Episode 11: Getting Better Sleep with Dr. Damiana Corca

Dr. Damiana CorcaDr. Damiana Corca

Sleep & Wellness Specialist

Website: https://damianacorca.com

Dr. Damiana Corca is a sleep & wellness specialist helping people sleep better by using principles from functional medicine and Chinese medicine. Her practice is devoted to helping individuals heal from chronic sleep issues, and just as important, teaching how to prevent insomnia from developing in the first place. Her book on insomnia, to be published in winter of 2020, looks at the 5 insomniac types and a functional approach to healing insomnia.

Offering for the listeners: Insight into sleep apnea symptoms, winding down the process, and how to download the Sleep Inducing Relaxation. https://damianacorca.com/insomniaresolved/

 



Dr. Elyssa : 

Hello mamas. I am Dr. Elyssa Wright and I am so excited to be back with you today. We have a special guest, Dr. Damiana Corca. She is a sleep and wellness specialist that works with functional medicine and Chinese medicine to help her patients get better sleep. Welcome Dr. Damiana.

Dr. Damiana : 

Thank you for having me.

Dr. Elyssa : 

I’m just so excited. We chatted a little bit before this about really what a lot of mamas struggle with when it comes around sleep. What do you see in your practice?

Dr. Damiana : 

So I see a number of different things and and, you know, we can make a plan and try to figure it all out. And then the mom was having a child, of course, all the plants can be up in the air, because you never know what’s going to come. So we have to work around that and do our best. So then we get waken up, we can easily go back to sleep.

Dr. Elyssa : 

Another big thing I hear about with my moms is it’s, I was sleeping and then I heard the baby crying wide awake, I’m ready to go and I can’t fall back asleep. Right, exactly. And then what some moms find out is, the kid is 4,5,6, 10, or whatever the ages when they’re not waking up anymore, either for breastfeeding or because you’re having nightmares or they’re sick. They sleeped through the night and then they found themselves up in the middle of the night for no good reason. And then they realize, Oh, I actually have insomnia regardless of what my kid does. And that’s that’s sometimes it’s scary and hard. Yeah. So really recognizing that some of the patterns you get into when you’re little ones are newborns, all of a sudden you have these are now your patterns and sleep is just this thing that you just can’t seem to get ahold of anymore. Right because also the brain learns, it always does its best. And then if you learn that, for so many years, you had to wake up it thinks you need to wake up and you need to be up for some reason it can’t identify that your kid now can sleep and such. So it’s partially habit to and functionally might be that the body is not as balanced as it could be. Whatever that is hormones or thyroid or just stress hormones in the body such as cortisol. And cortisol right now, our little stress hormone is a little high, I think and majority of people. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So what are some quick things that you share with your patients who are struggling with this insomnia and inability to you know, shut down? I know that there’s probably a ton of different reasons for what keeps people up once they wake up or keeps them from being able to fall asleep.

Dr. Damiana : 

Yeah, so I can share a few different things that that are helpful. And before that, I just want to make sure that moms are aware that sometimes it’s not about sleep foundation or sleep hygiene habits and all that matters. It could be that the body is not functioning very well. Like one of the things that I do see is one being anemic. Maybe they lost more blood at first, maybe not. They’re just anemic for whatever reason. So even borderline, I like the ferritin to be usually above 60. And if it’s lowered in that it can affect sleep. I also see a lot of thyroid issues. It demands a lot of thyroid hormone output during the pregnancy period. And so, sometimes if we have a tendency towards autoimmune problems, the thyroid antibodies can be elevated, such as in Hashimoto’s. But I mean, the main markers like the TSH and T4 and T3 that usually your doctor will check, they’re still normal for a while. You just don’t feel well and you don’t know why. And that can linger for years and years and years and then eventually, the thyroid says I can’t do it anymore. So those numbers that are destined, more mainstream, are going to be off so we know something is wrong. Also, I see a lot of blood sugar imbalances for various reasons, stress and being rushed and skipping breakfast and practicing intermittent fasting that sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not the best. It can backfire. Whatever reason, the reason is the brain really needs steady amount have sugar and nights of we don’t you know eat well during the day we’re well to balance the blood sugar then it will affect our sleep. And, you know if the brain feels like it’s the low blood sugar, the low blood sugar, it’s a bit low, it will like wake you up because it says, “Oh, this is dangerous.” And then you wake up kind of like startled and you don’t know why. And then the default is like, “Oh, I have worries and I have anxiety,” but really it was the blood sugar. And then the cortisol, it relates to everything, any kind of stressor. So, that can run high at night, low in the morning or low in the afternoon and then high in the evening. So, kind of imbalanced and such. And also hormonal issues can be present, you know, not having optimal progesterone and estrogen optimal levels. And then it’s a little more or less often I feel like for younger moms, but in their 40s and then 50s, as the estrogen levels decline, I do see some sleep apnea. And contrary to the common belief that it’s seen in mostly overweight people that that’s not true. So that’s something to keep in mind. So that’s just kind of something to take with you like to your practitioner and discuss these things and make sure that you get the proper care.

