Why Can’t I Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep? Questions from Readers
One of the most common issues we hear from our patients is trouble sleeping. People often have trouble falling asleep and also trouble staying asleep. Both are related the adrenal hormone cortisol. We have been getting a lot of questions about sleep, so below are two questions from a couple of readers.
Question from Norma, 53 yo female:
Hi, I’m between the ghoul and the poltergeist. I use to sleep all night now I’m lucky to sleep from 9pm/12am to 1/2 am Or 1/3am or 2/5am. Sometimes I’m up 4/5x night. I’m 53 and take hormones. Sometimes I’m so tired from not sleeping through the night…
Dr. Davidson’s Reponse:
This question is in reference to an article we wrote on cortisol and how it affects sleep and daytime energy. Cortisol is released from your adrenal glands in a diurnal fashion. In a perfect world, the cortisol secretion is highest in the morning and will wan through the day and drop dramatically at night. This pattern follows the sun. As the sun rises, our cortisol goes up and as the sun sets, our cortisol is supposed to go down.
This reflects our energy levels in that high cortisol in the morning helps us wake up and get going for the day. The cortisol will stay elevated in the day for daytime productivity. Then will drop at night so that it is easy to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.
In our article, we mention three profiles that reflect when cortisol secretion has gone wrong. We are not making light of adrenal fatigue and the havoc it can wreak in our lives. But these three profiles are easily learnable and understandable.
The three profiles are the Vampire, the Ghost, and Zombie The Ghost is broken up into two distinctions: the Ghoul and the Poltergeist. Real quick to explain, the vampire is the person that has high cortisol at night and low cortisol in the morning. The Vampire will stay up late, having a tough time falling asleep at night.
And will have a terrible time waking up in the morning and will be tired all morning if not the afternoon as well. The Zombie has low cortisol levels all day and night long. Meaning Zombies are tired all day and night long. They can sleep for hours and still say they are “soooooo tired.” Ghosts are the people that have no trouble falling asleep but will wake up in the middle of the night.
There are two variants of the Ghost. There is the Ghoul, that wakes up after 4 hours and cannot go back to sleep. Ghouls roam the halls, play on their phone, get some household work done, might have a small meal, watch TV. Ghouls can be up from 1-3 hours in the middle of the night. And by the time a Ghoul is tired and fall asleep they have to wake up soon after to start the day. Poltergeists wake up all night long. It is really irritating to fall asleep only to wake up 30 min to one hour later. And they do this over and over again. Poltergeists only get a series of small naps all night. Therefore they are so very tired in the day.
Back to Norma and her question about whether she is a ghoul or a poltergeist. There are so many variants of the Vampire, ghost(s) and Zombies as we are all unique individuals. But Norma is a Ghost. Norma is a hybrid of Ghost: a PolterGhoul.
Once a vampire falls asleep, they generally stay asleep all night, if not all morning long. But Norma is waking up too frequently in the night for extended amounts of time. This means her cortisol is spiking in the middle of the night, multiple times.
So basically Norma is getting a series of small naps all night long. That is because her cortisol is bouncing up and down all night long. Why is this happening? Well, most often it is from stress. If there is a lot of stress going on (whether that is good-stress or bad-stress, it is still stress.
Chronic stress will raise cortisol at night. Now I am sure Norma cannot make the stress go away because we all have “life” to deal with. But she can reduce the cortisol at night to help her sleep better. Balancing her blood sugar is the first start. Having a bedtime snack before bed will balance her blood sugar, keeping her cortisol from spiking in the night.
To put this another way, if you eat dinner at say 6 pm. But you have nothing after dinner. Come 2 am, you have not eaten in 8 hours. This can cause your blood sugar to drop. When your blood sugar drops, your adrenal glands will secrete cortisol to tell your liver to do a process called gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis is a process that your liver can do to make blood sugar/glucose without even have eaten anything. But in this process, the rise in cortisol will wake you up in the middle of the night. One easy thing that Norma can do is have a bedtime snack of protein and carbohydrates. Also taking supplements that reduce cortisol at night would be helpful for Norma/Ghost. I have to say this, or my attorney will give me a verbal flogging: this is for educational purposes and not medical advice, etc… So these are my suggestion for reducing the cortisol:
Cortisol Manager: this is a great blend of herbs and minerals to lower cortisol at night. This is a nice supplement to take if you have a lot of stress on your plate or there a lot on your mind. It is not a sleeping pill but helps to reduce cortisol for better sleeping.
