my title says it all.
i don't sleep well and am always tired. i'll go up to my room around 11 pm and stay up til 5 am. might sleep for a few hours after that and then wake up around 8 am. i try to fall asleep for another hour after that if i'm lucky.
it's just driving me nuts. i seriously don't know what to do about it. i have neuropathy, anemia, and restless legs syndrome and this REALLY hinders my ability to sleep. besides that, i'm tired but just can't fall asleep.
does anyone else have a huge problem falling asleep and staying asleep?
i've been wanting to try an oral magnesium supplement but have NO CLUE where to start. so many people take different brands/types. i've used magnesium citrate a few times for colonoscopy preps and since i have ulcerative colitis, i'd prefer to use something that has absolutely no laxative effect. i rub magnesium oil on my feet and legs at night in a desperate attempt that it will calm them down- it never does.
asked byjoanna_4 (5635)
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on July 02, 2013
at 05:42 PM
I found this article in the last week and it is EXTREMELY helpful (and I have struggled with sleep issues for the last 10 years).
It's an article by Julia Ross of the book The Mood Cure (a book about using amino acids to help with mental health issues, as well as improving diet to grass-fed meats, increasing protein, eating more vegetables - pretty paleo except that she allows for whole wheat unless you have issues) and she also has a clinic.
About 2011, I read that book, felt like I had most of it covered by eating paleo and tried to diagnose myself based on her questions. But at the end of the day, couldn't buy into taking individual amino acids, and according to the perfect health diet, this can be bad because you can feed bacterial pathways. He has a particularly good post, via Emily Deans, about the dangers of feeding tryptophan, and how neurotransmitter deficiency can be caused by bacterial infections. So initially you will feel better supplementing with tryptophan but then you might end up worse by feeding the bacteria and allowing them to multiply.
I digress and am not dissing Julia Ross, but just want to say that as always, with all supplements, there is some benefit and some risk and to pay attention to your reactions.
Anyway, this article/letter wasn't in the book The Mood Cure, and is, in my opinion, the best diagnosis of sleep problems I have seen.
Ross says that there are basically three types of insomnia, and you have to determine which type you have based on your symptoms. For me, all of the symptoms applied at first - I was stressed out trying to eat and shop and cook paleo, and stressed out about not sleeping, and my job situation, and just anxious in general. I had the problem for a long time. I have tried. I bolded the things that I think would work for everyone.
I have made notes on those I think suitable for those who need immediate relief.
melatonin (in my experience, I got 6 hours of sleep from it, but was sort of woozy the next day) - probably ok for *immediate relief* (IMHO), and I recommend the 1 mg time-release. I read somewhere (here: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/melatonin)
that the best approach for any condition is to begin with very low doses of melatonin. Keep the dose close to the amount that our bodies normally produce (< 0.3 mg per day).
and I found no better sleep or no better duration with greater doses. However, I have heard of people taking up to 10-20 mg for really bad problems. It's a hormone so I just want to be sure I don't take so much my body stops producing it naturally. Although I still take Vitamin D3 in large amounts and it's a hormone...hmmm have to think about that one some more. I digress)
5-htp or st. john's wort
(In my experience, no help to me and causes problems in some people like palpitations, bad dreams, nervousness, etc. BUT COULD BE HELPFUL FOR YOU just do not overrely on it too long or try to avoid if possible by eating more protein)
Vitamin D3 in the morning (5000-10 000 IU) (good for general health but I didn't find it made me more awake - however seth roberts has written about this on his blog and several of his readers have found relief)
- Phosphatidyl serine + L-Theanine + GABA
(helps! probably good for immediate relief! but I have reservations about long-term use for reasons cited above about feeding bacterial pathways that rely on specific amino acids)
- Phosphatidyl serine + zinc
zinc + phosphatidyl serine (500 mg- 1000 mg) may help if you have high cortisol issues around bedtime, per Stop the Thyroid Madness
Seriphos is similar to phosphatidyl serine but not exactly and helps with high cortisol issues
7. Stopping electronics by the time the sun goes down and wearing light blocking glasses before bed *GOOD FOR EVERYONE AND IMMEDIATE RELIEF!*
Natural Sun or a light box if you cannot get that
That is, rising with the sun, around 7 AM, starting some light activity, continuing activity through the day, and then going to bed around 10-11 pm
Fixing your zeitgeibers (circadian rhythm indicators) - that is, eating at the same time every day during daylight hours- that is, I eat lunch around 11 or 12 for lunch, a snack around 5 pm, and dinner at around 7 or 8. Every day. (This is important because most people have a clock CLOSE TO but NOT EXACTLY 24 hours. some are 23 hours, some are 23 h 45 min some are 24 h and some are 27 h. There is an interesting experiment of a French man who lived in a cave and when he stopped seeing the sun, he would sometimes sleep 14 hours and stay up 36. when they came to pick him up, his sense of time was so off, he thought they were 4 days early! This is detailed more in chronotherapy and is an interesting note on the role of the sun besides providing vitamin D and nourishment for plants and stuff)
Nutrition (perfect health diet style nutrients-minerals and vitamins and high food quality)
This doesn't apply to you since you eat paleo, but it may be worth noting the importance of diet in sleep problems in someone who doesn't eat paleo type diet.
