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Functional Medicine for Insomnia

In a fast-paced world where stress, technology, and demanding lifestyles have become the norm, more people are suffering from insomnia.  According to the American Sleep Association, approximately 30 percent of adults in the United States experience symptoms of insomnia, with 10 percent of the population suffering from chronic insomnia.

 In this article, we’ll discuss a different approach for treating this sleep disorder using functional medicine for insomnia.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is diagnosed when an individual has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep. The consequences of chronic insomnia extend beyond tiredness and can lead to mood disturbances, a weakened immune system, sugar cravings, and an increased risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Sleeping less than six hours a night may also increase levels of CRP, a marker for inflammation.

Root Causes of Insomnia

Functional medicine focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying factors contributing to a condition. When it comes to insomnia, several root causes are often considered:

High Cortisol 

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in varying levels throughout the day. Your cortisol levels should be lowest right before bedtime. However, the relentless demands of modern life can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels and interfere with the body's ability to relax and fall asleep. 

The most crucial intervention for balancing cortisol levels is to implement realistic habits to lower stress. Daily meditations, deep breathing exercises, journaling, and walking are all helpful techniques to lower cortisol levels over time. We may also recommend an adaptogen supplement, like ashwagandha, that has proven benefits for lowering cortisol levels and improving sleep quality and quantity (1, 2). 

Low Progesterone

Progesterone is a female reproductive hormone with calming benefits known to lower anxiety and promote healthy sleep. Your body must ovulate in order to produce progesterone. If you have conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, you may have irregular ovulation that leads to long or irregular menstrual cycles. This can contribute to chronic insomnia. However, some women may have regular ovulation and periods but still suffer from a progesterone deficiency. In this case, you may notice worsening insomnia before your period begins. 

To correct a progesterone deficiency, you must first support healthy ovulation each month by eating a whole food diet balanced with protein, fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrates. We may also recommend using supplements like Ovasitol to promote healthy insulin levels. Implementing lifestyle changes to lower stress levels is also key to supporting adequate progesterone production.


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Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing stops repeatedly, sometimes hundreds of times, throughout the night. There is a researched link between sleep apnea and insomnia. In fact, if you have one of these conditions, you have up to a 50 percent chance of also having the other (3). 

Common symptoms of sleep apnea may include:
  • Loud snoring
  • Sore or dry throat upon waking
  • Restless sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up during the night gasping or choking
  • Morning headaches
Sleep apnea has devastating consequences if left untreated. For example, sleep apnea is associated with depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and weight gain or difficulty losing weight. If you have insomnia and any of these symptoms of sleep apnea, we encourage you to speak with your doctor to see if they recommend a referral for a sleep study.

Sleep Hygiene

Improving sleep hygiene is a simple way to create a healthy foundation for falling asleep. Implementing these practices can support an optimal circadian rhythm and support healthy cortisol and melatonin levels:

  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a cool temperature (around 65 degrees is ideal)
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to regulate your internal sleep clock
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed
  • Avoid caffeine after noon
  • Avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime
  • Avoid or limit screen exposure at least one hour before your scheduled bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronics can suppress your body’s natural production of melatonin by up to 50 percent!
  • Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime
  • Include a protein, fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrate with each meal to ensure adequate blood sugar balance overnight

Like any habit, start small and make realistic changes over time to build a healthy foundation for sleep.

Sleep Supplements

A functional medicine treatment for insomnia may also use supplements as appropriate to treat the root causes of this condition. 


Melatonin is an important hormone that helps to regulate your circadian rhythm. It should be highest right before bed in order to encourage sleepiness. Screens, stress, and lack of natural sunlight during the day may result in inadequate melatonin production. Besides sleep hygiene to correct these disturbances, we often recommend using 1 to 5 mg of melatonin per day to reset your circadian rhythm. However, try to avoid long term use of this supplement.

Root Sleep Support

Our Sleep Support supplement is a blend of calming herbs, like valerian root, and minerals, like magnesium, which promote quality sleep without causing drowsiness or the typical sleep “hangover.” Many of the ingredients in Sleep Support also aid in the production of a brain chemical called GABA, which helps you relax and get into a deeper sleep each night.


Magnesium is an essential mineral with calming properties and researched benefits for supporting restful sleep and reducing anxiety (4, 5). Unfortunately, most Americans fail to meet the daily magnesium requirements with their diet. Many of our members see great results when taking 200 to 400 mg of magnesium glycinate about one hour before bedtime.
sleep support

Sleep Support

Sleep deep without the “sleep hangover”

Filling Nutrient Gaps 

Some evidence suggests that taurine, an amino acid, may have potential benefits for sleep. Taurine has calming effects on the central nervous system and interacts with a brain chemical called GABA to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Our Root Reset Powder contains 500 mg of taurine plus added vitamins, minerals, and protein to fill any nutrient gaps in your diet.  We would suggest taking this earlier in the day, as part of a balanced diet full of protein, healthy fat, fiber, and bright colors.  
Root reset

Root Reset Protein Powder Chocolate

Protein with super powers

Key Takeaways: Functional Medicine for Insomnia

Functional medicine addresses the root causes of insomnia and offers promising solutions for those seeking sustainable relief. Common root causes of insomnia include high cortisol levels, hormonal imbalances, and sleep apnea. By implementing the foundations of sleep hygiene, eating a whole-food diet, and supplementing as appropriate, you can take control of your sleep health.

Get to the Root at Home 

Curious about where you should start your functional medicine journey? 

Take our Get to the Root Quiz so you can start working towards reversing disease and optimizing your health at the Root cause.
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