Insomnia Part 2 – Meet your Friends
Saying Good Night to Ambien Series!
Previously, I talked about what is preventing you from going to sleep. This article will assist you in determining what will assist you in getting to sleep and staying asleep.
You are not in this fight alone.
1) Sleep Mask: We mentioned light being your enemy. Wearing a sleep mask is a great ally in fighting against light. Melatonin is produced when the eyes stop sensing light. Wearing a sleep mask blacks out your eyes, so melatonin will begin being produced.
The sleep mask may assist you with that temptation to play with your phone which can ruin your sleep cycle by itself.
2) Bedtime Ritual: Going to bed starts hours before your head meets the pillow. You need to decide on your sleep timeframe. Your bedtime ritual starts 2 hours before your actual bedtime. Two hours before bedtime, lights need to be dimmed enough to not walk around in the dark. This is not the time to start binge-watching your favorite series. At this time, try to keep activity light. Do not stimulate your brain. For example, you can read a book, load the dishwasher, put away laundry, perform yoga poses, meditate, or relax in a bath. Then, 15 minutes prior to expected bedtime, begin a dedicated bedtime ritual such as change into pajamas, brush your teeth, wash your face, take your medicines, and brush your hair. After completing the bedtime ritual, turn off all of the lights and climb into bed. The bedtime ritual will help teach your brain that when you perform these actions, you go to sleep. As time progresses, your brain will naturally put you to sleep since it knows the routine.
If you have ever put a child to bed, you will understand the importance of rituals. If you get a child excited and ramped up before going to bed, it will be a fight to even get them to sit still. However, if you establish a routine of bath time, brushing teeth, reading a book, and singing a song, they will more naturally establish a sleep routine without fussing because the brain understands that sleep is approaching.
3) Your Room: Your room can be your enemy or your friend when it comes to sleep. It is important to be comfortable in your room. It needs to be cool and dark. Your bed needs to be comfortable and quiet. You spend nearly a third of your entire life on your bed, so you should get a good mattress. You will be in it more than your car.
4) Supplements: There are multiple supplements that can aid you in getting and staying asleep.
Melatonin is the most popular sleep aid supplement. It is the bioidentical hormone that your body produces for sleep. Melatonin is naturally produced by the Pineal Gland when the eyes sense darkness. If you take Melatonin for sleep, you should aim to take it two hours before bedtime. A starting dose for melatonin is between 3 – 5 mg. If it is unsuccessful, try going to a higher dose (upwards of 20-30mg). Most people do not feel sluggish or sleepy in the morning when they take melatonin, but if you do, you should lower the dose.
5-HTP and Tryptophan are used by the Pineal Gland (the sleeping gland) to produced serotonin. Tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP which is then converted into Serotonin or Melatonin (hence similarities in their names). When light is stimulating the eyes, the Pineal Gland produces Serotonin (an awake hormone). When darkness sets in (absence of light), then Pineal Gland immediately switches to Melatonin production. By taking 5-HTP or Tryptophan, it gives the Pineal Gland ample precursors to create Melatonin when darkness sets in. 5-HTP is more efficacious than Tryptophan for sleep. If you take 5-HTP for sleep, take 100mg about 30 minutes before bedtime and turn off the lights.
Note: Please see my initial blog: Insomnia – Meet your Enemies to read about why light / darkness is so important to sleep. Without darkness, most of these supplements will be rendered useless.
GABA is another dietary supplement that enhances sleep. The hormone GABA is produced inside the brain, and it causes relaxation, anti-anxiety, and sleep. It is the “calming hormone.” Many medications interact with the GABA receptor. In fact, most of the prescription sleeping medications stimulate the GABA receptor which causes sedation and sleep. The natural dietary supplement mimics your own natural GABA production to slow your mind down. If taking it for sleep, try 100mg of GABA about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Valerian Root is very similar in action to the GABA supplement. It is known to stimulate GABA neurotransmission in the brain which causes relaxation and sedation. Valerian root’s active incredient is Valerenic acid. Valerian root has been one of the most studied supplements in regards to sleep, and it has proven efficacy. When taking valerian root for insomnia, try 600mg 30 minutes before bedtime.
Magensium is also very similar to GABA. It causes increased GABA activity in the brain by blocking the excitatory hormone NMDA. After blocking NMDA, your brain becomes more sensitive to the amount of GABA available. For insomnia, you should take Magnesium oxide 400mg 30 minutes before bedtime. You can take more magnesium if needed. A knowno side effect of too much magnesium is diarrhea.
Phosphotidylserine is a useful hormone when experiencing symptoms of Adrenal imbalance. The detailed symptoms of adrenal imbalance are too long to describe here, but I will be writing more on this in the future. Stay tuned. The most common sleep disturbance with adrenal fatigue is frequent waking and difficulty falling back asleep. It is usually NOT trouble initiating sleep.
If you know you have adrenal imbalance, Phosphotidylserine is perfect for you. Try taking 100mg 60 minutes before bedtime.
5) Medications: There are multiple medications for insomnia that are prescribed by physicians. This topic is better discussed in person with your doctor. You should try natural therapies before proceeding with medications. I have been known to give people short-term prescriptions for them to reset their sleep cycle while they gather and try the different supplements that work for them. The end goal would be to fall asleep naturally without supplements, but some people will always need supplements in order to initiate and maintain sleep.
I hope this article helps you get to sleep more naturally with less stress!
If you have not read it already, you should read Part I: Insomnia – Meet Your Enemies.