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.
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.