Dr. Elyssa : 

Yep, absolutely. And so what I’m hearing is you want to make sure that you check those baseline health issues to make sure iron and hormones and cortisol and blood sugar….and there was one more… sleep apnea. Thank you. I counted them all on my fingers. And I’m like, I missed one. And thyroid. Yep. So check in with your doctor. Make sure that those levels are all where they need to be. So that way you know that the work you’re doing with health, hygiene and your habits can be really really beneficial. Yeah, yep. Yeah, that’s exactly why it’s so then more of like what’s within your power and you can try to change immediately by yourself at home. Sort of winding down process is is very, very, very important. I know we all kind of know about it. Sometimes we don’t practices as good as we could. But the first thing actually before that is figuring out if the child does wake you up. See if there is anything that can be done. So the child sleeps through the night, sometimes we just think oh, it is what it is. Or they have nightmares. What can you do about it? Do we thinks that that can be done about the nightmares in functional medicine and also with acupuncture and herbs? I mean, partially nightmares can be the normal for kids, but not if they’re like a few times a week, I would say that’s not it could be better. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just, I would say more like once or twice a month. It’s okay but anything more often than that. See that from my perspective is more like do not processing something properly. So that’s why they have the either the night terrors or nightmares. Absolutely. I noticed in my chiropractic world that when my little patients come in with more nightmares, there’s a nervous system component and there’s just a little bit more of a stressor and anxiety or processing that they’re just a little more on edge. Right? Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So that’s one thing to take a fresh look and search for help and see if there is anything we can do. So the, your child sleeps through the night, then the winding down process. I like it around one hour and I call that the “me time,” just being able to, hopefully your your child of children are asleep by then. So that’s truly is your time. And what I always talk to moms to try to avoid if possible, try to plan it out is not to spend At that time, cleaning up the toys and finishing up the laundry and doing the dishes and just being busy and I understand those things need to get done. But somehow communicating that with the partner or even working with the kid if it’s old enough to try to push those things a little earlier in the day, and it’s sometimes it feels like impossible. Sometimes it’s just like making up your mind. This has to be different. I can’t be spending, you know, nine to 10 o’clock or eight or nine o’clock, rushing throughout the house trying to clean up and then wanting to wind down fast so you can fall asleep that just we don’t have that on and off switch. I like to think about it in Chinese medicine, how we have yang and we have 24 hours. So 12 hours are for yang and being active and out and in the light and exercising and taking care of work taking care of your kid and then 12 hours is more of that yin time. Obviously, we’re only in bed somewhere between seven and a half and nine hours approximately. So there are about three hours at least left. And that doesn’t mean you should be doing nothing in that in those three hours, it just means that you can use that opportunity to see like, okay, from seven to 10 o’clock, like what can I do to truly slow down and secondly, try not to look at any kind of work and it’s okay to watch a movie before bed but I still like to leave at least like 45 minutes to just read a book and drink some tea and just have some quiet time and happy time. I just absolutely love fiction books because it actually activates a different part of your brain. I do not like self books right before bed because I feel like they can, not for everyone, but sometimes it can be triggering. I mean, like, you’re reading about how to do this, how to be better how to grow and that sometimes it’s for some people, it’s it’s not the best way to to wind down so fiction books that are pleasurable, enjoyable, it’s truly the best. And then if you do choose to watch a movie, perhaps purchase some of those blue blocking glasses, and still don’t watch the TV or use your phone right up to that moment you put your head down, if possible. I know sometimes exceptions can be there. But those those blue blocking glasses can be helpful to like, because otherwise the the screen and even just being so active, something coming at you, when you’re watching a movie, it’s like it’s too active. And also the light will start the melatonin production, which is so important. Yeah, I always talk about when you’re driving down the road, and you can see the lights from the TV, outside of the house. And I just always think what is that light actually doing to us when we’re sitting in the same room as all of that flashing and all that activity? Because people think Well, yeah, exactly. It’s only the light but it’s also just it’s an active young energy coming towards you well they then you know reading a book especially a paper called listening to an audio book. Great. Do you work with everything you’re saying I love and to me how my little type a brain works would be to okay set a time that I actually want to go to bed and then work backwards exactly

