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From the Desk of Dr. Len

Why Can't I Fall Asleep?

Dr. Len Lopez - Monday, December 14, 2015

can't fall asleep,natural approach to falling asleep, holistic remedies to falling asleep,Sleep aids, both prescription and over-the-counter medications have become a multi- billion dollar industry.  Before the discovery of the light bulb, people could only read, talk or sew when the sun went down.  Today, people are working, searching the web, social media, texting, playing video games, etc. up until the time the jump in bed – and they wonder why they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep!


When it comes to the difficulties of falling asleep, you have to consider how our lifestyle choices affect us.  In a nutshell, we are over-stimulating our brain with all those excitatory brain messengers (neurotransmitters) that it can’t quickly quiet the mind/brain before bed.  All this mental stimulation late at night causes a dopamine surge and exceeds what our body has been programmed to do at the end of the day, when the sun goes down.  In essence there aren’t enough “inhibitory” neurotransmitters (brain messengers), such as serotonin to counteract or balance-out the over-stimulation we place on our brain/mind late in the evening. 


This causes an imbalance, the so-called ‘chemical imbalance,’ but it is not technically because of an inability to produce enough neurotransmitters (NT).  It has more to do with over-stimulating our excitatory NT (dopamine) at the end of the day (web searching, social media, video games, television, etc.), which is counter-intuitive to what the body has been programmed to do since the beginning of time.


For centuries now, we have pretty much ended our day and slowed down as nighttime approached.  This caused a natural curtailment of our excitatory NT and allowed an increase of our ‘inhibitory’ NT, which allowed us to relax, calm down at the end of the day and fall asleep.can't fall asleep, natural remedies for falling asleep,


So you may be doing all the basic things of staying away from coffee or caffeine late in the evening, but you are hitting your nervous system with a dopamine surge that is just as stimulating as a cup of coffee. 


Take a look at what your late night activities?  Are you working against your body’s natural cycle?  The chemical imbalance that comes about this way, is not because of some dysfunction of your hormonal, nervous system.  It may have more to do with pushing your body outside the way it is designed to function.


My first rule of good health and fitness is STOP doing the things that work against you before you start supplementing or using some form of medication.  If you are having trouble falling asleep you should also think about supplementing with magnesium (stay away from magnesium oxide or carbonate) at the end of the day.  It has a natural calming effect on the body and mind.  Epsom salt baths are great and is nothing but magnesium.  It’s one of my favorite ‘must use’ supplement for most people who are active and on the go. 


I would also look to add some 5-HTP, valerian root, chamomile tea, and GABA at the end of the day.  Just remember, three steps forward and three steps backwards doesn’t get you very far, so adding a supplement to simply counter balance your late night (stimulatory) activities may not be enough to get you that good night sleep you are after.  You may have to CHANGE something to make that happen. 


I hope that helps, will talk about staying asleep later, which is a huge problem associated with stress and low blood sugar.

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