Trouble Stacking ZZZs?

September 11, 2009
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Join the Crowd!

insomnia_womanNearly two-thirds of American adults suffer sleep problems several nights a week. Even worse, 58 percent of us experience one or more symptoms of insomnia, the most common sleep disorder.

Whether we have difficulty getting to sleep in the first place or wake up in the middle of the night to toss and turn, women suffer more sleep problems than men. And as we grow older, the incidence of insomnia only increases.

Besides feeling cranky the next day or nodding off at your desk, sleep problems can cause serious long-term effects. For starters, lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes and obesity. Who knew?

Research at the University of Chicago found that too little sleep inhibits the way the body handles food, creating impaired glucose tolerance. This can result in insulin resistance—and unwanted pounds.

A lack of quality (deep or rapid-eye movement) sleep appears to inhibit growth hormones, leading to increased fatty tissue and reduced muscle mass. Sleep deprivation also lowers body temperature and causes fatigue, naturally making you want to eat more to increase energy and help you stay warm.

That’s not all. New research reports that for every hour’s reduction in sleep, the risk of high blood pressure rises 37 percent. Insomnia also leads to cardiovascular problems, depression, dizziness, memory loss, tremors, and trouble speaking.

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

As strange as it sounds, I have come to believe that we are slowly dying —”really” dying—for a good night’s sleep. Researchers from the MacArthur Mind/Body Foundation at the University of Chicago, the National Institutes of Health,  the National Institutes of Mental Health, and NASA agree.

On anything less than 9.5 hours of sleep at least seven months out of the year, we can develop heart disease, diabetes, severe depression, and cancer. That realization alone can give you sleepless nights!

Truth is, there’s a lot you can do to sleep soundly. Exercise regularly during the day and make sure to get some natural light in your eyes that can “feed” the pineal gland.

Sunglasses, regular glasses, and contact lens can block the natural light responsible for regulating the body’s 24-hour circadian rhythm. This in turn impacts sleep, mood, and appetite. If the pineal gland isn’t properly releasing the hormone melatonin, that can disturb sleeping-waking cycles. Production of this hormone peaks between 2 and 4 pm.

I recommend that everyone, particularly people over 40, take melatonin. Anywhere from 3 to 15 mg of a time-released melatonin a half hour before bedtime can promote a restful night’s sleep.

Stress plays a role here too. Learn to take control of life, especially your time. Break the worry habit, and learn to share your feelings. The Bach Flower remedy White Chestnut is great to take before sleep if you are preoccupied and worried.

Remember that sleep and the adrenal hormone cortisol are intricately entwined. Insufficient sleep forces cortisol levels to rise and stay elevated. A 50-year-old may have evening cortisol levels as much as 30 percent higher than a 20-something. Not exactly sleep inducing!

Cortisol works in concert with other chemicals to quicken fat storage, targeting the central fat cells. This releases glucose and fatty acids providing energy to muscles and stimulating the appetite.

Many people are helped with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda mixed in 8 ounces of water a half hour before bedtime. This simple remedy reduces overacidity as we grow old—it’s been a godsend for me and my clients.

Also support your adrenal glands with mineral-rich foods. Go for vibrant colors in fruits and vegetables: green (broccoli, collards, kale, and mustard greens) and yellow-orange (cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes).

Adaptogenic herbs—American and Chinese ginseng, hops, passionflower, and skullcap—help the body adapt to stress. Hops, passionflower, and skullcap also work as natural sedatives, helping to promote sleep.

Vitamin B12 appears to significantly relieve insomnia. In one study, 3,000 mcg of this vitamin enabled people with sleep problems to drift off more easily and stay asleep longer. B complex vitamins are crucial during stress.

Chinese medicine says that the liver governs the body during the early morning hours. If you awaken regularly between 1 and 3 am, your liver may need some extra TLC. (Cut out overly fatty foods and make sure you are not overdoing over-the-counter meds.)

Do you crave chocolate when you have trouble sleeping? That usually means you need more magnesium, an important mineral that promotes sleep and supports cardiovascular health.

Try taking magnesium just before bedtime. If you wake up during the night, take another dose. I like Magnesium 400 mg.


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Bev

    I have been suffering miserably with insomnia for the past several weeks – a sleep clinic doctor – nice as he was said it was “secondary insomnia, due to a physical condition, called “menopause.”

    I’ve tried melatonin – it give me an upset stomach the next day. B-complex vitamins cause me heart palpitations – which my regular physician suggested to me….I’m in a quandry as to what to do to get back my peaceful and much-needed sleep.

