How Activated Charcoal Can Improve Sleep and Keep You From Waking During the Night

Amazing. Nothing short of amazing. Activated charcoal is really helping me sleep better by preventing waking up from feeling hot.  It’s another winner in my small arsenal of remedies that actually work.

I’ve also had a big breakthrough in understanding how my system works. For the longest time I was blaming various foods for keeping me up at night by drawing a direct cause and effect between what I ate that day and how I felt and slept that night.This made me eliminate a ton of foods and shift from supplement to supplement.

This created immense confusion as I might have been fine on a supplement for a night or two and then have an awful night afterwards. I would almost always blame the effect on that supplement and quit it “just in case.” This really caused a lot of anxiety as I could have been taking and eating the right stuff but if I had a rough night I had to eliminate. But recently, I realized that it wasn’t one particular food that was causing me grief but the BUILD UP of various byproducts (metabolites) of digestion or pathogens in my gut.

Where the Build Up of Toxins Come From

How did I realize that I experience a build up of toxins that are preventing me from sleeping? By doing activated charcoal flushes.  I started them because I’ve learned via genetic testing that I have a CBS gene mutation. The latter can contribute to sulfur sensitivity and ammonia toxicity because your body is not properly metabolizing certain compounds.

I had already suspected sulfur issues (most high sulfur foods could make me totally sleepless) and I had read that ammonia toxicity is a big factor in insomnia.

To make a long story short – charcoal flushes are often recommended as a  “cleansing agent” for ammonia build-up as well as an array of other poisons created by bad gut bacteria (aldehydes), heavy metals, gluten and various environmental toxins. Charcoal is also used to relieve gas, bloating and gut inflammation.

At the core of almost all insomnia is either a gut inflammation or neuro-inflammation. Activated charcoal flushes can help with both by giving your immune system a break.

When gunk builds up in my system I usually start feeling hot at night. I’ll wake up around 1am from liver heat, take herbs fall asleep and wake up again at 2am or 3am and may not be able to fall back asleep no matter what. Heat is an alarm to our nervous system and you know that from those sleepless hot summer days. Our bodies like to stay cool in order to rest.

Inflammation produces heat and when it’s coming from your gut or overburdened liver then you are going to be hot and sleepless. The formula is simple – reducing inflammation means cooler body which means better sleep.

Since activated charcoal has an affinity for various things that produce inflammation it works to adsorb all those compounds and flush them out of your system. When I take charcoal I usually feel a lot of action in my gut. There’s gurgling, percolation and just relief in general. My appetite comes back, I just feel cooler and the next few night I sleep better. This usually lasts about 5-7 days and then I need to do another flush again.

It also works if I wake up at night and not able to fall back asleep from feeling too warm. Many people on various forums report the same findings so there is something to it!


I take three to five caps which is about 1.8 grams (0.375 mg each cap). I get it locally at a pharmacy. Many report great results with coconut charcoal. If my local product wasn’t so cheap I’d try coconut type as well.

Note of caution:  you do not want to take charcoal too often because it also binds with good minerals and reduces effectiveness of your other supplements – things just don’t absorb normally. It is usually recommended to take any meds or supplements at least one hour prior to charcoal or at least two hours after the charcoal flush. I usually like to take it right before bed time so that it has an entire night to sit in my gut, healing the gut lining and absorb all this other gunk that is causing me all these health and sleep issues.

I’ve heard that diatomaceous earth (DE) and bentonite clay work similarly to activated charcoal. I have tried them both and find clay to be much more gentle than DE. Sometimes I do a cocktail of bentonite clay and charcoal.

Experimental Cocktail

Really want to try a cocktail of supplements and see whether inflammation is at the root of your insomnia?  Consult your doc to see if you can try some ibuprofen (see my previous post about it), then a regular non-drowsy anti histamine like cetirizine (zyrtec) and two hours later take the activated charcoal. If you normally take melatonin then go for the sublingual type as it does not need to go through digestion to get delivered to your brain. Go to bed, see what happens.

* Ibuprofen works to reduce inflammation (see another post how Ibuprofen helps with sleep), so does the charcoal. Anti-histamine is to block the excess histamine which is a by-product of inflammation and an excitatory neurotransmitter. The reason I would take non-drowsy is so that you know that better sleep was not merely induced by a drowsy type anti-histamine. If this approach works your next job is to find the root cause of your inflammation.


