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In the morning when you wakeup cortisol (produced by the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys) is at its highest. This level decreases throughout the day as melatonin levels begin to rise. Cortisol is at its lowest at night when melatonin is at its highest, that is what lets you go to sleep.

Your sleep can be affected by blood sugar imbalance (dysglycemia). For example if you have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and you go to bed, during the night you are not eating (unless you get up in the middle of the night for a snack), in affect you are fasting and your blood sugar (blood glucose) is going to drop. The brain needs blood glucose in order to survive so your body has to adapt to the drop in blood sugar and it does so by releasing cortisol which stimulates adrenalin release which causes the liver to release its storage of glycogen (glycogenolysis) as glucose into the blood. When the cortisol goes up the melatonin drops and this together with the adrenalin (fight or flight response) is what wakes people up in the middle of the night and makes it difficult to fall back asleep.

Functional medicine treats sleeping problems very effectively! The first step is to asses what is going on in the body at a functional level. To do this screening questionnaires are used to assess organ system function as well as brain health. From the results of these questionnaires specific blood tests can be recommended to determine the underlying functional imbalances responsible for the sleep problem.

Additional testing such as a salivary hormone panel may be necessary to check hormonal imbalances. Although hormone levels can be checked in the blood, this is only like a snap shot in time. This is because the hormone values change through out the month (e.g. regulating the menstrual cycle) as well as thought the day. With the salivary hormone panel you can collect samples though out the day as well as over several days. This would be costly as well as impractical to do with blood testing. By collecting several samples as specific recorded times during the day these salivary hormone levels can be plotted in a special graph versus known high and low values for the specific times.

From the results of this graph a skilled functional medicine practitioner is able to determine which pattern of functional hormone imbalance an individual has. And, most importantly be able to recommend the appropriate functional medicine therapeutic intervention. The sleeping problem goes away once the underlying imbalances are corrected.


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Copyright 2007, Steve Sterling, All rights reserved