I have been Paleo for a couple months now and have sleeping issues that have persisted throughout the better part of my life. I am INCREDIBLY sensitive to the quality of my sleep. I am not remotely a person who can get six hours and feel normal the following day. I need high quality 8 and even then I am someone who can easily take 2 hour naps each day. When I sleep poorly, which I often do, I am prone to headaches, lethargy, SEVERE moodiness (verging on the diabolical!) and none of these results have subsided with pretty strict Paleo (I dabble in aged cheeses, 1/2 and 1/2, decaf coffee and spirits/wine, but otherwise am a true blue cavegirl). Additionally, on days following a poor night's sleep, I tend to overeat tremendously, which makes it hard to get a good night's sleep the following night, but I will feel or think I feel famished at every meal!
What typically happens is I fall asleep at a decent time but wake up wayyyyyy too early. I usually have to get up at least once in the night to use the restroom (it's hard for me to "dehydrate" before bedtime -- I'm prone to hyper/hypoglycemia, I have exceedingly low blood pressure and I'm always thirsty) and I can usually go right back to sleep but a. sometimes I can't and b. separate from the incidents when I wake up to use the restroom, I often wake up hours before I intend to and CANNOT sleep. I'm not even setting alarms these days so fear of it going off is not an issue.
In the past drinking warm milk has helped me, but I have cut out milk due to the insulin response it induces. If I eat an entire meal, however, I can similarly fall back asleep on those mornings when I am inexplicably up at 4AM, but I really do NOT like resorting to this method. I like to eat around the same time each day and eating at 4AM or 5AM throws everything off. I also feel very sluggish when I do wake up. Read: I do not enjoy using food as a soporific.
Sometimes I resort to 2 Tylenol PM before bed. I know it's not great, but if I've slept poorly a few nights and need to guarantee a good night's sleep, they do the trick.
I have an incredibly neat bedroom, I sleep with a night mask every night (and even scent it with a blend of essential oils that induce relaxation), but does anyone have any recommendations?
I am especially interested in effective recommendations for what I can do at 4AM when I'm awake and feeling miserably cracked out because I cannot go to sleep.
I've experimented will Melatonin/Valerian/Magnesium pills but they don't put me to sleep. I don't want to have to get a prescription, but I can't deal with a bad night's sleep. I'm utterly useless the next day. :(
I would highly recommend NOT using medications. They actually push you past REM stage in sleep and can, after prolonged use (in addition to the other problems already mentioned by other hacks above) can result in waking hallucinations/nightmares.The body has to dream, and when you're taking sleeping medications for "deep restful sleep" you deny the brain an essential mechanism.
It sounds like textbook adrenal issues. Things to try (supplemental-herbal & timing):
The best time to eat breakfast is before 10:00AM in the morning because between 6:00 and 8:00 AM cortisol levels typically rise rapidly, peaking at around 8:00AM and while your cortisol levels are higher, you may not feel like eating.
In addition, the low liver function that often accompanies low adrenal function also suppresses early morning hunger -- this is often why you wake up at 3-4 AM. This is the time of day/night where the liver goes through it's cycle, and if there's excess adrenaline, cortisol, it's going to be kicked out into the bloodstream, hence your early wake up. I had this exact problem 2 years ago.
Eat lunch between 11:00 - 11:30
Eat a snack between 2:00 and 3:00 Eat dinner around 5:00 or 6:00 And eat a snack just before bedtime.
Make sure you're getting enough B-Vitamins. If not, find a good food-base concentrated source I know our diet should be pure and essential, but these days with all the soil depletion, food often just isn't cutting it by itself, unless you're springing for a biodynamic/uber organic kind of produce.
And an herb that you can get easily at WF or other good health food stores is an Ayurvedic Herb called ashwaganda. It's an adaptogen and can help support your adrenal system in healing.
Eat Desicated Adrenal glandulars. Check out dr. ron's website: http://www.drrons.com/thyroid-adrenal-liver-pancreas-glandulars.htm
Also, you might want to have your hormone levels checked: specifically -- pregnenolone. This is the precursor to many of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. It is a raw material that supports basic adrenal function. Pregnenolone is best taken towards the evening but may be taken earlier if it interferes with sleep. start with 25 mg.
Try the warm milk again, but antidote it's sugars with 2 tsp ghee/8oz, and a pinch of cardamom and cinnamon.
This pattern of insomnia is not uncommon and has been discussed here before in several threads, IIRC. It can be related to hypoglycemia and some people get relief from having a protein-rich snack before bed. However, in my experience waking up way too early and being unable to fall back asleep is caused by adrenal fatigue. Testing your cortisol levels with 4 saliva tests over the course of a day can be revealing.
I reversed a very severe case of this type of insomnia by healing my adrenals (cutting out caffeine/alcohol/sugar, eating more carbs, taking adaptogens, avoiding over-exercising, fasting and stress).
If you are desperate to knock yourself out and break the pattern, I highly recommend doxylamine. It's over the counter and works much better than prescription sleep aids. Just don't use it too often, as it can cause depression.
