How to Put Insomnia to Bed: A Tale of Balanced Hormones and Better Sleep Habits


How to Put Insomnia to Bed: A Tale of Balanced Hormones and Better Sleep Habits

Quality, restful sleep is perhaps the most important pillar of a healthy lifestyle. It’s a crucial time for our bodies unwind and focus on the 3 R’s: repair, regeneration, and rejuvenation. However, for many people, good sleep can be elusive, causing a fatigue fog to settle in. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Sleep hygiene 101

If you tend to find yourself tossing and turning when your head hits the pillow, follow these tips to set the stage for a restful night’s sleep:

  1. Create relaxing rituals for easing into sleep

A warm bath, a protein and fiber-rich snack, chamomile tea, or a few minutes of light reading before bed can drastically improve your sleep quality. Adding calming and relaxing essential oils to a bath or applying them directly to your skin helps with relaxation, too. Lavender and vetiver produce aromas designed to help soothe your body. In addition, incorporating Epsom salts adds another layer of physical relaxation to your routine, helping your muscles rest and recover.

  1. Limit screen time before bed

To give yourself the best chance of getting a good night’s rest, make sure your television is anywhere but the bedroom. The light from the screen is far too stimulating, and it’s too easy to become engrossed in a show. This same rule also applies to watching shows on a laptop or tablet. If you’re unable to sleep without any background noise, try using a white noise machine, sound app, or radio instead.

  1. Keep your phone out of the bedroom

Just as watching TV before bed can negatively affect your nighttime ritual, so can keeping your phone on your nightstand. So much so, that research shows using your phone or tablet within 2 hours of bedtime can decrease melatonin production by up to 55%! To avoid the temptation to check email, read the news, or mindlessly scroll through social media at the end of the day, commit to charging your phone in another room while you sleep, and limit screen time before bed. Setting downtime hours in your phone’s settings is a great way to start becoming more aware of your habits and begin working toward improving sleep duration and quality.

  1. Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy

Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to get you in the mood to hit the hay. Reading a book, listening to some soft music, or flipping a magazine might just do the trick. 

  1. Find a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it

Consistency is the key to putting insomnia to rest for good. Make a habit out of waking up at the same time every morning and going to bed at the same time every night—even on weekends and vacations. This is an essential strategy for building and maintaining good sleeping habits and contributes to normal circadian rhythm regulation.

  1. Avoid taking naps

Naps are a great way to recharge, but only if you keep track of the time you spend sleeping. If you must take a nap, try napping before 3 p.m. for less than one hour, to decrease the chances of grogginess.

  1. Watch what you eat before bed

What you consume before you go to sleep matters. It’s important to make sure that you do not go to bed hungry and make sure you don’t eat a big meal before bedtime, either. Aim to snack on some high protein foods, like nuts or nut butter, Greek yogurt, and whole grain crackers with cheese to stabilize your blood sugar before you doze off.

  1. Use sleeping pills sparingly and cautiously

Like any prescription medication, sleep aids should only be used when necessary. Most doctors do not prescribe sleeping pills for periods of more than three weeks at a time, and you should not drink alcohol while taking these pills.

  1. Make your bedroom a place where shut-eye is welcome

In other words, re-create a cave setting in your home. The temperature in your bedroom should be comfortable enough for sleeping and the room should be well ventilated. A cool (not cold) bedroom, free of external noise and harsh lighting is often the most conducive to sleep.

How progesterone, thyroid & cortisol levels affect sleep patterns

As hormones change during menstrual cycles and with menopause, so can sleep patterns. Progesterone is one of the hormones with a calming, relaxing effect, so when levels dip it can cause sleeplessness and restlessness. Progesterone levels fluctuate during menstrual cycles and perimenopause and decline during menopause. When progesterone dips and decreases, many women have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Bioidentical progesterone supplementation can be extremely helpful as a tool to improve sleep quality in women of all ages.

High thyroid levels, or hyperthyroidism, can be another culprit of poor sleep. The thyroid gland makes thyroid hormone T4, which is converted to thyroid hormone T3. T4 and T3 are responsible for maintaining energy balance and a healthy metabolism, and high levels can cause anxiety, insomnia, agitation, and irritability. Performing thyroid tests can help us determine if an overly functioning thyroid gland is the cause of sleep issues and what can be done to balance these levels using natural supplements and prescription medications.

Cortisol is another hormone that maintains energy balance and regulates the sleep-wake cycle and levels of cortisol can fluctuate throughout the day. Cortisol should not be high upon waking but should increase to its highest point approximately 2 hours later. This is referred to as the “Cortisol Awakening Response” and is boosted by natural light and fresh air. Following this peak, cortisol levels should steadily decline and hit the lowest point before bedtime. However, when these patterns do not occur, this is when problems begin. When you experience low levels of cortisol during the day, you can begin to feel fatigued and sluggish. Then, when high cortisol levels increase at night, it can cause you to lie awake, impacting your sleep. Fortunately, both low and high cortisol levels can be balanced with natural supplements like rhodiola, ginseng, licorice, magnolia bark, and phosphatidyl serine.

Increase GABA and serotonin to count sheep and get to sleep

Brain chemistry also plays an important role in sleep since the mind must be cleared of worries and stressors in order to drift off to dreamland. Two key neurotransmitters that greatly influence sleep are GABA and serotonin. GABA reduces anxiety to quiet a racing mind for mental calmness. Serotonin, on the other hand, supports a positive mood. Both GABA and serotonin levels can be boosted using natural amino acid supplements that provide the precursor nutrients to increase neurotransmitter levels.

Treat insomnia by discovering the root cause

With so many variables that can impact sleep, it’s important to work with a provider that can investigate all aspects of sleep dysregulation, understand the contributing factors, and formulate an effective treatment plan.

