Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea and Other Causes of Insomnia

Sleep disorders are now epidemic and an impor­tant cause of accidents, loss of productivity, learning problems in some cases and other health problems.

The importance of adequate rest is often under­estimated. Fatigue and exhaustion set the stage for every imaginable illness, both physical and emo­tional. Nutritional imbalances may contribute to many sleep disorders and nutritional balancing science may be very helpful to overcome them.


Narcolepsy is defined as an uncontrollable desire to sleep or sudden attacks of sleep that occur at intervals.

The most common cause of narcolepsy is simply fatigue. This in turn may be due to a variety of situations ranging from a lack of adequate rest and sleep to the presence of infections, parasites, glandu­lar imbalances, toxic metals, nutrient deficiencies or other conditions.

Narcolepsy and Slow Oxidation: A properly performed hair mineral analysis may reveal an extremely slow oxidation rate. This is generally indicated by elevated levels of calcium and magne­sium, and low levels of sodium and potassium.

Extremely slow oxidation can be due to a lack of sleep, emotional withdrawal and often to impaired thyroid and/or adrenal glandular activity. Toxic metals and nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to a slow oxidation rate, as can other stress or life­style factors. Nutritional balancing science may be most helpful by correcting the diet and suggesting nutrient supplementation and lifestyle correction to help enhance a sluggish oxidation rate.

Less commonly, narcolepsy occurs in fast oxidiz­ers. In these cases, the person is usually what we refer to as a temporary fast oxidizer. This means that this pattern will change in a few months to a year upon following a nutritional balancing program.

A Low Sodium-to-Potassium Ratio and Narcolep­sy: Another mineral pattern seen with narcolepsy is a very low sodium/potassium ratio. This is another indicator of adrenal fatigue and also reflects some degree of glucose intolerance and possibly the presence of chronic infection.

A low sodium/potassium ratio may also indicate powerful negative emotions including frustration, resentment and hostility. These can use up tremendous energy. Narcolepsy cases in which the emotions play an important role may be a method of avoiding stressful situations. To this end, a person with narcolepsy should notice if there is a pattern as to when the attacks or sudden desire for sleep occur.

Toxic Metals and Narcolepsy: Toxic metals such as cadmium, copper, mercury or nickel can severely impair energy production in the body leading to fatigue. Recall that all the toxic metals present in the body will often not show up on the first few hair mineral analyses. Many toxic metals are buried deeply within the brain or other organs and months or up to several years of following a nutritional balancing regimen are required to release them. They will only be revealed in the hair as they are released from tissue storage sites and are ex­creted through the hair and the skin. Sauna baths or colon cleansing regimens may also be needed to remove stored toxic metals and toxic chemicals in many cases.

Other Causes. Narcolepsy may be due to food sensitivities, in which case a person may feel ex­treme fatigue after a particular meal. Changing the diet or testing for food sensitivities may be very helpful in these cases.

Low or elevated blood sugar can cause extreme fatigue in some cases. This may be revealed on a hair mineral analysis by an imbalanced cal­cium/­magnesium ratio or by a low sodium/potassium ratio. Low chromium may also be associated with blood sugar imbalances.

Infections in the brain by parasitic organisms including the spirochete of Lyme disease, trichinosis and others can cause sudden and extreme fatigue. These conditions are far more common than one may imagine.

The use of stimulants can have a rebound effect causing extreme fatigue when they wear off. Caffeinat­ed beverages, cocaine, ecstasy and other recreational, over-the-counter and prescription drugs can cause temporary stimulation followed by periods of extreme fatigue and desire to sleep.

Any factor that interferes with sleep, including sleep apnea, can contribute to lethargy during the day and symptoms of narcolepsy. Finally, certain retracing or healing reactions may cause temporary symptoms of narcolepsy. These symptoms usually pass when the toxins are released from the body.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea has received additional attention lately as doctors and the general public is beginning to recognize it more. It is characterized by a pause in breathing during sleep of at least 10 seconds. Often there is loud snoring punctuated by periods of silence as breathing stops. It is most common in older, obese men.

Most sleep apnea is 'obstructive'. It is caused by blockage of the nasal passages during sleep. This may be due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a large tongue, or most often simply a relaxed soft palate that gets in the way of breathing when one is lying down.

A formal diagnosis involves a 'sleep study' at a center set up for this purpose, though often a spouse will recognize that the partner stops breathing at times. Symptoms that often accompany sleep apnea are fatigue during the day, narcolepsy, morning headaches and, if the condition is severe and persis­tent, elevated blood pressure.

The most common medical treatment is a C-PAP (continuous positive air pressure) device that one wears at night. It is a mask or tubes hooked to an air pump that keeps the air passages open.

Nutritional approaches to sleep apnea depend on clearing nasal obstruction and reducing swelling of the tonsils, adenoids, and the other tissues of the throat and the back of the mouth. While we have not identified specific hair mineral patterns associated with sleep apnea, nutritional balancing programs may be helpful by reducing food sensitivities that lead to nasal congestion, helping a person lose weight, and improving overall health and wellness.

Sleep apnea may have a neurological cause. This is less common and due to dysfunction of the auto­nomic nervous system that controls breathing. Any nutritional causes of autonomic dysfunction such as nutrient deficiencies and the presence of toxic metals may be involved in neurologically-caused sleep apnea. Once again, a complete nutritional balancing program based on hair mineral analysis is our best suggestion, as toxic substances and deficiencies may be hidden and may take several months to several years to be resolved.

Other Causes For Insomnia

Nutritional imbalances such as copper toxicity, biounavailable calcium and magnesium, mercury toxicity or fast oxidation can all contribute to insom­nia. At times low blood sugar can cause difficulty falling asleep or waking up at night. As body chem­istry improves on a nutritional balancing program, sleep usually improves.

Going to bed too late is an important and over­looked cause of insomnia. What occurs is that as one becomes more tired, often around eight to nine o'clock the sympathetic nervous system becomes more active in order to keep a person awake. When they finally go to bed at 10 or 11 PM, they cannot fall asleep easily, or cannot stay asleep because the sympathetic system is activated.

To avoid this problem, go to bed early, by 9 PM at the latest. Also, make an effort to slow down before bedtime. Do not sit at a computer before bedtime, avoid stimulating conversation and avoid strenuous activities in the evening. Eat dinner early, by 6 or 7 PM at the latest. These will also help assure that the sympathetic nervous system does not be­come active before bed.

Remedies For Insomnia

Some cases of insomnia respond well to extra calcium and magnesium supplements taken at dinner or hour before bedtime. This helps reduce sympathetic nervous system activity. Other supplements that may be helpful include 5-HTP, valerian, GABA, theo­nine, passionflower, chamomile and similar calming nutrients and herbs. These are generally much safer than taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs to induce sleep and should be tried first.

Making sure your bed is comfortable and the room is dark, rubbing the feet (foot reflexology), a hot bath perhaps with Epsom salts, and once again going to bed very early may also be very helpful. Taking a sauna before bed is also excellent. Leaving the day's challenges behind you is also most helpful. As body chemistry improves due to a nutritional balancing program, sleep generally improves as well.

This material is for educational purposes only
The preceding statements have not been evaluated by the
Food and Drug Administration
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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