“Why is my sleep so interrupted lately?”

Many once sound sleepers are now having trouble getting to and staying asleep.  When we are stressed out, our bodies produce more of our stress hormone cortisol.  In essence, cortisol is released from our adrenal glands when our sympathetic nervous system is in “fight and flight”.   It seems lately, there has been an uptick of people in fight and flight. Cortisol makes us feel awake and alert, which is not a bad thing, unless it happens all day long and then keeps us awake at night as well.  Most of us have experienced a night where no matter what we do we cannot fall asleep. Or, we may fall asleep only to wake up in a few hours and toss and turn the rest of the night unable to get back to sleep.  

The events of the past few weeks with COVID 19 are no doubt ramping up your stress response. Schools are closed, businesses are closing, and people are losing jobs.  The stress is everywhere you look. When people become stressed out, they are more likely to reach for the quick fix to feel better. For some people, that is caffeine.  For others it may be alcohol. When people struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, they tend to reach for caffeine for a boost of energy and alertness. Unfortunately, caffeine also stimulates your body to secrete more cortisol and then the caffeine actually becomes part of the vicious cycle of interrupted sleep.  Have you ever had a couple drinks before bed and noticed you didn’t sleep all that great? Yep-alcohol also raises your cortisol level. So in addition to stress raising your cortisol, so is the caffeine and alcohol. And if you are so inclined to exercise the stress away for hours, that is also raising cortisol and all of that is keeping you awake. 

Here are some tips to help lower your stress hormones:

  1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for now, until all the added stress simmers down.
  2. Focus on eating whole foods and cut out the processed stuff.
  3. Follow good sleep hygiene.  Avoid screen at least 2 hours before bed.  Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep.  
  4. Acupuncture is great at balancing out hormones.
  5. Yoga, meditation and/or deep breathing are very effective ways to lower cortisol and get your body out of fight and flight.
  6. Movement is important, but don’t over exercise.  Excessive exercise also raises cortisol and can be a cause of frequent nighttime wake ups.
  7. Counseling.   Many are also doing telemedicine at this time.  
  8. Ask your provider about supplements that support adrenal function, calm the brain and even lower nighttime cortisol.
  9. Limit your time on social media or just avoid altogether.  
  10.  Get outside in nature
  11.  Laugh… a lot. 

The bottom line is that we all have stress and feel stress.  But implementing some of the above measures will help your body handle the stress much better and allow your body not to jump right to fight and flight so quickly.  If your baseline mood is more calm, your body won’t overreact. And, here’s a hint for all the parents out there: When you are more calm and less on edge, your kids are too.  They feed off your energy. I may be speaking from experience. ☺


Written By:

Karen Callagy, PA-C

Adult Functional Practitioner

Stephanie Ritari, PA-C

Stephanie Ritari is a board-certified Physician Assistant who offers primary care for adults at the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center. She specializes in Internal Medicine and has spent the majority of her career in the field of cardiovascular disorders.

Stephanie has more than 15 years experience as a Physician Assistant in a variety of medical areas, including cardiology and electrophysiology. Holistic practices have long been a part of Stephanie’s lifestyle, with a particular focus on clean living and nutrition. She has embedded functional principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. After watching family members struggle to find answers for their chronic illnesses, Stephanie became more interested in finding ways to take a root cause approach in her own practice. Wanting to provide a proactive, comprehensive, and preventative scope of care for her patients, Stephanie began studying functional medicine. In 2021, she joined Functional Medicine of Idaho, where she is able to provide evidence based, root cause medicine.

Stephanie earned her Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Montana and her masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Rocky Mountain College. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine. 

In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and dog doing outdoor activities including biking, hiking, and skiing. She also loves interior design and traveling, and is hoping to start her own garden in the near future.

Dr. David Musnick, MD, IFMCP

David Musnick is a board-certified medical doctor who offers in-person and telemedicine care from the Functional Medicine of Idaho Eagle clinic (coming soon). Dr. Musnick offers Functional Medicine, Sports Medicine, Functional Immunology, and Primary Care for adults and teenagers. He specializes in sports medicine, internal medicine, frequency specific microcurrent (FSM), scars, homeopathy, prolotherapy, and low-level laser treatments. 

Dr. Musnick is interested in getting to the root of underlying causes and factors that affect healing, including diet, sleep, exercise, stress, GI health, brain region health, toxins, hormones, infections, and electromagnetic fields (EMF). In medical school, Dr. Musnick spent a year studying nutrition. He has always been interested in the complex interrelationships of different systems of the body. Taking on challenges in the past, he created new treatment programs to heal the brain after concussion, treat chronic pain, arthritis, and tough SIBO and IBS cases. Dr. Musnick wants to help his patients achieve the highest level of health, vitality and function. 

After his internal medicine residency in Seattle, Dr. Musnick completed a fellowship in sports medicine where he became interested in helping patients get back to optimal musculoskeletal health and eventually back to their favorite activities. He quickly learned that many areas of the body were interrelated and started learning more about nutrition, supplements, and other facets of functional medicine. Dr. Musnick has more than 24 years of experience in Functional Medicine and achieved a very high level of both experience and expertise with many health conditions. He is also the author of the book, Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, and helped in writing textbook chapters on arthritis and concussions.

Dr. Musnick received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of California, San Francisco. He is certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFMCP. He also studied in the French school of Homeopathy. He is uniquely rare in that he teaches Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and how to integrate it with functional medicine. 

In his spare time, Dr. Musnick enjoys hiking, nature photography, cooking healthy food, mountain biking, and skiing.

IFM Certified Practitioner

Aaron Dykstra, DNP, FNP-C

Aaron Dykstra is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He offers pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Functional and alternative therapies were a part of Aaron’s life from a young age, and he has implemented these principles into his conventional medicine practice throughout his career. Aaron has more than 8 years of experience in a variety of medical disciplines, including pediatrics, obstetrics, mental health, and nutrition. He has practiced in rural health clinics in California and Oregon. For the last 5 years, Aaron has had a passion for working with children and implementing positive change through the family unit. Aaron joined the Functional Medicine of Idaho Pediatric Team in 2021. His enthusiasm for educating children and parents about living a healthy lifestyle allows him to provide preventative and acute care for infants, children, and adolescents. 

Aaron obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Brigham Young University. He earned both his Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through the University of Arizona. He has obtained a Family Herbalist and Family Nutritionist certifications through The School of Natural Healing by Dr. Christopher. He is currently working towards his certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Aaron spending time with his wife and 5 kids, mountain biking, running, or camping in the backyard. Aaron is a big fan of Master Chef and enjoys cooking.

Nadia Kravchuk, DNP, FNP-C

Nadia Kravchuk is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. She offers functional pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Nadia and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 where they first settled in Oregon and then moved to Idaho in 2001. Complementary medicine practices were embedded into her lifestyle at a young age, and she has implemented these principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. She has more than 15 years experience in a variety of medical environments, including emergency room, intensive care unit, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, and aesthetics.

Nadia joined Functional Medicine of Idaho so that she can combine functional principles with the foundations of conventional medicine to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. As an avid gardener, beekeeper, and sustainable living enthusiast, she understands the importance and role of optimizing nutrition, sleep, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. She has a passion for pediatric functional medicine and understands that early recognition and interventions can correct imbalances, prevent chronic illness, and improve overall outcomes for children.

Nadia obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Northwest Nazarene University. She earned both her Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through Frontier Nursing University. In 2017, she was the recipient of the HCA Excellence in Nursing Award. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Nadia working on her urban homestead, hiking, foraging, camping, snowboarding, and spending time with her husband and her dog, Wolfy. She is also fluent in both English and Russian.