Other side note - I tried a Leptin Reset. egads yes I force-fed myself 50 g of protein in the morning, to the point I was sick, because I belived that it would help reset my clock, circadian wise. There was maybe 1 day in there out a month where I slept really well trying to do this,and also when I traveled, I do believe that eating a high protein breakfast to reset my clock to the new location helped for a day or two.
But otherwise, the sleep problems I had persisted throughout this and I think I was very low-carb during this period, and I just got weight gain (fat) eating tons of fat, protein and very low-carb and also stressed about my not sleeping and how I was doing the thing right so why wasn't I seeing results.
I actually gained a lot of weight doing this, and then trying to follow Mark's Daily Apple or low carb high fat dogma. So I guess I was not leptin-resistant. or maybe I was?
I have no idea. But I eat perfect health diet now - although perhaps slightly more carbs than they recommend and less protein probably and tons of variety. and I feel much, much better and less stressed about what I can and cannot eat. I'm probably in the minority of failing paleo, but for me I like knowing the science and paleo never gave me that sufficiently. I wish it were so easy an idiot could do it, but I needed a smaller template of foods to choose from and design meals from and to understand why and how to design meals.
- Restrict alcohol
I read somewhere (can't remember now) that alcohol will prevent you from sleeping deeply, and in some cases reset your clock or mess with your cortisol, so I actually don't drink alcohol but cook with it and enjoy some Belgian beer every now and then.
- Acupuncture I can't explain how this worked but I know it gave me a couple of nights of good deep sleep. haven't gone back because it didn't fix the problem long-term and is expensive but I think it can help with stress if your acupuncturist is good.
Anyway, I'll explain how I moved from one set of supplements that Ross recommends to another.
FIRST - I realized I wasn't Type 1 (serotonin/melatonin deficiency)-St. John's wort and 5-HTP both did nothing for me and melatonin helped but wasn't the long-term solution. I didn't like relying on a pill and worrying if I had taken my pill with enough time to work before I got into bed and melatonin generally stressed me out more - waking me up after 5.5-6 hours and leaving me wondering, "WHY ISN'T THIS WORKING!" and I tried doses from 1 mg to 10 mg and found them to be no different. I think taking a higher dose is actually worse because the sudden drop-off in melatonin from your body will actually cause you to wake up. I did have some success, initially, with the method recommended by Dr. Michael Terman in his book Chronotherapy (or something like that), which is a GREAT sleeping method book, and he is a great doctor for helping patients avoid ambien or other sleeping drugs and in my opinion would be very paleo-friendly. He is one of the good doctors, absolutely. He recommends:
Light boxes to simulate vitamin D in the morning - these are about $140 and I haven't tried it but most absolutely agree with the concept. He says light is a medicine and to work with your doctor on the timing and amount - too much and you may wake up too early, too little and you may feel groggy, and also to make sure you have the light above you (like the sun would be) and you may need to use it during the day as well, to help your energy, and his patients say it is like a cup of coffee, but better for their energy.
- 0.1-0.2 mg of melatonin pills, once per hour, 3 hours before bed to simulate your body's natural ramp-up in melatonin as the sun sets (Unfortunately they don't sell melatonin in these doses so I tried breaking up my 1 mg of melatonin pills into quarters and taking 0.25 mg 3 hours and it worked, but like I said, this was stressful for me because what if I'm not home 3 hours before or I don't remember to take this and then I stress out about falling asleep. This solution is more for those who are constantly traveling or have body clocks
I think these would both work, but I think for the light box you should have a doctor work with you. Although you could always try self-experimentation! I guess $10 supplements are ok for me, and $140 light box were not so much. But I would be willing to try it if I lived in NYC near columbia!
and I wasn't Type 2-which is GABA deficiency. I tried GABA (alone and in combination with phosphatidyl serine + L-Theanine, and only in combination with the phosphatidyl serine did I notice a difference, a recommendation I got from Paleohacks and a Robb Wolf Podcast).
I asked Paul Jaminet of PHD about why the phosphatidyl serine worked and he said I was probably too low fat paleo and to eat more egg yolks, beef marrow, fatty cuts of meat. That helped some but not completely. So I really wasn't a Type 2 problem person, and things got better (from 3-4 hours of sleep up to 6-6.5) but were not optimal.