If you can’t seem to get to the bottom of your poor sleep patterns, schedule an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors. Located in Solana Beach in San Diego County, CA, Spark Health Integrative Medicine takes a whole-body approach to your healthcare, so you can rest assured we will leave no rock unturned when it comes to finding a solution for your sleepless nights. Give us a call or send us an email to book your consultation!


Article written by Dr. Aliza Cicerone, ND, FABNO

Can’t Shake the Headache? Here’s how IV nutrient therapy & vitamin injections can help


Can’t Shake the Headache?  Here’s how IV nutrient therapy & vitamin injections can help

Headaches got you down? You’re not alone. An estimated 75% of adults experience at least one headache per year. In fact, headaches are so common that the concept of a “headache” has taken on many different interpretations from describing frustrating situations to chastising bothersome people.

It’s due to this normalization of headaches that many people suffer in silence. Rather than seeking out medical intervention, they falsely assume that headaches are just a normal part of getting older. This is problematic, as constant headaches are often the manifestation of a systemic imbalance that left untreated can lead to poor health outcomes down the road.

Systemic imbalances linked to headaches include hormonal imbalances, stress, metabolic disorders, lack of sleep, weather changes, and even side effects of certain medications. In addition, migraine headaches can also stem from alcohol consumption, neck pain, smoking, fragrances and perfumes, foods high in aspartame, and even environmental exposures/food allergies.

Regardless of the trigger, there are a few ways we can address systemic imbalances and the headaches they cause. At Spark Health, we focus on restoring balance through intravenous therapy and vitamin injections that support the body in managing the severity and frequency of headaches. Keep reading to learn about the vitamins and minerals we use and how they work to alleviate headaches.

The Migraine busters – Vitamin B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12

B vitamins have long been studied for their role in the prevention of headaches, particularly migraines. Because they ensure that cellular functions like metabolism and mitosis are running smoothly, a deficiency in any of  B vitamins can lead to fatigue, weakness, and – yep, you guessed it – headaches.

A very important member of the B vitamin family, riboflavin (vitamin B2), aids in the process of breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into energy. Supplementation of vitamin B2 has been associated with reduction in frequency of migraine attacks as well as a decrease in the use of medications that are typically given to help address migraine symptoms. 

Niacin (vitamin B3), on the other hand, is a strong vasodilator, meaning it dilates blood vessels to allow more oxygen and nutrients to enter the body, especially the brain. This can help relieve and prevent future migraines. Conversely, if too much niacin is taken, it could cause flushing, redness and also headaches, so dosing is important! 

Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) is commonly deficient in patients who suffer from migraines. This vitamin helps your body process nutrients such as fats carbohydrates, and proteins, and protects our nerves (our brain has the most!). It also assists the body in wound healing so if you suffer a stroke or have damage to your brain, it can support your recovery.  Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) helps our brain produce serotonin, which can help with mood and sleep. It also helps improve blood flow in the brain, as well as support the cells surrounding the vessels. Plus, it can help relieve nausea, a common symptom that goes hand in hand with chronic headaches. 

The final members of the migraine busting dream team are folate (vitamin B9) and methylcobalamin (vitamin B12). Folate helps us detox metabolites such as homocysteine, which is found in high levels in people who suffer from migraines. Methylcobalamin helps protect against anemia, provides energy, supports our nervous system (especially the brain), and aids in DNA repair. Again, just like other B vitamins, too much can contribute to headaches, so it is important to monitor your levels.

Magnesium & glycine – One-way tickets to relaxation station 

Magnesium has a long history of effective use in migraine prevention. Low levels of magnesium have been detected in those suffering from a variety of headache types, which is why supplementation of magnesium has been shown to be effective as an inexpensive acute treatment option for headaches and migraines, particularly when administered intravenously to those with low magnesium levels in their blood. It is important to be aware of which types of magnesium you are taking, as each kind is used to address various health concerns.  

Glycine is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and spinal cord and has a calming effect on our brain. It stimulates the production of serotonin, which elevates mood, improves sleep, and enhances cognitive function. Typically, we will combine glycine with magnesium if the patient suffers from sleep issues due to headaches. Glycine is not to be taken if you are on anti-psychotic medications, such as Clozaril, as it may decrease the effectiveness of the medication. 

How IV therapy and vitamin injections boost your body’s headache-fighting abilities

At Spark Health, we boost vitamin and mineral levels in one of two ways – through IV therapy in which vitamins and minerals are delivered directly into the bloodstream by way of an intravenous drip and through injections in which the nutrients are delivered via a needle into the hypodermis for rapid absorption.

Intravenous nutrient therapies contain higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals, which can be helpful for patients who suffer from chronic headaches and the effects will usually last a few weeks. This is also helpful if there are multiple nutrient deficiencies. Vitamin injections are used more prophylactically, as well as for acute headache flares, and contain customized doses of each vitamin. Injections will typically last a few days and up to a week, while intravenous therapies will last about one to two weeks.  

When it comes to frequency of IV therapy or injections, there is no one-size-fits all approach. Primarily, it depends how your body responds. After receiving treatment, patients should note any fluctuations in symptoms and how long they last. On average, our patients  visit us every three to seven days for injections and every one to two weeks for IV therapy until symptoms begin to improve.  

At Spark Health, we are on a mission to flip the script on headaches. It’s all too common for patients to suffer in silence for years before seeking treatment. If you are living with chronic headaches, there is no time like the present to book a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors for a personalized assessment and treatment plan. Located in Solano Beach in San Diego County, CA, Spark Health Integrative  Medicine takes a collaborative approach to natural medicine, partnering with patients to help them achieve their unique health and wellness goals. Give us a call or send us an email to book a consultation today!


Article written by Dr. Barbara Ivos, ND