Sleep problems can be defined in 3 different ways: insomnia, disturbed sleep, and restless sleep. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep. Disturbed sleep is the inability to stay asleep for a full night’s rest. Restless sleep is when you can fall asleep and stay asleep, but the quality of sleep isn’t good. The end result of any of these types of sleep problems is that you wake up tired, or even exhausted.
Poor sleep, especially if it’s chronic, can manifest in many ways:
- slower healing from injuries or disease
- inefficient or ineffective functioning throughout the day
- impaired social relations
- increased pain sensitivity
- weakened immunity
- reduced mental acuity; poor memory
- irrational logic or behavior
- clumsiness, poorer coordination
- irritability and hypersensitivity
Sleep issues rarely occur independently. They are usually secondary to other, perhaps greater, issues. Just like the vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) that chiropractors detect and correct for in their treatments, sleep issues can have physical, mental or chemical causes. The causes can also be subdivided into external or internal factors.
Physical causes of sleep problems are those that affect the body in terms of discomfort or pain.
External Physical Causes:
- poor sleeping conditions (bed, pillow)
- irritating lights, noises, odors
- bed-mates moving around
Internal Physical Causes:
- pain inside the body (backache, shoulder pain)
- organ dysfunction (waking to urinate, sleep apnea)
When your mind can’t relax enough to fall asleep or to get enough deep sleep, this is characterized as a mental cause of sleep problems.
External Mental Causes:
- disturbed body clock from shift-work, irregular sleep schedules
- ignoring sleep cues by watching TV, using the computer, etc
Internal Mental Causes:
- stress, worry, thinking too much
- over-excitement, over-fatigue
- depression, mental disorders
- dreaming too much, or nightmares
Sometimes the hardest causes to pinpoint are those that are electrochemical in nature. These can alter body chemistry, enzyme functioning, and electric activity in the body.
External Electrochemical Causes:
- medications and foods, stimulants
- chemical irritants, off-gassing
- electromagnetic fields from smart meters, hydro power lines, electronic devices
Internal Electrochemical Causes:
- chemical imbalance from hormonal changes, disease processes
- electrical imbalance along acupuncture meridians
When it comes to sleep issues, wellness chiropractors follow a five-step approach to helping patients.
- Listen. We listen to patients to see if the case history can uncover the underlying cause(s) of the sleep issues, and whether it is physical, mental or electrochemical.
- Simple Steps First. If there are simple changes a patient can make to discontinue the cause(s) of the sleep issues, we will bring these up. Most commonly it is addressing habits like sleep routines, sleep location, diet, and exercise.
- Chiropractic Examination. This is especially important for chronic sleep issues, because the same stressors that result in sleep problems also cause Vertebral Subluxation Complexes (VSCs). VSCs occur when stressors become embedded in the spine and create problems in the body’s ability to take care of itself. These problems can manifest as pain, dysfunction, hypersensitivity, and impaired healing.
- Chiropractic Spinal Adjustments if Indicated. Specific chiropractic adjustments can undo VSCs, allowing for better nerve transmission, and resulting in more effective brain functioning, organ functioning and healing. An adjustment to the upper neck area (C1 in particular) has the most direct impact on the sleep center in the brain-stem. The goal of chiropractic is to check to ensure the body functions the best it can, to improve the internal condition of the body, and to improve the resilience of the body (and mind) to external stressors.
- Keep in Mind the Bigger Picture. As holistic health practitioners, chiropractors keep an open mind that some causes cannot be easily avoided or resolved, even with an optimally functioning nervous system. Some patients need to consult with other health professionals to overcome or manage challenges affecting their sleep, such as acupuncturists, counselors, medical doctors, or massage therapists. Other patients need the support of family, friends, or social services.
For those who are suffering from sleep problems, there is HOPE. Remember, your current state of health does NOT dictate your future; better sleep is possible. If what you’ve tried isn’t helping, be open to other options out there. To find out if chiropractic care may be right for you, please call The Specific Chiropractic Center in Boulder at 303.442.5911, or another of our locations nationwide for a complimentary consultation. You can also check out this informative website.