Insomnia: tips to improve your sleep
Sleep is possibly the most crucial aspect to address in the beginning of your health journey. Poor sleep increases stress, and stress puts strain on your endocrine system, particularly your adrenals. This can be ill-afforded in your recovery process.
Sleep problems may be induced by a wide-range of factors, including psychological stress, gut dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance), inflammatory problems and toxins, among others. When dealing with any health concern, it is vital to ensure that you find a solution to your sleep problems early on.
Gratitude is the strongest antidote to insomnia.
Grateful thoughts will help induce improved sleep states, and is backed by scientific data.
It may seem too simple to grasp for most, but being grateful is definitely the place to start when tackling insomnia, and needs to become a daily practise for best effects.
The easiest way to achieve this is by:
- Just before falling asleep each night, begin to think of a few things you are grateful for, and really focus on the feeling of gratitude that it induces in your body. Build on that feeling of gratitude and try to imagine broadcasting it from your chest. This has often been enough to solve sleep problems for many.
- You can also work further on this increasing gratitude levels during the day, by making gratitude journals as detailed here.
Practical steps during the day:
- Ensure not to nap after 2pm during the day (napping before this time is fine).
- No caffeine after 3-4pm.
- Exercise after your evening meal. Just a 20 minute walk can modulate your cortisol and blood sugar levels to improve sleep.
- Have a protein snack just before bed (e.g. fish, cheese, turkey, nuts, etc). Some may need protein snacks available for waking, especially if blood sugar/adrenal issues are underlying. High density protein should be consumed with each meal during the day.
If you are having problems falling asleep (as opposed to staying asleep):
- Use a slow-release Melatonin and take around the same time each night, 3mg before retiring. Your body likes a set circadian rhythm waking and retiring at the same times (even if sleep is less on a certain night).
- For most people, all it takes to restore melatonin to normal levels is 1/2 milligram. Start with this low dose and thereafter you can shift to a slightly higher dose if you have better effects with it. The usual recommendation is 2-3mg, and some recommend even higher (Andy Cutler has recommended up to 20mg). Sustained release melatonin helps most.
- Melatonin is most likely to be effective if you have problems falling asleep as opposed to staying asleep.
- Consider Serenagen by Metagenics for calming an over-active nervous system.
- Take 2 tablets in the evening. This is especially helpful for ‘wired’ personalities that struggle to shut-off at night.
- Ornithine: Dr Clark teaches us that ammonia-production from the bowels is often at the source of insomnia. Read her chapter on sleep problems and insomnia. Ornithine removes ammonia and induces sleep.
- She says, ‘Start by taking two ornithine capsules (each 500 mg.) on the first night at bedtime. Take four the next night. Take six the night after and choose the dose you like best. Sometimes it takes five days to get enough ammonia out to get you sleeping. Meanwhile, of course, you are planning to kill your parasites and be done with insomnia in the most effective way of all’.
- Have some extra ornithine available and take if you wake at night, as this can often send you back to sleep quickly. Use for seven days before adding the next supplement.
- The other compound that removes ammonia is Arginine, but MUST be taken in the morning on an empty stomach as it actually gives you energy. Take 1500-3000mg per day and add at the same time as ornithine. Taking ornithine at bedtime may give you so much energy the next day that you don’t need to take arginine in the morning. But if going off caffeine (recommended) has you dragging yourself through the morning, take one arginine upon rising and another before lunch and supper. It can make you a bit irritable. Cut back if this happens.
If you have problems staying asleep (as opposed to failing asleep)
- If you don’t have problems falling asleep, but wake around 3-5am routinely, you usually have problems with your liver detoxification or digestion process.
- Support your liver’s detoxification process by taking 400mg of Milk Thistle at bed-time, or use:
- AdvaClear by Metagenics, which is a wonderful overall liver detoxification support and often gets people through the night, by supporting the liver pathways.
- Low stomach acid or poor digestion can cause you to wake around 3-5am also, as the undigested food starts to ferment. Take some extra acid, in the form of as Ascorbic Acid or Betaine HCL. If your sleep improves with additional acid then you know the problem likely is in your gut!
- Ascorbic Acid 500-1000mg at bed-time can help a lot, but this can also activate some people (in which case use Betain HCL). You can take more than 500-1000mg if it helps, however you should be wary of a burning sensation in the tummy and increased joint pain, especially in the finger joints, if acidity rises too high. People with stomach ulcers should not consider this, as they generally have too much stomach acid.
- Betain HCL, use as above instead of Ascorbic acid, using the dose that causes improved sleep.
- Digestive enzymes . Some people may have adequate stomach acid, but poor digestive enzyme activity. In this case use an animal-derived digestive enzyme at bed-time for best results.
- Consider Tran-Q by Metagenics, if you wake often, or are generally a worrier-type personality. Take one tablet before bed and an extra one (or two) when you wake up at night. This calms the worrying/over-busy mind that wakes you up around 4am to deal with psychological issues. Combine this with a liver support before bed.
