Alternative and Integral Therapies for Insomnia
Nutrition - Vitamins and Supplements
Deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes may disrupt sleep. Calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, folic acid and melatonin deficiencies may impair sleep.
The following are specific nutritional supplements known to aid sleep:
Calcium, especially when contained in food, has a sedative effect on the body. A calcium deficiency in the body causes restlessness and wakefulness. For adults, doses of approximately 600 milligrams of liquid calcium have been shown to have a relaxing effect.
Dosage: 1,500-2,000 mg daily, in divided doses, after meals and at bedtime.
Magnesium, in doses of approximately 250 milligrams, can help induce sleep. Magnesium deficiency is responsible for nervousness that prevents sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include kelp, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, and brewer's yeast.
Dosage: 1,000 mg daily.
Note: The lack of calcium and magnesium can cause leg cramps during the night. Calcium and magnesium produce calming effects on the brain. They are essential for normal sleep. Calcium and magnesium taken 45 minutes before bedtime have a tranquilizing effect. Use a 2:1 ratio, such as 500 mg of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium in tablet or capsule form.
The B vitamins are known to have a sedative effect on the nerves.
Vitamin B6 supplements of 50 to 100 milligrams/day can help to prevent insomnia. A tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast is an excellent Source of vitamin B6. Stir it into a glass of juice.
Vitamin B12 is another important supplement for treating insomnia. 25 milligrams of vitamin B12, supplemented with 100 milligrams of pantothenic acid (B5) can serve as an effective anti-insomnia vitamin regimen. The pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is good for relieving stress. The best food sources of the B vitamins are liver, whole grains, wheat germ, tuna, walnuts, peanuts, bananas, sunflower seeds, and blackstrap molasses.
Inositol enhances REM sleep. Take 100 mg daily, at bedtime.
Chromium is often effective for someone with a blood sugar problem that is keeping them awake at nights. Brewer's yeast is a good source of Chromium. If you prefer supplements, take 250 to 500 micro- grams twice a day.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays a key role in the repair of protein tissues and in creating new protein. In the brain, tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a natural sleep-inducing chemical. It also enhances the brain's ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates your body's natural inner clock.
L-tryptophan is found in foods such as milk and turkey. Tryptophan supplements were banned in the United States by the FDA after a contaminated batch from a Japanese manufacturer was suspected of causing a serious blood disease in several people. There is no risk associated with eating tryptophan-rich foods. It is a key amino acid for sleeping problems.
Clinical studies showed that L-tryptophan produces only modest effects in the treatment of insomnia. Not everyone who takes it for this purpose experiences the results they seek. People have to take relatively high doses of the substance (doses less than 2,000 mg are generally not effective). More importantly, research showed that L-tryptophan can reduce REM sleep while increasing the time spent in non-REM sleep.
Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid that helps the brain regulate the amount of cortisone produced by the adrenals. It is helpful for those who cannot sleep because of high cortisone levels, usually induced by stress. Cortisone is usually at high levels in the morning, for wakefulness. It is found to be high in people with high stress at night that prevents them from sleeping.
Serotonin is an important initiator of sleep. Our body makes serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan. Taking tryptophan will raise serotonin levels and promote sleep. Tryptophan is more effective for cases of sleep-onset insomnia, since its greatest effect is to shorten the time required to get to sleep.
More effective than tryptophan is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a form of tryptophan that is one step closer to serotonin administration. 5-HTP has also been found, in several double-blind clinical studies, to decrease the time required to get to sleep and to decrease the number of awakenings. To increase the sedative effects of 5-HTP, take it with a food high in carbohydrate such as fruit or fruit juice near bedtime.
5-HTP increases the REM sleep by about twenty-five percent while simultaneously increasing deep-sleep Stages 3 and 4, without increasing total sleep time.
It is important to maintain adequate levels of vitamin B., niacin, and magnesium when using 5-HTP, as these nutrients serve as essential cofactors in the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted naturally by the pineal gland. Melatonin is the sleep hormone. It is said to induce sleep without any negative side effects. Melatonin is secreted mainly at night. Melatonin is found naturally in plants and in algae.
In several studies, supplementation with melatonin has been found helpful in inducing and maintaining sleep in both children and adults, for both people with normal sleep patterns and those suffering from insomnia. It is also useful in banishing jet lag.
However, it appears that the sleep- promoting effects of melatonin are most apparent only if a person's melatonin levels are low. In other words, taking melatonin is not like taking a sleeping pill or even 5-HTP. It will only produce a sedative effect when melatonin levels are low. Melatonin appears to be most effective in treating insomnia in the elderly, as low melatonin levels are common in this age group.
Safety: Studies of melatonin's safety are limited, with isolated reports of exacerbation of depression, fatigue and restriction of coronary arteries.
Do not take melatonin supplement if:
Melatonin supplementation can disrupt the normal circadian rhythm. In one study, a daily dosage of 8 mg a day for only four days resulted in significant alterations in hormone secretions.
Synthetic melatonin may be safer than melatonin from animal sources.
Dosage: Start with 1.5 mg daily, taken 2 hours or less before bedtime. If this is not effective, gradually increase the dosage until an effective level is reached (up to 5 mg daily).
5- HTP provides the quickest, most effective, and most consistent overall results in treating insomnia. it is an effective alternative for dealing with sleep problems in a safe and natural way compared to sleep medicines. 5-HTP improves the quality of sleep. More importantly, clinical studies show that 5- HTP is also useful in the treatment of sleep disorders other than insomnia.
5-HTP increases REM sleep significantly (typically by about 25 percent) while simultaneously increasing deep sleep stages 3 and 4 without increasing total sleep time. 5- HTP accomplishes this by shortening the amount of time you spend in sleep stages 1 and 2, which in certain ways are the least important stages of the cycle. The higher the dose, the more time spent in REM.
By shifting the balance of the sleep cycle, 5-HTP makes sleep more restful and rejuvenating. Instead of waking feeling tired, worn out, and "hungover," people taking 5- HTP feel vibrant, well rested, and ready to take on the challenges of the day. When we sleep more deeply and dream more efficiently, we wake in the morning with our physical and psychological batteries fully charged.
The impact of 5-HTP on sleep stages is dose-related; taking higher doses produces a somewhat greater impact. In most cases, the lower dosage is adequate. Higher doses may lead to a greater number of disturbing dreams and nightmares due to abnormally prolonged REM sleep. It can also lead to mild nausea.
Recommended Dosage: Take 100 to 300 mg, thirty to forty-five minutes before retiring. Start with the lower dose for at least three days, then consider increasing the dose if results are not what you expected.
See Also: Melatonin and 5-HTP
Related Topic: Food and Diet Therapy for Insomnia
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