in my patients who experience insomnia. So as you can see, insomnia is not a symptom to take lightly.

But if you are suffering from insomnia, what’s keeping you awake? It could be any number of things…

Common causes of insomnia

There are so many possible causes. Do you identify with any of these?

  • Noisy/snoring partner
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Jet lag
  • Feeling too hot or too cold
  • Working swing/graveyard shift
  • Sexual craving
  • Pregnancy
  • Imbalanced hormones estrogen/progesterone/thyroid/cortisol
  • Media technology devices—smart phones, tablets, laptops and such–carried to bed, proven to disrupt sleep patterns in children 2

Medications

Medication side effects are a very common underlying cause of insomnia. Take a look at this long list of prescription medications proven to significantly cause insomnia: 3

  • Alpha-blockers
  • Beta-blockers
  • Corticosteroids
  • SSRI antidepressants
  • ACE inhibitors
  • ARBs
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • H1 antagonists
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin
  • Statins

In addition, numerous medical conditions can directly cause insomnia. Take a look at these:

  • Acid reflux – often it is the cough that keeps you awake.
  • Arthritis and other types of chronic pain
  • Asthma, nasal/sinus congestion, allergies, or sleep apnea – fighting to breathe keeps you awake.
  • Depression – usually a combination of thoughts, emotions, and antidepressant medications can keep you awake.
  • Hyperthyroidism – thyroid hormone is energy stimulating to your body and mind
  • Neurological conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s disease).
  • Restless legs syndrome (as many as 10 percent of us have this).
  • Foods – allergies to foods can cause an activation of neurochemicals that are activating in the brain such as caffeine.
  • Anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress, Obsessive-Compulsive, and Panic Disorders).

Stress and insomnia

Everyone has some degree of stress in their life. And it’s almost impossible to “turn off” those stressors and let your brain rest at night. If that’s your case, something to consider is how you deal with stress during your waking hours.

Take a moment to reflect on how you feel most of your waking hours. While there may be moments when you feel great, is there a predominate worry thought you carry with you?

Your mind tends to captures these predominate thoughts and worries of the day and hold tight to them. Insomnia is the emotional “hangover” that occurs at the day’s end as you try to sleep.

These are just a few samples of the types of concerns that can dominate your thoughts on a fairly consistent basis:

  • Fear of financial troubles
  • Stress in a relationship
  • Worry about self-image
  • Illness: the possibility of losing your health or early death

These subtle fears can infest your mind and disrupt your ability to fall into a normal sleep state or stay asleep in the quiet night hours. Let me explain the process…

Fear can be defined as False Expectations Appearing Real (FEAR). In their simplest forms, fear and worry are a normal part of being human. Notice that it is easy to go into fear about any topic. Your mind wanders and fixates for a moment on that fearful thought – the thing you don’t want to become real.

If you entertain fearful and worrisome thoughts longer than 17 seconds, you’ll literally create your worries to enter your physical body as anxiety, and later as insomnia symptoms. In effect, you allow that fear thought to become your actual belief. That’s because the thoughts you keep thinking become your beliefs.

According to research at Stanford University by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., internal stress originates from incorrect beliefs and misinterpretations about your circumstances and yourself. This stress is experienced as destructive energy signals of anxiety, anger, low self-worth, depression, sadness, irritation, resentment, bitterness, and so forth. There are hundreds of incorrect thoughts that make up incorrect beliefs that are nothing more than incorrect perspectives and interpretations of your experiences.

We also know that your hormones — cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone) — are in counter-balance with each other. When there is too much stress hormone being produced, your sleep hormone diminishes and you cannot sleep.

Quieting the concerns

Simply telling yourself “I’m not worried” does not take away the worry, nor the bad physical feelings this creates in your body. Therefore, how do you control stress? It starts with your mind control.

Instead, you must fill your thoughts with the wonderful possibilities of success, and keep creating more options and possibilities in your mind of how it will all work out fine. Notice in hind-sight that things always do work out somehow, and for your best good. Did you know that unwanted thoughts that come into your mind can also be politely discarded from your mind – and immediately replaced with the positive alternative thought? This action, and holding these new thoughts for at least 17 seconds, will cause you to feel peaceful and happy inside. You may need to breathe slowly and deeply to calm your body at the same time.

I’ll discuss much more about treating insomnia in my next article.

To feeling good in health,
Michael Cutler, M.D.

[1] National Sleep Foundation. Access online at https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/home
[2] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264095.php
[3] http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-04-2013/medications-that-can-cause-insomnia.html

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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.