Help for Insomnia
Please excuse our mix up, but this newsletter was to precede the previous one. Thus the last newsletter opens with: “My previous newsletter looked at how diet can influence our sleeping patterns.” This in fact will be that newsletter, and will cover diet and insomnia.
Treating Sleep Disorders
According to research, at least one third of adults experience insomnia, though I would warrant the number may be even higher than that. This prevalence of sleeping problems is growing all the time, in part due to the sea of electrosmog we live in. It has been well demonstrated that electromagnetic fields (from cell phone towers, smart meters, and Wi-Fi) raise stress hormones (primarily cortisol), and lower melatonin levels. (All the science is detailed in my new book Health Secrets for the 21st Century: Volume 2).
Thus, I do believe everyone should take some melatonin (an amount appropriate for one’s age; for example, a 70 year old requires about 3 mg, but none should be given to adolescents). Remember, melatonin is an anticancer and longevity agent, so even if it does not directly help you sleep, it is still of value to supplement with it.
It is also helpful to use supplements that raise serotonin, which shuts off the overactive mind (and is used by the body to create some melatonin). Good choices include L-theanine, L-tryptophan, and 5HTP.
Vitamin B12 is used by the body to build melatonin, so those who are strict vegetarians, or “poor methylators” (including children on the autism spectrum), may find benefit from supplementing with sublingual methylcobalamin.
Regular readers of mine will have seen previous newsletters discuss vitamin D deficiency and insomnia. Low vitamin D, especially in the winter, can also lead to SAD, anxiety, and/or depression, so ensure you are taking adequate amounts of this essential nutrient.
Sleep Disorders and Diet
Now, a new study out of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, implicates diet as one of the underlying causes of insomnia.
Existing studies have found a possible link between insomnia and dietary intake of refined carbohydrates. However the results of such studies have been mixed, and since such studies were short term, it was never clear if a diet high in refined carbohydrates caused insomnia or if insomnia caused people to eat more refined carbs.
This study looked at the long term diets of a large number of postmenopausal women, in order to determine if insomnia was more common among people with a certain type of diet. The researchers hypothesized that rapid rises and falls in blood sugar (following the consumption of refined carbs) may be a trigger for insomnia.
So, the research team looked at data from over 50,000 participants in the Women's Health Initiative, examining their food diaries to see if those with a diet which included frequent intake of high glycemic foods, were more likely to develop insomnia.
High glycemic foods (those which cause a rapid increase in blood sugar) include sugars, fruit juices, white flour products, white rice, processed grain products, sodas, and white potatoes.
What they discovered was, the higher the dietary glycemic index (especially diets high in sugars), the higher the risk of developing insomnia. On the other hand, those women whose diets included less refined carbs, and more fiber, vegetables, and whole fruits (not juice), were less likely to have insomnia.
According to one of the authors of the study, "When blood sugar is raised quickly, your body reacts by releasing insulin, and the resulting drop in blood sugar can lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can interfere with sleep."
Given that everyone (not just postmenopausal women) has a rapid spike in blood sugar after eating refined carbs, it is suspected that these findings will apply to the general population. (Study)
Those who wish to experiment with this thesis, perhaps before attempting a difficult dietary change, could try taking a good insulin regulator (such as berberine) three times a day (including one before bed), for a week or so. If refined carbs are contributing to your insomnia, stabilizing insulin with berberine make make a difference. That will be your clue that a dietary change should be undertaken.
There is another advantage to keeping insulin in check before going to bed. When insulin spikes at night (usually due to eating refined carbs before bed), our growth hormone levels drop. By the time we are middle-aged, or older, maintaining growth hormone levels helps keep us youthful, staving off ailments based on premature aging.
Refined Carbs, Depression, and Winter
A new study from the University of Kansas suggests eating too much sugar during the winter months can trigger inflammatory, metabolic, and neurological processes, linked to depression.
According to this research, in the winter we are already dealing with reduced sunlight, which leads to a disrupted circadian rhythm, negatively affecting our sleeping patterns. Adding excessive amounts of sugar to this equation, could tip the scales in the direction of triggering severe depression.
Stephen Ilardi, KU associate professor of clinical psychology, who co-authored the study, said these symptoms of "winter-onset depression" could cause some people to consume more sweets.
"One common characteristic of winter-onset depression is craving sugar," he said. "So, we've got up to 30% of the population suffering from at least some symptoms of winter-onset depression, causing them to crave carbs -- and now they're constantly confronted with holiday sweets."
The problem is sugars (and refined carbs) initially provide a mood boost after consumption, leading some of those fighting depression to seek the temporary emotional fix.
"When we consume sweets, they act like a drug," said Ilardi. "They have an immediate mood-elevating effect, but in high doses they can also have a paradoxical, pernicious longer-term consequence of making mood worse, reducing well-being, elevating inflammation and causing weight gain." (Source)
Those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder should ensure they have an adequate intake of vitamin D, as a deficiency in this vitamin has been clearly linked to SAD. And, those suffering with sugar cravings should make sure they are taking a supplement that includes at least 200 mcg of chromium, a trace mineral that can help control sugar cravings. (One such supplement is NutriStart’s Mineral Mix, which includes 200 mcg of the clinically proven, trademarked, ChromeMate.)