Suzie Senk – How to Get Better Sleep Without Using Medication
Suzie Senk is a sleep specialist, international health educator, holistic wellness practitioner, speaker, author, and mother. Her integrative solutions to modern sleep challenges help people of all ages sleep better, faster.
Suzie’s training in herbalism, nutrition, and whole-body health inspired her to open her life-affirming wellness consulting practice more than two decades ago. Since then, she’s researched and received extensive training in topics including yoga, meditation, Chinese medicine, infant mental health, fitness, sound and light therapy, transpersonal psychology, philosophy of mind, and, of course, sleep.
Her journey to a sleep specialist began with her own personal experience with sleep difficulties when she developed Hashimoto’s disease after the birth of her son. As a single mom, when her son didn’t sleep, neither did Suzie. Using her training and understanding of health and wellness to delve into the topic of sleep, she was able to get her son to sleep better. This lit a passion for discovering how she could help others avoid what she had gone through. After returning to school to study sleep, she opened her practice which offers personalized, developmentally appropriate, gentle sleep solutions for all ages.
Suzie is a frequent speaker on topics related to sleep and health. She has created several online sleep and wellness programs, including The Sleep Detective, Green Your Sleep, The Sleep Accelerator program, and Sleep Your Pain Away.
Today, Suzie brings her expertise on the connections between pain and sleep to the High Tech Wellness Podcast.
7:03 Conventional Sleep Solutions
10:15 The Relationship Between Sleep and Pain
21:09 Stages of Sleep
27:13 Natural Solutions
51:26 Brainwave Modulation
Suzie will offer these valuable insights:
Conventional Sleep Solutions
Regular sleep difficulties, whether difficulty falling asleep or trouble staying asleep, are an increasingly common health issue. Approximately 1 in 5 people who suffer from chronic pain also have problems getting enough quality sleep. The most common solution conventional doctors turn to is a prescription sleep aid. While in some, this may be helpful, there are many reasons to try more natural solutions first.
“The problem with sleep meds is that they generally disrupt sleep architecture, which means that the normal way that a person sleeps when they’re sleeping in a healthy way doesn’t happen…”
Medications carry a risk of addiction, as well as associations with other health issues, such as dementia. Most medications for sleep are approved for short-term use only, but often this short-term use can create even more sleep difficulty.
“What happens to the person who becomes “dependent” on it…they can’t sleep without it.”
The Relationship Between Sleep and Pain
Pain and sleep have a circular relationship in that pain can be very distracting, making sleep increasingly difficult. At the same time, lack of sleep can be a source of chronic pain. The cycle goes on and on, but it’s not an equal relationship. Lack of sleep, Suzie says, is more likely to cause pain than pain is to cause sleep trouble.
“Sleep is the most important and most valuable thing that we can offer our bodies, period.”
That’s because valuable interactions happen during sleep to help the body manage pain.
“In the deepest stages of non-REM sleep, the body does a whole lot of its repair work. But also, in REM sleep we do a lot of emotional repair work.”
Gathering information is one of the most important steps in the process of discovering solutions for those in chronic pain to help them sleep better.
“I describe myself as a sleep sleuth…there are so many different things that can disrupt sleep and that can be related to why a person is experiencing pain.”
Stages of Sleep
One of the problems with medications and alcohol, which many people use to help themselves fall asleep, is that they don’t allow people to drop into the deepest stages of sleep where restoration and repair occurs. Understanding the different stages of sleep can be important in realizing what happens during sleep, and why deep sleep is so important.
“…we go from a really light sleep where we’re still kind of aware of our surroundings to deeper and deeper stages of sleep. And then different things happen int hose stages.”
Quality sleep cycles through these different stages several times during the night, and the longer you sleep, the more REM sleep you get.
“If you’re not allowing yourself to get eight hours of sleep at night, that means that you’re cutting off the REM sleep…”
Chronic sleep deprivation is associated not only with chronic pain, but many serious health issues including Alzheimer’s disease and cardiac health.
“There’s literally not one biological function that we are aware of that is not impacted by sleep.”
If medication isn’t the answer, then what is? Suzie helps people in chronic pain who are having sleep issues look at all areas of their life to find natural solutions to their sleep problems. These include sleep hygiene, emotional health, stress, diet, and lifestyle choices.
“If we don’t look at those things, then as soon as we hit the pillow at night, all of those things that have been just sitting under the person’s consciousness start bubbling up…”
Lifestyle habits are another important area to consider, Suzie says. Looking at how people can incorporate self-care into their daily routines can make a big difference.
“…a busy person taking five minutes in the middle of the day to just stop and be still and rest can make a profound difference on their ability to fall asleep at night.”
Gentle exercise, adaptogenic herbs, and attention to nutrition are also important factors. And it’s crucial to remember that as you age, your body’s needs may change.
“…our bodies change over the course of time and what we might need, and what might be nurturing or supportive to us in one period of our lives might not be the same in another.”
Techniques, such as pulsed electromagnetic field therapy devices, that alter the brainwaves and bring them to a more ideal state for sleep are an innovative approach to solving sleep problems. While relatively new solutions, these solutions can make a real impact.
“It’s a form of biohacking and I feel like we are still very much in our infancy in terms of this.”
Suzie describes yoga breathing techniques that have a similar impact. Whatever the tool, it’s about calming the brain.
“…you can regulate the brain and have it get into a more even keel and out of an anxious state…”
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