What if Your Poor Sleep is Not Really Your Fault?


Sleep, hunger and thirst are all involuntary “feelings”. None of these feelings are under our conscious control. They are run by chemicals from our brain. We learn what to do in response to them in the first few years of life. When we “feel hungry” we learn to eat until we “feel full”, when we “feel thirsty” we learn to drink, until we “don’t feel thirsty”. Attaching these “feelings” to what we do happened so early that we don’t remember the learning process. But it’s important to know that the “feelings“ are not consciously generated by you, they are generated by your body. In other words they are not voluntary, they are “involuntary”. There are people who lose the ability to judge normal thirst and drink too much water. There are people who don’t get the right messages from their stomach and brain so they still feel hungry after eating a large meal. Sleep is involuntary also. People who have normal sleep just lie down and go to sleep. They wake up about 8 hours later feeling great. If this is not what happens to you it’s not because you’re “doing it wrong”, it is because there’s a brain malfunction in the background.

Most of the experts blame the bad sleeper or the sleep environment. “You sleep too much”, “the room is too light”, “you think too much”, “the room is too warm”, “your husband snores”, “you’re on your phone/computer too much”. My experience with over 5000 neurology patients taught me that sleep is not something you can control. You are not doing something wrong, your sleep switches are malfunctioning. Even though you can’t control the sleep switches, (they really control you) you can give them what they need to repair themselves and start working normally again. It is my belief that the sleep disorders that have become epidemic are due to deficiency of a hormone made on our skin from sunlight, vitamin D. Many parts of our body need this hormone. What might surprise you the most is that the bacteria that live in our intestine need our vitamin D. The bacteria that live in our gut are now considered to be an organ of our body. Even though they aren’t really “us” exactly, they do accompany us throughout our life and they are now understood to affect our appetite, our weight, our immune system, and even our sleep.  Go to the blog entitled “Healthy Bacteria Healthy Sleep” to learn more.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Dr. Gominak,

    I just listened to your podcasts on Dr. Park’s website. WOW! I am so excited!

    I had previously found this website last week when I was searching for information on sleep issues, and sent you an inquiry about you advice service. I am a mental health clinician with a lifelong interest in the role of sleep and nutrition in mental and physical health, as well as my own personal history of stubborn health issues which I believe are largely related to the poor quality of my sleep.

    I look forward to hearing back from your office. My hope is to start with myself and then be able to utilize your service in helping my patients who struggle with chronic health conditions (such as headaches, fibromyalgia and chronic pain) that interrelate with depression, anxiety disorders and other behavioral heath issues.

    On a personal note, I deeply appreciate your spirit of excitement in discovering new ways to help your patients. The world needs more doctors like you, who are open to “out-of-the-box” thinking and truly want to figure out how to help their patients. Most of my mental health patients have chronic physical health conditions that cause/exacerbate their mental health conditions, and they almost always report feeling patronized and dismissed by their doctors. When I ask about their sleep quality, they universally report that it is terrible. I often suggest basic nutritional blood work that may impact their symptoms (vitamin D, B12 etc.) and D is almost always low. Now I can refer them to your website, where they can get concrete information and guidance on the path to wellness!

    With deep appreciation,
    Shari Tresky, LMHC

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