High Dopamine and Insomnia
She took a nap!
When my client told me this, I literally wanted to send her flowers. For most of us, a nap is no big deal, holds no appeal, or is a regular part of life, but this lovely woman has severe insomnia and also cannot catch up during the day because of her inability to take a nap.
In this follow-up session she said she had not taken a nap since we last worked together in 2014.
Oh, and her nighttime sleep was miserable as well.
Insomnia can have many causes, and there are some easy ones I usually rule out first, including high/low cortisol levels, low serotonin levels, and/or low GABA levels.
More and more I see complicated cases of insomnia that also include some form of anxiety. I am also seeing a pattern in test results that confirm the individual has high dopamine levels. The short version of how this correlates to insomnia is that high dopamine levels tell us that a certain gene (COMT) needs a little help working better. It can also mean that the conversion from dopamine to norepinephrine is not happening as it should.
Dopamine is responsible for our drive, alertness and overall arousal. These characteristics all sound good, however, too much of any good thing is not usually a good thing. Too much dopamine equals anxiety and an over-arousal that impacts sleep.
How do we help someone in this case? Most clients who find me have already tried multiple medications, which have only made the insomnia worse. Helping the COMT gene work better by supplying important co-factors is the way to gently nudge the system to get going again. Also, giving a serotonin boost via the amino acid L-tryptophan can keep dopamine levels from continuing to climb.
We all know how important sleep is. If you have not had a good night's sleep in a long time, you have likely forgotten how good it feels to be refreshed and ready to go in the morning.
Insomnia, like depression, anxiety, and so many others, are symptoms that something is off in the body. It is our body's way of telling us it is out of balance. We tend to medicate the symptoms away instead of listening to the messages and looking for the real cause.
The work that I do stems from what is called a Functional Nutrition approach. It is the same approach a Functional Medicine Doctor or other functional practitioner would utilize, and that is, looking for the root cause of symptoms.