Stressor Spotlight: Sleep

young african-american woman in bed with sleeping mask on

The amount and quality of sleep we get has a profound impact on our overall health. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age that isn’t particularly conducive to sleep. Busy schedules, digital devices, and other modern-day distractions have made it more difficult to make sleep a top priority. As a result, multiple worldwide studies suggest that up to 50% of the population suffers from insomnia.1


The most common sleeping problem

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. In America, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people develop insomnia each year. And for 25% of these people, the symptoms persist for more than 3 months.2


Patterns of insomnia include inability to fall asleep, inability to stay asleep, and inability to go back to sleep when awakened too early. One, two, or all three of these may be an issue for a person who experiences this common sleeping problem. Insomniacs may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Feeling tired after sleep
  • Feeling tired during the day
  • Problems concentrating
  • Problems remembering
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impulsiveness


In addition to the 3 patterns of insomnia, there are also 3 types of insomnia that relate to the length of the condition: transient insomnia lasts for a few days to a week, acute insomnia can last for several weeks, and chronic insomnia can last for months or years. While approximately 10% of the population has chronic insomnia, roughly 1 out of 2 people experience acute or transient insomnia.3


Other common sleeping disorders

Though not as prevalent, other sleep disorders can be just as damaging as insomnia. One such issue is sleep apnea. This occurs when breathing stops and starts repeatedly through the night. Like insomnia, sleep apnea is also on the rise, as there are now at least 25 million people in the US alone suffering from this disorder.4 Loud snoring, gasping for air, a morning headache, and dry mouth are common symptoms of sleep apnea.


Another common problem that affects sleep is restless legs syndrome (RLS). Experienced by about 10% of the population,5 this disorder manifests as an unpleasant sensation that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. Specifically, the sensation in the legs can be described as crawling, creeping, itching, throbbing, or pulling.


What causes sleeping problems?

older woman with insomnia awake in bed at night

The causes of lack of quality sleep can vary widely. They may be related to a medical or mental condition, genetics, lifestyle, diet, or environment. Specifically, insomnia may be caused by:

  • Digestive problems
  • Asthma
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal issues
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stimulants (caffeine & nicotine)
  • Sedatives (alcohol)
  • Medications
  • Bad sleeping habits
  • Poor sleeping conditions
  • Changes in activity


Similar to potentially causing insomnia, nicotine, alcohol, and certain medications such as opioids may cause or worsen symptoms of sleep apnea. A narrow airway, excess weight, and nasal congestion are common in a specific type of sleep apnea known as obstructive sleep apnea.


Medications and chronic diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s are also a common cause of restless leg syndrome. Women who are pregnant, especially those in their last trimester, may also experience RLS.6


Sleep and your circadian rhythm

One especially important factor that contributes to the quantity and quality of your sleep is your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. Circadian rhythm is not only hardwired into human beings, but the rest of the animal kingdom and plants as well.


A number of things in our modern environment disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. First and foremost is artificial light. Turning on artificial light at night shortens the dark cycle, making it difficult to get enough restful sleep. Blue light, which is found in digital devices, can be particularly damaging at night because it suppresses melatonin production significantly.7


Demands from work, school, or social commitments can also potentially disrupt your circadian rhythm. These commitments may keep us up later at night, disrupting natural sleep patterns. Jet lag and shift-work disorders also stem from frequent disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm, as can naps under certain circumstances.


Lifestyle changes for better sleep

Whether you are suffering from insomnia or another sleep problem, there are specific lifestyle changes you can make to help you consistently get restful sleep. Adjusting habits related to your sleep is an effective first step. The following sleep hygiene tips can help you reset your body’s biological clock.

  • Sleep in a dark, cool, quiet bedroom
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening
  • Don’t eat dinner too close to bedtime
  • Remove digital devices from your bedroom
  • Get regular exercise during the day
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress


Sleep treatments

oral appliance for sleep apnea

Interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, stimulus control, and relaxation training can be particularly helpful if you have insomnia. If you have trouble going to sleep, some relaxation techniques promise to help you get to sleep in 5 minutes or less.


