7 unusual causes of insomnia


Marianna Kilburn
@MariannaKilburn


25 May 2018

1 – Allergies

Allergies such as allergic rhinitis and hayfever  have a history of being associated with sleep disorders such as insomnia. In 2006, French researchers compared the prevalence of sleep disorders in a group of 591 participants who were receiving treatment for allergic rhinitis and 502 without allergic rhinitis. The results found that 36% of those with allergic rhinitis reported experiencing insomnia compared to 16% of those without any allergies.1

The relationship between allergies and sleep is easy enough to understand, with symptoms such as congestion, coughing and throat irritation causing disruption to your sleep at night. That’s why I’d always recommend tackling these symptoms first and seeing if you notice any improvements to your sleep pattern. There are a number of ways you can tackle allergies – just check out A.Vogel Talks Allergic Rhinitis and A.Vogel Talks Hayfever for more information! I personally always recommend trying our Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets.

Don’t be put off by the name – this remedy is also indicated for allergic rhinitis symptoms too! It contains a combination of 7 tropical herbs specifically aimed at tackling general symptoms without causing the drowsiness typically associated with traditional hayfever medicines. If you’re more interested in combatting specific symptoms, we also offer a Luffa Nasal Spray to help cleanse your nasal passages of pollen as well as Extra Moisturising Eye Drops to help relieve irritation and inflammation!

2 – Thyroid imbalance

Your thyroid glands are incredibly important when it comes to how your body functions as a whole. These glands are located in your neck and function as part of your endocrine system, helping with the secretion of thyroxine (T4) and trilidothyronine (T3) which are needed by all the cells in your body to work optimally.2  

However, thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) are quite common and can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms. For example, sufferers of hypothyroidism frequently find that it doesn’t matter how much sleep they get, fatigue continues to be a persisting symptom which, if undiagnosed, sometimes leads the sufferer to assume that they have a sleep disorder. 

On the other end of the spectrum, when too much thyroxine is produced, as is the case in hyperthyroidism, it can stimulate the nervous system, making it difficult for the sufferer to relax. This means that they frequently suffer from anxiety and mood swings in addition to sleep problems such as insomnia. 

When it comes to your thyroid, your doctor can conduct a blood test to assess your thyroxine levels, helping to provide an indication as to whether or not you could suffer from a disorder. If you suspect that your thyroid could be playing a role in your sleep disorder, I highly recommend taking this course of action.

3 – Over supplementing 

Vitamin supplements are all the rage at the moment and, while I’m all in favour of trying to increase your intake of nutrients, too much of anything can be a bad thing – just check out our nutritionist Emma’s blog about the dangers of taking too much vitamin D! Some vitamins are essential when it comes to supporting your sleep pattern but, according to one study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama, the use of multivitamins is often associated with poorer sleep maintenance compared to those who did not take supplements.3

However, it’s important to note that no specific vitamin supplement on its own was linked to sleep disruptions. Rather the authors of the study theorised that it could be an interaction of multiple vitamins, or that those that suffer from disturbed sleep are more likely to take supplements since insomnia is often associated with nutritional deficiencies.  

The study itself is quite inconclusive on the matter but, given society’s propensity of taking multiple supplements, it’s certainly a reminder that everything should come in moderation - even vitamins and minerals. That’s why our nutritionist Emma always recommends looking for the nutrients you need in your diet first and only ever using supplements as a secondary helper rather than the main solution.

4 – Skipping meals (especially breakfast!)

Intermittent fasting is the most recent diet trend to come out of 2018, but is it really as healthy as it seems? Here at A.Vogel, we’re not massive fans of counting calories and skipping meals, and for good reason! Whether you miss meals because you are watching your waistline or you prefer to snack on-the-go, it can have a drastic impact on your blood glucose levels. 

What you eat is your body’s primary source of fuel and often carbohydrates and sugar are converted into glucose, which can be used as an energy source by your body. However, if you’re not eating regularly, it can cause your blood glucose levels to become low, which will initiate an energy crash and stimulate hunger cravings.

These cravings can lead you to binge on unhealthy sugary foods which can have the opposite effect on your blood glucose, causing your levels to rise too much! Insulin is then released by your body to help get your blood glucose levels under control however, the more sugar you eat, the more your blood glucose levels spike and then you become more resistant to this insulin. 

This can cause a number of problems and have a noticeable effect on your sleep patterns. If you’re snacking on sugary foods throughout the day, your blood sugar levels will rise at bedtime, making it harder for you to get to sleep, and then crash during the night, which can take you out of deep NREM sleep and place you in the lighter REM sleep phase.

So eating regular meals is important, especially breakfast! A good breakfast can set you up for the day and prevent hunger cravings in the morning. Instead, of eating on the go, why not go that extra mile and prep your breakfast in advance? My favourite on-the-go breakfast would have to be this delicious Overnight Passion Fruit Chia Pudding, though you can find more quick and simple breakfast remedies here. 

5 – Being too sedentary

It’s not exactly a secret that these days that, for the majority of us, our work will revolve around sitting in front of a computer screen for hours at a time, on a daily basis. These types of jobs might be healthy for our bank balance, but may not be as profitable for our energy levels. Not getting enough exercise and remaining sedentary not only affects your mood, it can also affect your sleep patterns too, with some research finding that prolonged sedentary behaviours are often linked with an elevated risk of insomnia.4 

This seems to further be backed up by the results of a poll launched by the National Sleep Foundation in 2013, which found that exercise was often associated with better sleep. I explore this idea a bit more in my blog ‘Do you sleep better when you exercise?’ which also details when you should be exercising and the best exercises for improving your sleep. 

6 – Medication

When you think of insomnia, your mind might not immediately make the association between your medications and sleep troubles. However, specific types of medicine can impact your sleep, including beta-blockers, corticosteroids and sometimes antidepressants. In these instances, I would never recommend simply coming off your medication to alleviate your insomnia. Instead, you should always speak to your doctor first as they may be able to suggest alternatives and provide further information about treatment.

7 – Gluten sensitivity 

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance occurs when we are unable to digest gluten, a protein frequently found in wheat and barley, in the small intestine. As a result, you can experience inflammation and other symptoms such as bloating, digestive upsets, or even difficulty absorbing nutrients from your food.

This can upset your sleep in a number of ways. Firstly, if you’re not able to absorb nutrients properly, that means that vitamins such as B12 and minerals like magnesium and iron (which are crucial for healthy sleep could lead to poorer sleep quality and increased cases of sleep disruption.

You also have to consider that fatigue is another common symptom ascribed to gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease, so, if your energy levels are low, you’re more inclined to be sedentary which can result in the problems I mentioned earlier. 

If you suspect that you may be sensitive to gluten, it may be worth examining your diet more closely. Try to eliminate foods that contain gluten, such as white bread, white pasta etc., and replace them with healthier alternatives. On our website we have plenty of gluten-free recipes you could take a look at to help you adjust. 

1https://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20060919/sleep-disorders-linked-to-allergies

2http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/your-thyroid-gland

3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2174691/

4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27830446

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