Insomnia is a Migraineur’s Nightmare
One of the most fundamental parts of being healthy is getting good quality sleep. The only way to heal from migraine pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, anxiety and depression (and more) is with good quality, non-medicated, deep sleep. Chronic insomnia can and will literally drive you crazy. In this article, we will look at some natural options to help you regain control of your sleep cycles and provide you with a list of well researched, natural insomnia cures.
Firstly, you will want to avoid the following stimulants:
- Caffeine such as coffee, soda, and chocolate
- Yerba Mate
- Teas that have caffeine
Stabilizing your blood sugars is vital, especially in the evening. You don’t want to eat anything more than three hours before bedtime because it will energize your body. Eat a balanced meal with lean protein, complex carbs, and good fat for dinner. Limit bedtime snacks to avoid any problems.
Exercise is necessary not only for a healthy lifestyle, but also to improve sleep quality. It is best to do vigorous workouts earlier in the day rather than at night. However, if you must do it at night, some exercise is better than nothing at all. Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Television, phone lights, etc., will keep the brain activated and not allow it time to wind down. Avoid watching highly intense movies, such as horror movies, before bedtime as it can stimulate your adrenal glands into thinking you are in danger, keeping you awake and alert long after the night should end.
Following a regular sleep and wake cycle is important. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Make a ritual that will help train your brain to know when it is time to shut down and when it is time to activate.
Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and comfortable with peaceful, soothing colors. There should be light-limiting curtains and dimmer bulbs in your lamps.
Finally, a few minutes before bed, try writing down your to-do list for the next day, or vent about your worries and anxieties. This will release the negative energy before going to sleep.
Eating Right for Sleeping Right
Food plays an integral part of healthy lifestyle, including healthy sleep. Covering a healthy diet is beyond the scope of this article, however, so we will stick with just a few pointers to help you get into the right kind of thinking.
- Eat a high protein and good fat diet for breakfast without carbohydrates. If you must have a carb, go for the complex carbs. This will set the tone for your healthy eating for the rest of the day.
- Eat low glycemic index carbohydrates at lunch and dinner. There are hundreds of lists online if you do a quick google search.
- There are some carbs that are needed to get certain chemicals like tryptophan past the blood-brain barrier, which will help produce serotonin and the sleep chemical, melatonin. Again, there are a ton of lists online that will help you sort out a good grocery list.
Drinks to Help you Sleep Better
There is an old-school drink we like to use in our household: warm milk. The casein peptides in milk reduce anxiety and help induce sleep.
Chamomile is an excellent relaxer and reduces anxiety. Sometimes, however, it can cause insomnia, but this is rare. You will know after your first try.
Know Your Hormones
Hormonal balance is incredibly important for good sleep. Excess cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal glands, can cause insomnia and anxiety, as well as put a drain on your blood sugars while also causing adrenaline issues. In addition to blood sugar stability throughout the whole day, keeping your stress levels at a “normal” level will help keep the cortisol levels under control as well.
To help with this, I sometimes recommend zinc, which will lower high cortisol levels. Try taking a zinc supplement with your dinner if you think insomnia could be due to excess stress/cortisol production.
Menopausal women often have insomnia. Progesterone can have a calming effect on the brain and nervous system, especially if you are suffering from hormone deficiencies and hot flashes. Natural progesterone cream or liquid can improve these levels. Too low or too high estrogen can lead to insomnia as well. It is vital to get these levels checked regularly, especially if you have insomnia.
A drop in blood sugar while you’re sleeping can mean that your adrenal glands are releasing adrenaline, waking you up and making it difficult to fall back asleep. In this scenario, it is best to eat something very small, such as peanut butter on celery, to help you back to sleep.
The thyroid gland is important for the development of melatonin and serotonin, while also helping to regulate blood sugars. If thyroid levels are too high or too low, it could lead to insomnia, anxiety, and/or excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep Inducing Supplements
Most of these below supplements can be found in foods; however, sometimes it is best to keep them on hand in your medicine cabinet to help you get back on track with sleep. The full scope of these supplements cannot be fully covered in this article, but I will give you a head start in finding the right one for you.
By far, this is the best sleep supplement. It can be found in your local grocery store and is an excellent way to reduce insomnia and improve REM sleep, which is the restorative part of the sleep cycle. In addition to regulating sleep patterns, some other scientifically proven benefits include it supports the immune system and production of growth hormones, helps shift workers regulate their sleep, reduces migraines, and decreases stress hormones.
Some factors that can lead to a reduction in melatonin include poor sleep, too much light during sleeping hours, not enough sunlight, high stress, too much caffeine or alcohol, less tryptophan intake (too many carbs in your diet!), and some medications like aspirin or beta-blockers.
The most effective dose of melatonin is 3 mg a half hour before bed. You can go up to 20 mg if needed. If you find that the 3 mg does not work well at first, try taking 100 mg of 5-HTP too. If you wake up in the middle of the night, then time-released melatonin may be best.
Some foods that help raise your melatonin levels include oats, rice, ginger, sweet corn, bananas, barley, turkey and tomatoes.
This is a great addition to a melatonin regimen, but is also good on its own. It is an amino acid that is naturally made in the body as a precursor to serotonin. Currently, 5-HTP is used to treat mild to moderate depression, insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue. It is well-known for improving sleep quality and reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Recommended dose is 50-100 mg each night, but you can go up to 300 mg if needed. Be sure to take this on an empty stomach, approximately half an hour before bedtime.
This works as a calming agent to the central nervous system. Recommended dose is 100 mg before bed.
This increases GABA levels, which is a neurotransmitter that, again, acts as a calming agent to the body. Recommended dose is 1000 mg with dinner or before bed.
This is a non-protein amino acid most commonly found in green tea. It has been tested in studies and is proven to reduce stress and balance mood, while also improving sleep quality. Recommended dose is 100 mg before bed.
This is one of my favorites because it also relieves migraines. Magnesium has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and muscles. It regulates serotonin metabolism, which is vital for healthy sleep. Many menopausal women have found that adding calcium to magnesium does wonders for their sleep.
This supplement has the ability to lower cortisol and help manage stress because it optimizes the relationship between the brain and adrenal glands. Research has shown that after a few days of high-dose PS, there was a major drop in excessive cortisol levels in men. It enhances memory and brain function, decreases anxiety, improves depression and mood, and increases metabolism.
As you see, you have multiple options to choose from in order to treat insomnia naturally. Start with one, while following the tips at the beginning of the article, and work your way through the others if you need to.
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