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Tired? Fight stress-induced insomnia

Combat Stress-Induced Insomnia – Live Great – Great Eastern Life

You're exhausted from juggling housework, work, and family obligations and climb into bed, ready for a good night's sleep. You turn off the light, settle in, and wait to doze off. But, frustratingly, you can't fall asleep. Or, worse - you fall asleep but wake in the middle of the night fully alert and filled with anxiety. Or just incapable of falling back asleep.

This scenario is caused by insomnia, a regular inability to sleep. Not only is it frustrating, it is also disruptive to your energy levels, mental alertness and general mood.

Insomnia is usually caused if you are under stress. If you are an insomniac, you've probably tried many remedies, but to get a good night’s rest you have to tackle the cause of your restlessness.

Aids like sleeping pills are no solution and should only be used for a short time while you treat the causes of your sleeplessness. It is important to take a holistic approach to insomnia and address the following imbalances to retrain the body to return to its normal sleep cycle.

Imbalance #1: Excess or deficient cortisol
Stress triggers a physiological reaction in your body called the "fight-or-flight" response where your body releases stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and cortisone. Usually, these stress hormones disperse once the threat has passed. However, if you're someone that is always in high gear, your body will be flooded with these stress hormones for long periods of time without rest. This can draw you into a cycle of alertness and sleeplessness.

Signs of cortisol imbalance:

  • You are hyper awake with shallow sleep = excess cortisol
  • You are generally tired during the day; you fall asleep but wake at 3am and feel sleepy again at 3pm = cortisol insufficiency

To stabilise cortisol imbalance try:

  • Avoiding refined foods, high glycemic carbohydrates and opting for a low glycemic load diet (click here to find out which foods to avoid)
  • Keeping away from stimulants such as caffeine; don’t drink more than one cup of coffee a day and avoid caffeine in the afternoon
  • Building up vitamin B, which will be depleted by stress, by eating vitamin B rich foods like oily fish and tofu.

Imbalance #2: Hormonal Imbalances
An imbalance in the neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, GABA) or hormonal imbalances can affect your regular sleep cycle.

  • Sweet cravings
    It’s a sign of serotonin deficiency. You crave sweets and starches such as bread and potato chips, and feel better after eating them.
    Try: Getting more exposure to sun! If your job requires you to stay indoors all the time, consider a supplement with: 5HTP or melatonin.
  • Difficulty concentrating
    It’s a sign of dopamine deficiency. This neurotransmitter helps regulate sleep wake cycle. People with low levels find it hard to focus and concentrate and are easily distracted. They may crave caffeine and feel better afterwards.
    Try: Reducing your caffeine intake, or consider a supplement with: L tyrosine.
  • Anxiety attacks
    It’s a sign of GABA deficiency. This neurotransmitter calms the body. If you suffer from anxiety, panic attack, seizures, are over stressed, burned out or have stiff or tense muscles, you would need more of this neurotransmitter.

Try: Increasing your vegetable intake or consider a supplement with: Taurine, theanine and glycine


  • Try taking Niacinamide or active vitamin B3 30 minutes before bed – it has been shown to promote sleep.
  • Pour an evening cup of herbal tea. St John's Wort and Valerian root both reduce tension and promote sleep.
  • Think about practising deep, regular breathing - this will retrain your brain to fall into a calmer state

With a few of these tricks up your sleeve, you will soon be on the way to a good night’s sleep. If you need help with the root causes of stress, why not click here to try our 8-week stress programme, which includes a host of tips, techniques and downloads to help you deal with the anxieties often causing sleeplessness.  

Sheeba Majmudar
Sheeba Majmudar, Naturopath and Nutritionist at Verita Advanced Wellness. This article has been published with permission and is courtesy of Verita Advanced Wellness, a premier partner of Great Eastern "Live Great" programme.

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