Recent studies revealed that sleeping more than 8 hours, or less than 5.5 hours per night reduces longevity.
According to a poll by Gallup, 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep1. Sufficient and restful sleep is vital, although scientists still have incomplete understanding of the subject.
Insomnia, defined as the difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep more than three nights per week, affects 10% of adults2. Lack of sleep negatively affects the immune system and is linked to substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents, headaches, depression and obesity3.
Researchers found that just one night of reduced sleep raised dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in fatigue and measurable lack of mental alertness4. Causes for insomnia can be psychophysiological, neurological disorders or from another medical condition. The most common treatment is pharmaceutical drugs, which often carry high risks of negative side effects.
Chiropractors understand that the nerve flow though the spinal column affects every part of the body and brain. Pinched spinal areas impede the nerve flow to other areas, just as a pinched garden hose impedes the water flow coming through a sprinkler.
Many chiropractors have waited for research to validate that insomnia can be helped by spinal adjustments. A review of 46 related articles and studies by Leonard F. Vernon, MA, DC, is titled, The Chiropractic Subluxation and Insomnia: Could there be a Connection?5
Vernon’s article explores the hypothesis that chiropractic adjustments might help restore the neuropathways of the endocrine system, resulting in better sleep. He points out that researchers have shown that sleep disorders can sometimes precede the appearance of certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease.
Research at the A.T. Still Institute revealed that lesions on the atlas and axis (C1 and C2) were associated with abnormal function of the pituitary, resulting in abnormal hormonal secretions. Hormonal imbalance, either above or below normal, negatively affects the hypothalamus, which may be a causative factor in pathological processes as well as insomnia.
The glandular system is complex, and the central autonomic network (CAN) regulates the body’s visceromotor, neuroendocrine, pain, and behavioral responses essential for survival. The CAN also controls sympathetic and parasympathetic, respiratory and sphincter motorneurons.
A widely accepted theory of how the chiropractic adjustment can positively affect brain chemistry is that the adjustment activates receptors in the spine, resulting in altered neuronal afferent input to the brain.
Vernon concludes that this perspective supports the plausibility of the hypothesis that subluxation could lead to aberrant nerve impulses, resulting in chemical imbalances associated with primary insomnia. He hopes that chiropractic research will explore this further. Although the literature has gravitated away from the idea that correcting subluxations could affect anything except lower back and neck pain, chiropractic history, recent research and logic points to a broader spectrum of relief.
Sunny Cook is an Asheville, N.C., freelance writer and editor with a substantial background in natural health. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
- Jones, Jeffery. In US, 40% get less than recommended amount of sleep. Gallup. http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx. Published 19 December 2013.
- Roth, Thomas. Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology and Consequences. J Clin Sleep Med. 2007 Aug 15; 3(5 Suppl): S7–S10.
- Colten HR, Altevogt BM. (2006). Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. (chpt. 3) Washington DC: National Academics Press.
- Society for Neuroscience. “One Sleepless Night Increases Dopamine In The Human Brain.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080819213033 21. Published August 2008.
- Leonard F. Vernon, MA, DC, The Chiropractic Subluxation and Insomnia: Could there be a Connection? Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, SciMed Central, published 17 October, 2015.