Reprinted fromNature's Field
Sleeping Difficulties
by Debi Lippert


Also read this page on "sleep cycle" [ About the importance of going to bed on time. ]

Due to many questions concerning sleeping disorders, I thought it a positive approach to present an article, not only on sleep, but to address questions on serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Covered in this article will be stages of sleep, reports from Western physicians, and medications (serotonin boosters). I will discuss depression, and natural selections to boost serotonin, reduce pain, sleep-aid and fight depression.


Stages of sleep

1. You are relaxing with eyes closed. Breathing is regular, pulse even, and you have fleeting thoughts.
2. You are more difficult to waken, as a deeper level of sleep is reached.
3. Even deeper level, generally occurs 20 minutes after falling asleep. Blood pressure and body temperature usually decrease at this time.
4. The deepest level of sleep. You are relaxed and quite difficult to awaken.
During the onset of sleep, have you experienced the sensation of falling or floating? It's not unusual, this occurs in a semi-dreamlike state, but not a true dream.
What about the sudden jerking of a part or the whole body? This phenomenon is believed to result from a sudden release of muscle tension, by a nervous system impulse in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This is not to be confused with nocturnal myoclonus (a nerve and muscular disorder characterized by repeated contractions of one or more muscle groups, typically the leg, during sleep) or restless leg syndrome (characterized during waking by an irresistible urge to move the legs). More on these conditions, later.

Causes of insomnia

There are two categories of insomnia: sleep onset (difficulty falling asleep, or the fish-out-of-water syndrome) and maintenance insomnia (frequent or early awakening or the somebody-hit-me-over-the-head syndrome). There are many reasons a person may suffer with insomnia. Everyday stress, tension, environmental changes, and emotional stress affect sleep. Fear of sleep (abused children and adult survivors suffer this), pain, discomfort, and smoking can also have a negative affect on sleep.

The foods you eat may cause sleep disorders. Many people have allergies to dairy, wheat or corn and eating these foods can bring on insomnia. Compounds in food such as caffeine, artificial colors, alcohol, tea and chocolate may cause sleep disorders. After eating too much, it is often difficult to sleep.

Medications such as drugs (man-made chemicals) in oral contraceptives, beta-blockers and thyroid medications may be the cause of insomnia. According to the PDR, there are 100+ drugs that affect sleep. If your immune system is depressed or you have yeast syndrome (Candidiasis) your ability to fall asleep may be hindered.

If the body's electromagnetic fields are disrupted by the environment (electric blankets, water bed heaters, electric clocks positioned near the sleepers head, sensitive individuals sleeping near power lines and generators), the sleep process can be greatly disrupted.

Overview of the causes of insomnia and hints to help

Many causes of sleeping disturbances are similar, and really, when you address the most serious, other conditions resolve themselves.
Pain and discomfort complaints are prevalent. See herbs for pain and serotonin boosters for information. Depression, stress and mental worry. Again, this is greatly eased by getting pain under control and providing the body/brain with needed nutrients.

Chart your activities : do not pay bills, balance the check book, or figure the IRS tax bills in the evening. Leave the wolves at the door, forget about your boss-from-hell and try to think "happy" for bedtime.

Exercise in the late afternoon or early evening increases the amount of deep sleep a person gets. Our ancestors worked their bodies and slept like a baby, you can too. Use common sense, don't "hype up" two hours before bedtime. Try to get a few of hours of sunlight as well, this assists your biological clock.

Restless leg syndrome

It is noted that almost all patients with restless leg syndrome (RLS) have nocturnal myoclonus. Weight reduction (if needed) and regular exercise are recommended. Dr. Murray, N.D. states that his studies with RLS respond very well to doses of folic acid (35-60 mg. daily). Food sources are green leafy vegetables, liver and brewer's yeast. Adelle Davis adds that torula yeast and nuts contain folic acid. Earl Mindell adds that carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkins, avocados and beans contain folic acid.
Add vitamin E for nocturnal myoclonus.

Medications
Have you recently started a new medication? Or just stopped one? Sudden withdrawal can wreck your sleeping pattern. Overthecounter medications are just as suspect. Talk with your physician about trying less toxic alternatives, or visit a Natural Health Consultant for suggestions.

Alcohol
It has been known for many years, that people who drink excessively suffer from multiple nutritional deficiencies. Scientists have shown that the desire to drink, in itself, can be caused by nutritional deficiencies; and that adequate B vitamins (especially B3 and B5) are vital to help drinking cravings and sleep.
Persons suffering from low B3 (Niacin) suffer from coated tongue, canker sores or small ulcers in mouth. They feel tense, nervous and suffer from insomnia, headaches and impaired memory. Niacin is needed along with B6 (50 to 100 mg.), magnesium and tryptophan to produce serotonin.

