Insomnia is almost never diagnosed by itself. It’s usually a symptom of another condition.
Nobody goes to a doctor and comes home with an insomnia diagnosis. Your doctor will often ask you questions to determine the underlying cause.
It could be a mental condition, like depression, or a more physical one such as hyperthyroidism.
Either way, there’s no reason why you should keep suffering.
Here are some of the most prevalent underlying causes of insomnia and sleep deficiency for most individuals.
Having a chronic deficiency in certain nutrients can lead to insomnia. This includes vitamin B, magnesium, and vitamin D. Deficiencies in these compounds will often cause a chain of imbalances in your neurotransmitters, leading to a lack of sleep.
Sleep Depravation from Chemicals
Certain chemical compounds, including anti-depressants, diet pills, and stimulants, are the most common compounds causing insomnia.
Circadian Rhythm Irregularities
What causes circadian rhythm sleep disorder? Well, it could be a combination of factors—like working too many late nights at your job, or getting no sun exposure (vitamin D).
Thankfully, there are solutions to your insomnia problems. While overcoming them isn’t easy, it is definitely possible.
Finding Solutions to Insomnia
It all starts with your neurotransmitters. Which ones most commonly lead to depression?
Serotonin regulates your sleep cycle. Your body produces this in bulk when you wake up, and it replaces this melatonin when the sun goes down. Oftentimes, a depressed individual will need to have more serotonin than a non-depressed person.
Glutamate is naturally elevated when faced with “stress,” because of the high level of rapid thinking most people are working through. The only problem is, stressed people aren’t able to resolve their issues quickly, so the glutamate remains elevated.
Adrenaline/Nor-adrenaline is based on the idea of fight or flight. As I mentioned above, people with depression are stuck in a stress/fight or flight state. Too much glutaminergic/cholinergic stimulation triggers an ACTH release. This also results in their adrenal gland being over-worked. Research shows that depressed patients often have bigger adrenal glands than non-depressed people. Having too much adrenaline and/or noradrenaline is a recipe for insomnia.
So how can this be fixed?
Start by consulting a doctor.
Usually the first line of treatment will be an SSRI which will help block the noradrenaline release. But SSRIs also decrease dopamine and increase ACTH so they could be counterproductive. New-line antidepressants often target certain serotonin receptors and instead of stimulating them , they block them. So the decrease in dopamine does not occur. Ask your doctor about these.
One is a medication called Riluzole. It works by reducing glutamate, so your serotonin pathway isn’t affected at all.
If you’re being treated for depression and you’re still not sleeping well, try a very low dose of melatonin—around 50mcgs. It’s a super low dose but trust me your body will react to it better.
Since your body is capable of turning melatonin into seratonin, some of this substance will be converted and you might have issues with sleep. Just be sure to limit the dosage.
If you’re taking an SSRI, and it has worked for you for a short time and stopped, try supplementing it with 5-htp.
SSRIs work by making your serotonin stay around you synapses longer which results in more serotoninergic stimulation of them. This, however, tricks your body into thinking it has too much of it, so your body stops producing serotonin.
So after a while, you’ll be right back to where you were in terms of serotoninergic stimulation. So fix this, you might consider taking 5-htp or a precursor such as L-tryptophan. 5-htp is basically serotonin. L-tryptophan is what your body uses to make 5htp.
People who are bi-polar go through 2 phases of mental states. A high and a low.
Both states can result in insomnia. When your body is going through the high, your glutamate is low and your dopamine and noradrenaline are sky high(Mania). This is often treated with drugs that stimulate NMDA and other glutamate receptors.
You can try a gram of Sarcosine and a few grams of L-Glycine during this state. They work by decreasing glutamate reuptake and directly binding to Glycine glutamate receptors.
Stimulating glutamate receptors will normalize your dopamine levels.
If you’re going through a low, your mental state will be quite similar to those with depression. For this reason, all the advice given above will apply here too.
People with adhd have a hard time collecting their thoughts and relaxing, but it’s because their brains lack dopamine in parts that facilitate focus and attention.
These people often get distracted and only get intrigued by things that are “new” and stimulating.
