Sleep abnormalities

All treatments are indicated for all skin types unless otherwise specified.

Sleep is essential for the body to restore and repair all of its vital functions. Sleep is when the body attends to all its "administrative" tasks. Sleep disturbances are one of the biggest challenges that we face in the modern world that we live in. Stress, technology, radiation, information overload, poor nutrition, chemical & free radical exposure and the speed of our lives are just a few factors that have an extremely detrimental effect on the quality of our sleep.

So just how big a problem is insomnia?

The National Sleep Foundation surveyed more than a thousand adults in 2002. 35% said that most nights, they had at least one out of the following four symptoms:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking a lot during the night
  • waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep, or
  • waking up feeling un-refreshed

About 15% of the survey group reported taking either a prescription sleep medication or an over-the-counter sleep aid at least a few times a month, which most definitely does not provide a long-term sustainable solution for sleep restoration.

A study of the Canadian population found that 24% of people ages 15 and older reported insomnia, defined in this study as a "yes" response to the question "Do you regularly have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep?"

Some of the factors associated with insomnia in this study included:

  • financial concerns
  • unemployment
  • smoking
  • life stress
  • family problems
  • work problems
  • physical health problems
  • pain or
  • activity limitation

Although age did not seem to be a factor in this survey, other studies have shown that insomnia does increases with age. What's worse, insomnia is not a benign problem. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is associated with an increased risk of dying with advanced age. Recent studies have shown that there's a direct association between insomnia and heart disease, obesity, increased inflammation and high levels of Cortisol (our stress hormone).

Many older insomniacs take naps during the day. Now, naps in themselves have actually been proven highly beneficial, especially "power naps" that lasts between 20-30 minutes. The challenge with insomnia lies when these afternoon naps start to influence night sleeping negatively and worsen insomnia. In these cases, naps are related to higher mortality in this age group.

Although many people believe that psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety cause insomnia, the reverse may actually be true. The National Institutes of Mental Health Epidemiologic Catchments Area study found that the risk of developing a new depression was almost 40% higher for insomniacs than for those without sleep problems. Other research, however, suggests that too little sleep - in particular too little rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – can bring on a fibromyalgia muscle pain state. This seems to be related to the drop in growth hormone seen in these fibromyalgia-like disorders.

The circadian rhythm and sunlight

Some doctors are ignorant of the simple facts of the biology of sleep. We are all animals that depend on a wake-sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm. This rhythm is set up by our exposure to sunlight. There is more insomnia when there is a lack of sunlight, such as near the North pole.

We know that sunlight triggers the skin to form Calciferol, commonly known as Vitamin D3. The same hormone (yes Vitamin D is a hormone) is added to milk to ensure that children get some D3 to assist with the formation of long bones and teeth. However, Vitamin D3 does so much more. It has not been recognized yet that Calciferol controls the release of melatonin and regulates the pituitary release of growth hormone.

What can be done for insomnia and sleep restoration?

You can imagine what the lack of regular sleep-wakefulness does to any human being. It is extremely disruptive. Remember the movie INSOMNIA with Al Pacino and Robin Williams?  It took less than one week for Pacino to become suicidal. Fortunately, there is a simple cure.

The simple diagnostic test is the Vitamin D 0,25 OH test. Ideal values are a range of 60-70. We regularly see insomniacs with values of less than 20 even less than 10. Also, because dark-skinned individuals need more sunlight, their levels are typically lower.

The simple treatment is taking Vitamin D3. The best form is liquid and placed under the tongue in the evening after dinner. The ideal way to determine D3 levels is by a simple blood test where a specific dose for each patient will be determined. With appropriate follow-up laboratory test every three months, we will know when a healthy range is reached.

So how much sleep do you actually need? Moreover, how can you tell if you are getting the right amount of sleep?

On the other hand, if you feel tired but can't fall asleep during the day, then your tiredness is more likely fatigue instead of sleepiness. This is due to adrenal exhaustion, lack of DHEA and excess amounts of Cortisol. Although many people, including researchers, use the terms fatigue, tiredness, and sleepiness interchangeably, they are different conditions. Most people can distinguish sleepiness or drowsiness such as that felt after being up out of bed all night waiting in the emergency room with a sick child, from the fatigue or weariness experienced after running a marathon. Such "acute" fatigue is different yet again from the "chronic" fatigue experienced by cancer patients, people living with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue is experienced even without exertion and does not improve with rest or sleep.

By measuring Calciferol levels and replacing Vitamin D3 with high dose oral drops, sleep patterns should revert within a few days.  We also sometimes add 5-HTP to increase serotonin naturally. Another essential addition is Magnesium. Magnesium helps relaxation of muscles, decreases our Cortisol levels and works to calm down overactive brain (cortex) cells.

Finally, the longer you are awake, the more exercise you get during the day, the more slow-wave (delta) sleep you will have when you do sleep. Slow-wave sleep is associated with the feeling you have slept well, and with feeling refreshed. To sleep well then, get up early, but avoid going to bed too early or too late. Remember the 7-hour guideline. I can't express this any better than the following proverb, which predates Benjamin Franklin by more than 200 years: "At grammar-school, I learned a verse, that is this, "Sanat, sanctificat, et ditat surgere mane." That is to say, "Early rising maketh a man whole in body, holier in soul, and richer in goodliness." (Anthony Fitzherbert (1470-1538): The Book of Husbandry, 1523).