Sleep and Insomnia

Insomnia is a general term referring to any difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. Left untreated, it may lead to irritability, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and, in the longer term, to an increased risk of accidents, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, immune system problems, etc.

MELATONIN is a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. As darkness falls at the end of each day, melatonin production rises. In the morning, when daylight hits the retina, neural impulses cause production of the hormone to slow. Clearly, light and darkness are the primary factors that set the rhythms of melatonin production. It has been found that a variety of regular daily routines can strengthen the rhythm of melatonin production.

Blue light emitted by tv s, laptops, cell phones and other devices negatively affects melatonin production.

The liver and sleep …

Studies have revealed that a correlation exists between the liver and sleep patterns, with those suffering from liver problems such as cirrhosis and fatty liver disease often exhibiting disturbed or upset sleep patterns. Sleep disturbances between 1-4am are often linked to the liver.

The liver is responsible for deactivating hormones; it plays a critical role when it comes to hormones. When it comes to sleep patterns, many different hormones can have an effect. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is usually secreted just before you wake up in the morning so you feel refreshed and energised for the day ahead. Melatonin, on the other hand, is produced as natural light fades, helping you to feel relaxed and sleepy in preparation for bedtime. The liver can influence these hormones in a couple of ways. The liver isn’t responsible for secreting or producing hormones, but does deal with these hormones once they have served their purpose.

If a person is suffering from a troubled liver, it is possible that the liver may struggle to breakdown melatonin. This may result in increased bouts of daytime fatigue followed by night-time alertness when the liver finally gets around to deactivating the melatonin still circulating in the system.

Dietary Tips that will impact your sleep:

  • Generally, reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates/foods and sugar as these deplete nutrients and contribute to nutritional deficiencies. For example low levels of B vitamins, omega fatty acids, and calcium/ magnesium due to poor diet can interfere with the body’s natural sleep process.
  • Throughout the day, keep your blood sugar levels stable by eating regular, nutritionally balanced meals. The rhythm of melatonin production is strengthened by regular daily routines. If you skip meals/ eat sporadically this is perceived as a stressor and can push up cortisol levels. Cortisol makes your body ready for fight/flight and high levels, even during the day and can keep you awake at night.
  • An allergic reaction to food/preservatives/colorants can stimulate a stress response and cause your heart rate and cortisol levels to rise.
  • Your evening meal should be a light meal and at least 3 hours before bed. In the evening eat bananas, figs, tuna, nut butters and dates – these contain Tryptophan which can make you feel sleepier.
  • Don’t go sleep on a full stomach of heavy, indigestible, or spicy foods, or large amounts of protein which will stay in your stomach for long time. It can interfere with your relaxation and can contribute to bad dreams.
  • Avoid having bacon/ham, sausages, chocolate, tomatoes, cheese, eggplant, potatoes, spinach or wine for your evening meal. They contain Tyramine which has stimulating effect on the CNS.

Lifestyle tips:

  • Alcohol, drugs (recreational/pharmaceutical), too much caffeine and nicotine, continuous stress and watching TV can over stimulate your nervous system and reduce your chances of sleeping well and falling asleep naturally.
  • Anxiety and depression, often due to stress, are the most common causes of sleeplessness. Contributing to this is physical tension and an over-active mind caused by worry, fear, anxiety or grief.
  • Avoid exercising late at night. Vigorous activity delays melatonin secretion. If you exercise in the morning, you will reinforce healthful sleeping habits that will lead to regular melatonin production. For best results do your morning exercise outdoors, in the morning light.
  • Consider counselling or the support of friends for unresolved emotional/personal issues which are causing stress.

Healthy sleep Habits:

  • Your bedroom should become your sleep sanctuary. Only use your bedroom for sleep and relaxation.
  • Do not use TV, laptops, ipads, mobiles or gadgets in the bedroom – these prevent our brains from relaxing into a slower, sleep-ready cycle. Avoid stimulating activity/stressful situations before bed.
  • Get to bed before midnight. We have our best quality sleep in the hours before 12:00am.
  • To establish a healthy sleep cycle, go to bed at the same time every night and set your alarm for the same time every morning. Get out of bed as soon as you wake. It has been found that “snoozing” is harmful to your health.
  • Once your sleep cycle is re-established you may begin to naturally wake up before your alarm, and can do without one.
  • If you can’t sleep – Don’t stay sleepless in bed, get up and repeat your sleep preparation schedule until you are sleepy again. Do not work or watch TV.

Sleep preparation:

  • Establish a restful routine to repeat each night before bed. Use it as a deliberate relaxation time to rest your body, slow your breathing and calm your mind.
  • Progressive contraction/relaxation exercises, deep breathing, a few long slow stretches, and meditation/visualisation can help you relax.
  • Have a warm bath and add relaxing /calming aromatherapy oils such as Roman chamomile, Lavender, Clary sage, Neroli, Ylang ylang, Sandalwood, or Marjoram.
  • Apply soothing body oil up the spine as relaxation before bed.
  • Enjoy a soothing cup of herbal tea such as Chamomile, Lavender or Lemon Balm before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and at a comfy temperature. If you don’t have black-out curtains, use an eye mask/blindfold or get earplugs if outside noises are disturbing.
  • Try having a small snack of whole grain crackers, warm milk or a banana before bed.
  • Last but not least: consider an evening contemplation practice – get quiet, empty yourself of all the happenings of the day. Forgive who needs to be forgiven. Let it go. Give thanks for your blessings. Then think about tomorrow. Write down what you must do. Think it through and plan it properly. THEN pray and trust and go to bed…


Book a Bio-Resonance scan at INNOVATIVE Wellness Helderberg to find the origin of your sleep health concern.