So Type 3 is cortisol issues. I had started thinking I had thyroid issues because of low body temperature all the time. I thought perhaps I was hypothyroid and was reading Stop the Thyroid Madness website for some information, and out of there came some information on on low cortisol, adrenal issues, and high cortisol. It's not the most scientific, but anyway, some of the descriptions matched me - for adrenal fatigue, low cortisol, high cortisol, etc. and so I tried one of the recommendations on that site, which was to buy Seriphos.
This matches what Ross recommends actually - Seriphos, not phosphatidylserine. There is a slight alteration in Seriphos that makes it more useable to the body than phosphatidyl serine, says Julia Ross. Actually, I'm researching this now, the compound listed on the bottle is phosphorylated serine/Ethanolamine and I'm not sure why this should be more effective. I'm also not sure of the long-term side effects of taking it and I don't plan to. The recommendation for Seriphos by Ross is not to take it more than 3 months. I would probably advise that for 5-HTP or St. John's wort and GABA as well, again, out of concnern for feeding bacterial bathways that rely on these amino acids for growth.
Anyway, as my phosphatidyl serine supply was running low, I finally broke down and bought Seriphos, (sometimes I feel like I have bought SO many supplements I don't know how I'm not in the poor house) and lo and behold, I have slept through the night without any problems - 9-10 hours. I don't feel 100% but I feel a lot better. I'd imagine it will take some time for my cortisol levels to be appropriately high, medium, and low in tune with my circadian rhythms of morning, afternoon, and evening routines. I think my cortisol isn't high enough when I wake up because I feel like I got hit by a truck, but I'm working on that (cold showers! w00t!).
Of course, this is what worked FOR ME. And probably, ideally, you should work with a naturopath. I actually bought a cortisol test (saliva, 4 times per day) but could never even work up the energy to take the thing, send it in, bring it to a doctor. It also seems like different labs will vary in how they interpret your results according to Stop the Thyroid Madness (say ZRT versus DiagnosTech), and I didn't want to deal with that, which was why I self-treated.
I'm not a doctor, and if I were, I would say that I had a fool for a patient. But this should give you some idea of things you can do on your own, and the importance of the following:
1) Body Temperature as a self-tracking tool - thyroid or adrenal. 2) Noting your fatigue/tiredness 3) keeping constant rhythms daily for eating and sleeping 4) the effect of timing of certain activities (working out and eating) on your sleep 5) the deleterious effect of artificial light on your sleep cycle and the beneficial effect of the sun on your sleep cycle
I also took a ZRT Vitamin D test (40 ng/mL! yay!) which had me fill out a questionnaire and according to that questionnaire, many of my symptoms pointed to high AND low cortisol problems, which could very well be the case. I would (and slightly continue to) feel tired and sluggish all day, come home and eat dinner and then feel awake and better but also still tired. So yes, I'm pretty sure my cortisol levels are all whacked out, probably from trying too many paleo-type things at once - too low carb, the leptin reset, doing intermittent fasting wrong or eating too little, despite eating lots of nutrient dense food, and also stressing out about diet and getting sufficient exercise and getting fat and worrying too much in general about fixing my problems.
Now I try to do the things in bold - a 20 minute walk in the morning when I wake up, plus natural sun, try to lift some weights once or twice per month (it makes me really exhausted and so I'm trying to relax a little), and try to make time to play and relax and let things slide that I tell myself should get done.
With the cortisol problem which I have, the letter says that they found fixing the high cortisol problem at night usually helps resolve low cortisol during the day. I definitely feel better having slept through the night, but some tiredness persists during the day. However, I've only been using the stuff about a week and can tell you that it's much, much better to sleep 8-9 hours through the night and feel tired than to only sleep 3-4 or 6-7and feel tired and psychologically worry about the harm I'm doing by getting crappy sleep night after night.
Eating paleo probably helps a lot with tryptophan deficiency, and if you are continually exposed to artificial light, yes, your melatonin production will suffer. as well if you don't keep regular rhythms or get regular sun, i'm sure your body will be confused about when to start producing melatonin since everyone's body, as we noted, runs on a non-24 h clock naturally.
My GABA deficiency, if I had one, probably was helped significantly by the Perfect Health Diet - adding in Rice worked wonders, as did eating more carbs and adding in their supplements, eating seafood once per week, less chicken and pork, more beef and lamb, more egg yolks, etc. And the vitamins and minerals they recommend really helped my acne and other health problems, which also decreased my stress. (Note: I also did a stint on intro GAPS which may have helped things, but only about a week on the intro diet 2 or 3 times)
I am no model of ANYTHING and none of this will provide any immediate answers. It takes time to fix your rhythms and even then it's hard not to fall into old bad patterns like snacking or too much exercise, but I hope hearing about my experience, my hacks, and getting a place to start experimenting (5-HTP, melatonin, GABA, or Seriphos, eating times, testing cortisol, etc.) will help you and please don't be like me and GO TO A NATUROPATH OR OSTEOPATH (who is paleo and preferably perfect health diet friendly).
