Insomnia is like a thief that steals the sleep of more than 60 million Americans every night. Yet few insomniacs are aware of exactly why they can't get to sleep or stay asleep.

That's unfortunate because awareness of the root cause of insomnia is the first step to being able to resolve sleep problems without having to soak your brain in risky drugs.

New studies confirm that people who have difficulty sleeping have significantly higher levels of stress hormones in their system, particularly cortisol, than do people who sleep without trouble.

Stress hormones can interfere with your sleep because they prevent your sleep machinery from operating properly. They produce a brain condition that triggers your "awake switch," not your "sleep switch." And so cortisol and other stress chemicals create the conditions that keep you up at night and that leave you dog-tired, bummed out and at risk for feeling miserable and getting sick.

The bottom line in getting a good night's sleep is to do two things: lower your stress hormone levels and flush stress hormones from your blood and tissues. Then, your sleep machinery can work the way it was meant to and you will also be able to get into more of the brain states that deliver the best quality of sleep, sleep that profoundly renews and restores your mind and body. This is known as "slow wave or delta sleep."

Think of it this way: Stress turns your stress hormone faucet on and releases these toxic hormones into your system. These hormones then seep into your blood and tissues, where they set up conditions for insomnia, which stress researcher Dr. Maria Basta calls a "disorder of hyper-arousal."

Hyper-arousal is a condition in which your involuntary nervous system is prepared for emergency alert and danger, not for rest and sleep. If you are soaked in stress hormones meant to prepare you for emergency alert and life-threatening danger, it's easy to understand why you can't sleep, right?

All of us who have trouble sleeping have to ask ourselves an important question: Why should we risk our health and feel wired, tired and bummed out so much of the time when we really don't have to, if we just learn how to lower our stress hormone levels?

We now know that insomnia isn't merely inconvenient, it's dangerous. It can ruin our health and well being. According to senior insomnia researcher Dr. Alexandros N. Vgontzas, "Insomniacs are at risk not only for mental disorders, i.e. chronic anxiety and depression, but also for significant medical morbidity (for example, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes).

To make matters worse, insomnia and stress can become a vicious cycle, where each creates more of the other and you could easily lose your health and well-being as a result of getting stuck in this cycle. Studies show that not only do stress hormones trigger rapid aging because they shorten the life of our cells, but they are also connected to the six leading causes of death today. Not good.

Knowledge about the role stress hormones play in insomnia and other problems is not commonly available, known or understood today, even by many medical physicians and other health-service providers.

The real problem is that our hard-wired survival "fight or flight response" is obsolete. It's designed for the world our ancestors lived in, not the world we live in. Evolutionary scientists explain this problem in terms of a "mismatch" — in other words, it's not matched to our current fast-paced, complex and often "soulless" life conditions.

Actually, your fight or flight response is meant for short-term use only. But today, it triggers too frequently and it stays on for too long. As a result, stress hormones can linger in your blood and tissues, disturbing your sleep and your body's other housekeeping chores.

The good news is that you can solve this mismatch problem and get rid of your insomnia when you learn how to keep your stress faucet turned down and flush stress hormones from your blood, tissues and cells. It can be easy and simple to learn how to do, and it's well worth the effort. You can learn how to sleep like a baby again.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jim Manganiello is an award winning clinical health psychologist, professor teacher, author and meditation instructor. He’s a longtime innovator in the areas of psychotherapy for stress, anxiety and depression and he has pioneered integrative strategies and tactics for exceptional well-being, personal growth and "inner fitness". He is one of the few westerners authorized to introduce sacred meditative and healing practices.

You can contact him at or by phone at 978 914 7733.

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