    Very discouraging. I don’t know how much longer I can take this.

  2. Emily

    I tried every non-prescription remedy out there, including EFT and nothing helped. I had to resort to pharmaceuticals. I think it’s worth trying melatonin, tryptophane, lemon balm, and a host of other things, but they didn’t work for me.

  3. EJ

    I’m in the same boat as Bev. Insomnia is a recent and unwelcome development. Melatonin at 1mg (as recommended by my naturopath) isn’t working. I can get to sleep, but don’t stay asleep. I might try to increase the dosage and hope for the best. Last night I tried L-Tryptophan, which seemed to work a little better. I take B vits and Magnesium everyday anyway. So far the only thing that works 100% is Xanax, but I don’t want to take that for obvious reasons.

  4. Fee

    I find that the baking soda really works quiet well. I have restless leg syndrome and found that listed as a treatment for restless legs and it really works. Fee

  5. Bev

    I’ll try the baking soda….have tried just about everything else that I can think of….I’m SO sensitive to meds and supplements -and I have glaucoma – so there’s a lot of things I cannot take, as well. I’m a mess right now – and don’t know what to do.

  6. Susan

    EJ- You may want to look into Adrenal Fatigue at or Both sites have a huge amount of info on AF. It’s not a condition that most doc’s are aware of because in school they only learn about adrenal failure, so they aren’t too hip to the many ailments that go with AF. But waking up in the middle of the night is one of the first signs of AF. Hope this helps. Many blessings and good health to you!

  7. Janine

    Try reading Ann Louise’s book, “Hot Times” it has some great tips for menopausal symptoms.

  8. Teddie

    I have found that taking Melatonin and Valerian together helps me fall asleep.

  9. Catherine

    I take 1000 mg of calcioum,magnesium, valerium, melatonin, and selenium before I go to bed. That works well together.

  10. Toni

    I completely stopped sleeping on May 6th, 2008. Months before that, I was waking hourly with hot flashes, despite being on bio identical hormone therapy. For 2 weeks I kept working,with extreme fatigue and feeling faint. i tried EVERYTHING out there for natural sleep enhancement; melatonin, 5HTP, theonine, etc. nothing helped.

    My physician tried a few prescription sleep aids, the only one that worked was Ambien. It got me to sleep, but only for 2 hours.

    A hormone panel (saliva test) showed elevated cortisol at night, and very low DHEA levels.(I am 53.) Consequently,my hormone prescriptions were adjusted. I was diagnosed with extreme adrenal fatigue, that ended up as chronic adrenal fatigue. I had to retire from work, and am on disability.

    My story could go on and on, but only desire is to encourage you all to do what ever it takes to sleep. Don’t ignore it. I HATE any kind of medication, but had to resort to it. Severe sleep deprivation is so awfull, one will do anything to sleep.

    Now, 15 months later, I am finally able to go to sleep on my own, and sleep 15min to 4 hrs. I use melatonin right before sleep, then when I wake up, 1/2 ambien combined with trazadone, or amitriptaline, alternating every other night. I was also on zanax, but have succesfully weaned that off, and am working on getting off the ambien as my sleep improves.

    The biggest challeng for me was to work on my emotional health. Years of constant stress, both obvious and unknown stress, was the culpret, along with menapause, which is also stressfull. I have recommendations on how to be worry and strss free if any one is interested.


  11. Bev

    Toni – I’m interested! Thanks!!

  12. connie Paxman

    I am so excited to have found your blog…I purchashed years ago your book The Fat Flush Plan, I followed you plan like a trooper and succeffully lost 48 lbs…
    Now nine years later I seem to have fallen off the healthylifestyle wagaon and need to get back on.
    thanks for being such a gem

  13. Bev

    I am planning to start Fat Flush, for the very first time, on Tuesday (I would actually have started tomorrow – Monday – but am not able to get to the store to purchase the items until tomorrow. I’ve been inspired by several of my friends – so – I think I am truly ready, now…..I just want to feel better – and any lbs. I can lose will most certainly be an added bonus. Not only doing this for myself – but my oldest son is getting married next July, other two sons are graduating college and high school – class reunion and many other BIG events (umm – no wonder I’m not sleeping well, these days!!)

    Anyway – looking forward to beginning the program.
    I am so happy to have found this blog, too.


  14. Toni

    Bev; below is a list of things that have helped me.

    “Deadly Emotions” author Dr. Don Colbert, MD

    Holosynch Meditation tapes;

    Neurobehavior programs;
    (Dr. John Leanard 707-688-8956)

    Below is more details if you care to read it!

