Over the years I’ve experimented with a ton of supplements in order to find a solution to my persistent insomnia and fatigue. As a result of having no clue as to what I’m dealing with, I often made things much worse. It was a hellishly frustrating experience but every experiment pointed me in one direction or another and eventually towards piecing the puzzle together.
The advice below is for hardcore insomniacs so I’ll spare you from all the obvious suggestions you find online relating to melatonin, EMFs, pillows, mattresses, magic nightgowns, “happy thoughts” and the rest of the BS.
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Setting the Ground
First things first: quit all of your current supplements unless you deem them to be life saving for you. If you don’t know what and why you’re taking it can be causing you more harm than good. Especially cut out all B vitamins and any stimulants, including all herbal formulas, before you try any of the tips below.
I invite you to do this because you need to have a baseline to measure your improvements. In addition, you might be already experiencing paradoxical reactions to supplements, resulting in decreased sleep quality. If you have any doubts about the supplements you’re taking post them for me in the comments below and I’ll try to chime in.
P.S. If you see a link inside this post it will be to an article/video that I wrote in more detail or some place online where I purchase my products.
1. Heart Tonics
Heart tonics like hawthorn but best are ones that draw heat from the heart like Salvia and Motherwort. Good products to try is called Heart Health by Herb Pharm and Salvia by Dragon Herbs. If you want to try a superb heart heat clearing formula from Chinese Medicine I recommend Codonopsis & Zizyphus Combination. One word of caution: I would avoid this if you have really run down adrenals because the formula contains a light form of ginseng. Other than that, give it some time and you might be surprised how well you start sleeping again.
Magnessium – especially Citrate or Citramate. Magnesium is a calming mineral and the best lubricant for the nervous system. I couldn’t even tell you how many people I helped by simply advising them to take some magnesium every day. Make sure to get the real citrate kind, not that cheap chalk tasting one that is usually available from the common brands.
3. Light Stretching
Do light stretches in the evening. Muscles are in constant communication with the nervous system. Stretching will not only increase mobility in the joints, but will also inhibit the sympathetic nervous systems’ fight or flight response and activate the parasympathetic response; aka a state of “chill, dude“. You will feel warm and cozy, which is exactly how you want to hit the pillows.
4. Rest Your Digestion
Avoid meals or snacking past 6pm. Give yourself time to digest food and relieve your organs for the night. Unlike you, your organs do not sleep. Major detox process happens at night. Your liver is busy enough and when you add digestion process on top you will generate more heat and use up your energy stores. Meat takes longer to digest and requires more effort. I found eating vegetarian, low fat dinners usually made me sleep better at night.
5. Cool Your Liver with Milk Thistle
Your liver does not sleep and is very active (especially 1-3am) when you are asleep. If you keep waking during this time it is safe to bed your liver is the culprit. Try Milk thistle. It not only helps your liver to detox by producing glutathion it is also an herb that draws heat from the liver meridian. Many are not aware that it is their overburdened liver that keeps them up at night. A key to a good night’s sleep can be as simple as taking good care of your liver.
6. Eliminate Agitation from Food Sensitivities
Insomnia is usually a symptom of various imbalances but it is also a trigger for additional imbalances and food sensitivities. When you stress your adrenals your stomach will produce less stomach acid, the liver will not produce enough bile, the gut might harbor pathogenic and toxin producing bacteria, etc. so anything you eat will be more difficult to digest. The few biggest offenders that can cause one a ton of grief are dairy and gluten, especially wheat. Cut out high histamine foods, high glutamate, and high thiol foods to see how you sleep. The latter two took me years to detect as culprits; avoiding them made a huge difference.
Long term, I highly encourage you to get a Mediator Release Test (MRT) which takes the guesswork out of an elimination diet. Once you identify your reactive foods you can relieve your immune system by eliminating these food triggers from your diet. This will tip you towards a parasympathetic response (rest and restore function of your nervous system) and help you sleep better.
7. Try an Anti-Inflammatory
Try Ibuprofen before bed – usually regarded as pain medication, Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug. A stubborn insomnia is often a result of some form of inflammation. While this is a temporary patch to try (long term use may cause more damage and liver toxicity), should it be effective you’ll know that it is inflammation to blame. You will next look for the source of it.
8. Try a Non-Drowsy Antihistamine
An anti-histamine been one of my go to remedies even up to this day. Histamine is not your enemy but it can be an enemy of your sleep because it is a neuro-stimulant. High histamine can make you feel hot and restless at night. Try and take a non-drowsy pill like Zirtec (generic name is Cetirizine) and see how you do. Key is to take a non-drowsy type because the first gen drowsy ones will make you sleepy anyways but it will fail to pin-point to the root cause of your insomnia.
9. Religiously Rigid Bed Time
Stick to a rigid bed time routine – I’m known to leave the cinemas, get up and take off in the middle of the concert or a Christmas party. Many times I didn’t even wait for a friend’s birthday cake because I had to be in bed on time. Nothing else mattered. That is because I had come to realize that living according to the seasons and one’s biological clock is extremely supportive of one’s health and healing process.
