I remember when I was a kid, I had the hardest time going to sleep most nights. I spent countless nights studying the shapes in the wood paneling that lined the lit hallway outside my bedroom door, counting the faces and various forms the knots took on in my imagination. I very clearly remember a wizard, complete with a hat, and what looked like an owl, among many others. I never knew why I couldn’t go to sleep, I just always thought I was a night owl, and that was that.
Fast forward to my teen years, and it got even worse. But then I thought that I was just a normal night-owl teenager. Shutting my brain off at night was almost impossible, and waking up in the morning was even harder. I was never a good morning person… my mom would literally have to drag me out of the bed to get ready for school. It was excruciating to leave my comfy bed in the morning, and the only thing that got me through my day was knowing that I could take a nap when I got home, which I did almost daily (probably didn’t help the whole staying up at night bit).
As I progressed into my later 20s, I realized that my insomnia issues got worse during the week leading up to my period. Lo and behold, insomnia can be one of the symptoms of extreme PMS, which Lord knows I definitely have had my battles with. This was all fine and dandy until I had a baby, and those nights of insomnia were followed by very early mornings with an infant that does not have a snooze button. If you have a baby, you know this feeling very well, I am sure! All you can look forward to is nap time, so mama can have a little nap herself. The problem with taking those lovely little afternoon naps for me is that I can’t. I simply can not do it. If you find me napping in the middle of the day, you know that I have hit a serious wall and am not well, because I tend to be the type of person that has to cram as many activities as I possibly can into that glorious little window of alone-time opportunity. It was a constant struggle.
About 8 months ago, I figured out that I was gluten and corn intolerant. This finding changed my life in every single way possible, but one of the silver linings is that I finally figured out what was causing my stupid insomnia and chronic fatigue issue. Instead of it being a hormonal issue as I had always thought, it was all stemming from my gluten and corn intolerance. Since removing all gluten and corn from my diet, I sleep better all the time. Even that week before my period. The only time I have an issue with insomnia these days is when I have accidentally ingested corn – then I am wired all night long. Mystery solved for me. And very easily as well.
I am not trying to say that food sensitivities are the only reason why a person would have insomnia. There are a variety of factors that can lead to sleepless nights. But, if you have tried multiple other options, and have had to solely depend on medication to help you drift off to dreamland and stay there, then you might want to consider if gluten sensitivity or another food sensitivity can be the root cause. It may be hard to believe that the gut can have such an affect on the brain, but it can and does.
Think of it this way, our brain depends on our digestive system to break down and absorb nutrients in foods which in turn nurture every single system of our body – including our brains. Without proper nutrition, we do not function or thrive to our fullest potential. When a person is gluten intolerant, the small intestine will become inflamed, and the small protrusions coming from the intestinal walls, call the villi, become flattened. These villi are what absorb nutrients and pass them into the blood stream. If the villi become flattened, they no longer absorb the nutrients our bodies need, and therefore the entire body will become malnourished. This can lead to a multitude of problems – one of them being issues with sleep regulation.
When this inflammation takes place, there are no supplements or medications that can help. If you are not absorbing nutrients from the foods that you eat, then you will not properly absorb anything from a vitamin or supplement either. The only solution is to heal the gut by removing the culprit – and in order to heal, you must allow yourself time. You should give yourself a minimum of 2 weeks on a strict gluten free diet to see any kind of results, but keep in mind that sometimes it may even take longer, depending on how damaged the intestines are.
Have you recently found out that you are gluten intolerant? If so, when you removed the culprit from your diet, did you notice any changes in your quality of sleep and wakefulness? I would love to hear from you! And you if your suspicious that this may be what is causing your sleep problems, and plan on giving it a shot, let me know about your progress! I would love to cheer you on and help in any way that I can. 🙂
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a dietician. I am simply a person living with gluten and corn intolerance that has made many discoveries about my health along my journey into my current gluten and corn free lifestyle. My aim for this post, as well as my other posts about food intolerance, is to share my personal experiences and insights in hopes to help others who are discovering their own food intolerance issues. We are never alone in our battles!