Your long day at work is over, the sun has set, and you start to feel extremely tired. Eagerly you get in bed, but you lie awake as everyone else falls asleep. You twist and turn, close your eyes, and count endless sheep. But you can’t fall asleep — your body is experiencing insomnia.
In addition to trouble falling asleep, insomnia can also include easily awakening at night, prolonged fatigue throughout your day, and feelings of exhaustion.
Suffering from insomnia is one of many symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), which is caused by a disruption in your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system. Your NEM is a self-regulated system that mainly protects your body from excessive stress. Chronic stress, however, which includes mental, emotional, or physical stress, keeps an imbalanced amount of cortisol and adrenaline hormones in your bloodstream. When the stress is prolonged, your NEM is disrupted, your adrenal glands are no longer capable of pumping enough hormones, and your body falls into AFS.
Insomnia, chronic tiredness, mood swings, lack of sexual vigor, the inability to remember things, anxiety, and a higher frequency in catching the flu or cold are several symptoms of AFS. Once you develop AFS, your Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis begins to malfunction, and that is what leads to insomnia.
Once you develop AFS, your Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis begins to malfunction, and that is what leads to insomnia.
Sleepless Nights and Tired Days: Sleep Onset Insomnia (SOI)
Sleep Onset Insomnia occurs when you lie down, but you just can’t seem to fall asleep. It can, however, be modulated by some changes in your routine.
Having difficulty falling asleep due to AFS could be stressful in and of itself. When your body has high levels of cortisol at night, it could affect your sleep routine. Excess cortisol from your stressful day gets carried into the night and causes the production of unwarranted adrenal hormones. This causes your body to be on full alert in fight or flight mode, which isn’t a conducive state to help you fall asleep in.
To help improve your sleeping patterns, try these tips:
- Keep your bedroom as dim as possible. Avoid using nightlights, alarm clocks with bright colors, or even having electronics near you.
- Change your diet. Eliminating or reducing sugar, coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolates, deep-fried food, and processed food from your diet can help reduce stress levels and help you fall asleep at night. Instead, aim to eat more organic foods and raw nuts, salmon, avocados, and whole foods as much as possible.
- Prepare your body for sleep by engaging in calming activities. Reading a book, engaging in stretches or a calm walk, or taking a warm shower could all help you soothe your anxiety, manage your AFS, and enhance your sleep. You should careful exercising while trying to manage AFS because some exercise may cause adrenal crashes easily; be sure to discuss your decisions with your healthcare professional prior to adding them to your routine.
This causes your body to be on full alert in fight or flight mode, which isn’t a conducive state to help you fall asleep in.
Diet and Sleep Maintenance Insomnia (SMI)
Unlike Sleep Onset Insomnia, Sleep Maintenance Insomnia is when you do fall asleep, but have trouble staying asleep all night. Your body awakens during the night, and you face challenges in falling back to sleep.
SMI ties into an imbalance in your metabolic system. A diet too high in sugar could potentially be causing an insulin dysregulation. Having AFS as well could put you at higher risk of developing hypoglycemia. It causes a metabolic imbalance: as your blood sugar drops during the night, the release of excessive adrenaline hormones causes you to awaken suddenly.
For that, it is essential to keep an eye on your blood glucose levels and avoid foods or habits that could cause a blood sugar disparity.
Stress, Blood Sugar, and Reducing Insomnia
A lack of a good night sleep only makes you feel more overwhelmed as you stare at your to-do list.
In order to prevent or reduce your insomnia, try to balance your blood sugar during the day properly. Feeling fatigued, irritable, and tired during the day is ordinary with AFS, but making changes to your diet could help give you the energy and relief you need.
Snacking on granola bars, processed food, and skipping meals could all drastically influence your sleep during the night. Here are some nutrition tips to help balance your blood sugar throughout the day:
- Begin your morning with breakfast. Skipping breakfast after a long night without food could lower your blood sugar levels. Essentially, don’t load your breakfast up with sugar-loaded cereals, waffles, granola, or toast. Instead, try having eggs, oatmeal with walnuts or almonds, or other foods high in protein and minerals.
- Drink calming herbal teas, such as peppermint, lavender, chamomile, or passionflower.
- Have healthy snacks on hand. Eating organic raw nuts, a bit of dried fruit, hummus and vegetables, seeds, or nut butter could balance your blood sugar, without you consuming too many sweeteners.
- If you are reaching for fruit, try consuming them whole. Don’t go for fruit gummies, fruit juice, or other drinks loaded with added sugar. More importantly, if you are eating a high glycemic food such as a pear or an apple, try pairing it with a protein and fat- such as almond butter. This stabilizes your blood sugar and causes the carbohydrates to be absorbed into your system more slowly.
- If you experience hypoglycemia, eat every two to three hours; don’t wait until your body is in starvation mode to decide to snack or have a meal.
- Focus on a diet high in protein and quality fats, like wild-caught salmon, raw and organic nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, and virgin coconut oil.
- Have a light snack before bed to calm your body, balance your blood sugar, and provide you with improved sleep.
- Avoid consuming coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and processed food.
It might be startling, but your diet plays a crucial role in how well you sleep at night. Focus on eating foods high in protein and fat, and omit processed food and sweetened beverages as much as possible.
While managing your AFS, and trying to combat insomnia, always be persistent. Change will not happen overnight, but you need to relax, stick to these tips, and discuss your concerns with your healthcare professional. With simple changes in your diet and routine, you will be on the path to better quality sleep in no time.