Trouble Sleeping?

August 20, 2010
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

92027736Your brain affects how often you awaken at night.

Does the slightest sound—thunder or a toilet flushing—wake you up, while others seem able to sleep through their alarm clocks? New research in the journal Current Biology offers clues to explain this.

Scientists find that bursts of brain activity—or sleep spindles—that occur only while you’re snoozing protect the brain from noise at night. While they don’t yet know why some people have more sleep spindles than others, these researchers hope to create a “utopia for sleepers” in the home, hotel, or hospital.

“In recent years, it has been discovered that the sleep spindle is generated by the thalamus,” explains Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD, MMSc, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “And since the thalamus is the gateway of sensory information to the brain, it has been hypothesized that spindles are the markers of the blockage of noises during sleep.”

Currently, at least 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders—apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome—according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Nighttime noises are only part of the problem.

“Nobody really closes the office anymore,” says Lisa Shives, MD, at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Clearly, many of us are on Facebook or Twitter well into the night.

Now research in Neurology suggests that early stages of Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases cause some sleep problems. REM sleep disorder—in which excessive movements accompany dreams—can signal neurological diseases as much as 25 years before other symptoms appear. “If you can intervene when the disease is still at the brain stem and not affecting some other critical structure in the brain,” says Michael Thorpy, MD, you may be able to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s and other diseases.

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

Good quality sleep is hard to come by in the digital age. Sadly, neurological disorders aren’t the only problems linked to insomnia. Sleeping less than at least 7 or 8 hours inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, leading to higher insulin levels and Type 2 diabetes.

And numerous studies link insomnia with another major national epidemic—obesity. For example, people who slept only 5 hours a night have been found 74% more likely to become obese than those who slept for 7 to 9 hours nightly, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study.

Eat to Sleep?
While it’s always important to mention trouble sleeping to your healthcare provider, there are plenty of natural solutions for insomnia, starting with diet. Tracking eating and sleeping habits of over 450 women in one long-term government study, researchers found the more fat they ate, the less they slept. Alcohol and caffeine were also culprits.

By contrast, nibbling on some delicious tart cherries in the evening can help you snooze soundly. That’s because Montmorency cherries contain significant amounts of melatonin, the antioxidant hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. As an added bonus for all you night owls, melatonin also protects against the damaging effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from your cell phone, PAD, or router.

In addition, the mineral magnesium, found in leafy greens and nuts, can help you sleep through the night. If you’re low in this mineral due to stress—as most people are—try taking 400 mg of Magnesium, the calming anti-stress supplement that can contribute to a full night’s sleep without intermittent wake-ups.

The Cortisol Connection
Sleeping 6.5 hours or less at night appears to raise production of the stress hormone cortisol in the adrenal glands, according to a landmark JAMA study. And in a particularly vicious cycle, high levels of cortisol prevent a good night’s sleep, while impacting metabolic rate, so that you burn less fat, have cravings, and gain weight!

This cycle only worsens as we grow older, too. When we’re young, the body regulates cortisol levels naturally by creating more—up to 2 to 3 times more—of this stress hormone in the morning so that we can start the day full of energy. Then the body naturally decreases cortisol output so that we can fall asleep easily—and stay asleep.

By middle age, though, our baseline cortisol levels naturally begin to rise, making it harder to fall—and stay—asleep. In fact, we become even more sensitive to the additional cortisol created by sleep disturbances, which only triggers more hormone havoc—further disturbing sleep, accelerating aging, and widening our waistlines!

For anyone who has trouble sleeping through the night—especially if you feel fatigued during the day between 11 am and 3 pm—Adrenal Formula can help. To support healthy adrenal function, regulating the body’s minerals and working with the thyroid to produce and maintain energy, this supplement contains the highest grade raw bovine whole adrenal gland and cortex from New Zealand, along with tissue glandulars and vital nutrients (vitamins A and C, B6, pantothenic acid, and the amino acid tyrosine, which helps support the thyroid).

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, sleep in. “The additional hour or two of sleep in the morning after a period of chronic partial sleep has genuine benefits for continued recovery of behavioral alertness,” says David Dinges, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fat Flush for Life
Hot Times: How to Eat Well, Live Healthy, and Feel Sexy During the Change,8599,2009401,00.html

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Wendy

    For me a product called Livercare (I believe sold by you) is a life send. I take one before bed and sleep soundly every night. It must be my liver causing me problems. Thanks for the information.

  2. Kathy

    Magnesium works wonders for me. I’ve had trouble sleeping for the past 10 years and after reading about magnesium I starting taking between 400-800 mg a day and get my full 8 hours a night, normally without waking up in between. Thank you!!!

  3. Melissa

    I take a great Cal/Mag in liquid form that has been helping my sleep. But even if I’m able to sleep in, I still wake up tired…. so clearly there is much more work for me to do in cleaning up my diet and detoxing. Can’t wait till the day that I wake up and feel energized. Thankfully I work from home and can make my own schedule… I can’t imagine if I had to be up early every morning to go to a job. Loving all the phenomenal info ALG. The student is ready. Thanks for appearing. 🙂

  4. Becky

    My 13 year old daughter has been having trouble sleeping. Do you think any of these things would be good for her to try?

  5. Susan

    Melissa- you should do some research on Adrenal Fatigue. Waking up unrefreshed is common with AF. The tips and supplements here are excellent healers for AF.

  6. Joel

    Becky- They would be worth trying, even for a teenager.

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