Wendi was a stressed-out mess. Her out-of-control anxiety led her to seek help.
She had tried the pharmaceutical route and although the drugs did calm her, she felt dopey and not as sharp as she would like to be. She didn’t want to use psychiatric drugs as a crutch to get through life any more.
When I met with Wendi (over the phone), we discussed all of her history, her symptoms and the methods she had tried to relieve her anxiety.
One of her biggest complaints (outside of the anxiety) was her inability to get enough sleep.
She had no trouble falling asleep because she was exhausted, but she woke up, invariably, in the wee hours of the morning, heart pounding and wide awake.
In most cases she could not get back to sleep or if she did, it was right before she had to get up. Then she had to drag herself out of bed and kept herself going with caffeine.
This was a big clue.
Chronic insomnia is a big underlying cause of anxiety.
What was causing Wendi to wake up in the middle of the night every night?
Insomnia and Anxiety are Partners in Crime
There are many reasons for insomnia but most of the time, there is more than one underlying cause.
The trick is to figure out which one or ones are YOUR nemesis. Tick them off one by one.
For an indepth look at solutions for insomnia, check out my free ebook “Why Can’t I Sleep? A Proven Guide to Defeating Insomnia“.
But typically, one or more of these top nine causes are to blame:
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Pain and inflammation
- Circadian rhythm out of sync
- HPA axis disorder
- Thyroid disorder
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Poor digestion
- Sleep lifestyle habits
- Stress and Anxiety (a vicious cycle that both worsens insomnia and heightens anxiety)
We used Wendi’s Nutri-Q results, Food Journal, Wellness Questionnaire, and recent lab tests to help us sort out which direction to pursue.
Fortunately, Wendi had done some digging herself prior to working with me and had already gotten lab tests done to look at her blood sugar, her hormones including her thyroid and even an Adrenal Stress Index test to assess her Cortisol levels throughout the day.
While most of her lab results were NOT within “optimal ranges“, the most notable irregularity was her Cortisol levels. They were completely backwards!
They should be highest in the morning and lowest in the evenings.
Cortisol is often called the primary “stress hormone” because it’s one of the main hormones we release when we’re under any sort of pressure and our evolutionary-based “fight or flight response” kicks into gear.
This chart shows the ideal scenario.
Wendi’s lab results were almost a reverse mirror image of this chart. Her cortisol was highest at night and lowest in the morning.
It wasn’t a case of adrenal fatigue where she wasn’t making enough Cortisol (or the extreme, Addison’s disease) and it wasn’t too much Cortisol (or the extreme, Cushing’s syndrome).
It was just that her Cortisol rhythm was backwards.
No wonder she couldn’t sleep.
But how had this happened?
Our sleep-wake cycles are totally dependent on light and dark.
This Circadian Rhythm is built deeply into our genetics.
Dr. Joseph Mercola explains, “All life evolved in response to predictable patterns of light and darkness, called circadian rhythms. Modern day electrical lighting has significantly betrayed your inner clock by disrupting your natural rhythms.”
A combination of light deficiency during the day and excessive light exposure at night creates a tough situation for your internal clock.
By getting outdoor light in the daytime, you ‘anchor’ your internal clock. That way, indoor light at night has less of an ability to shift your rhythm.
To reset your circadian rhythm, we recommend our clients use all of these light exposure tips.
- Get bright light exposure during the day. Outdoor light is best for about 30 minutes per day, preferably at noon.
Find a sunny window to enjoy breakfast or lunch if you cannot get outside. You don’t have to be in direct sunlight, just exposed to the light.
- If the weather is not conducive or you cannot get outside, purchase a blue-light emitter like this one.
It’s a light therapy device you can keep on your desk. Basically it’s a special type of lamp. Use it for 15 minutes twice a day during the daytime. The blue light has been found to be particularly beneficial for boosting your mood. Blue light is prevalent in outdoor light.
Light Therapy can be very effective for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) too, a disorder of the ‘blues’, fatigue, and even depression that occurs each winter as sunlight grows scarce.
- Remove these light emitting devices from the bedroom: TV, laptop, cellphones, cordless phones, electronic readers, and electronic tablets. The blue light depresses melatonin production, preventing you from feeling sleepy.
- Wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening and be cool like Bono from U2.
By blocking the blue light at night, you can still see but your brain doesn’t think its daytime. It thinks it’s in darkness. The glasses are orange, not blue, FYI.
- Move your alarm clock across the room and be sure the light on it is red or amber, not blue.
- Cover your smoke detector or burglar alarm keypad if they emit light.
- Make your room as dark as possible with the use of blinds, room darkening curtains, or a simple sleep mask.
The translucent skin on our eyelids can still absorb light even with our eyes closed.
- Use a low wattage amber, yellow, orange, or red light at night or a salt lamp. Use these lights if you need to guide your way to the bathroom at night.
Red and amber lights (long wavelengths) will not suppress melatonin production while blue, green, and white lights (short wavelength) will.
- No screen time right before bed. TV, laptop, cellphone, tablets, etc. should be put away at least one to two hours before bed. These devices disrupt your pineal gland function, the gland that makes melatonin.
For more sleep tips, see my free ebook “Why Can’t I Sleep? A Proven Guide to Defeating Insomnia“.
Wendi’s Rhythm Redo
Wendi had, indeed, been using her laptop or watching TV late every evening. She agreed to make the light exposure changes designed for changing her Circadian rhythm first.
I gave her a copy of our ebook and suggested that she read it and begin implementing, one-by-one, the Noise Reduction Changes, Sleep Sanctuary Changes, Preparation for Bed Tips and Food Lifestyle Changes.
Like most of us, Wendi was hoping for an instant cure. But she had suffered with anxiety for so long that she was willing to give this process a try.
We explained that it had taken quite a bit of time for her Circadian rhythm to be so out of sync, so it would also take some time to get back into sync.
To give Wendi some added relief, we recommended a supplement designed to reduce cortisol levels.
As well, we suggested some supplements to help support GABA production to reduce her anxiety. Along with those supplements, the cofactors of Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Zinc and Manganese are needed to produce GABA.
Wendi is Now Winning the War with Anxiety
Wendi checked back in for a followup visit and reported that she was ‘totally blown away’ that these simple changes had such a powerful effect.
She proved to herself that on the nights she put her computer away and shut off the TV a couple hours before bed, she slept much more soundly.
One by one, each of the “light exposure” changes that she implemented helped a little bit more.
On top of that, the supplements were very effective for her. Using the trial and correction method that we had given her, she found the ideal times to take the supplements to regulate her cortisol and manage her anxiety.
That’s not to say that Wendi was mellow all the time and slept like a baby every night, but her world had definitely improved.
This was a new journey for Wendi, but she was glad to be headed in the right direction.
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Joli Tripp and Mind Blowing Wellness are not medical doctors nor licensed medical professionals. No comment or recommendation should be construed as being a medical diagnosis. If you suffer from a medical or pathological condition, you should consult an appropriate healthcare provider.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
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