When dealing with extreme insomnia, the time between 10pm and 1AM was crucial if I was to get any rest that night. This is the highest quality sleep time we will have during the entire night! A rigid bed time routine, supports a natural circadian rhythm, trains your biological clock and also gives you a good basis to accurately gauge a response to any supplements or diet you’re experimenting with. This is a crucial topic and I’ll write a about this more.
10. Learn and Start QiGong
A daily QiGong practice practice will not only calm down your nervous system’s sympathetic dominant response it will charge your battery and make you more energetic with the little sleep that you actually get. Best part, unlike yoga, QiGong does not require strength. You can pretty much do it while totally exhausted. This stuff works and you have to get over any excuses that are stopping you from trying this ancient wellness system. The key to its effectiveness lies in consistency and the the amount of time you spend practicing. If you do it every day you’ll keep the momentum building and derive more benefit. Not only you will sleep better but you will nudge your body towards recovery. I enjoyed many benefits from it even when I was still unknowingly suffering from mercury toxicity.
In order to get enjoy better quality sleep your goal should be to relieve digestion from heavy burden and inflammatory foods, reduce inflammation and block out the stimulation effects of histamine. Once you do that, cool your heart and liver with herbal tonics so they are quietly doing their work without waking you up. And lastly, do QiGong to charge your energy reserves and allow your body’s natural wisdom to take over the healing process.
Whats your protocol with the heart tonics? How much ar what time of day?
Hi John, the idea is to keep the heart as happy as possible 24/7 because is a stressed heart stresses all other organs. So I take some in the morning, then bed time and at night if I wake up.
Thank you so much for tracking and sharing your journey with insomnia and chelation. I deeply sympathize with all you’ve been through and grateful that you’ve had the wherewithal and fortitude to continue finding solutions!
I suspected mercury toxicity many years ago and had all my metal amalgams removed in 2009. Due to the mixed information and high cost of chelation protocols, I experimented on-and-off on my own with cilantro, spirulina and chlorella, with deleterious effects. I didn’t actually have terrible toxicity symptoms, until I was prescribed 2 courses of fluoroquinolone antibiotics to which i had an extreme allergic reaction. My acupuncturist described my G.I. tract as “completely decimated,” and that is when the insomnia set in – waking around 3am or 3-4 hours after falling asleep, unable to fall back for 30 minutes to hours. The insomnia has continued now for 12 years, despite and likely because of experimenting with numerous supplements, the allergic reaction to the fluoroquinolones, and an underlying mercury toxicity !
The extreme inflammation following the allergic reaction slowly ameliorated with a very careful, bland diet (eventually antihistamine), acupuncture, chinese herbs, yoga, mediation, homeopathy and energy healers. When i started to feel better-ish, i started introducing not great foods etc. and actually forgot about mercury toxicity altogether, until I worked with a homeopath who recommended chelation via spirulina, 4 years ago. My insomnia flared up and I could not follow his recommendations. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was mobilizing the mercury with the algeas rather than actually flushing it. In any case, despite these 12 years of insomnia, I conveniently forgot about mercury again. Until, drum roll, I started taking Spirulina and Chlorella a few days ago. This time for pineal gland healing and detox. After minimal supplementation for 2 days, I was awake from 12am-5am the first night and 3am – 5am last night, despite an aspirin AND a benadryl AND a melatonin 3mgs – those have become my individual emergency go-tos when the insomnia is just too stubborn. To take all 3 and not be knocked out was crazy to me. And then, of course, it dawned on me, Ahhh I’ve started a mercury chelation! So, as we do, I Immediately began researching and SO grateful to have found your site! I’ve stopped all supplements this morning and have thoroughly read your and Dr. Cutler’s sites. I am ordering the DMSA and ALA from Dr. Cutlers associate website. Also checking out the Kirkland Sleepaid – never tried, will go slowly. Milk thistle may be too cooling for me, and i’m not sure how i’ll do with ginseng, though the Dragon Herbs, Codonopsis & Zizyphus Combination looks promising. Thank you again, so much. I have a bit of hope, and, understand that this will be many years in the healing, which is fine, bc whats a few more years added to more than a dozen! I hope this reaches you happy, healthy and well!
Hi Britta, sorry I missed your comment. Wow, we’re in the same boat. Glad you put the dots together! You can order ALA from anywhere. Initially I did better with DMPS than DMSA but you’ll have to try an see. Chlorella really knocked me out too, I just couldn’t believe it. Are you also very sensitive to supplements when it comes to body temperature? What happens if you take milk thistle? I haven’t met anyone else with this symptom but it has to do with adrenals, thyroid and overall constitution. Looking forward to keeping in touch. 😉
thanks for the experiments and feedback !
sleep is a thing for me and i can make good use of your best findings
heavy metals are also a problem with me
I also started with andrew cutler protocol years ago.
I found the disadvantage of it to be too slow (which is good in the beginning but if you have to do it for years to solve the problem then every 3-4 hours year in year out is a thing…besides life)
so I switched to another protocol fairly quickly, see below
and I share this with you to give something back out of gratitude
look up DR. BERKSON on youtube!
