There is no specific test for the clinical diagnosis of insomnia, however, if you consistently have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, resuming sleep after waking, wake too early or feel unrefreshed following sleep (despite having the opportunities to sleep well), then it’s likely you are experiencing insomnia.
The factors that contribute to poor sleep can be due to another health conditions (secondary insomnia), or underlying problems with overstimulation of the brain and nervous system (causing REM sleep disruption), deficiency of nutrients, poor sleep hygiene, or an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Poor sleep can be episodic, short term and can become chronic.
Sleep occurs in 90 - 120 minute cycles, of two distinct stages:
Rapid eye movement (REM) - which makes up around 25% of your night’s sleep (except for babies where it accounts for most of their sleep). REM is the time of highest electrical activity causing the eyes to dart around under the eyelids. This is the time when most dreams occur.
Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) - makes up the rest of your sleep. NREM can vary with age and the amount of sleep deprivation. The 4 stages of NREM sleep include:
Our sleep requirements are determined by age, but in general, the younger we are, the more sleep we require.
By age, the recommended amount of hours are:
This guide does not reflect how some people need a little less sleep, and some a little more, however less than 7 hours regularly for an adult is associated with poorer health outcomes.
Sleeping patterns also change with age. Babies develop a circadian rhythm (or internal day-night cycle) favouring sleep at night from around 2 months old. At 6 months around 25-50% of babies will wake at night and nap during the day. Daytime naps usually stop before 5 years of age, or may indicate insufficient sleep at night if they continue.
Teenagers see an alteration to their circadian rhythm, feeling their lowest energy dip early morning until around 9 - 10 am (where adults are usually more alert) then their body temperature rises through the morning until around 1 pm, when they are most alert. An afternoon slump is seen between 2 - 5 pm (where adults will likely see this earlier around 1 - 3 pm) and they will start to feel sleepy around 1 hour later than adults, around 11 pm.
Adult sleep stabilises around the age of 20, with variations in the length of sleep, that usually falls between 7 - 9 hours to feel properly refreshed and function at one’s best.
In addition to our natural circadian rhythm, we each have different sleep ‘chronotypes’ , a natural disposition to sleep or be awake at certain times. Circadian rhythm is regulated by light exposure and melatonin release, whereas chronotypes are most likely to be a genetic predisposition. Chronotypes are often characterised by animal behaviours, such as an ‘early bird’ or ‘night owl’, which reflects variations in the time melatonin subsides in the morning and is released during the evening.
Chronic insomnia, where symptoms last longer than 1 month, affects around 10 % of the Australian population and is more common in people with other medical conditions, particularly older people. Regular bouts of insomnia affect up to 33% of people on a regular basis, having difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep, and this can become chronic if a regular sleep pattern is not regained.
Insomnia can present as both the cause and consequence of other factors. For example, poor sleep can impact behaviours and health conditions that directly impact the capacity to fall asleep e.g. anxiety can inhibit the onset of sleep, which can increase anxiety. For this reason, practitioners have moved away from the terms primary and secondary insomnia. Insomnia is not generally considered insomnia when there is a lack of opportunity for good sleep e.g. parents of new babies, however it can develop as a consequence of long term poor sleep.
Common sleep disorders can include:
Sleep apnea and insomnia - what is sleep apnoea?
Many people are unsure what sleep apnoea is, despite it being a common factor in insomnia. Sleep apnoea specialists describe obstructive sleep apnoea, the most common form, as the muscles of the throat relaxing, allowing the soft tissues of the throat to obstruct breathing, which can become chronic obstructive sleep apnoea. This can occur multiple times per hour, causing poor oxygenation during sleep and interrupting the sleep cycle.
Central sleep apnoea occurs when the brain omits to send the signals that control breathing, and complex sleep apnoea (AKA treatment emergent central sleep apnoea) is where both conditions occur simultaneously.
Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.
These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.
Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected.
The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.
Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
Regular, sufficient and good quality sleep is required for the restoration of all of the body and brain. The following systems and processes can be affected when we consistently have insufficient quality or quantity of sleep:
Current guidelines for conventional treatment of insomnia recommend cognitive behavioural therapy as the first line of defence against insomnia.
Your doctor or sleep specialist may recommend good sleep hygiene practices if you are experiencing short term acute insomnia in combination with short term medication. Patients prescribed medication require close monitoring for:
The following pharmaceutical drugs were shown to have none to little improvement in all sleep outcomes when compared with placebo in a 2018 study used by the American Family Practice Guideline:
Given the poor outcomes of pharmaceutical medications, combined with the high risk of significant side effects, many people with short or long term insomnia seek the help of insomnia specialists, or more natural solutions to improve their sleep long term.