Caffeine
This chemical disrupts brain wave patterns during sleep. It may take longer to get to sleep, and there may be fewer periods of deep sleep. Studies confirm that brain waves are influenced by caffeine. It can cause depression, irritability, recurrent headaches, twitching and restless leg syndrome. Caffeine robs the body of B vitamins. (See the connection?).

Smoking
Nicotine stimulates adrenal hormone secretion, including increased adrenaline and cortisol secretion. The adrenal hormone cortisol inhibits the uptake of tryptophan by the brain, resulting in decreased serotonin activity in the brain (if smoking: Adrenal Support is recommended).
Nicotine also causes constriction of the arteries, which further restricts blood flow in the already oxygen starved muscles of the legs eventually damaging the arteries and leading to blood clots. Oh, and smoking also destroys vitamins, minerals and the immune system.
As mentioned, foods are directly connected with sleep and depressive conditions. Salt and sugar, artificial sweeteners (very toxic, man-made chemicals, avoid them like the poisons they are!). All contribute to serious disease and conditions, as well as depleting nutrients vital for sleep.

Serotonin boosters

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter essential for the induction of deep level, slow wave sleep (also called delta sleep). A neurotransmitter is a compound which transmits information to and from nerve cells. Neurotransmitters are referred to as natural mood enhancers and painkillers. The synthesis of serotonin within the brain is dependent on the availability of minerals, especially magnesium, Niacin (B3) and tryptophan (one of eight essential amino acids). According to Leon Chaitow, N.D. D.O. of London, England, Serotonin is a calming, analgesic-like substance which is secreted in response to carbohydrates and sugar consumption. She also believes sugar addiction may be a misguided attempt to replenish serotonin in the system.

Other neurotransmitters

Many of the antidepressant drugs and the natural treatments used by physicians ( western psychiatrists is designed to correct or lessen imbalances in the biogenic amines [biochemical de-rangement's characterized by imbalances of amino acids which form neurotransmitters]. Serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. The essential amino acid tryptophan serves as the precursor to serotonin and melatonin. Phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursors to dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which in low levels can cause forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, sleeplessness and poor muscle coordination. Mucous membranes become dry and susceptible to irritation and infection.

Medications

The following medications are prescribed to assist in increasing the availability of serotonin: Elavil, Flexeril, Sinequan, and Prozac (antidepressants given in low doses). Xanax, Klonopin and Restoril (benzodiazepines) may have both antidepressant and anti anxiety properties.
According to Konrad Kail, N.D., benzodiazepines can cause a number of side effects, including dependence, withdrawal symptoms, drug hangover, memory loss, and rebound insomnia. In rebound insomnia, sleep disorders can actually worsen after drugs are discontinued.

Self-help

I think I have made it clear to the reader, that nutrition is vital for wellness. Also important, is the responsibility and control one has to better one's lot in life. No one holds you down and shoves harmful foods, drinks or drugs down your throat or insists that you smoke. Granted, no one is perfectly disciplined, yet the choice is yours. I will try to simplify the sometimes confusing and complicated relationship between neurotransmitters and vital nutritional support. This list contains abbreviated, nutritional supplements known to help sleep, depression, and pain.

Minerals

Calcium has a sedative effect on the body. Magnesium is as important, if not more so. Calcium and magnesium supplements are available in several forms and milligrams. Herbal sources are more absorbable, in my opinion. Chromium is very helpful for people with nocturnal hypoglycemia (a drop in blood glucose level promotes awakening through the release of glucose regulatory hormones).

B Complex

Vitamins B3 (Niacin) and B6 (Pyridoxine) feeds the nerves. Vitamin B6 aids in the conversion of tryptophan, to niacin. Daily supply of all the B Vitamins (a complex formula) is vital, because it is excreted in the urine within eight hours after ingestion, and none is stored in the liver. If taking a B-complex I strongly urge a balanced formula. In other words, all of the "B's" will have the same milligram. (Example: B1 50 mg. B2 50 mg. B6 50 mg).
Folic Acid - (see restless leg syndrome).

Amino Acid complex

Both tryptophan and phenylalanine are considered essential amino acids (EAA). Phenylalanine is turned into norepinephrine and dopamine, transmitters which promote alertness and alleviates depression. Complex phenylalanine (DLPA) is very effective for pain and depression. Essential Amino Acids are eight which cannot be manufactured by the body, and must be supplied by foods or supplements. Leucine, lysine, methionine, isoleucine, valine and threonine are the other six. (You may remember tryptophan being banned by the FDA after one contaminated batch from Japan caused a serious blood disease in several people.
To date tryptophan still has not returned to public market, although it is being used every day in hospitals in TPN -iv solution and added to infant baby foods. It's interesting that soon after the FDA banned tryptophan, sales on prescription drugs for sleep and depression soared.) Supplements of amino acid complex are available in health food stores.