Activated charcoal can be of great help in moping up those toxins and helping you sleep at night. If you try it then let me know how it works!

P.S. I just finished a more detailed and updated post (How SIBO, Dysbiosis, Candida and Other Gut Issues Can Cause Insomnia) that explains where those toxins can come from (hint – your gut) and the various irritants that need to be dealt with in order to get more restful sleep.

11 comments… add one
  • Brigitte Jan 30, 2019 Link Reply

    I’m trying this tonight! Fingers crossed. I’ve had SEVERE treatment resistant insomnia for 4 1/2 years. I’m really losing it 🙁
    I’ve tired all the sleep pharmaceuticals and am paradoxical, antihistamines, sleepy psych meds, benzos, herbs, marijuana, CBD, vitamins. At least a hundred things and nothing works.

    • insomniacnextdoor Jan 30, 2019 Link Reply

      Hi Brigitte, let me know how you it goes. Also try some of the things on the TOP 10 list in a previous post. What are your other health symptoms? Those can lead towards the root cause of insomnia itself.

    • Lorraine Brown Sep 12, 2020 Link Reply

      I’m getting confused at this as I thought charcoal makes meds less effective? I took charcoal at lunchtime yesterday and after several nights of no sleep decided to take my sleeper. I didn’t sleep a wink! And they are always effective!! I’m sure it was the charcoal to blame!

      • insomniacnextdoor Sep 16, 2020 Link Reply

        Well, perhaps but may be not in a way of making your meds less effective because it had been too long of a period in between. Perhaps it triggered something else?

  • Angelica May 5, 2021 Link Reply

    I have some liver issues so I thought I’d help out by taking a large dose of Activated Charcoal 20g. It was mid morning, which is as far away from my meds as possible so there will be less interaction. Suddenly I was sleepy, very sleepy. And I wasn’t hesitating to cover up. It’s odd that this isn’t considered a side effect. If people’s inflammation is making them lose sleep/rest, and something interrupts it, then they’ll feel sleepy. I could tell it was helping by the sensation of needing to sleep. I’m usually wired and tired.

    Thanks for the insight in your article, it really helped.

    • insomniacnextdoor May 18, 2021 Link Reply

      Very good and interesting to hear this, Angelica. Inflamation is certainly a huge part of insomnia. Charcoal could be moping of the gut irritants or absorbing some toxins from the bile, hard to say but I’m glad it helped you. It is helpful to me too.

  • Amy Mar 26, 2022 Link Reply

    Hi, tried this last night and sleep very well! Although I do take sleeping pills and half an antihistamine and melatonin with L theanine and 5 htp. I’ve been suffering with insomnia for 12 years. I had a virus that nearly killed me and after it my sleep was destroyed, not sure how but believe this was the cause! I have tried so many natural remedies and treatments over the years and nothing worked. This has been the most difficult, challenging thing I’ve ever had to deal! Wish it was easier to pinpoint the cause! Thanks for your info! Do you have any insight on how a virus could cause insomnia? Drs are clueless!

    • insomniacnextdoor Apr 8, 2022 Link Reply

      I hear you, it can be very difficult to pin pint the cause. If charcoal is helping it could be either because it helps to soak up ammonia or some by products of gut dysbiosis. A virus could have triggered some genes that are expressing themselves and blocking some detox pathways.

    • Dee Oct 29, 2022 Link Reply

      l just started taking charcoal…the first of many different supplements for Lyme disease..reading this about charcoal and insomnia gives me hope..l didn’t think l could take it with sublingual melatonin at the same time..but guess it makes sense because it’s going under the tongue..l so pray l can get more than an hour or two of sleep..starting with 3 tablet ending with one at bed time..would it be better to take all 3 at night?
      250mg. Thank you!!

      • Dodi Jan 12, 2023 Link Reply

        hello all….very curious as l have seen people with Lyme disease taking charcoal at night for sleep..l have doing this also…but not getting any results…anyone else experience the same results.

        l have been taking 3x 250 @night
        Thanks in advance

        • insomniacnextdoor Mar 1, 2023 Link Reply

          Have you tried any other binders? What causes you to believe the insomnia stems from your gut issues?

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