Any number of things can cause insomnia or a disturbance in your circadian rhythm. Stress, whether it be emotional or physical, has the ability to disrupt your 24 hour cortisol rhythm and alter your sleep. That might mean your ability to fall asleep, your ability to stay asleep, or both. Anything that changes the brain can alter your sleep cycle. Anemia, thyroid imbalance, inflammation, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, Lyme, you name it and it can probably affect your ability to sleep.
As is the case with much of what I see in my office, I see insomnia as a symptom rather than a problem in and of itself. This is why I'm generally reluctant to jump to prescribing melatonin in my office- I'd rather address the sources of inflammation to the best of my ability and see how you react. Seeing a symptom go away (like insomnia) reassures both the doctor and the patient that we're on the right path. It gives us something to monitor.
That being said, I do occasionally put people on melatonin. Remember the catch-22 I mentioned earlier? Well, there is something to be said for the healing properties of a good night's sleep! If I pin-point all the right things and address all the underlying imbalances your body still needs to take the new information/supplements/lifestyle/whatever and heal itself. Make no mistake about it- I don't heal diddly squat- YOU do. If your body is unable to bounce back because of a lack of sleep and a shot circadian rhythm, you can bet your butt I'll put you on melatonin at least temporarily.
Melatonin isn't necessarily the evil that Dr. Oz has made it out to be, either. The biggest issue they outlined in that segment was the fact that people often take one pill to fall asleep, wake up, take another 1-2 pills, fall asleep, then can't wake up. That is why I do NOT recommend going to your local grocery to buy melatonin. I carry an extended release melatonin in my office that not only helps you get to sleep but stay asleep.
If you have tried natural sleep remedies or pharmaceuticals in the past and would like to get to the bottom of why you can't sleep, feel free to call my office at (919) 238-4094 to set up a free phone consultation and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham "triangle" area.