Insomnia is a common symptom characterized by difficulty falling asleep, sleeping too lightly or repeatedly awaking with difficulty falling back asleep.

There are 3 types:

1. Transient insomnia lasts one week and is often caused by acute situational stress.
2. Short term insomnia lasts up to 6 months and is usually associated with more persistent stress.

3. Chronic insomnia lasting more than 6 months may be a manifestation of health conditions, including – chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety disorders, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome/periodic limb movements during sleep, and use of alcohol and various medications.

Conventional management of insomnia may include treatment of underlying disorders, various behavioral therapies and medications such as sedative-hypnotics, antidepressants, magnesium supplementation or melatonin–agonists.

A few dietary factors that could be causing insomnia are the following:

Reactive hypoglycemia and food allergies have been reported to cause insomnia. Hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are released as hypoglycemia occurs. On a chronic basis, your hormone levels become off balanced therefor contributing to insomnia.

One who experiences hypoglycemia before meal times, and experiences an improvement in symptoms after eating, or craves sweets, will benefit from a nutritional program designed to improve blood glucose regulations and avoid allergenic foods.

Caffeine. It is well known that some people experience insomnia with caffeine, particularly when consumed in the evening. The “do not have caffeine after 3pm” rule, doesn’t not apply to everyone. Those who suffer from anxiety appear to be more susceptible than those without the insomnia inducing effects of caffeine. A trial of complete caffeine avoidance would be worthwhile for those who suffer from insomnia.

Aspartame has also been noted as having a side effect of insomnia. A trial of avoidance should also be considered.

Alcohol is often thought of as a sedative. As it is a depressant, alcohol will cause a person to sleep less deeply and have a more restless sleep. Use of alcohol as a sedative may work a few times until the body becomes quickly desensitized, requiring more and more alcohol to accomplish the same sleep-inducing effect. This is why alcohol should not be relied on as a sleep aid.

Magnesium glycinate is a natural muscle relaxant and sleep aid. The glycinate form of magnesium is less disruptive on the bowels and easier for the body to absorb than magnesium chloride, citrate and sulfate, which can cause diarrhea.

Possible additive treatments as well and behavioral changes include taking melatonin and resetting your circadian rhythm. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Serum melatonin levels are low during the day and increase significantly at night. Serum melatonin levels decrease with advancing age. Taking melatonin 2 hours before desired bedtime is required. Dimming the lights in your environment hours before bedtime is helpful as well. Bright lights (your smart phone, TV, computer) will suppress the release of melatonin.

If you identify yourself as having insomnia due to the factors mentioned or have chronic sleep deprivation, it can help one to be motivated to either find out what is causing insomnia, attempt to restore sleep and understanding the consequence on ones’ body.

The consequences of sleep deprivation are extremely important to acknowledge.

Part 2 of Insomnia will address some of the effects on your health such as your metabolism and how it stimulates the effects of aging.


Maria Musitano, B.Sc.Pharm,

Compounding Pharmacist

Concession Medical Pharmacy

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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