THE GENERAL PROTOCOL
(RECOMMENDED BY WHITAKER WELLNESS, BASED ON DR. BERKSON’S RESEARCH)
R-Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) 900-1,200 mg (300 mg, 2 to 3 times a day). orally
IMPORTANT: you have to take a B-complex vitamin when you take ALA, because apparently it depletes B-vitamins from the body.
And ala goes by body weight —-figure it out yourself
vikipedija.htm You have to have the R-ala not the S-ala!!!
Selenium 200-400 mcg (taken in divided doses 2x a day)
(selenium is like a birth pill for viruses, if selenium is high then
the viruses cannot reproduce).
Milk Thistle 300mg per day protects the liver from more damage.
-Milk Thistle aka Silymarin 300 mg, 4 to 6 times a day
Dr. Berkson said if you took too much you could burn out your mitochondria and kill yourself (keep in mind too much of anything, including tap water, can kill you). He said you should never go above 15 mg per kilogram (I assume he means in body weight). 90 mg per kg would kill a primate. (I did a calculation and if my math is correct that means a 50 lb primate could die from 1,980 mg of ALA?… but Dr. Berkson’s recommendation is 600-1200 mg per day so if you follow this AND take a B complex vitamin I’m assuming/hoping you should be OK).
If you’re used to weighing things in pounds (like I am), you can use this calculator to see what is the max you should take. My husband is about 160 lbs, or 75 kg. When you multiply 75kg x 15mg, that means that, according to Dr. Berkson, he shouldn’t go over 1,080 mg. I will admit that is a little confusing to me, since the recommendation in the interview says 900-1200 mg (please listen to the interview on this page for yourself). I should note note that my husband was just doing 600 mg per day, and you will see this description (from the interview) says up to 1200 mg is fine. I am a little confused by that so if you are not sure, either stick with the 600mg or make an appt. to see Dr. Berkson.
My “addons” to the Berkson protocol
activated charcoal 2x 1000mg (brand: bulletproof) I do at night
DMSA of DPMS ….what you can handle / or where you are at in your
This is a nice one to add in during the day it grabs the metals and hold them until the exit 😉
but beware! it is better/stronger than you think along with
activated charcoal very good and easy…is my experience
good luck (hope=life)
Hi Pieter, thank you for sharing this. You know, I’m a big fan of Andre Cutler research and I’d have a hard time doing anything that would not fit his findings. ALA taken randomly like this can cause lots of redistribution and hurt one even more down the road. I too take DMPS with my ALA rounds, things seem smoother this way. Haven’t tried zeolites but again, because I see other who don’t do very well on it and I’m generally too sensitive for these things. By the way, are you doing well on this protocol?
I understand that.
But science does not stand still and there are many roads that lead to Rome.
When I was doing andrew cutler rounds and figuring out how long it would take me
to solve my heavy metal problem I started looking at other methods.
And if you have been doing heavy metal detox for any length of time you know that one round is not the same as the next.
Every round you have to pay attention and see how the body reacts. Sometimes I want to do a 72 hour round but then I feel so good I do a day longer and sometimes shorter.
What I have noticed that is important to do is to keep doing the drainage period after the round a few days longer, so a few days no celators, just activated charcoal and nano zeolite. gives me a better outcome
because you always have to wait and see how you are when the dust has settled again (redistribution) and it helps me with that
Which of the heart tonics you recommend is the best one to start with?
Heart Health by Herb Pharm, Salvia by Dragon Herbs or Codonopsis & Zizyphus Combination?
I have a milk thistle/dandelion/artichoke product. Each capsule is 300 mg MT. Should I order a straight MT product instead?
I have tried so many forms of magnesium. Presently I take both glycinate and malate. I have tried threonate because a sleep doctor recommended it. I recently tried NOW’s citrate. It didn’t seem to be any better. Should I go that route again? How much should I take in a day?
I was prescribed meloxicam for hip pain. And I swear that’s when my sleep starting improving. Eventually it stopped and I stopped taking it daily since I wasn’t having pain. Sometimes when I am desperate I’ll take one at bedtime. Sometimes it helps, sometimes not. I do think inflammation is an issue. I do not do well with curcumin! Not sure why.
I was diagnosed with MTHFR a little less than a year ago. When I take any amount of B12 or methylfolate, it makes my depression worse. So I stop for a while and then try super small doses. Same issue. I do take a B complex that does not include 12 and folate. I’m going to stop that tomorrow.
Thanks and would appreciate any feedback!
Hi Gary, have you done any other genetic testing to discover your other variants? About the heart: if you have no adrenal issues then Codonopsis & Zizyphus Combination would be most potent of them all. Salvia is part of that formula. You have to gauge the response if you are doing well on that liver formula then I would keep going with that one as it is of broader spectrum. I would google “Hip pain TCM” and learn what Chinese Medicine has to say about it. My mother has been suffering from the same and she says QiGong is helping a lot, plus if you have access to better specialists I would go see them. I don’t do well on any forms of B12 but have you tried other forms besides methyl?