A new study in the American Journal of Medicine makes its latest findings eminently clear right in the headline: “Persistent Insomnia Is Associated with Mortality Risk.”
By now, you’re well aware lack of sleep isn’t good for you. But this study shows it can be downright deadly. This is especially disconcerting, considering 20 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from insomnia.
Researchers examined data from 1,409 adults who took part in the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease (TESAOD). These patients were enrolled in 1972 and followed until 1996. Then, researchers kept track of any deaths that occurred in the study population until 2011.
After adjusting for factors like age, sex, weight and smoking status, the researchers found the subjects who reported having insomnia had a 58-percent higher chance of dying during the study than those who didn’t have trouble sleeping.
The research team also found the insomnia group had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood samples. As you might recall, CRP is a marker for inflammation in the body. And inflammation is the underlying cause of just about every chronic, deadly disease there is—from cancer to heart disease.
It’s important to note that this link occurred primarily in patients who suffered from persistent insomnia. This isn’t the kind that crops up occasionally, and goes away on its own. Persistent insomnia occurs at least several nights a week and goes on for several months or even years. It sounds extreme—and it is. But it’s also frighteningly common. About half the people who have insomnia in the U.S. suffer from the persistent version.
So how do you tackle it?
Well first of all, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical sleep aids won’t do the trick. They may help in the short term. But they won’t address the real, underlying cause of your insomnia.
And, in my experience, that underlying cause can often be traced back to adrenal exhaustion. You can read more about this condition in the June 2014 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. Subscribers can access this issue from the archives for free by visiting www.drpescatore.com and logging on with your username and password. (And if you’re not already a subscriber, the website also has all the information you need to sign up today.)
In the meantime, there are two steps you can take right away to get started on the path towards good, quality sleep. First, make sure you’re eating a nutritious diet. When you’re dragging, it’s easy to reach for “pick-me-ups” like candy bars and sugary coffee drinks. But these kinds of temporary “fixes” will only throw your blood sugar into a tailspin. Which, in turn, disrupts your hormone balance. And, ultimately, puts even more pressure on your adrenals.
Focusing on protein, vegetables, and healthy fats, on the other hand, helps normalize your blood sugar, which restores your hormone balance, and eases the burden on your adrenals. Which will help you sleep a LOT more soundly (in addition to a myriad of other potential benefits to your health and overall well-being).
Beyond that, you may also need more melatonin. Your body produces this hormone naturally, but production drops significantly with age. Plus, melatonin and cortisol also fight each other for dominance. And if your cortisol levels are elevated at night—as they often are in cases of adrenal exhaustion—it could interfere with melatonin’s activity.
I recommend 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime to start (but you can work your way up to 21 mg if needed).
“Persistent insomnia is associated with mortality risk,” American Journal of Medicine 2015; 128(3): 268-275