Insomnia is very complicated, and many factors contribute to it. Several are listed below in no particular order.
1. Mental Health – It is normal to take 20 minutes, even 30 minutes, to fall asleep. In people who have emotional stress, anxiety, or PTSD, their minds can still be quite active at night. They may be replaying a situation in their head, thinking something bad will happen, or coming up with a to-do list for the next day. This active mind causes them to have trouble falling asleep.
2. Medical Conditions – Sleep can also be affected by other medical conditions. These include joint pain (neck and shoulder, back, knees), reflux, COPD, restless leg syndrome, and urinary issues; just to name a few. People with these conditions may have trouble falling and/or staying asleep.
3. Medication Side Effects – The sleep quality can be impacted by medications’ side effects, such as cough, anxiety, and muscle pain. Some medications affect sleep directly by changing the sleep structure (the amount of deep sleep and REM sleep).
4. Poor Sleep Hygiene – In this modern world, we are surrounded by many technology (TV, smartphone, computer, laptop, tablet). And they all emit blue light. This blue light shines into our eyes and ultimately suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, which is the hormone that induces drowsiness. If you stretch your arm out and can still see your fingers wiggle, that is enough light to suppress melatonin. Other poor hygiene factors include having an irregular sleep schedule or texting even when you’re already in bed.
5. Lack of Aerobic Exercise – Studies show that regular exercise helps people fall asleep quicker and have better sleep quality. This may be due to stress relief or working out excess energy during the day. Exercise also has a quick turnaround for sleep. After they exercised during the day, some people already sleep better that night.
6. Low Blood Sugar – Sometimes, people wake in the middle of the night due to low blood sugar. This can be caused by exercising too close to bedtime, eating too light of a dinner, skipping dinner altogether, or drinking alcohol at night. If the blood sugar drops too low, the body releases the hormone epinephrine to raise it back up. However, epinephrine also stimulates wakefulness.
7. Alcohol Consumption – Some people drink a little bit of alcohol at night to help them go to sleep. Although this seems to help initially, alcohol at bedtime can ultimately interrupt sleep by causing the blood sugar to drop. The reason is that the liver maintains blood sugar levels via a process called gluconeogenesis. At the same time, the liver is also responsible for breaking down alcohol. Both of these biochemical processes require a component called NAD+. When there is not enough NAD+ to go around, the liver is not able to do gluconeogenesis, resulting in blood sugar dropping and people waking up.
Often times, people’s sleep are affected by multiple factors. Here at Nawei’s Acupuncture Clinic, we look at the whole picture in order to address all the imbalances to help improve people’s sleep. Curious to see what Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can do for your sleep? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Anna.
Article written by Anna Diec, LAC