Natural functional medicine insomnia treatment starts with an in-depth investigation to identify the root cause and contributing factors.
In an in depth initial consultation we investigate:
Your functional medicine specialist may recommend functional testing to help determine the cause of insomnia, or to investigate baseline health, with tests such as:
Depending on your results and symptoms, a personalised functional medicine insomnia natural treatment may target the following causes of sleep disturbance:
Natural remedies including dietary, lifestyle, herbal and supplemental strategies may include (depending on your condition):
Sleep is a key foundation to good health, and the sleep specialists at Melbourne Functional Medicine can help you wake each morning feeling refreshed, with the energy and vitality you desire to enjoy life.
In our unique 6-month program, you’ll have the support of your functional medicine insomnia practitioner who will guide and direct your sleep treatment, and a health coach who will support you in achieving your sleep and wellness goals.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help you achieve the bliss of regular, long and deep sleep, contact us today to arrange a free discovery call to what the insomnia functional medicine approach can do for you.
Are you ready for a personalised, natural functional medicine treatment? Our unique model of care was designed with you in mind. Find out how, then book a call today
There can be a number of factors that affect your ability to sleep. The two most common are poor sleep hygiene (i.e. the habits and practices around preparing for sleep in the evening) and chronic stress states.
Some other common factors are:
Seeking the support of an insomnia specialist in Melbourne can help to restore quality sleep through a holistic, personalised approach. If you’re looking for insomnia treatment, Melbourne Functional Medicine can help.
Practicing good sleep hygiene every night (and day) can help prepare your body for sleep. The circadian rhythm is regulated by the light / dark cycle of the day and night of the earth’s cycles, so practices such as sleeping in a very dark room, then waking and opening the blinds, going out into the light on first waking can help your body set this rhythm.
Wearing blue blocker glasses after sunset, or better still, avoiding screens and bright lights in the evening, can help prevent disruptions to the production of melatonin, our sleep regulating hormone. Swapping out bright lids for red lights in your bedroom can also help.
Warm baths or showers before bed can help the body adjust to a temperature that prepares it for sleep, and calming herbal teas such as chamomile can help the nervous system relax.
Avoid exciting, stimulating, scary TV, movies, conversations or books before bed, as they can inhibit sleep by stimulating cortisol that suppresses melatonin.
Herbs that calm the nervous system during the day can help sleep at night, without making you drowsy. These herbs are in a group called adaptogens, or anxiolytics, and include Withania, Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola, Chamomile, Lemon Balm.
Herbs that help make you sleepy, taken just before bed, after called hypnotics or soporifics and include Passionflower, California poppy or Hops.
However, all herbs should be prescribed by someone who understands which herbs are best for you, and can check that they don’t interact with any medications you are taking. It is important to rule out any other conditions like sleep apnoea, medications or health conditions that may be impacting your sleep.
Certain nutritional products may also be prescribed by your practitioner to support good quality sleep such as theanine or glycine.
For insomnia, a functional medicine practitioner can help identify the root cause of your insomnia and provide you with a treatment strategy that will have you sleeping like a baby in no time.
Insomnia specialists, or functional medicine specialists in our clinic, may help improve restless legs syndrome.
Often, this syndrome is due to nutritional deficiencies like magnesium, and an insomnia specialist will prescribe a form of magnesium that will be best for you.
A naturopathic insomnia treatment may also include lifestyle, supplemental or herbal medicines depending on the root cause of your issue.
Functional medicine practitioners treat insomnia naturally, and as sleep is one of the pillars of health, it is something they are very experienced in treating.
Initially, they will take an in depth case history to identify the root cause of your insomnia. Then, using lifestyle medicine, sleep hygiene strategies, herbal medicines and supplemental medicines, they will personalise a treatment strategy for you.
Based in South Melbourne, the functional medicine practitioners at Melbourne Functional Medicine can help with all kinds of sleep disorders, insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns helping you to regain long, healthy restorative sleep, naturally.
Yes, insomnia treatment is available in Melbourne. Insomnia naturopathic treatment delivered by functional medicine specialists is natural, safe and effective.
Melbourne Functional Medicine, based in our beautiful clinic space in South Melbourne, are specialists in helping with insomnia.
One of the pillars of good health is long, restorative sleep, so functional medicine practitioners have many strategies to help you regain your sleep. They include natural treatments such as herbal medicines, stress resilience practices, sleep hygiene practices, supplemental medicine, diet and lifestyle medicines.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.