Food sources (abbreviated list).

Calcium - Milk and dairy. Herbs.
Magnesium - Fresh green vegetables, raw wheat germ, milk, whole grains, figs, apples, seeds and nuts-especially almonds.
Chromium - suggest supplements if dosage is important. Foods - brewers yeast, liver, whole-wheat, beets and mushrooms.

B-Complex: Liver, whole grains, wheat germ, tuna, bananas, sunflower seeds and blackstrap molasses.

Amino acids - tryptophan is found in milk/dairy products (cottage cheese). Turkey, fish (tuna), dried dates, peanuts and bananas. The herb Chamomile is a natural source of tryptophan.

Phenylalanine - all protein rich foods, soy products, cottage cheese and almonds. Lima beans, pumpkin seeds.

Natural Selections

MelatoninSo now that I have you nearly comatose from confusion, I went the extra mile and studied several natural alternative formulas. This includes combinations of vitamins and minerals, herbs (pure sources of vitamins, minerals and enzymes) and Homeopathics (natural medicine). Each of these formulas are non-addictive, and will not give you the "drugged" feeling in the morning.
Herbs feed the body, not cover up symptoms. The ONLY side effect I am aware of is: out-of-pocket expense.

First on the list, because I feel it has great merit is: Melatonin. Melatonin is a compound found in the pineal body, which has a molecular structure similar to that of serotonin. Melatonin is given to travelers for jet lag, and those suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Formulas
Herbs traditionally used with sedative properties: Chamomile, Feverfew, Hops, Scullcap, Valerian root. General personal suggestions. (Research on your own, every person is unique. You may have to try several combinations for your own "guidelines of health.")

MEGA-CHEL: Vitamins, minerals and glandular extracts in herbal blends. Fights pain, stress, nervine effect.

STRESS-J: Herbal blend - pain, sleep, nerves, depression.

Nutri-Calm: B vitamins with pain and nervine herbs. Feeds glands.

Herbal CA: Herbal calcium. Pain, nerves, muscle spasms.

Herbal Sleep: Hops, Valerian, Scullcap - Relaxes muscles, fights pain, sedative.

Nerve Eight - Eight pain and nerve fighting herbs. Stress, and anxiety.

Joint Support - Fights pain and general stiffness.

Valerian Root Extract - Valerian root, and five other herbs to ease pain and stress.
European scientists found Valerian root to be a proven, safe sleep aid, with no adverse reactions, and unlike barbiturates (sleeping pills), Valerian root does not have a synergy with alcohol.(6)
NSP has several homeopathic remedies too. The medicine Rhus Tox. that I wrote about for FMS (Fibromyalgia) pain has been used successfully for restless leg syndrome. Remember! Herbs and your body need water - drink plenty of pure (filtered!!) water.

Tips for better sleep: Darken and soundproof your bedroom. Use earplugs if a light sleeper. Adjust the temperature, add a window AC if necessary. The bed must suit your needs, as well as the pillow.

The natural selections and guideline I have provided for the reader has been well received by many people I reach through my work as a Natural Health Consultant. You need not suffer from sleep deprivation, the answers are out there; the pathway can be non-toxic and non-addictive. The choice is yours.

Footnotes:

1 Medical and Health Encyclopedia"sleep/dream cycle", pp. 299
2 Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine , pp. 393
3 Alternative Medicine, A Definitive Guide , pp. 485
4 Ibid. , pp. 841
5 Dr. Atkin's Super-Energy Diet pp. 22
6 European Scientific Cooperative for Phytotherapy 1990 Valerian Root

Sources:

The New Complete Medical and Health Encyclopedia. (Lexicon Publications, New York, NY)
Doctor's Vitamin and Mineral Encyclopedia by Sheldon Saul Hendler, M.D., Ph.D. (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY 1990)
Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible. Earl Mindell, R. Ph., Ph.D., and Carol Colman (Simon & Schuster/Fireside, New York, NY 1992)
Earl Mindell's Herb Bible. Earl Mindell, R. Ph., Ph.D., and Carol Colman (Simon & Schuster/Fireside, New York, NY 1992)
Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. (Prima publishing, Rocklin, CA 1991)
Doctor Atkins Super Energy Book/ Robert C. Atkins, M.D. (Crown Publishing, New York, NY 1981)
Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit / Adelle Davis (Signet publishing, New York, NY 1953)
Dorland's Medical Dictionary
Nursing Drug Handbook
Webster's Dictionary
Natural Healing and Nutrition 1990
Health Counselor Magazine Jan/Feb 1991
Formulas For Health booklet.
The Vitamin/Herb Guide by Global Health


This information is for educational purposes only. Consult with a qualified health practictioner for all serious or persistant illness.
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