Trouble Sleeping? What You Need to Know Before Taking Ambien

Are you frustrated that you’re not able to sleep through the night?

Headlines tells us that lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease, obesity and more frequent colds. So it is smart to find out all you can about getting a good night’s sleep.

Trouble sleeping is a common complaint – affecting 69% of primary care patients.

  • Feeling sluggish at work and finding yourself yawning all day?
  • Do you feel exhausted, then find yourself tossing and turning at night?

If you’re a middle-aged women you might think this sleeplessness is caused by your hormones, the cat or your spouses’s snoring. But these are often explanations our brains create in order to make sense of our experience. When your sleep improves you don’t even NOTICE the outside noises any more.

Men may blame it on stress or a schedule that is too busy. Those can be triggers but by themselves they shouldn’t be enough to disrupt sleep.

For many people who don’t sleep well there is a HIDDEN CAUSE.

An Overlooked Root of the Problem

An underlying weakness of your adrenal glands can deplete your body’s reserves so much that it can’t compensate for little changes – like a late dinner, a stressful day or a full bladder.

Normally your nervous system, and particularly your adrenal gland, would be able to shift its resources around to manage these issues without disrupting your sleep.

When your adrenal reserves are too low not only do you have trouble adapting to mild stressors it can wreak havoc with your blood sugar. Low blood sugar in turn triggers the release of adrenaline and voilà – you’re wide awake (and worrying about something) in the middle of the night.

Low adrenal function can also make it harder for your body to control inflammation, leading to increase pain in muscles and joints and further disrupting sleep.

Think a Prescription Will Help?

You may be tempted to reach for a prescription to help you sleep.  Ambien, Restoril and Lunesta are common choices. In 2013, ONE out of FOUR Americans had been prescribed a sleeping pill. But they don’t always provide restful sleep and can come with some nasty side effects.

A research study published in the British Medical Journal Open shows that women taking  as few as one sleeping pill every 3 weeks have a 30% increased risk of cancer. The FDA issued a statement in 2013 calling for reducing the dosage of sleeping pills for women due to this risk.

How to Break the Sleepless Cycle

Step One: Follow the 5 Simple Sleep Steps below. They are good “sleep hygiene” guides for everyone.

Step Two: Take the Nutritional Profile Quiz. It can help you understand what underlying factors could be affecting you and what you can do about them.

Step Three: If your situation is particularly challenging or hasn’t responded to the steps above you may want to ask your doctor for an Adrenal Stress Index which evaluates the interaction between stress, blood sugar and hormones.

Here are 5 Simple Sleep Steps that you can do at home to improve your sleep:

  1. avoid alcohol before bed – it might ‘knock you out’ but it disrupts DEEP sleep
  2. turn off electronics one hour before bed – the blue light stimulates brain chemicals that keep you up
  3. use curtains to darken your bedroom
  4. keep the temperature to 65 degrees
  5. practice meditation or relaxing visualization to help you return to sleep after waking.

Dr. Marina Rose has a Chiropractic and Functional Nutrition practice in Los Altos, CA where she helps people with a variety of health concerns including trouble sleeping.

Dr. Rose has found that the best way to improve sleep is to identify which body system is ‘on alert’ and addressing that specific system. Sometimes this involves an Adrenal Stress Test, a neurotransmitter test or a hormone profile.
To learn more about what your nutritional imbalances might be click the button below to take our Nutrition Profile Quiz.


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  • Hiromi

    Reply Reply May 23, 2013

    My neighbor just had Adrenal hormones test. I think her doctor suggested her to take some supplement.

    • Marina Rose

      Reply Reply May 23, 2013

      Yes, an adrenal test is a great place to start.

  • Emily

    Reply Reply July 24, 2013

    Wow! Just one sleeping pill in THREE weeks has that much of an increased cancer risk?? That is crazy, I never would have thought that. I’m going to make sure other people know this, I know a lot of people who think they need sleeping pills.

    • Marina Rose

      Reply Reply July 24, 2013

      Emily, I’m so glad you want to spread the word. When you see all the commercials for sleeping pills it’s easy to fall into the mindset that it’s normal to take them. Most often sleeping issues are caused by adrenal problems and can easily addressed by specific supplements that are determined by your lab results. If the sleep issues are only a recent problem or not severe then herbs like valerian root, passionflower and hops can be very effective.

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