If you struggle to sleep, you probably know all the basic tips: avoid blue light before bed, don’t drink caffeine too late in the day, exercise, meditate, etc. All of these recommendations are part of the solution. But, following these tips doesn’t always help you sleep better because there can be underlying health issues that are keeping you from being able to sleep normally. I want to tell you about these hidden causes of insomnia so you can identify the cause of your insomnia and find ways to fix it. You don’t have to live with insomnia forever.
Insomnia cause #1: Hormone imbalance
Sex hormone imbalances can cause insomnia, specifically low estrogen and progesterone and high testosterone.
Anyone with sleep issues also has cortisol dysregulation. This means that your cortisol is higher or lower than it should be at different times of the day. It’s common to see high cortisol at bedtime with people who have trouble falling asleep and high cortisol during the night for those who can’t stay asleep.
The next 4 reasons help explain why your cortisol is high at night when it shouldn’t be.
Insomnia cause #2: Food sensitivities
Eating foods you’re sensitive to causes lots of inflammation in your body during the day and night. Besides being an important stress hormone, cortisol is also anti-inflammatory. If you have low-grade inflammation from food sensitivities, your body will release cortisol all day and night to deal with that inflammation.
Many people are sensitive to gluten, dairy, soy, corn and eggs. But you can also be sensitive to “healthy” foods like broccoli and salmon. Finding out what foods your body doesn’t like and avoiding them can improve your sleep.
Insomnia cause #3: Mineral imbalance
Many of my clients have mineral imbalances that are contributing to their insomnia. Calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium should be in balance with each other. Many people are deficient in magnesium and so supplementing can be helpful. But you also need B vitamins, other minerals like boron and a healthy gut to absorb magnesium supplements.
Heavy metals, copper toxicity and too much calcium in the soft tissues can also contribute to anxiety, brain fog and sleep issues. A hair tissue mineral analysis is the best way to find out what’s going on with your minerals.
Insomnia cause #4: An unhealthy gut
The gut is supposed to produce feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and melatonin that help us relax and sleep. If your gut wall is damaged from food sensitivities, antibiotic use, chronic stress or a pathogen, it can disturb your sleep.
Pathogens like parasites, bacteria like H. pylori and yeast like candida can cause you to wake up, especially around 4am. These lovely creatures are nocturnal and so they’re eating, excreting and releasing lots of toxins in the night. Your body releases cortisol to deal with the inflammation which wakes you up, exactly when you want to be sleeping.
I recommend a test called the GI Map because it shows what’s living in your gut, the good and the bad. It also shows how well your digestion, detoxification and immune systems are functioning.
Insomnia cause #5: A congested liver
Your liver is really active at night, dealing with all the toxins in your body. If your liver can’t handle the toxic load, those toxins will keep circulating in your body causing lots of inflammation.
Not only is the liver your body’s filter and protector, it’s also important for your immune system and energy production. It produces bile which breaks down fats, it stores glucose as glycogen for future energy and it makes food available by metabolising carbs, protein and fats. If you aren’t digesting food well and you’re feeling tired often, there’s a good chance your liver needs help.
As you can see, there could be many things going on in your body that you can’t see that are causing you to be awake at night. You need to look at everything that is contributing to your insomnia. If you just look at the gut, for example, and ignore your hormones, your hormones won’t get back in balance and you won’t be able to sleep well.
Functional lab testing will reveal what causes your insomnia so you can address it correctly.
Of course, your mind can sabotage your sleep, too. If you have anxiety and negative thoughts about sleep, you’ll have a hard time sleeping well. Looking at everything that’s getting in the way of a good night’s sleep in both the body and the mind is the key to truly overcoming your sleep issues.
I hope this article gives you hope that you can overcome your sleep issues, whether you’ve been struggling for years, decades or even since childhood. It’s possible to find out what’s keeping you awake at night and fix it so you can get the sleep you need to feel rested, have energy and be your best self!
Please note: This article is not to be used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your sleep health, speak to your doctor. This post may contain affiliate links.
Martha, founder of the Complete Sleep Solution, is a sleep consultant to people who want to sleep but can’t. As a certified sleep expert and functional health coach, she addresses both body and mind with stress resilience techniques and testing for hidden health issues to get to the root cause of her clients’ insomnia.