Kavinace: this is a great amino acid supplement that is a precursor to GABA. GABA is a huge molecule that is hard to digest. By taking the precursor to GABA can help absorb and cross the blood-brain-barrier. By raising the GABA will help reduce the cortisol at night to help with sleep. But it will not act as a sleeping pill. So if you have to wake up in the middle of the night due to an emergency call or such, you can and if needed easily drive a car.
Question from Jacki:
Hi, I’m not sure which sleeper I am and would like help in finding out who I am.
I can’t get to sleep, wide awake and if I do fall asleep, it can be a light sleep that I’m aware of anything around me or can go into snoring sleep.
Has been a while since had a good sleep and felt productive
Feel exhausted internally you know head fuzzy and foggy
Head numb or feeling like it wants to blow off my shoulders’
HELP – Jacki
Dr. Davidson’s Reponse:
Jacki is definitely a vampire with hints of a ghost. This question is similar to Norma’s in reference to the article we wrote on cortisol. Like I mentioned above, cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands in diurnal fashion.
For Jacki, her cortisol is too high at night. Making it almost impossible to fall asleep. And when she does fall asleep, she is a light sleeper. Jacki also mentions that she can also go into a deep snoring sleep.
This is actually a common scenario in adrenal fatigue. The person gets little or poor sleep for several days. After a few nights of being basically sleep deprived, will fall into an exhausted one night of a deep slumber. But the next night, they are back to trouble falling asleep and trouble staying asleep.
Remember the vampire stays up late. And the ghost cannot stay asleep. Jacki is a combo: vampire-ghost. Needless to say, she will be really tired in the morning and then tired all day. This affects not only physical energy but also mental energy. Vampire-ghosts complain of being foggy-brained and exhausted in the day.
The goal with Jacki is to reduce her cortisol in the evening and all night long. These are the people that fall into the trap of sleeping pills and alcohol to fall asleep.
Unfortunately, this does not help with overall sleep quality. In fact, over the counter sleeping pills do not get you into a deep sleep and are not good long-term for memory. Jacki is different from Norma. Norma had no trouble falling asleep, but a terrible time staying asleep.
Again, to keep my attorney from firing me, I have to say, ‘this info is for info and not replacing medical advice from your doc and if your doc is not open to this kind of medicine, find a new doc….’ This is what I like to help people fall asleep. Using a form of phosphatidylserine is helpful to reduce Jacki’s cortisol. And using the Kavinace as we did with Norma to help raise GABA levels.
The phosphatidylserine will help Jacki fall asleep. But as well, I often use a low dose, chewable, instant release melatonin. Melatonin is not good for everyone, but I find that is because they are taking a high dose and sustained release, causing a lot of side effects. But a low dose, instant release is really nice for someone that cannot fall asleep. I like a 3mg melatonin tablet chewed up right before bedtime.
Then if needed take another 3mg tablet if they wake up in the middle of the night, and it is at least 3 hours before they need to wake up. I would also give Jacki some glycine powder.
Glycine is an amino acid that helps with healthy, deep sleep. But what I love about glycine is it helps to turn off “brain chatter”. “Brain-chatter” is when you brain just will not shut off and is repeatedly chattering about subjects that you have no control over in the middle of the night. Having glycine before bed and if needed in the middle of the night will help “turn off” your brain and keep it off.
Seriphos (a form of phosphatidylserine): two capsules evening before bed.
Kavinace: taking two capsules before bed to raise GABA and help stay asleep.
Melatonin 3 mg: chew up one tablet before turning off the light to go to sleep. Then place a tablet beside your bedside. If you wake up in the middle of the night, at least 3 hours before wake up time. Go ahead and chew up the tab. Melatonin only has about a 3-hour lifespan.
Glycine Powder: 2 teaspoons in a small, small glass of water. Drink half of it right before bed. If you wake up anytime in the middle of the night, reach over and finish the rest of the glycine water. Eventually, Jacki will train her body to be human, not a vampire-ghost.
Thank you so much to Norma and Jacki for taking the time to send us your concerns. You can use the code FREESHIP to get free shipping for all orders over $25. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, or send an email to [email protected]