What to Do for the Sleep You Deserve

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Friday, July, 08 2011 04:40:00 pm   , 1056 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 117260 views

Part 3 [Part 1 , Part 2]

Except for times like my recent* bout of fibromyalgia (or whenever I inadvertently come into contact with the compounds I've been describing), I really have little trouble falling asleep---which is not to say that I always retire early and follow a rigid sleep schedule. Sleep for me now is more a matter of my desire or need for it.

Although I have some things I do to fall asleep fast or to reset my biological clock from time to time, by in large such steps are no longer a big concern for me now. About the most effective thing I do now if I'm not drifting off to my satisfaction is to take a spoonful of honey. Sounds almost silly and just too darn simple, but it does work, quite well in fact. Honey contains several forms of very simple sugars (chiefly fructose and sucrose), and sugars are soporifics (anything which causes sleep). True, sugars are important energy foods, but their soporific effect is felt by the body way before the sugars reach the cells where they are metabolized to release energy [1].

Angelic* noted that chamomile is a very popular herb in Greece and something she takes to help her fall asleep. It's a natural sleep aid I've used for years, but the taste is kind of strange. It has a scent like apples, but I swear I detect a taste or smell of old inner tube as well. I put a spoonful of honey in it (or if I don't have it, just regular granulated sugar---which is also soporific).
Something that I often take with the chamomile tea (that is, mixed into it) is a few drops of valerian root extract. I like the extract much more than the capsules because the latter upset my stomach. So I get the effect of three sleep aids all in one cup (chamomile, valerian, and sugar or honey). (I worry a bit about the sugar and so brush my teeth with a bit of baking soda, which leaves no residue that I can't tolerate, as would fluoride, which I mentioned was one of the compounds that caused me sleeplessness. Also, I don't miss using fluoride anyhow, because a lot of people are still convinced that it is carcinogenic. I'm not arguing either way, but I'd rather err on the side of caution.) When I don't have any chamomile to put the valerian root extract in, I put a few drops into half a glass of Sprite or 7-Up. It doesn't exactly "dissolve" well throughout (as it does in the tea), but I just drink it on down anyhow. Incidentally, 7-Up was reformulated in 2006 when calcium disodium edta was taken out (hooray!) [2].

Shelli* mentioned aromatherapy, and sent a website url [3] for some articles on aromatherapy and lists of scents popular for thus treating insomnia. I've never tried any of the scents mentioned therein, but I do recall trying one (probably real unusual) thing that I had heard about on t.v., and it worked: onions. (Yep, sounds silly, but I took a little piece of an onion to bed and just sniffed it every now and then and darn if I didn't dose right off.) A bit of internet research just now reveals that Pliny the Elder wrote about the value of onions in inducing sleep [4].

Another often recommended tip for falling asleep is to drink warm milk (hmm, wonder why it has to be warm?---yuk!). Drinking a bit of milk has helped me, but because I have acid reflux and am a bit lactose intolerant (must be the Cherokee in me!), I really need to be careful (and it is thus something I wouldn't recommend---ever woke up choking on stomach acid in the middle of the night?---scary). Milk has calcium which has a calming effect on the body. It also has tryptophan (as do foods such as brown rice, peanuts, turkey, and soy [5]---the last of which I am sensitive to, in spite of its having something useful for sleep) which is well known to have a calming effect (in fact, L-tryptophan tablets were a quite popular in the late '70's and early '80's before some glitch in their manufacture caused health concerns about taking them.)

Tish* commented on the hormone melatonin and its role in establishing and maintaining the circadian rhythms of the body. She pointed out that it is made in the brain by the pineal gland. There melatonin is created from the amino acid tryptophan in the synthesis of serotonin. Interestingly, serotonin deficiency is associated with several disorders including fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and tinnitus. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of sleep [6]. Tish also pointed out that because melatonin is made by the pineal gland, it is made available for sale in a natural form (made from the pineal glands of animals) and a synthetic form. I share her concerns about taking the natural form due to possible viral contamination.

Lastly, speaking of circadian rhythms of the body (basically the body's "clock"), there is a condition, known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as winter depression), that affects some people north of 30-degrees N latitude and south of 30-degrees S latitude. It is a depression related to the limited amount of daylight and also to lower amounts of melatonin and serotonin. Sunlight produces in humans a form of Vitamin D (called solitrol) which is more effective than the form found in milk and fish. This form, solitrol, is involved antagonistically with melatonin in producing changes in mood and maintaining circadian rhythms. So, especially in winter, it is very important that we spend time (even during cold spells) outside so that our skin can produce in abundance the form of Vitamin D we need to set and maintain our "body clocks." Staying indoors frustrates that rhythm [7]. One need not be out in open sunlight, but really in winter that shouldn't be much of an issue---it's not like your going to get burned to a crisp as you would on a beach in mid-summer.


1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey


2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7-Up



4) http://onions-usa.org/all-about-onions/history-of-onions


5) http://www.cocoonnutrition.org/catalog/page_tryptophan.php

6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin


7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder





*This part of this series on insomnia and sleep first appeared on February 7, 2007, as a blog entry in my Y!360 social-networking blog. Names cited herein are of contacts who had commented to part 2. [Part 1 , Part 2]

Mr. Sandman Revisited

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Saturday, July, 02 2011 08:41:00 pm   , 1279 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 26371 views

(Part 2 of 3) [Part 1 , Part  3]

In the previous segment of this article on insomnia, I mentioned food ingredients that cause me to not be able to fall asleep. Briefly, here are a few comments about each ingredient I mentioned earlier, as well as two I forgot to list, BHA and BHT.

Anything processed and preserved potentially can have chemicals that I really shouldn't have.
For example: Grocery stores used to have meat cutters (they were regarded as expensive, mostly union, labor) so, anymore, stores like Wal-Mart buy meat already cut but preserved in or with chemicals called sodium phosphates. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat as much meat as I used to, mostly because you can't get really fresh and wholesome meat anymore. I buy meat only at stores that hire meat cutters and get their meat as carcasses and cut it there in the store. It's fresh meat, not preserved. At Wal-Mart you'll see meat that is real, real red and in little sealed "caskets," with cellophane stretched real tight across the top (like a drum), and you'll see that sodium phosphate solution at the bottom, under the meat. Sodium phosphates (mono-, di, and tri-) are used for a variety of industrial purposes. As I recall, their use in foods began about when sodium nitrate was found to be carcinogenic and banned from use in food. Sodium phosphates are commonly found in processed meats and baked goods. They are found in some brands of baking powder. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is available in most hardware stores in crystalline form, for use as a de-greaser and cleaning agent to prepare surfaces for painting (yummy!)

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is put in lots of foods: mostly in processed meats and baked goods. It is a taste enhancer to make people think the food is actually better than it really is (like cooks who over-salt their bad cooking, or use too many spices). Some people call MSG an "excitotoxin."

Calcium Disodium EDTA and Disodium EDTA are used to make vegetables in cans have the color they had before they were cooked and canned! The canners seem to think people will like their veggies better if they don't look so cooked. (Strange, but I always like my cooked food to look cooked!)

TBHQ (tertiary butyl hydroquinone), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants used to make crisp foods (like cookies and crackers) not go stale. (I believe they used to put this stuff in the cardboard around the food instead of in it!)

Speaking of antioxidants, some vitamins that are antioxidants (namely Vitamin C) are put into foods in huge quantities. Some fruit juices have so much that one serving (an average sized drinking glass) has 70 to 100% of the vitamin you'd need for a whole day! Just what you need right before turning in for the night! Some cereals are so over-saturated with supplemental vitamins that they are even advertised as such: for example, (being silly here) "New!: Complete Cereal---one bowl has more vitamins than you'll need in ten lifetimes!"

I avoid taking any kind of minerals or vitamin supplements in the evening. A zinc tablet at night will be a sure ticket to insomnia. Ditto, a magnesium tablet. (I take the latter because coastal Texas water is soft water, and people in areas with hard water tend to, on average, live longer considerably. Also, magnesium chelates the blood so that one doesn't get calcium kidney stones, a problem I've had in the past. Incidentally, soy can lead to kidney stones, another reason to avoid it.) I think one's body in the late evening tries to slow down the metabolism, and any strange dosage of anything, even natural (but large amounts of) nutrients, just revs it back up. (I can't even eat an orange close to bedtime because it just has too much of a Vitamin C kick. Ditto with cranberry juice!)


Transdermal reactions:


Bizarre food ingredients are not the only elements involved in my insomnia. I have identified several things that affect me merely by skin contact. I have found that shampooing my hair at night is a surefire way to loose sleep. The problem largely is all the weird chemicals in most shampoos, but I even have the problem when I wash my hair with a very plain clean-rinsing soap. So I "theorize" that somehow just the removal of the body oils on the skin somehow causes some sort of transdermal effect of soap, so I wash my hair in the a.m., so that by night whatever the effect from washing it, it will be abated by bedtime.

I have found that highly perfumed laundry detergents cause me problems, so I wash my clothes in as plain a detergent as possible, one that is free of perfumes or dyes. I also don't use fabric softeners (these are loaded with perfumes). I'll stay out of a room that has been sprayed with air fresheners until the smell dies down, so that I won't be breathing perfumes into my metabolism. (I prefer to "freshen" the air inside with just good ol' clean air through open widows and vacuuming.)
I don't pump gas at night. If I get a wiff while I'm pumping it, I can count on a sleepless night. Diesel: I can't get it on me any at all after noon. If so, I can't wipe or wash it off fast enough. No sleep! (Hmm, I wonder about biodiesel?)

Over stress of delicate nerves (neck, shoulders, wrists, fingers) is another way to scare away the sandman. I pointed out my problems with fibromyalgia in an earlier blog.* There are several interconnections with that condition, my insomnia, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). In fact, I get tinnitus when I've eaten the wrong things (the aforementioned things). Sodium phosphates...tinnitus. Soy...tinnitus. Work too much on the computer...tinnitus. It's all very consistent. Whenever I've eaten something I shouldn't have or got something on me I shouldn't have, like diesel, I get tinnitus. I get tinnitus and insomnia when I've stressed delicate nerves too much. This is one reason I don't hold a book at night when I'm reading. I'll either read it flat or prop it up on my chest with the blanket. Also, weird, I read at night with cotton gloves on so as not to get transdermal soy inks into my bloodstream. I have a set of The New Handbook of Texas, in which I have eight articles published. (My ancestor, William C. Gill, was at the Battle of San Jacinto. I'm seventh generation Texan. My family has been right here in this and an adjacent county since 1831.) If I so much as touch those books, I don't sleep! (So, at night if I am researching, I go online to look up stuff that's in books right there at the head of my bed!)

Some people suggest weird stuff like don't listen to the world's problems on t. v. or radio before you go to sleep. I really don't think emotions (except in really extreme cases) keep us up. In fact, t.v. and, to a lesser extent, talk (i.e., snooze) radio just lull me right to sleep. People seem to have the cart before the horse: they stay up "worrying" about stuff because there's nothing much else to do if they have insomnia (HELLO!). That doesn't mean that what they think about is what is keeping them up; it's all the environmental and physical factors such as I've listed.

Continued (Next time: Things I take when I have a bit of trouble falling asleep...yep Chamomile tea...!)


*This article first appeared on February 4, 2007, as a blog entry in my Y!360 social-networking blog.


[Part 1 , Part 3]

Sleep: Staying Friends With the Sandman

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Thursday, June, 30 2011 09:11:00 pm   , 1167 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 39750 views

All of my adult life, I have had problems sleeping. Knock wood, I have it very much under control now. It's even safe to say that I have "cured" myself of the condition. My problems with insomnia began during late adolescence and have greatly, negatively impacted my life. I went to doctors several times about the situation and my problem was always treated as a temporary bout; thus I was only occasionally put on any medications. One particular, fruitless doctor-visit gave me the resolve to once and for all discover the cause of my sleeplessness and to rectify the situation for good. Except for my answers given on Yahoo!Answers and in a few notes to people met through Yahoo!Answers and Y!360, this* is the first time I've really gone into detail about my insomnia. For over a thirty year period, no doctor ever correctly diagnosed my problem: I discovered most of what I mention herein myself. I'm not ludicrously taking credit for discovering the negative effects of caffeine or MSG, but I am listing them with other things that I have found have caused problems for me. Thus, this blog is to explain what I have found concerning chemical sensitivities in the hope that others will be helped from my listing of the things that I know cause me not to sleep.

Insomnia is a very complicated matter, and much attention is given to it in the media. Unfortunately, such coverage is often simplistic and usually involves the silly subject of "sleep hygiene," which is just obvious suggestions such as "Sleep with the lights off," "Go to bed at a particular time," and "Get comfortable." Oh, please, as if most of us don't instinctively know all that! Indeed, to suggest that someone can not sleep because of turning in late a few nights is silly and totally misses the mark. So, here's a side of the story the media (except for its usual mention of caffeine) never covers.

I began to have trouble sleeping at about age 17. That's not much after I began to drink coffee at times in the evenings (not then really being concerned by its effects). I remember going to school a few times with no sleep at all (oh, the joy of p.e. after no sleep!). A diagnoses then would have been rather simple---lay off the coffee except for in the mornings. I'm sure that another culprit, mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) was responsible for my losing sleep some of those nights, but it wasn't as much an additive in foods then as it is today. Another contributing factor to my insomnia then was fluoride (only I wasn't aware of its effects then). At that time, my family lived in a small town that had fluoridated water. Also, the stuff even then was in most toothpastes (today you can't buy toothpaste without that stuff in it). As I'll mention later, I've found ways to cope: for example, I brush my teeth during the day with toothpaste, but in the evenings with just a bit of baking soda.

My big-time problems with insomnia began with the introduction into the American diet of (excuse me while I scowl...!) soybeans. (Gosh, if I had the power to make just one thing extinct...!) Oh, the mighty soybean was the agricultural darling of the '70's. Agribusiness was in love! They started putting that junk into everything. Now vegetarians could get their protein and obese people could lay off meat and consequently the fat that was causing "all" their problems. Yeah, right, and business could get richer by putting something as cheap (and tasty) as dirt in our food! Today, you can hardly buy a loaf of bread made without soy flour! I can eat food that has soy oil in it, so whatever is in soybeans that causes insomnia for me is in the solids. I particularly have a problem with soy lecithin. (The body's nerve tissues contains phosphatides called lecithin! So I wonder, is the lecithin from these beans that make me hyper somehow reacting with the lecithin in my nerves? The dictionary says that these phosphatides are found in nerve tissue, blood, milk, egg yolk, soybeans, corn, etc., and that they are used as a wetting, emulsifying, and penetrating agent. Oh, goody, soybean lecithin penetrating my nerves!) [**Read this article for the solution to the soybean riddle just posed herein: It explains why I was not able to sleep due to ingestion of soybean solids---because soy flour and other soy solids are processed with MSG!  I came across this herein-cited article just shortly after I had first* posted this blog on my Y!360 site, along with a few others that basically stated that soy solids and certain acids are placed into aluminum tubs or vats along with MSG to kill the bean taste, thereby making it possible to make a flour that can be used to replace more expensive wheat flour.  (Or hydrolysis is used in place of acids. At any rate, MSG is used in processing the soy flour.) So, for several years now I have eaten bread made with wheat flour and avoid bread made using soy flour or containing any soy solids, such as soy lecithin.]

I've been a "health nut" most of my life. I was given a copy of Organic Gardening and Farming magazine at age 17, and became something of a fanatic about naturally grown foods. After years of coping the best I could with three (sometimes even four) nights a week with no sleep at all, I went to a family practitioner after my regular doctor had moved. This guy was absolutely certain that I was merely a druggie trying to rip him off of a prescription for drugs. After I made the comment that my father had just passed away but I didn't think that emotional upset was causing what was a much longer-existing problem, he gave me a prescription! (I'm sure he was just looking for the right angle through which to just cover his ***!) I was furious, I reasoned that if coffee could keep people awake, why couldn't other things. I threw the prescription away and came home and emptied the trash so I could read food labels. The highly-processed turkey and gravy I had eaten the night before was loaded with MSG. Since then I have read food labels and have identified the following as ingredients to avoid: mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), sodium phosphates, disodium edta [look for this in canned goods---it's to give your cooked veggies a phony-looking raw color---hmm, I always wanted my cooked food to look cooked!], calcium disodium edta [also used in can-goods and was for quite some time used in 7-Up], and TBHQ. Besides these chemicals, I've also found that I have to be careful of eating in the evenings heavily vitamin- and mineral-laced foods, such as cereals, fruit drinks, and so on.


(Continued in next blog.) [Part 2 , Part 3]


*This article first appeared on February 3, 2007, as a blog entry in my Y!360 social-networking blog.

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