    I discovered that negative emotions, stress and worry, especially if kept buried, really zap energy,keeps one from sleeping, and causes illness. When I first became ill, repressed anger came up, and that was my first clue that my fatigue was an emotional/mental issue. Really listening to others, what they saw in me without getting defensive, has my first help.

    Next, a little book called “Deadly Emotions” by Dr. Don Colbert, helped me tremendously to deal with all the crap I had ignored for years, as well as current stressors. I had amazing emotional healing with this book.

    Meditation is a must; I had a hard time meditating on my own. My mind would wander to easily. I started using meditation tapes, which are great. Either way, on your own or with tapes, meditation allows your subconcious to work through issues, and with deep relaxation you become a calmer and healthier person.

    I heavly used TFT (also known as EFT) before I became ill and during, which did help, but I found it so tedious to always be tapping out the sequence every time things popped up, which was all night long when I was at my worst. My physician refered me to a psychologist, Dr Leonard, who created a program for trama release, called Neurobehavioral Health. The program is just three sessions, in which I was taught how to release any negative emotion, stress, past traumas etc. This technique is so much easier and more effective than TFT or EFT, and after 3 sessions, you are able to eliminate on your own anything that comes. No need to continue with counseling. (It is also used for pain and weight control)

    Wow, my coments are to long. Sorry!

    I’ll finish up by saying to never stop praying, taking time for yourself, and relaxing.

    Be emotonally/spiritually and mentally healthy!


  15. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Hi Everyone:
    Just arrived home from my Cruise to Lose venture in Alaska. The baking soda rememdy WORKS…and since it feeds the adrenals, it is well worth a try unless hypertension is a concern. We tend to get very acidic as we get older. Wishing you all the best and lots of ZZZsss. I also find that upping my daily adrenal supplement prevents me from awakening intermittently at night.

  16. Bev

    Well -I thought I’d try the baking soda – but I have high blood pressure – so I guess that won’t work for me, either.

  17. Ann Louise Gittleman

    You can pick up the Nat Mur cell salt at your local health food store – 6X potency. This is “salt-free” and has been found to help restore sodium levels without the salt 🙂

  18. Bev

    Thanks – so I would use it just like the baking soda before bedtime?

    I LOVE this blog and all the valuable information.


  19. Almeda

    That seems like a lot of Melatonin. Does the slow-release kind allow you to take higher doses? Can you take too much? What happens to the excess?

  20. Carol

    I have tried the Melatonin, 5HTP and PassionFlower, but am willing to try the baking soda idea. What works for me sometimes is an Amazon Herb product called Calmazon.

  21. Toni

    I use melatonin 3mg sublingual @ bedtime, then 3mg again when i wake up. I also am adding a 3mg time released dose at bedtime. I have used 9mg in the past, recommended by my health care provider, without any side effects. It wasn’t keeping me asleep at the time, but now seems to help, so I am willing to increase the dose.

    I am also goimg to try the baking soda tonight.

  22. Bev

    Thanks so much, Toni, for all of the information you posted regarding emotions, especially as they relate to sleeping etc,

    I am so very grateful.

    I’ll check those things out you mentioned.

  23. Ronda

    B12 for sleep??? I thought it was for energy. When are you supposed to take it? I assume bedtime??

  24. Almeda

    Thanks, Toni, for sharing your dosages of Melatonin. Don’t know how to find the right amount for me. Six mgs left me a little slow the next day one time, but did not do that another time. I’m reluctant to try nine, 12 or 15 for fear I’ll be wobbly all the next day.

  25. Toni

    Yes, Almeda it still makes me a little anxious to go too high; science is always changing their views!Combining the herbal sleep aids (passion flower, valarian, camomile) with melatonin seems to help me sleep better. there are sleep aids that combine all these togther, at health stores.

  26. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Dear Friends:
    I would love to answer each and every single one of your queries, as I have done to the best of my ability, in the past. The popularity of this Blog has grown to the extent that I can no longer provide that service but I am in the planning stages of an Internet – TV show where you can call in and get those questions answered by me in person! Please stay tuned for this exciting development. I first must complete a new manuscript and then will make some exciting announcements. In the interim, may I suggest that if you have questions about products, call UNI KEY at 1-800-888-4353. The folks there are helpful and will direct you accordingly. If you are concerned about a particular health condition, then by all means check out the Testing Kits on my site which will help you to determine underlying causes. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and interest!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This