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Insomnia and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Insomnia is a common health concern for people with modern lifestyles. The main complaints for insomnia include:

  • Can not fall asleep
  • Disturbed sleep, easily wake up at night and difficult to fall back to sleep
  • Feel not rested and tired in the morning
  • Slow starter in the morning
  • Fatigue during the day

The common cause for insomnia is the malfunction of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal system. Adrenal gland responds to our everyday stresses. Long-term stress eventually causes adrenal malfunction. Adrenal malfunction is classified into two stages, Stressed stage and Fatigued stage. The characteristics of the Stressed stage include:

  • Can not fall asleep (adrenal hyper function)
  • Afternoon fatigue or headache
  • Slow sugar metabolism (insulin resistance)
  • Low appetite control (hippocampus destruction)
  • Low sex drive (suppress LH)
  • Low thyroid function (suppress T3 conversion)
  • Low liver detox function
  • Slow bone growth (low calcium absorption)

If the stress factors are not resolved, the malfunction of adrenal gland further develops into Fatigue stage, in which patients experience tired easily, low healing ability and other degeneration related symptoms. The characteristic of the Fatigued stage include:

  • Can not stay asleep (adrenal hypo function)
  • Hypoglycemic reaction
    • Get shaky, fatigue or lightheaded if meals are missed or delayed
    • Irritable or moodiness before meals
    • Eating relieves fatigue
    • Crave sweets

To identify detailed stages of adrenal problems, a saliva test for cortisol pattern is helpful. To identify the stage of the adrenal system is the key to help insomnia because the treatment plan is going to be different for the two stages. The common complaints for insomnia and their associated adrenal stages are the follows:

  • Can not fall asleep (stressed stage)
  • Disturbed sleep, easily wake up at night and difficult to fall back to sleep (fatigue stage and possibly hypoglycemic)
  • Feel not rested and tired in the morning (both)
  • Slow starter in the morning (stressed stage)
  • Fatigue during the day (afternnon fatigue-stressed stage)

Most of the insomnia cases belong to the adrenal Stressed stage. The common therapies for this stage are:

  • Calm adrenal down before bed time
    • Avoid exciting activities such as TV, computer etc
    • Relaxation such as reading, yoga or meditation
    • Chamomile tea, valerian root, 5-HTP, melatonin
  • Avoid afternoon fatigue by rest and adding a snack
  • Stabilizing blood sugar by having small meals more frequently
  • Avoid strong exercise, do mild one for a longer time
  • Avoid coffee, caffeine drink, alcohol and tea
  • Do not use animal adrenal glandular

However, to help adrenal recover, eliminating stress factors is always the first approach and supporting adrenal is secondary. Without solving the root issue, adrenal therapy will not work in the long run. The common causes for adrenal stress are:

  • Busy lifestyle: long working hours and not enough sleep
  • Working at night or frequent travel across time zones
  • Emotional stress
  • Indigestion or food allergy
  • Toxin accumulation
    • low liver detox function
    • Intestinal Candida outbreak
  • Female hormone imbalance
  • Neurological conditions such as anxiety and depression
  • Infections
  • Pain

Addressing above factors efficiently helps adrenal recover completely. The following is a guideline for those who have already been treating those stress factors. Lifestyle changes are necessary to help adrenal recover faster.

Lifestyle Changes for Adrenal Stress Syndrome

Avoiding Adrenal Stimulators

It is very important to avoid certain foods and chemicals in order to avoid excessive stress on the adrenal glands. Patients who do not comply with avoiding stimulators will not reach optimal results. The following is a list of foods and chemicals that need to be avoided as much as possible when attempting to normalize adrenal function.

  • Concentrated sugars
  • Caffeine (decaffeinated is not acceptable because it is still 60% caffeinated)
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Allergic food (histamine is an adrenal stimulant)
  • Partially hydrogenated fats such as deep fried food and shortenings (inhibit steroid hormone synthesis
  • Artificial sweeteners (blocks the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine, which is needed to synthesize catecholamines in the adrenal medulla)
  • Over training
  • Inadequate sleep

Stabilize Glucose Levels

When blood sugar levels fall, healthy adrenals restore the levels back to normal. If blood sugar levels are not stabilized, there will not be optimal results when attempting to correct adrenal status. Here are the dietary guidelines to stabilize glucose levels:

  • Do not skip breakfast
  • Eat a high quality protein based breakfast
  • Eat every 2-3 hours. Do not wait until you are hungry. Do not eat none-stop either
  • Snack with low glycemic foods such as nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, etc.
  • Avoid all fruit juices and carrot juice
  • Never consume high glycemic fruits (foods) without a source of protein
  • Avoid all adrenal stimulants
  • Eat a well balanced diet consisting mostly of vegetables, quality grains and lean meats

Exercise in Aerobic Heart Range

We have two systems of energy production in our bodies—aerobic and anaerobic. Anaerobic exercises include activities that require fast explosive movements such as weight lifting, fast paced jogging, and any other for of exercise that can not be performed for a long duration. This type of exercise will put excess stress on the adrenals. On the other hand, aerobic exercise includes long duration and slow paced activities such as walking, slow jogging, slow cycling, and any other for of exercise that involves endurance. This type of exercise will help decrease cortisol levels and will help to burn body fat as well. Aerobic exercise will benefit the patients who have stressed adrenal glands.

Relaxation Techniques

The stressful daily life can have an adverse impact on the adrenal glands. This is especially important with those who have a high load of emotional or mental stress. Simple and quick relaxation such as meditation, Yoga and Chi Gong can be very helpful in reducing mental effects of stress on those with adrenal stress syndrome. For each week, 3-4 sessions of 20-minute relaxation are necessary.