- Ornithine: This can also be helpful when you wake at night.
Always start with natural remedies and only progress towards adding prescription medications if desperately needed. Prescription sleeping medications are highly addictive and can cause many side-effects. It is usually best to use combinations of supplements and medications starting in low dosages and building up, rather than high dosages of one supplement or medication. Consider the advice given in Dr Teitelbaum’s excellent work, “From Fatigued to Fantastic”, chapter 6, ‘A Good Night’s sleep – the foundation of getting well’. He advises several sleep tips and a combination of supplements and/or medicines for chronically ill people, noting,
‘The best way to need less medication in the long run is to use as much as it takes to get seven to eight hours of solid sleep each night without waking or hangover for six months. When you are sleeping well and feeling better for six months, you can then decrease the treatments as long as you continue to get seven to eight hours of solid sleep each night without waking or hangover. Most people find that they can taper off all sleep medications after about eighteen months. Other people need to take some of the sleep treatments for years. This is okay”.
Please ensure that you purchase his book and read the chapter on sleep for full details on how to achieve proper sleep (the book also contains fantastic advise on adrenals, thyroid and other hormone treatment, and is an essential book.).
- Dr Clark states, ‘Tryptophan(e), another amino acid, is about twice as powerful as ornithine.’ Consider taking 2000-3000mg for the first week and shifting to a maintenance dose of 500-1000mg (see ‘How to get a good nights sleep with Tryptophan’. Caution: asthmatics can have problems with tryptophane. Take one hour before bed time with a carbohydrate. ‘It has been found best to administer this amino acid along with a carbohydrate source such as fruit juice because insulin, which is secreted after the carbohydrate load, has been found to help tryptophan absorption into the nervous system. Giving tryptophan along with other neutral amino acids blocks its absorption and prevents therapeutic results. Generally, tryptophan should be given away from a meal on an empty stomach along with a carbohydrate source for optimal therapeutic results ‘. [Reference]
- Dr Teitelbaum prefers 5-HTPand advises 100-400 milligrams at night. He says, ‘When used for 12 weeks, a 300-400mg dose has been shown to reduce Fibromyalgia pain and often helps people to lose weight. 5-HTP is what your body uses to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that improves the quality of sleep.’5-HTP can be taken with meals without decreasing its effectiveness as its absorption is not affected by the presence of other amino acids. Sometimes taking this earlier in the day is more helpful than at bedtime.
- Try Tryptophan OR 5-HTP and maintain for several weeks. Start with Tryptophan, and shift to 5-HTP later if you do not have the required results. Tryptophan forms 5-HTP (which then forms melatonin and serotonin). But some people can have conversion problems (often due to mercury messing with the enzymes or low body temperatures) and will need the 5-HTP instead.
General supplementation tips:
- Taking good quality omega oils at bedtime sometimes helps.
- Take magnesium(citrate or aspartate forms are best at night). Close to 400mg should do it.
- Bath in Epsom Salts before bed. Use 2 cups, or less, of BP/USP grade Epsom Salts in a hot bath and soak for about 20 minutes or longer.
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of Epsom salts can be taken orally four times a day to provide a source of magnesium and sulfate. This can be very helpful for those individuals who have low levels of plasma sulfate and it is worth trying. Never take Epsom salts and calcium at the same time.It forms calcium sulphate which is Plaster of Paris. Taken apart there is no danger.
- Try collagen (must be hydrolyzed collagen) at bedtime. For some unclear reason, this can induce a deep sleep in some and is a suitable and safe natural remedy for many.
Other things to consider:
- Adrenal and thyroid problems can cause or contribute to sleep problems. Have your adrenals tested with a cortisol saliva test from a reputable lab through your doctors office e.g. DiagnosTechs Labs, or test them yourself at home, by ordering a saliva test kit from Canary Club. Some people need a low dose of cortisol/Hydrocortisone 2.5mg at bed-time (in conjunction with other adrenal treatment) to obtain enough cortisol to prevent blood sugar levels from plummeting at night and causing adrenaline to be released, waking you. Protein snacks before bed will help in this department. Get your circadian rhythms of cortisol correct by checking with the four times a day saliva test.
- Other male and female hormones assist with sleep. Test to find out what you are low (or high) in. Much more detailed advice is found in Dr Teitelbaum’s “From Fatigued to Fantastic”, including how to use prescription medications to achieve your sleep goals if necessary. Check his SHINE protocol to see what other medications/supplements he suggests for sleep restoration. Teitelbaum notes that ‘any hormone is safe when used within the body’s normal range of production, saying ‘I worry about toxicity when people take more than the body would normally make’.
- Bacteria and parasites are often at the seat of insomnia. Kill your parasites and do the bowel cleanse. Ensure that your gut ecology is healthy by doing a stool test. If you are not able to do this test, then simply take some good quality probiotics on an empty stomach, and see if your insomnia improves over time.
- May you sleep well…