Best of luck!! Again, can't recomend this article enough! http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Eliminating+the+top+causes+of+insomnia%3A+neurotransmitter+deficiency...-a0269786054
on July 02, 2013
at 11:09 PM
I've had trouble sleeping my whole life. I literally cannot sleep before 2am and the more tired I am the more stressed I get, and the longer it takes to go to sleep
For me melatonin doesn't help - it makes me tired but not relaxed, and gives me a melatonin hangover the next day and I feel like a zombie
What works for me is a supplement called Z12, which is 5-HTP, Phenibut and I think L-theanine. Puts me out in 30 mins and I will stay asleep, solidly, for 8 or 9 hours.
Other than that - when you get up, go outside in the morning sun IMMEDIATELY for at least 10 minutes to get the short-wave sunlight
Are you exercising?
In the long term, CBT and hypnotherapy have helped me
on July 02, 2013
at 06:55 PM
I've had trouble sleeping since infancy (per mum -- she'll say, 'she never cried but every time you looked, she was awake').
I've heard sleep experts (lately in an NPR show) answering somebody with similar situation to mine (been through every med, OTC and RX, herbs, hypnotherapy, no lights/screens, black-out room, blahblahblah) and he said some people truly NEVER get good sleep.
I'm tossing this out there because 'We' are outliers. Most people can get better sleep. If you've NEVER gotten much sleep, then so far, as best the experts can say: it's just you (or me, in this case).
Those are the 2 'biggies' from the books. Mostly, try the books. I started with Loren Cordain but I honestly can't recall if he pushed sleep -- I'm sure he did, I just don't remember. Any paleo site is going to have its articles on sleep-tweaking but be sure you rule all of that out.
If you're like me, you did that and have done traditional medicine. I do take Naturally Calm because I think it helps me with body aches but if I skip it, I can't tell the difference in sleep/wake. It's worth trying if you haven't tried it yet, as it seems to do most people a load of good -- and you need magnesium (probably) if you're truly eating paleo.
I had to add potassium, magnesium and D, although I try to get out in the sun AM, PM and at noon for about 10-30 minutes each.
on July 02, 2013
at 04:16 PM
I used to have similar sleep issues. You need to get your circadian rhythm corrected. Here's how you do it:
Expose yourself to bright natural light first thing in the morning and throughout the day as much as possible.
After 7 pm, wear blue blocking glasses (normal indoor lights suppress the natural production of melatonin). These are the ones I use: http://amzn.to/17Rkce1
Take phosphatidylserine before bed to reduce nighttime cortisol.
I would also take magnesium glycinate with each meal.
You can read more here: http://chriskresser.com/how-artificial-light-is-wrecking-your-sleep-and-what-to-do-about-it
on June 16, 2013
at 05:57 PM
Magnesium can help to induce sleep! It works for me! I take 2 magnesium supplements with my last meal and found that i am work relaxed and sleepish after these than when i don't take them! Don't get me wrong it doesn't send you straight to sleep but at least it helps when mixed with other ways to relax/drop off to sleep! :)
on July 02, 2013
at 01:40 PM
I went through the same thing several years ago. It seriously sucks because you get a bad night of sleep then it makes the next night even harder to fall asleep. Some questions though -
How is your diet/caffeine levels throughout the day? Prior to bed? What time do you exercise?
For me, the major contributor to my not falling asleep until 3-4 am did not appear until I had some testing done. It turned out my cortisol levels were backwards, and would begin to raise around 9pm until 3am. It took me a while to correct this, but once I did it turned everything around!
on June 01, 2013
at 07:46 PM
A little late to question here....
I learned this trick from a friend. He has all sorts of bad habits but he also has some that appear to be helpful. As a child his mother gave all her children milk laced with cod liver oil.
Still to this day, he adds CLO to his milk (not very Paleo). For every gallon he pours off 16 oz & replaces it with CLO. I was complaining about walking up tired.
He suggested some CLO in milk before bedtime. I put ~1 Tbl spoon in ~4 to 6 oz of milk. My wife said it nearly eliminated my snoring... this was about 6 month before I slowly shifted to Paleo.
Since going "slow carb" & then eventually paleo and dropping from 219 to 190, my snoring is gone for real but I still do the CLO at night.
I fall asleep easily & wake up rested when I do the milk & CLO. YMMV