• Martha Lewis

What lab tests show why you can’t sleep

I use 4 different functional lab tests to find why my clients can't sleep. I use these 4 because they give me the most information for the least cost . And all together they give me the big picture of what's going on in the body that's affecting their sleep and health.


The first test I recommend is the DUTCH test (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones).

This looks at your sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Because you take 5 samples in 24 hours, it gives an average of your sex hormones throughout the day (instead of it being a second in time if you test with blood or saliva). For menstruating women, we always run it on days 19 to 21 of your cycle when your hormones are at their highest so we can see the maximum amount of hormones that your body is able to make.

Sex hormone balance is super important for sleep. Low estrogen and progesterone can cause insomnia. Estrogen dominance, when estrogen is higher than progesterone in women or testosterone in men, and high testosterone can also lead to insomnia.

What's great about the DUTCH test is that it also shows how your hormones are being broken down by the body. So I get multiple clues for how your liver is working. If your liver isn’t detoxifying properly, those toxins circulate around at night causing a lot of inflammation. Your body releases cortisol to deal with that inflammation because it's an anti-inflammatory hormone. That cortisol is going to wake you right up, possibly with your heart and your mind racing.

This test also looks at cortisol and your cortisol pattern. High or low cortisol at night can directly affect sleep. And we'll see if cortisol is high overall because you're under a lot of stress, either mentally or physically. Or if it's become depleted over time which means you aren't able to handle stress as well anymore.

The DUTCH also looks at melatonin, B vitamins, and more.

This test is very complicated to interpret which is why you don't want to ask someone to run this test for you if they haven't had a lot of training. I’ve taken advanced training on the Dutch test through Functional Diagnostic Nutrition so I have a deep understanding of how to analyze it.

2. GI Map

The second test I do is the GI map. This is a stool test that looks at what's living in your gut. It includes pathogens such as parasites, H. pylori and candida. It also looks at the good bacteria in your gut which is super important since they make 90% of our neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and melatonin.

The test also shows how well you are digesting food, how much inflammation is in your gut, and how strong your immune system is in your gut. It has a marker for liver function and gluten sensitivity. I use this test to get a snapshot of your overall gut health so I know what to recommend.

Gut health is critical for sleep in many different ways.

3. Neuro Focus panel

I use the Neuro Focus panel to look at neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA, glutamate, histamine and more. I started using this test a few months ago and I love it because it helps us know what to recommend that will immediately help with your sleep and mood.

We also address why neurotransmitters are out of balance in the long-term so you aren’t taking supplements forever. But we want you to sleep better as quickly as possible and so looking at neurotransmitters can help.

4. Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis

The last test I use is the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis or HTMA. This looks at your mineral status which is crucial because different mineral imbalances can cause insomnia.

It also looks at heavy metals and copper toxicity which accumulate in the liver and the brain, causing neurological issues including insomnia.

This isn’t a well-known test but many of my clients have mineral imbalances and heavy metals that are a big part of why they aren’t sleeping. My client Sue came to me after working with a functional medicine doctor for 6 years. He ran the DUTCH and a gut health test and she didn’t get better. It turns out that her HTMA showed she had high uranium, copper, and calcium, all of which are contributing to her sleep issues.

Other possible tests to run

I used to run a food sensitivity test on all of my clients. I stopped doing this mainly because I saw so many false negatives, especially for gluten sensitivity. If someone wants to know if they’re sensitive to foods such as gluten and dairy, I recommend the Zoomer tests. They’re more accurate because they test food at the peptide level (instead of the IgG food sensitivity test that looks at food at the protein level which is not how our digestive system is exposed to food).

Another helpful test, especially if I suspect someone is dealing with mold toxicity, is the Organic Acids Test (OAT). I don’t include this test in my initial testing because I find most of the information I need with the other tests. Also, if you aren’t detoxing properly, mold won’t show up on this test so there are many false negatives. But occasionally I have a client who is dealing with mold and who wants to run this test and so we can absolutely do it. I also occasionally run a MycoTox to look at mycotoxins from mold.

What tests don’t help

I don’t think genetic tests are helpful because genes have to be turned on or off for them to affect your body and health.

I can find clues about health from blood work by looking at optimal ranges instead of the labs’ reference ranges. But while blood work might suggest a bacterial infection, liver dysfunction, or nutrient deficiencies, they don't show exactly what’s going on and so other tests are needed to confirm.

Why ALL the tests are important

The reason it’s important to run all of these tests and not just one is because you don’t want to miss anything. If you use the DUTCH test to find you have hormone imbalance but you don’t look at gut health, then you won’t know to address a parasite that could be keeping you awake. If you look at gut health but don’t look for heavy metals, your gut won’t heal if it’s dealing with copper or arsenic or uranium and you won’t sleep better.

It’s really important to look at the big picture because every system in our body is connected to all the others. Medicine has become specialized with gastroenterologists looking at the gut and endocrinologists looking at hormones. This specialization helps doctors diagnose and treat diseases (with drugs and surgery) but it’s one of the reasons why western medicine isn’t good at preventing disease or finding the root cause of health issues. They don’t look at the body as a whole and realize how each part affects the other.

The way to sleep better is simple:

  1. Use functional lab tests to find the physical root cause of why you can’t sleep.

  2. Make sure there’s nothing in your mind that is sabotaging your sleep.

While finding everything in the body that’s keeping you awake is key, it’s also important to look at worries about sleep and stress in general so that mental stress doesn’t continue to affect your rest. My team and I help you with both of these things so that your sleep improves as your health improves.

If you’ve tried many things and nothing has helped, you need the Complete Sleep Solution! We use the science of lab testing and alternative therapies to restore your health so you can sleep normally. Book a consultation to find out more so you can finally get the rest you need.

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