Dr. Damiana : 

That is the best way and work backwards an hour so we can be longer, if you know yourself that you have a hard time winding down. I call these people the kind of like excited no matter what you know, it’s like good, good things bad things just excited and that that genetic makeup for some people there is a specific gene there are many different ones but the comp gene depending on how you metabolize different neurotransmitters, some of us are able to really when we need to focus, we can focus for hours because we can hold on to those neurotransmitters in the brain and focus but then when it comes to like, winding down, it takes us double the time. So if you know yourself being that kind of excitable type of person, you might need even more than an hour but I like to like brush my teeth at the beginning of that hour, prepare the bed, change into the right clothes and then do those relaxing thing. You don’t want to say okay, I’m, I’m groggy now I’m sleepy. Let me go. Let me go brush my teeth, because that itself sometimes can wake you up and then you get into that second wind and then that’s it for another hour or two. And that’s stressful, obviously.

Dr. Elyssa : 

I love that brushing your teeth to start it. I’m a really big trigger person. And I find over time when you set those little habits that that brushing the teeth triggers your brain like okay, we’re starting this process to sleep. Yeah, definitely. And I do have this written down on kind of a handout. On my website, I’ll if so can have you listed are buddies damianacorca.com/insomnia resolved. You will get an email with a, you know, fairly extensive kind of proper winding down and what to do in the middle of the night that takes you through those steps. And I’m going to talk a little bit more about that. And I mentioned sleep apnea earlier some, you know, most people don’t know what exactly to look for, except “Oh, I don’t snore” or it’s not as simple as that. So that email will also give you some symptoms. So you can identify like, “Oh, that sounds a little bit like me.” Some people have absolutely no symptoms that they can tell and you know, for whatever reason, they end up doing a sleep study, they do have sleep apnea, but most people they can see like they can, you can find yourself in those symptoms and so you can look into it. So that handout will give you that piece of information. Great and I will throw that link in the bottom of the show notes so that way all of our listeners have access to it. Yeah, so so let’s say you did fall asleep, hopefully and then you know if what if what, what do you do if you wake up in the middle of the night. I am a big fan of staying in bed if you’re not anxious. Because it’s just so hard, you’re so tired and sometimes it’s cold and you know, in general mainstream teachings are get out of bed if you’re not sleeping, get out of bed and go to a different room. And, again, I agree with that if you have anxiety, and also some people do find that just getting, getting out of bed, getting some water or even reading for a little bit helps. For most people, I find that laying in bed can be helpful as long as they keep themselves somehow distracted. If you’re the type of person that will fall asleep just by feeling their body a little bit breathing a little bit and you’re back to sleep and that’s perfect. But if the mind and the overthinking and all of that starts kicking in, there is a broad range of what helps. Some people just the waves helps them, some people listening to meditation helps. Other people listening to meditation almost makes them more anxious so they can concentrate on it, then other people really enjoy listening to a podcast that’s kind of engaging, but you know, it just kind of eventually they just fall asleep because they focused on it. They forgot about their worries, the body relaxed, some people that’s too engaging for them. And they’re wide awake if they listen to a podcast, so you just have to find out where you are in that way in, going from listening to water sounds to guided meditation or just music to a podcast or a book and see what works for you because everyone is different. That typically works. For a lot of people, ideally, you’d find out why you’re waking up kind of the reasons that I I listed earlier or figure out ways or therapies to calm down the nervous system so you don’t wake up in the middle of the night. But there’s a transition period and in when you’re up and you don’t know what to do then this is a choice and you want to make sure this is all prepared in advance so you don’t sit there looking on your phone and trying to think okay, what am I listening? Why should I go because it’s like 5-10 minutes you’re staring at your phone you’re even more wide awake. So whatever it is, it should be ready. I love insight timer. I was gonna say insight timer. It’s amazing so many free meditations, so many good people, so many types you don’t never get bored wonderful people from all over the world. Men with sexy accents There is this guy um, What is his name? I can’t remember his name but you should go into sleep. section it this is for a nap actually, because I do love naps. If they’re done in the middle of the day. Like no longer than half an hour like between one and three o’clock it’s quiet. So that meditation is 30 minutes long and it’s called a power nap. And his last name is Johnson and I think he’s from Ireland or somewhere. And it’s just like I lay there and I’m like, Oh man, I love your voice. It makes naptime that much better. Fantasize a little bit if you wish. So whatever but as long as you get the rest. So anyways, on also on Insight Timer, I have meditation. I call it a “sleep inducing meditation”, that it’s about 28 minutes long. And it’s a combination of neural beats and delta waves and my voice if you don’t mind my accent, and then you can listen to my voice guiding you in a meditation to put you to sleep. And so if you just search for my name, you should find the meditation in Insight Timer. That’s there. But there’s tons of them different ones, you know, if you have a moment or you feel anxious the weird ones for that I remember a while back, I had a panic attack and I found this it was a 10 minute meditation and it just brought me right back down because I felt like this person was right there. For me it was it was