Sleep isn't something that comes easy to everyone. Some people sleep great, their entire lives, no matter what is going on around them. Others are so sensitive to emotions, changes in routine and even light and sound that the slightest thing bumps them out of their normal sleeping pattern. For those of us who are up too late and take too long getting up in the morning, there is a solution. I have used this myself as well as for others as it is a true “homeopathic remedy” for getting your sleep back on track. Keep in mind, as a caveat, that if you are prone to disruptions in sleep that this isn't a permanent fix but you'll be empowered from now on with the knowledge to fix your poor sleeping patterns whenever issues creep up. The kind of sleep issues I am referring to mostly have roots in disrupted cortisol patterns. Aside from converting thyroid hormones from inactive to active forms, mobilizing fatty acids and storing glycogen, cortisol is stimulatory. That means we want it high in the morning and low at night as it will actually keep our bodies and minds(especially) awake and alert. Cortisol is a stress hormone essential for life but it responds differently than adrenaline. Adrenaline is an acute hormone, meaning we release it for a specific time, like when you cross the road a little too late and need to sprint across lest you get flattened by a Mack Truck. Cortisol, on the other hand responds to long-term stresses such as work, school, family and even exercise. Too much stress can have us producing more cortisol than necessary and even worse, cortisol at all the wrong times.
If you need at least a cup of coffee or two to get going in the morning ( and I mean NEED), then low morning cortisol could certainly be an issue. This same person who does fine after their coffee but gets a mid-afternoon energy slump followed by excess alertness and energy later at night is definitely showing signs of cortisol dysfunction. However, even if you do OK in the morning with tea or just one cup of coffee, but still have a really hard time falling asleep, you might want to try this protocol too. You'll feel different right away, and you'll start to have energy at the right times and be tired at the right times. (Wouldn't that be nice!)
There are plenty of supplements to help with sleep, and others would use if you just had mild sleep issues, but the protocol below is to get the sleep train back on the tracks. From there, it's all about maintenance; much easier than fixing that derailed train.
- Phosphotidylserine – This is a nutrient bound by fatty acids. We already produce and retain this nutrient in our bodies, especially for brain health, but can become deficient under excess stress. This supplement has been used to treat Alzheimer's, treat chronic stress, improve memory, treat ADHA and depression. It has the wonderful benefit of lowering cortisol, which makes it great pre-bedtime to help calm and relax you. It won't knock you out like prescription meds, but you'll find yourself drifting off after taking it.
- Melatonin – There are a myriad of benefits from taking melatonin like antioxidant activity, anti-cancer, anti-aging and anti-stress properties. Melatonin naturally rises during the night as we are exposed to less sunlight and it creates the “melatonin shroud”: that sleepy feeling you get that dulls noise, sound and stimulation. Time released melatonin, near bed-time, will keep you sleeping and producing melatonin for at least six uninterrupted hours.
- Ginseng – Korean or Siberian (now called Eleuthero root). Ginseng has the benefit of RAISING cortisol, making it a good choice for the morning. Stimulating cortisol in the morning through natural means such as this promotes the lower nighttime cortisol levels we want. Ginseng will help give you mental alertness and acuity and doesn't have the side of effect of making you jittery like too much caffeine can do.
Phosphotidylserine – 400 to 800 mg one hour before bed (start with the lower dose)
Melatonin – 3 to 6 grams right before bed (again, start with the lowest effective dose)
Ginseng – 400 to 1200 grams upon waking (once again, start low).
I feel that within two to four weeks, this protocol can get most people sleeping consistently and deeply. Even if you feel pretty good after two weeks, finish a month's worth of supplements just to make sure that you sleeping and rising times are consistent; one of the biggest part of getting a good night's sleep is mental. Like others, I had to get myself to a place where I never even thought about having trouble sleeping, then I came off the supplements. I prefer this approach because if you fall into the old mindset of worrying about falling asleep, you'll probably make it harder for yourself to do so. So, take a month, take these supplements consistently, and get back on track.
From here, taking occasional melatonin or drinking some herbal tea at night should be sufficient to keep you sleeping well. Keep morning and afternoon caffeine in check, though. Remember, caffeine has a 4 hour half-life, so it's effectiveness is reduced by half with every passing 4 hours. However, people vary in their metabolism, so that 4pm coffee might be fine for one person but it could be keeping YOU up.
Try it out, sleep better, feel better, thank me later.