Why can’t I get a good night’s sleep?

By: Dr. Michael Morsillo, B.Sc., N.D.

Since about one third of our lives should be spent sleeping, making sure we get a good night’s sleep is an extremely important part of our overall health.  Many of us will experience transient sleep disturbances throughout our lifetime, and up to 30% of the population suffers from chronic sleep disturbance or insomnia.  Insomnia can be divided into “sleep-onset insomnia” (difficulty falling asleep) and “maintenance insomnia” (frequent awakening). 

When we sleep, we typically move through 5 sleep cycles (each cycle consists of 4 stages of non-REM sleep and 1 stage of REM sleep).  As sleep progresses, our sleep becomes deeper, and our brain wave activity becomes slower.  While we sleep, our brain also releases growth hormone to stimulate tissue regeneration, liver regeneration, muscle building, fat storage breakdown, blood sugar normalization, and more.  With poor sleep quality/quantity, growth hormone release is decreased, and our body is less able to repair and regenerate itself.  Sleep is also the time where our body removes free radicals from the brain to minimize neuronal damage.  Insomnias, therefore, result in greater free radical accumulation, leading to accelerated aging of our brain and possibly neuronal damage.

Difficulties falling asleep may result from acute/chronic pain, poor sleep hygiene (noise, lights, etc.), and caffeine or alcohol consumption.  Frequent waking in the night may result from sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, acute/chronic pain, and alcohol consumption.  Our mental-emotional states can also influence our sleep greatly; anxiety states tend to make falling asleep rather difficult, while low mood or depression tends to result in frequent waking during the night.  Another noteworthy cause of frequent awakening relates to our blood sugar.  If we experience a steep drop in blood sugar while we are sleeping, our body will release adrenaline in order to boost blood sugar levels temporarily; however, this same adrenaline also causes us to wake up, often feeling quite alert.

One of the most common reasons why people can experience both types of insomnias has alot to do with our hormonal control of sleep.  Our body knows when to fall asleep at night when our cortisol levels begin to decrease and our brain also tells our body to stay asleep by releasing increasing amounts of melatonin through the night.  If either of these hormones are not being released in the proper amounts, at the right times, this can result in a chronic battle for a good night’s sleep. 

At our Newmarket Naturopathic clinic, we can use several specialized lab tests to help us determine the cause of your insomnia.  Salivary Cortisol Testing is a very effective specialized laboratory test for detecting imbalances in cortisol levels.  For more severe cases of insomnia, specialized lab tests can be used to determine imbalances in melatonin and other neurotransmitter levels that are important for adequate sleep.

Michael Morsillo is a naturopathic doctor who is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal level of health.  Michael maintains a clinical practice in Newmarket, where he focuses mainly on anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal concerns, detoxification, and weight loss.   

For more information or to schedule an appointment:

Call 905-898-1844 (ext. 135) or email dr.morsillo@gmail.com