As a longtime ADHD sufferer, I know the exact nightmare it can be. Thankfully, I’m able to get the best sleep of my life with 50mcgs of melatonin and 5mgs of ritalin taken together.
Yes, it can work for you too!
Taking Ritalin close to bedtime makes my racing thoughts go away and melatonin gets my body ready to sleep. It’s definitely worth a try.
Anxiety might be caused by a variety of mental conditions, and the sense of anxiety itself can often differ.
Addressing the root cause of anxiety would often help with the accompanying insomnia. People with ADHD obviously wouldn’t be treated with GABAergics.
Doing so could potentially worsen their ADHD as gaba would inhibit their already low dopamine. That’s why some people feel stimulated by Xanax.
Seriously this is a thing.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence for this. If you have depression and feeling anxious, a gabaergic could help.
You could try Gotu Kola or Valerian. They both work through increasing GABA and/or directly binding to GABA sites.
Gotu Kola works by converting glutamate to gaba, while Valerian binds to GABA receptors directly. If you have ADHD, stick to your medication and it should keep your anxiety in check.
When you’re under stress, you have a lot more Glutamate, Adrenaline, and Noradrenaline in your system. You’re basically more stimulated.
This will cause insomnia.
However, the cure will depend on how long you’ve been under stressed. If you’re worrying about a speech you need to give tomorrow morning and can’t sleep, I would suggest a glass of wine.
No, really. Wine can help you.
Alcohol(Ethanol) is a NMDA blocker, GABAergic and also blocks melatonin re-uptake. Now we don’t want you to think we encourage drinking. But for short term stress, alcohol can be beneficial. For long term success, I would recommend adaptogens.
Cordyceps Militaris is a great one. It works by binding to Adenosine receptors(opposite of what caffeine does). This in return reduces glutamate and acetylcholine release. Both of which are elevated during stressful times. Also, an obvious treatment would be eliminating your stress factors.
Deficiencies in certain nutrients that happen to have a direct impact on neurotransmission can and will cause insomnia. Magnesium for instance, it’s a NMDA blocker so a deficiency would result in an overactivation of these receptors. Vitamin B6 facilitates conversion of Glutamate to GABA so a deficiency would result in again an overactivity of glutamate and a lack of GABA. Vitamin D does have a direct impact on serotonin receptor sites so a lack of it can negatively impact serotonin. Obviously fixing the deficiencies would help you with your insomnia.
If you’re on a medication or taking certain supplements, your insomnia might have been caused by them. If you’re drinking Coffee , stop. Caffeine has a long half life so it doesn’t just go away.
Diet pills often has stimulants like Caffeine, Yohimbine etc…
So if you’re taking them you’re going have to stop. Your anti-depressant might be causing insomnia as well.
Like I mentioned above, try switching to another one. Don’t just switch to another SSRI if you’re already on one.
Try switching to one of the ones I mentioned(Riluzole, Tianeptine). Common OTC sleep aids can cause insomnia too.
What people don’t realize is that though, it’s also anti-cholinergic. So, it blocks muscaranic Acetylcholine receptors. Blocking these sites will increase dopamine… so you’ll feel stimulated and not sleepy.
People with depression often welcome this though since acetylcholine is increased in depressed people.
Dextromethorphan is another drug that goes into sleep aids. It’s an NMDA blocker and it’s known to be an SSRI as well. So it might not be the best sleep aid as NMDA blockage can increase dopamine and SSR inhibition can increase ACTH and therefor stimulation.
Circadian Rhythm Irregularities
With this, the first thing comes to mind is melatonin.
If you work a night shift. Try taking melatonin at the times you want to sleep so your body shifts your circadian rhythm. Also, you can try taking Mucuna Pruriens(contains L-Dopa) and 5-htp(Serotonin) when you first wake up.
This way, you’ll be supporting your body’s own sleep cycle.
Dopamine and Serotonin are the highest when you first wake up so it would be smart to support them both. Also, consider taking Vitamin D with breakfast. Your body expects sun exposure upon waking, so taking vitamin D could help mimic that. But having real sun exposure would obviously be the better choice here.
I hope you apply some of this advice to your current lack of sleep problem.
Identifying the causes of insomnia is the first step towards discovering a solution.