a great one. So whatever you need it, it’s there probably they have like 15,000 meditations that are free. And then you can have a membership to that’s really affordable, and I can’t, I don’t even know what that gives you because I don’t have it. It’s a great place to because they also have just music. So if meditations are too much, you can go to bed with a book next to your bed, your phone with insight timer cued up to a music and a guided meditation. And you can have your favorite podcasts up and ready to roll and have everything you need, to test how to get back to sleep faster. Exactly. And if you have a bed partner and you don’t want to bother them, I just put an earbud in one ear. Once I decide where the phone is, and then when I fall asleep, it will just fall out. Also, why I love Insight Timer and even podcasts and such is because once I get it going, I want to put my you want to put your phone on airplane mode to not have your phone next to your head on because of the some people are more EMF sensitive than others for sure. And some of us are genetically wired to be more sensitive I found in people. And then one more thing about waking up in the middle of the night if you’re the type of person that overthinks and you start going through things don’t need to be done and worries and all of that. I do like to work on a worry list the night before the evening before if you forget you can just get up and do your list. Because the mind just keeps circulating thoughts and ideas and don’t forget this and don’t forget that. If that typically happens to you then what I suggest is to start having a little piece of paper on your phone around you around dinnertime. And just as soon as the thought comes in about anything like a worry, a task, I got to do this, I got to do that. Just write it down. And every time that comes back, you say, Oh, it’s on that piece of paper. I don’t need to think about it. Why now. And if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can say, you know, this is my time, there is nothing I can do about it, even if it’s something that really upsets you. This is my time. I’m going to deal with it tomorrow. I’m going to think about it tomorrow, whatever it is, and that’s my, my way of like telling the mind, you’re a little crazy. You can’t keep thinking of all this, like, let it go. It’s on that piece of paper. I’m gonna start using that immediately. Because last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and went gas bill. Like, where did that come from? It’s a really, that’s a great way to kind of get that out before 2am. Yeah. And if you have kids, then it’s a lot more. There’s just all those little things and tasks and family and a job. So I like to, you know, like if you start around dinner you keep putting things down by the time it’s time to wind down your way in your mind should be empty. And whatever keeps coming back, you keep saying it’s on the list. It’s on the list. I’ve dealt with it. There is nothing I can do about it. Let me be right now. This is my time. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be peaceful. This is my time. That is great advice. So we have our winding down. We have our what to do if we wake up in the middle of the night. Yeah. And what’s our next big piece? I think the last piece that I would like to talk about is eating a proper breakfast. We live in a society where fasting and such is really popular and it’s absolutely amazing. But if anyone suffers from insomnia, I tell them you got to you got to stop that for now. You need steady, full, like carbs, fats and protein. To keep the blood sugar levels level, and to because they’re related to cortisol, so every time we have a spike in blood sugar up or down, then what happens is the cortisol follows. And so the cortisol is also the stress hormone. So the body it’s constantly on this kind of demand. So having that full breakfast in the morning will settle your nervous system for the day. It will also tell you body it’s time to fully wake up. And so then you’re likely going to have less cravings throughout the day and you’re going to feel more settled and happier. If you’re the type of person that’s not hungry in the morning. I know some people are like that I suggest having something like with collagen powder you could be have, you know even oatmeal that you add the collagen powder to it. So like two scoops I think it gives you depending on the brand that gives you like, I don’t know about 15 to 20 grams of protein and that’s That’s good anything in the morning 20 to 30 grams of protein is great. If you’re okay with eggs, you can do eggs. When I have patients who have have a lot of food sensitivities and they’re okay with eating meat, I tell them how about you have grass fed burger for breakfast? And they say it’s weird, but they feel so good. They cook lots of veggies and make that burger and then they feel like they’re so shocked. Just if you struggle with like mental fogginess in the morning and all of that, just try that and see how much better you’ll feel. Yeah, I love telling my patients get the protein in the morning and if you don’t like breakfast foods, eat dinner.That’s okay. Exactly. Well that’s, that’s truly the best. Yeah, so that’s truly the best. A lot of people do the vegan protein that has pea protein and I just, that’s great. But I just want to say that there a lot of people react to that. You don’t really get to like to notice necessarily but they be sensitive to them. And it can be a problem. So just watch out for like eating it all the time, as I’ve done in the past kind of getting into that habit of having protein because it’s vegan, and it’s great and you feel good and you add whatever you add to it, and then suddenly you realize, oh, I’ve been eating too much of that. And now, my body is not responding very well. In general, you want to rotate foods, you don’t want to keep eating the same thing for breakfast and such in order to have variety in diet and make sure that your body doesn’t develop a sensitivity to a second food. Great. That is all really, really good reminders. So we have so much information that we got today about all different aspects of sleep. And I’m super excited if you want more information. Dr. Damiana has a book coming out later this year. Do you want to share a little bit of information about that?

