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Holistic Treatments for Insomnia

Difficulty falling or staying asleep? If so, you’re not alone, insomnia is a common sleep disorder in the United States. According to the American Sleep Association, approximately 30% of adults report symptoms of insomnia. However, other studies have reported higher rates of insomnia, with estimates ranging from 10% to 40% of adults experiencing insomnia symptoms at some point in their lives. But before we dive into Functional Medicine treatments for insomnia, lets overview the importance of quality sleep and some well established underlying causes of insomnia. 

Sleep Architecture 

Sleep architecture refers to the structure and pattern of sleep staging.  Sleep architecture can be categorized into two main categories: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. These sleep stages all exhibit unique patterns of brain activity.

Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) Sleep:

NREM sleep is divided into three stages, each characterized by a different level of depth:

  1. Stage 1 NREM sleep: This is the lightest stage of sleep and typically lasts for 5-10 minutes. During this stage, brain activity slows down, and people may experience a feeling of drifting or falling.
  2. Stage 2 NREM sleep: This stage typically lasts for 20-30 minutes and is characterized by slower brain waves and a decrease in muscle tone. During this stage, the body temperature drops, and the heart rate slows down.
  3. Stage 3 NREM sleep: This is the deepest stage of sleep and is also known as slow-wave sleep. During this stage, brain waves become even slower, and it becomes harder to awaken from sleep. Blood pressure drops, and breathing becomes slower and deeper.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep:

REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements and high levels of brain activity. It typically occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs several times throughout the night.

During REM sleep, the brain is highly active, and people may experience vivid dreams. Muscle tone decreases during REM sleep, and the body becomes immobile to prevent people from acting out their dreams.

The duration and proportion of each stage of sleep vary throughout the night. In the first half of the night, the majority of sleep is spent in NREM sleep, with more time spent in stage 3 NREM sleep. In the second half of the night, the proportion of REM sleep increases, with each REM period getting longer.


Benefits of Quality Sleep

Consistently getting 7-8 hours of high quality sleep a night is considered optimal. As a Functional Medicine Doctor in Kansas I often explain to my patients that sleep is considered one of my four foundational pillars of health.

Here are some of the primary benefits of high quality sleep:

  1. Improved Cognitive Function: Sleep plays a critical role in cognitive function, including memory consolidation and learning. Adequate sleep has been shown to enhance creativity, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities.
  2. Better Physical Performance: Sleep is essential for physical performance, including endurance, strength, and reaction time. Athletes who prioritize sleep have been shown to have better performance outcomes.
  3. Enhanced Mood and Emotional Regulation: Getting enough sleep is critical for emotional regulation and stability. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased anxiety, depression, and irritability.
  4. Boosted Immune System: Sleep plays a critical role in immune function, including the production of cytokines and other immune system molecules. Adequate sleep has been shown to improve immune system function and reduce the risk of infection.
  5. Improved Metabolic Health: Sleep is important for metabolic health, including glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders.
  6. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Sleep is essential for overall health and has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.


Underlying Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is a complex disorder with multiple underlying causes. Here are some potential underlying causes of insomnia from a functional medicine perspective:

  1. Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Low levels of melatonin (a hormone that regulates sleep) and high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) can both contribute to insomnia.
  2. Nutrient Deficiencies: Deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as magnesium and B vitamins, can interfere with sleep. Magnesium is necessary for muscle relaxation and B vitamins are important for the synthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate sleep.
  3.  Stress: Chronic stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol, which can interfere with sleep. Stress can also disrupt the production of neurotransmitters that regulate sleep.
  4.  Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can lead to fragmented sleep and insomnia.
  5.  Gut Health: Poor gut health can interfere with the production of neurotransmitters that regulate sleep. Imbalances in gut bacteria can also contribute to inflammation and stress, which can disrupt sleep.

Sensual girl sleeping in the bedroom


Kansas Functional Medicine and Insomnia 

At EvoHealth we approach sleep problems by identifying and addressing the underlying causes, rather than simply treating the symptoms. Here are some of treatments for sleep issues that we use with patients at EvoHealth Kansas Functional Medicine.

  1. Sleep Hygiene Modifications: Implementing healthy sleep habits and lifestyle changes can drastically improve sleep quality. These lifestyle modifications include establishing a regular sleep routine, avoiding electronic devices before bedtime, and creating a sleep-conducive environment.
  2. Stress Management: Managing stress through techniques such as meditation and deep breathing can help reduce cortisol levels and promote relaxation.
  3. Supplementation: The use of certain medical grade supplements can improve sleep quality.
  4. Gut Health Support: Improving gut health through diet and supplementation can help promote the production of neurotransmitters that regulate sleep.
  5. Hormone Balancing: Addressing hormonal imbalances, such as low melatonin or high cortisol levels, through targeted supplementation or lifestyle modifications can improve sleep quality.


At EvoHealth Kansas Functional Medicine, the focus on optimizing sleep is holistic and tailored to the individual needs of each patient. The goal is to address the underlying causes of sleep disturbances and develop a personalized plan to improve sleep quality and quantity. EvoHealth offers cost effective Funcitonal Medicine care for residents in Kansas City, Overland Park, Lawrence, Wichita, and throughout the entire state of Kansas. 


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