Sleep apnea can be effectively treated with the help of a professional. They may recommend a CPAP machine, oral appliance, surgery, or possibly a weight-management program to keep the airway open.


If you are experiencing severe insomnia or another serious sleeping problem such as sleep apnea, it’s important to consult with a professional. A practitioner can determine whether a medical issue is the cause of the sleeping problem and recommend solutions.


Diet & nutrition for sleep

Diet and nutrition play a key role in your quality of sleep. Certain foods and substances can be beneficial or detrimental to a sound slumber. Again, the top substances to avoid would be alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, especially in the evenings. Other foods that can be problematic for sleep include high-protein foods, spicy foods, and fatty foods.


On the other end of the spectrum are foods that are known to promote sleep. Research shows that foods which impact availability of tryptophan and the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin can be particularly helpful for sleep.8 Additionally, foods containing vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium can be beneficial as well. Some of these foods include:

  • Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach)
  • Dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese)
  • Fish (salmon, halibut)
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Fruits (bananas, oranges)
  • Whole grains (oatmeal, nut butter)


In addition to these substances and foods, there are herbs and essential oils for sleep such as valerian root and lavender that offer rest-promoting benefits.


Sleep stressor Virtual Item

screenshot of sleep stressors on zyto balance report

A digital signature representing sleep can be scanned using the ZYTO software. In the ZYTO Balance biosurvey, this Virtual Item is scanned along with other lifestyle stressor items such as Diet & Nutrition, Hydration, and Toxic Stress. Responses to Virtual Items related to sleep are also scanned and displayed in the Balance Wellness Report. Some of these include:

  • Estrogen
  • Serotonin
  • Cortisol
  • Melatonin
  • Electromagnetic (EMF)
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Circulatory System
  • Liver
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Anger


The Sleep Virtual Item and many other associated items can also be scanned using the ZYTO Select or Elite software.


Sleep balancer Virtual Items

If the sleep Virtual Item shows up as out of range on a ZYTO scan, Virtual Items that balance it out may include supplements, herbs, essential oils, lifestyle items, or wellness services. With the Balance biosurvey, top products related to sleep are displayed in the Sleep section of the Wellness Report.


With the Lifestyle Add-On Biosurvey, you can scan the digital signatures of general sleep balancers in addition to product balancers. These Virtual Items include foods, supplements, wellness services, and lifestyle items that are known to assist with sleep.


In addition to being a stressor, sleep may also be scanned as a balancer Virtual Item. Thus, this item may bring various out-of-range items back into range, including stressor Virtual Items related to sleep.


Also, the emotional component of sleep can be addressed using the ZYTO EVOX. This system can help you reframe your perceptions about sleep, which may lead to sleep improvements. Emotions that impact sleep such as anger and anxiety can also be addressed using the EVOX.

Dr. Vaughn Cook ZYTOAbout Dr. Vaughn Cook
Dr. Vaughn R Cook is the Founder & CEO of ZYTO. An Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD) and licensed acupuncturist, he has worked in the complementary and alternative medical field for more than 30 years, specializing in applications that integrate Western and Eastern medicine.


1. Bhaskar, S., D. Hemavathy, & S. Prasad. “Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities.” Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care 5, no. 4 (2016): 780-784.

2. “1 in 4 Americans Develop Insomnia Each Year.” The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

3. Heffron, Thomas M. “Insomnia Awareness day facts and stats.” American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

4. “Rising prevalence of sleep apnea in U.S. threatens public health.” American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

5. “Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.”

6. “Restless Legs Syndrome.” WebMD LLC.

7. “Blue light has a dark side.” Harvard University.

8. Peuhkuri, K., N. Sihvola, & R. Korpela. “Diet promotes sleep duration and quality.” Nutrition Research 32, no. 5 (2012): 309-319.


The information provided in this article is intended to improve, not replace, the direct relationship between the client (or site visitor) and healthcare professionals.

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