Dr. Damiana : 

Yes, I am so excited because this is book has been on my mind for a couple of years. And at the beginning of the quarantine that, you know, for the first time in my life, I think ever, I didn’t have to do anything. So I sat down and started writing, and it just came right through. And so it’s everything that I talked to you about today. And a lot more of that it’s the main part focuses on the five Insomniac types. Based on my last few years of practice, I’ve been in practice for 10 years as a doctor of acupuncture and then the last year is also functional medicine. But the last, I think it’s seven years now my practice has been focused only on sleep issues. So I have a lot of experience. I’ve worked with a lot of people and so that gave me an opportunity to really categorize people in this five different types. So it’s easier for you to identify which type it is and what the root cause of your insomnia is. So that’s in the book and I’m quite excited about it. And then the main fact of the book it’s like taking digestion and thyroid and hormones and various environmental factor of the chronic infections, the things that I’ve seen, that causes insomnia and people and in some people like really long term insomnia that doesn’t seem to respond to anything really seem so stubborn because it’s a deeper problem and such. And then the last part, it’s kind of summarizing the sleep foundation, sleep hygiene, a little bit of what we talked today, but a lot more in depth. So it’s going to the editor soon and it should be out probably at the beginning of 2021 as far as I can tell, like January or February hopefully. I’m really excited about it and it will be on Amazon, on Quint and also Audible and also on Kindle.

Dr. Elyssa : 

Well, I’m looking forward to it. And if you can remind our listeners where to go to get all of those sleep tips.

Dr. Damiana : 

Yeah, damianacorca.com/insomnia resolved

Dr. Elyssa : 

Perfect. And I will list that down below in the show notes. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to share these tips with our listeners. And I think a lot of people are going to really love it. Great. Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed it. All right, mamas. We’ll chat soon. Bye.

 

Have a question to ask Dr. Elyssa on the Balancing Holistic Mamas Podcast? Ask Here

Follow Dr. Elyssa Wright on Facebook for more holistic and chiropractic resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *