CISRA’s Synergy Health Newsletter

Issue 3. Some Possible Alternative Ways of Obtaining Better Quality Sleep (1998)

by J. C. Waterhouse, Ph.D.

Something else I wanted to let you know about was the success of my own personal sleep experiment involving going to bed earlier in synchrony with my sleep cycle. I ordered the tape of the public radio interview of the U.C.S.D. sleep researcher Sonia Ancoli-Israel (author of All I Want is a Good Night’s Sleep.) She told of her research on elderly people who slept poorly because they tended to awaken at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and not be able to go to sleep again. They found that their sleep cycle had become advanced and they felt sleepy around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. Since they felt it was not acceptable to go to sleep that early, they tended to often get only 5 or 6 hours of sleep at night. If these people went to bed earlier they got the full advantage of the deepest levels of sleep (i.e. the higher levels of growth hormone and other hormones needed for optimum rest and repair) that occurred during the first half of the night. After I heard the interview, I supposed that many of the elderly people she studied who had sleep problems might well have had some level of fibromyalgia or at least a very similar problem because of the similarity to the sleep problems common in Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. So I decided to start going to bed as close to 8:00 or 9:00 as I could manage. The result has been that my sleep has been much more consistent and I awake more refreshed. Now the only time I sleep less than 7 hours is when I stay up too late or have an increase in stress. I don’t expect to need to do it forever, just until I get further along in the recovery process. Although I had vaguely heard some time ago of the benefits of going to bed earlier, it was never enough information to make me believe it was worth taking very seriously. But now that research has shown the importance of growth hormone in this and other illnesses, it all becomes a much more compelling reason to go to bed early. Growth hormone production is greatest if one goes to bed in synchrony with one’s natural circadian rhythm. When the body temperature declines is the optimal time to go to sleep. I have also heard of research by the military (I heard in on CNN Healthwatch program a year or so ago) that shows that sleep deprivation particularly affects the prefrontal cortex. Thus it tends to affects one’s ability to think spatially and to carry through on tasks that require a certain level of motivation. It fits with the kinds of symptoms I notice when I sleep poorly. I find sequential thought and motivation to carry through on things especially affected. I could tell my spatial skills were way off because making corrections on the computer was so difficult. I found it very hard to locate things spatially on the screen. Another approach that may work for some is to increase exposure to bright light in the afternoon, however, I found this did not help me significantly.

I thought it was also interesting that my problem with waking too early got worse at higher doses of guaifenesin or when the reversal process was most intense. It is then when I find going to bed early most helpful. It was also interesting that at one point I realized I stopped having the problem of waking too early and thought that I was past that stage of the guaifenesin reversal process. Later I found out that I was being blocked by large amounts of bioflavonoids (containing salicylates) in the Vitamin C brand I had temporarily changed to. When I stopped the bioflavonoids and the guaifenesin reversal process increased, I again needed to go to bed earlier in order to get 8 hours of sleep. I would be interested to know if anyone else has similar experiences. I already know at least one other person who finds the earlier bedtimes I suggested helpful.

For those with the opposite problem of not feeling sleepy until very late at night, an adrenal stress index test (Diagnos-Techs Lab– 800-87TESTS) might be appropriate. It measures bioactive cortisol and DHEA in the saliva at four times during the day. If DHEA is low and cortisol is high at midnight, taking DHEA at bedtime may help normalize sleep patterns. Alternatively, the melatonin biorhythm test that Diagnos-Techs lab does may be helpful, or one may try increasing exposure to bright light in the morning.

By the way, so far I do not personally seem to benefit noticeably from 5-htp (a chemical cousin of the amino acid tryptophan), but that may be because I eat so much high tryptophan foods like turkey and chicken or just naturally tend to have adequate serotonin. I was never helped by the SSRI anti-depressants like Prozac or Zoloft. However, 5-htp may be worth considering for other patients. They make it in capsules containing from 100 mg up to 400 mg. It may be ordered from College Pharmacy in Colorado (833 N. Gejon, Colorado Springs 80903, 800/888-9358). The over-the-counter forms may be extracted from Griffonia seeds and thus have the potential to contain salicylates, which may be a problem for fibromyalgics using the guaifenesin treatment approach. Other supplements, like GABA, magnesium, or taurine may help. Inadequate estrogen may be a problem for some. Reducing carbohydrates and allergies/sensitivities are other approaches that frequently help sleep. See the book, All I Want is a Good Night’s Sleep, by Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel for details on sleep hygiene, sleep disorders and medications. Of the medications I have tried, I have found 2-5 mg Ambien helpful, sometimes in combination with a very low dose of Sinequan (4-5 mg of the liquid form). I find that the very low doses I use prevent problems with excessive morning grogginess that sometimes occurs with sleeping medications.

Editorial Note (August 12, 2006): For an update on my views on treatment of many chronic illnesses, see the transcript of a talk I gave in 2005. I give an overview of what has helped me most, with an emphasis on a new approach, called the Marshall Protocol (MP). For many people, the MP seems to be able to reverse the immune and hormonal dysregulation that may account for a wide variety of symptoms, including sleep disorders, susceptibility to chronic infections and allergies/sensitivities.

Written by synergyhn

October 30, 1998 at 4:20 am

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