Mark Sisson actually had an interesting post about this the other day talking about how a solid 8 hours of sleep wasn't necessarily the norm for much of human history. People would often take, essentially, 2 4-ish hour naps during the evening, and wake up in between and have some chill time.
The 8 hours of continuous sleep thing really is a product of the industrial, and now post-industrial age. The fact that you can easily take multiple naps during the day kind of suggests that maybe that is the way to go if possible. That is, just find a way to get that 8 hours during a 24 hour period, but don't sweat it if it isn't continuous. I know that is hard for most people, but long term insomnia and the anguish it causes people is a lot worse.
That the Tylenol PM and Ambien don't quite do it, and you've done everything else that people tell you to try to sleep suggests that maybe you're fighting an uphill battle against your own circadian rhythms.
But I'd try reading Mark's blog: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/biphasic-sleep/
So if you wake up at 4 am, don't sweat it, just keep the lights dim and maybe do a little reading or something for an hour, try going back to bed and see if you can sleep for another 3 or 4 hours (depending on when you need to be up) and maybe that works. I mean I could say work on your stress and anxiety or all sorts of other things, but it sounds like you've probably tried everything. And I know plenty of people with the same problems and they just wind up having to try more medications. You could get a benzo script or something, but that will only work so long. I think the epidemic of sleep disorders is just another one of those diseases of civilization things--we've pushed people into these unnatural schedules, at least for some of us, and the body and mind rebels. So my suggestion is just try sleeping when you're tired--if that means a few naps a day, so be it, and don't sweat it when you wake up naturally. Maybe splitting up the 8 hours over a 24 hour cycle will work better for you. Good luck, I know it can be a really rough problem to deal with.
I have the same issues. A few things helped - completely darkening my room. Melatonin helps. And I do have ambien for once a week, and it works great. But I won't use it more than once a week - usually Sundays. Getting away from the computer for a hour before bed seems to help too. It's a pain, I am now used to 5 or 6 hours tops. Can't sleep more than that.
Do you take fish oil, and if so how much?
I have gotten very severe insomnia from taking high doses of fish oil, and now that I know what to look for, I know that if I take even 2 grams of fish oil in a single day even that will give me some insomnia. After that the severity of insomnia scales up with fish oil intake.
(If anyone is interested, I believe the culprit is a chemical called DMAE, which is found in fish oil acts as a stimulant to some).
I've struggled with severe insomnia all of my life, so I can really relate. My doc says I'm ome of the 5% of the worst insomniacs he's ever seen! In other words, I hear you!
A few comments. First, and I am sure this will not be the most popular answer on this forum, but i need something like Lunesta or Ambien, or I wont sleep through the night once per month. I hate taking meds, but for me the consequences of getting no sleep far outweigh my fears about medication.
I have found that establishing a pattern of getting up at the same time every day and heading to the gym is helpful. If I do a hard workout to the point of muscle failure (I follow Dr. Bernstein's workout recommendations for diabetics, and it has changed my life) in the morning, by evening i am dead tired and sleep so much better.
Also, you mention wine. Have you tried cutting alcohol? It can really mess with sleep more than you might imagine. Try ditching it 100% for a couple weeks and see if it helps.
Not to play psychiatrist here, but the kind of insomnia you describe, falling asleep ok, but then waking up and not getting back to sleep, is generally attributed to anxiety. That is certainly my case, and my sleep has been greatly improved by taking steps to alleviate anxiety.
When you do wake up, I recommend reading in bed. Never do anything electronic like turn on the tv or your computer. That just gets too many neurons firing and makes the problem worse.
Some great advice here! I've often had severe trouble sleeping, and sometimes find putting lavender oil on my pillow helps me drift off.
This related thread might also be of use: http://paleohacks.com/questions/22385/are-we-meant-to-sleep-much-longer-in-the-winter-than-in-the-summer
I KNOW this sounds a little fruity-woo-woo but it works for me! I downloaded a 'binaural beats' app for my iPod and listen to the 'sleep' setting on nights where I just toss and turn. After about 15 minutes of listening I pack it in, put my iPod on the nightstand and I'm asleep within 10 minutes.
If you don't have an iPod touch or similar, go to YouTube and search for 'sleep binaural beats', there's heaps there. You do have to listen with headphones, though or it won't work.
Like I said, a bit 'out there' but I swear it works for me - even if it's a placebo effect, who cares? I'm asleep! :)
I'm 52. Was a serious insomniac from about age 30 until about 4 years ago when I started low carb. For me, dropping the wheat and sugar really did the trick. However, I did learn a few things in my neolithic era that helped me sleep. For me, the best way to get to sleep or more importantly to get back to sleep was this 3 step technique: 1) Make sure you are warm enough. Turn on a heating pad if necessary. 2) Get in a comfortable position, and then don't move! If you are constantly tossing and turning, or foot tapping etc, you will never get to sleep. 3)Clear your mind. Focus on your breathing or some other technique. This is easier said than done and really takes practice. Learning some meditation skills can really help here. Good luck to you! I know how miserable it can be to be chronically sleep deprived.
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