The Relationship Between Anxiety and Insomnia

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Anxiety and insomnia often go hand in hand. Each can be causes of the other which can lead to a vicious cycle that may seem impossible to break. Chronic insomnia increases your odds of having anxiety disorders. So, treating chronic insomnia may be one way to alleviate feelings of anxiousness.

Although many people have suffered insomnia in certain periods of their lives, chronic insomnia is characterized by one month or more of having trouble falling asleep, waking up too early or overall poor quality of sleep. It affects 10 percent of adults in the US.

To fight chronic insomnia, first check with a doctor to ensure that certain conditions like heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, pregnancy, menopause or arthritis aren’t the cause of the problem. Certain medications may also negatively affect healthy sleep.

Seek any psychological factors that are affecting your rest. For example, one major sign of depression is not being able to go back to sleep after waking up too early. So, in this case, treating your depression may also help with your insomnia.

One way to deter both anxiety and insomnia is to cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Coffee is the obvious culprit when it comes to too much caffeine but you also want to avoid tea, soft drinks, chocolate and certain medications. While you may fall asleep quickly after drinking alcohol, your sleep will be light and fragmented. Calcium enhances sleep, as do B vitamins and magnesium.

And then there’s smoking. . .nicotine increases blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate and stimulates brain activity. . .not what you want when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Another way to kick the insomnia is by getting exercise. You don’t have to jump head-first into a gym or athletic club, though. Just a 20 minute walk every day (or even 3-4 times a week) can help. The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon. Do not exercise just before bed, that would be counter-productive as exercise stimulates your body.

The right environment and position is also conducive to sleep. Your room should be as dark as possible. Any kind of light, and especially blinking, flashing lights or lights from the TV, are disruptive to sleep. You can also try wearing a mask to block out light although some find this to be uncomfortable. A white noise maker is a way to block out bumps in the night or other sounds that could wake you up. Temperature is also important. Make sure that your thermostat is set at a comfortable position for you when you’re covered in blankets.

If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t sleep, try not to get stressed out about it. This just makes matters worse. Try to do something calming like reading or taking a warm bath and go back to bed as soon as you start feeling sleepy.

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Do You Suffer from Hormone Horror?

by Dr. Don Colbert

Dr. Colbert's Health Tips and News

Beginning at age 35 (yes, 35!), many women begin to experience symptoms of hormone imbalance. Progesterone is the first hormone that starts to decline. The first and most notable symptoms of declining progesterone are usually anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression. These can be followed by insomnia, decreased libido, hair loss, bone loss and a decrease in HDL, or ” good” cholesterol. Between the ages of 45 and 50, the hormone estrogen begins to decline accentuating the symptoms described above and bringing more symptoms including night sweats, hot flashes, thinning skin, more wrinkles and frequent urinary tract infections.

Most women yearn for relief from this portfolio of unpleasant symptoms, so they visit their doctor and are often prescribed pharmaceutical drugs to treat the symptoms of their hormone imbalance. They are given something like Prozac for depression, sleeping pills for insomnia, or something like Xanax for anxiety. But the root cause — the hormone imbalance — is never treated, and the side effects from the toxic pharmaceutical drugs begin leading to other problems.

In other cases, the doctor might prescribe conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but many women are fearful of HRT because the media has done a good job of exposing studies showing conventional HRT can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.

So what’s the answer?
If you listened to one of my recent radio shows (Dr. Colbert’s Health Report), you might already know the answer. The answer is bioidentical hormones.

Bioidentical hormone therapy is the natural form of hormone replacement. Unlike synthetic hormones like Premarin and Prempro, bioidentical hormones act in the body just like the hormones your body produces itself. Premarin, often prescribed for women with symptoms of low estrogen, is sourced from a pregnant mare’s (horse’s) urine. So while it may seem “natural,” it is not accepted by your body as if it were your own estrogen. Premarin has also been shown to elevate blood pressure and triglycerides, increase belly fat and cause gall stones. Bioidentical hormones, on the other hand, help restore physical and mental decline associated with hormone imbalance. They treat the root cause of the problem, thereby eliminating the symptoms. Estriol, a bioidentical hormone, has even been shown to help protect against breast cancer and is being given to breast cancer patients in Europe.

Are Bioidentical Hormones Just for Women?

Definitely not. Have you heard of “grumpy old man syndrome?” As some men age, they tend to develop a shorter fuse, hot temper and overall grumpy demeanor. This could be an indication of low testosterone. Symptoms of low testosterone include irritability, anger, loss of vitality, loss of competitiveness, decreased memory, depression, night sweats and hot flashes, increased abdominal fat and reduced muscle mass.

A decline in testosterone is usually associated with aging and occurs in both men and women. It is also interesting to note that statin drugs lower testosterone. Since one in four Americans over age 45 is on statin drugs, it is certainly not uncommon to find low levels of testosterone.

When testosterone remains imbalanced, it can lead to other problems like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and osteoporosis. It is important to find a doctor who specializes in bioidentical hormone therapy. The first thing your doctor should do is check all your current hormone levels. Women should start screening hormone levels at age 35. Men can start later unless symptoms are present.

Your doctor should also screen for cancer. Bioidentical hormones do not cause cancer. In some cases, like I said before, they actually help protect against cancer. However, if the person already has cancer, starting on bioidentical hormones might not be the best course of action.