By

Shannon Ginnan, MD

| 04/05/2016

Testing Options for Insomnia with Shannon Ginnan, MD

Testing Options for Insomnia with Shannon Ginnan, MD

Insomnia is a problem no one wants to have. When you’ve been tossing and turning for hours, it can be tempting to use sleep aids to get some shut-eye. However, getting a good night’s sleep takes more than just popping a sleeping pill and calling it a night. Sleep aids treat the symptom, not the cause. The best medicine is always to look for the root cause and nip it in the bud. When you’re looking for the cause of a particularly stubborn bout of insomnia, the following tests may have the answer.

Consider a sleep study to test for sleep apnea

The inability to breathe consistently during sleep, often associated with snoring and being overweight, can cause significant sleep disruptions and prevent restful sleep. Long term, it can also be extremely harmful to your cardiovascular system, even leading to heart failure and death.

Test your hormones

This is especially important for post-menopausal women who may be more prone to low levels of progesterone. Progesterone is a calming hormone, and for many women who feel that their mind is “racing” at night or they just “can’t shut it off,” low progesterone is often a culprit. For men, low testosterone levels can prevent restful sleep. No matter the person, a disruption in cortisol levels, which is the hormone our adrenal glands manufacture to help us deal with stress, can significantly impact our sleep/wake cycles, as well as our energy and fatigue throughout the day.

Check your micronutrient levels

Low levels of some micronutrients, such as magnesium, can lead to poor sleep. Both blood and urine tests can be used to determine your levels of Magnesium, B vitamins, Manganese, Zinc, vitamins C, D and E, omega acids and more.

Test your thyroid

Test your thyroid and all its associated hormones, as well as a type of antibody call TPO, or thyroid peroxidase antibodies. It’s important to test for TPO because even when your thyroid hormones look normal, the body can actually be producing antibodies that are counteracting their effect and changing your body’s metabolic rate.

Determine your toxin level

Some toxins, such as heavy metals, can significantly affect your metabolism and the chemical balance in your brain, making you more anxious or jittery. Additionally, biotoxins – toxins produced by organic organisms such as Lyme, mold, and Candida – can affect the neurochemical balance in the brain.

Improve your gut health

Believe it or not, the types of bacteria in your gut have a significant influence on your mood and your brain’s neurochemical balance. Serotonin, our “feel good” neurotransmitter that most of our anti-depressive medications manipulate, is especially important in sleep. About 70% of our body’s serotonin is in our gut. Certain bacteria, such as Claustridia, can also negatively affect your brain’s neurochemical balance and disrupt your sleep.

Monitor your neurotransmitter balance

Neurotransmitters in the brain are supposed to be balanced between those that relax us and those that get us excited. When your they are unbalanced, it can be difficult to “get down” for relaxation and sleep. Unfortunately, doctors can’t test your neurotransmitters directly. However, they can test what are called their “downstream metabolites,” which allows your doctor to work backward and estimate with a fair degree of accuracy what your actual neurotransmitter balance is.

Some of the tests mentioned are not available in a standard primary care office. You may have to seek out a “Functional Medicine” practitioner to do the more advanced metabolic and biochemical testing. No matter where you get the tests done, the information gathered will be well worth the effort. Remember, sleep is even more important than food when it comes to our long-term health. Without proper sleep, we can’t repair our bodies or our minds, we have trouble with even the most basic tasks and we age more quickly. Make every effort to search for and combat the causes of insomnia, and you’ll see the rewards in your long-term mental and physical health.

About the Author

Dr. Shannon Ginnan has been a leader in the field of Aesthetic and Laser Medicine in the Washington DC metro area for nearly 15 years. Dr. Ginnan has also expanded his scope of knowledge in the field of Functional Medicine – a discipline that excels at helping individuals function at their highest genetic capacity within their environment. 

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