Root Causes of Poor Sleep

Various nutrients, “hacks” and lifestyle changes can be helpful, but for the many who have already been on the “health journey”, I find it can be– believe it or not– as simple as the fact you’re not eating enough.
Still, you can optimize further by implementing various changes.

  • Inadequate protein, carbs, or fat all have an affect
    • Restless legs, a frequent offender, can indicate low protein
    • Getting enough protein can also help you stay asleep via glycogen stores in the liver, so cortisol isn’t triggered, waking you up
    • Carbs help with relaxation and thus sleep at night, lowering cortisol
    • Fat helps with blood sugar balance through night, preventing waking up hungry
  • Waking up at 3 am indicates liver dysfunction
  • Exercise can help (so long as you’re eating enough and not depleted) if you’re not getting enough, ideally earlier in the day. But something lower intensity is okay if that’s what works for you
  • Getting early morning sunlight helps regulate the circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) so you’ll sleep better and be more awake at the right time (during the day)
  • There are foods rich in melatonin like tart cherry, almond, pistachio that many benefit from. I’d first ensure you’re replete in all of the nutrients and caloric energy before resorting to that

In my own experience, these were the causes and what helped: 

  • Low potassium
  • Low magnesium
  • Restless legs-> more deficiencies: iron, methylated B vitamins, protein
  • What made the most difference, after lots of trying to address micronutrient deficiencies: just more calories.
    • Even eating a lower nutrient, higher calorie diet actually allowed me to sleep better at baseline
      • -> Energy is our most basic need to feel relaxed, safe
  • Blue blocking glasses help (circadian rhythm)
  • Melatonin helped but caused restless legs for me over time 
  • Ashwaganda– an adaptogen, this helps normalize adrenal function which can become imbalanced and “backwards” in the face of health challanges. A classic sign of this is being energetic only in the evening.
  • Calming essential oils like lavender. I use them on my pillow


  • Binders may be needed if you’re dealing with a toxic burden– if detoxing or living in mold, etc
  • You need all of the nutrients, and will likely feel it if you don’t
    • Iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium may be low without you realizing it (often not enough in multivitamins)
  • Everyone should take a multivitamin/ mineral along with diet
    • Cronometer app helps you see what you’re missing in amino acids, micronutrients
  • Allow yourself to relax. Laugh. In my experience, it might be helpful to scroll social media if it helps you wind down. It can’t always be “work”.
    • I always read that I need to avoid light before bed so I’d lay there, not looking at my phone for hours, just spinning in my head about whatever thought might’ve kept me up. Way more helpful for me was giving myself the ease of “relaxing more” in whatever form that would take for me at the time– not being militaristic about various rules, which made me feel more uptight.
  • Perfectionism is a sleep thief

I hope this helps and would be curious to hear how it went for you.

I’d love to see your comments below once you give these things a try! 🙂

Also, if you’d like personalized guidance to find out your unique nutritional needs and root causes, you can make an appointment with me here.

One thought on “Root Causes of Poor Sleep

Leave a Reply