September 15, 2023

Can’t Sleep? An Alternative Approach to Insomnia

What is insomnia?  The definition of insomnia is trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting good quality sleep.  Insomnia could also be accompanied by fatigue all day with a burst of energy at night.  This is known in the medical world as HPA axis dysfunction or adrenal fatigue.  

Why is sleep important?

I hear these phrases a lot …

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”

“Older people don’t need as much sleep”

“I sleep more than my friends do”

“I’ve never slept good so this is normal for me”

Sleep is when the body repairs and restores.  Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk4

When we sleep, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day 3.  I picture like this…when we sleep, the janitors come into the brain and clean up all the debris from the day like amyloid buildup. 

Amyloid?? Amyloid buildup in the brain is implicated in Alzheimers disease development.  Sleep is an important factor to avoiding Alzheimers later in life. 

Treatment for insomnia:

Modern treatments for insomnia include medications to help a person fall asleep.  If the person is dealing with anxiety prohibiting sleep they may be prescribed a benzodiazepine medication such as Xanax.  There’s other prescription sleeping pills such as ambien and restoril that may also be prescribed.  

The functional medicine approach to insomnia:

Insomnia is a multifactoral condition.  To properly address what is causing a person to have insomnia there’s needs to be a deep dive into that person’s history.  Trauma, trauma, trauma.  Stress, stress, stress.  Gut. Gut. Gut. Toxins. Toxins. Toxins.

Trauma: unresolved trauma can cause limbic dysregulation – the emotional center of our brains – causing anxiety and insomnia. 

Stress: the inablity to get into that rest and digest state.  The more anxiet and stress we have the less we sleep, the less we sleep the more our anxiety increases.  It’s a vicous cycle!

Gut: Did you know most of our melatonin (which manages our sleep-wake cycle) is made in our GI tracts?  The gut contains at least 400 times more melatonin than the pineal gland2.  Did you know most serotonin (our happy hormone) is made in the gut? The gut provides approximately 95% of total body serotonin 1

Toxins: Toxins in the body throw off everything!  If we can’t detox from our environments (food we eat, water we drink, personal care products, cleaning products, environmental exposures) then our entire immune system becomes dysfunctional leading to inflammation everywhere in the body, including our brains. 

Nutrients that can help with sleep:

Certain supplements and nutrients (herbs) can be helpful with sleep as well as provide other benefits to the body. 

  • Magnesium: glycinate or theonate – helps with sleep and mitochondrial functioning. 
  • L theanine: rapid onset herb to help reduce anxiety to promote relaxation
  • Ashwagandha: use overtime provides adrenal support and improved sleep quality
  • Skullcap:  decreases neuroinflammation, can induce sleep, and decrease headaches
  • Brahmi: brain tonic to promote restful sleep and reduce neuroinflammation

It all goes back to the gut!

Poor diet and poor gut function,  or good diet and poor gut function = reduced digestion and absorption of essentials nutrients for cell survival and function PLUS reduced ability to detoxify!   Bottom line, get your gut right.  

Do you Suffer from Insomnia?

If you or someone you know suffers from Insomnia?  Insomnia symptoms vary from person to person and can range from fatigue to anxiety, mood swings, and difficulty doing routine things. Sleeping for Schedule a FREE consult today with one of our team from WaveonWave Health. We are located at 401 Ocean Ave Suite 200-A, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951


  1. Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018 Aug;17(4):28-32. PMID: 31043907; PMCID: PMC6469458.
  2. Chen CQ, Fichna J, Bashashati M, Li YY, Storr M. Distribution, function and physiological role of melatonin in the lower gut. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Sep 14;17(34):3888-98. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v17.i34.3888. PMID: 22025877; PMCID: PMC3198018.
  3. Eugene AR, Masiak J. The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep. MEDtube Sci. 2015 Mar;3(1):35-40. PMID: 26594659; PMCID: PMC4651462.
  4. Jansen, Erica (2020).  What is sleep exactly, and how does it help us stay healthy?  School of public health, University of Michigan.
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