Don’t know what’s really causing your sleep problems……Here’s how to find out

Are you still waking up at night and only getting back to sleep an hour before the alarm goes off? Are you also still trying to go on, dragging yourself through the day and feeling more anxious, overwhelmed AND…….…..bone tired. I’m sorry, I really am because I know these sleep problems mean that you’re probably struggling.

So what should you do you? Deal with the sleep problem (symptom) your brain says. That’s obvious right? But what if there’s more underneath the sleeplessness than just not sleeping? What if by dealing with what’s at the root of the problem, you get back the energy you need and also deal with the sleeplessness at the same time? AND what if you could do this without tons of pills, crazy diets or mad sleep routines, how would that be for you?

Before we delve in, it’s important to say that if you’ve had insomnia for more than a month that you visit your GP. Why? Well, it’s good to have it on your notes. It may also be worth exploring whether they think that something more could be going on. But if your sleeplessness is intermittent or if you want to try some things which may just help, here are some suggestions.

Identify what’s at the root of your symptoms –  Dig deep and start exploring. If you can just start by recording what’s happening, it can really help to build a picture. A picture of what’s at the root (or bottom) of your sleep problem.

And it’ important to ask yourself lots of questions:

Are you TATT (Tired All The Time)? – TATT is an umbrella term, usually given by your GP if you report that you’re literally TIRED ALL THE TIME.

Symptoms:

  • You might not feel fatigued (that you have no energy at all) because you can walk around, shower, tidy the house a bit and even get to work and semi-function without anyone really knowing. BUT……..
  • You’ll be literally dragging yourself out of bed and might feel a bit sick or just want to cry.
  • You’ll be trying to hide your yawns throughout the day and have low (<45%) energy.
  • You might also be trying to smile on the outside but because of the brain fog, and anxiety, be getting easily irritated and possibly tearful.
  • You lack motivation and have to push yourself really hard to do the most basic things.
  • All you can think about is sleeping. Is that you?

Have you had major stress, or a life change or trauma in the past 6-12 months? Stress releases chemicals in the body which are useful to address the stress. But a series of stressful events can leave you depleted. When the  stress response gets over stimulated, it can in effect remain ‘on’ much longer than needed. So your body is never fully relaxed, even when you’re taking a break.

Have you been running on empty for more than 2 months? Every cell in your body needs nutrients to function. Not having the right nutrients is actually stressful for your body. It now has to find or make the nutrients from what’s already in the body. This can tax the glands that produce the chemicals needed to activate sleep, rest, weight, energy, heat and cold and even your thought processes and mood. Can you see the pattern?

Do you have joint pain or overall body pain? Just having this can be uncomfortable and interrupt your sleep, but it could also be linked to a thyroid issue, menopause or even fibromyalgia. So what’s the pain like and when does it appear? Have you had a long-term infection? Or do you have times where it feels as if the energy plug has been pulled out?

Does your skin look or feel puffy? Would you say that you feel itchy or inflamed? Inflammation is caused when we have an injury or infection in the body. It actually protects the cells and tissues from further damage. BUT the body can react to foods, cosmetics or even household products as if they’re an actual infection. It then turns on the inflammatory response. Being overly stressed can also turn on the inflammation response.

Keep going – Let’s keep exploring………….

What are you eating and drinking? This is only between and for you, so be honest. Are you using coffee or the odd coke to stay awake? Are you skipping meals or not eating at all? Are you having any of the following which have been linked to sleep and hormonal disruption?

  • Caffeine
  • Sugary foods
  • Wheat and gluten products
  • Spices if you have gut disorders
  • Fish or eggs

Are you having crazy sugar cravings? Good. Note it, because this may give further clues. There may be a link to a blood sugar imbalance or even PMS or hormonal issues.

Okay let’s press on and look at your sleep and some wider issues.

Do you have a sleep or a multiple symptom problem? So the NHS says that insomnia means that someone is having sleep problems regularly. It’s a bit vague, but the Sleep Foundation is a bit better. They suggest that if your sleep is disrupted for three nights a week and lasts for at least three months, chances are that it’s insomnia. But what if you sleep okay for a few nights one week and hardly any the next week? What happens if your sleep problems have been going on for 3 months 6, 12 or even 18 months or more? That’s what we’re looking to answer.

What’s your sleep pattern saying? What’s your ‘ideal’ number of sleep hours? We all differ. So do you feel comfortable with 5, 6, 7, 8 or even 9+ hours? And is something stopping you from having a good night’s sleep? Changes in temperature, your home environment? late nights? people in the home? items in your bedroom?

What you can do to start turning things around

Record it. I know I keep banging on with the same thing, but start by keeping a record of what’s going on. That’s how you get to the root of the problem.

Reduce Stress. If you’re stressed or have been stressed, then you’ll know that it’s a whole body thing. It affects the brain, the digestive system, your hormones, blood sugar regulation, the bladder, nervous system and muscle activity. You might have been trying to exhaust yourself, but still find you’re waking up. That’s because the body is tired, but the brain is still over-activated, wired (stressed). We need to do whole body activities when this happens so we can wind down, mentally, emotionally and physically.

Some useful techniques can be to walk in the day and also try meditation, deep breathing or relaxation techniques before you go to bed.

Feed your sleep hormones. Sleeplessness can actually be caused (in some cases) by the body needing more energy throughout the night. Or it can be that the body has to process too many foods.

Try – Eating 3 small meals a day plus 2-3 snacks and having one snack an hour before bedtime.

Foods which may support sleep:

Bananas, kiwi’s, peanut butter, nuts, eggs, avocado, oatcakes, warm nut milk with honey.

Eat to support your gut. Serotonin is known as a relaxant but it’s also a pre-cursor for melatonin, the sleep hormone. It’s formed largely in the gut and is one of the main neurotransmitters involved in sleep. But serotonin is also involved in the digestive process and moving food through the gut. So reduce stress but also eat foods which support the gut function.

Try – I’m a huge smoothie fan. They’re so easy to prepare because you can get so much goodness in one cup. Try one of these in the morning.

1 Prune, Banana, Beetroot, Nutmeg,  Lime
2 Apple, Beetroot, Ginger, Lime, Turmeric

(If you want more smoothie recipes – email info@stresslessliving.co.uk).

Foods which support the friendly bacteria in the gut:

Onions, leaks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, apple cider vinegar and garlic.

Have a sleep support routine. You shouldn’t have to put your life on hold to have a healthy sleep pattern. But if you’re doing activities which are causing you to work late into the night, or taking on more than you can cope with, take an assessment and think of how you can change things at least until you can get back into a good, regular routine.

What could the benefits be? Okay so let’s think big. Taking the time to addressing the real problem when you’re bone tired can be hard. But imagine what it could be like to get a good night’s sleep. You don’t have to be obsessed with it (as that can make things worse) but know that you can do this. What could it be like if you slept well? How would your life be and what could you do more of? Now let the thought go, BUT still take the smallest steps to help you move forward.

Action (and reward). It would be so easy to just walk away now. But instead, what’s ONE thing that you can take away and do something about? What ONE thing can you do consistently this month to help you to get to grips with your sleep problems and find a way out?

What I’ve done here is in essence what I do with my clients. At first I help them to identify the underlying imbalances of their illness. Then I develop a health and dietary programme around their needs. Eventually they are able to identify by themselves when things are not right and apply the techniques they’ve learned to bring themselves back into balance. If you’re having sleep problems and want to get to the bottom of what’s causing it and get help to turn things around, then call me for a FREE 15 minute, no pressure consultation.

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