Sleeping better - methods and supplements

Blog entry posted by PatJ, Aug 27, 2017.

This information is not medical advice.

This blog entry covers the methods and supplements I use to get a decent night of sleep.

My sleep used to be like this: lose consciousness, toss and turn all night with very shallow sleep (intermittent consciousness), then wake up feeling like nothing happened during the night. It was about as effective as closing my eyes and opening them again. There was no sense of time having passed, no sense of having slept, no dreams, just more feeling exactly the same as when I went to bed.

I had no idea how bad my 'sleep' had become because the sleep quality degraded very slowly. When I read that 'non-restorative sleep' was a CFS/ME symptom, I new exactly what that symptom felt like.

After a lot of experimentation I've found a mixture of methods and supplements that help me get a much better night of sleep. Each of these contributes a little but all of them together add up to a decent night.

I can now go to sleep fairly easily, and when I wake during the night I feel a little groggy and can usually go back to sleep without difficulty. I still wake up to change position several times per night but go right back to sleep. In the morning I feel like I've slept and sometimes have a pleasant 'I just want to lie here for awhile' feeling that was missing for almost a decade before I arrived at my current sleep methods and supplements.

Inclined bed
The head of my bed is inclined by 6 inches using bricks. I was surprised at how much this helped my sleep. It also helps to prevent nocturnal urination by influencing blood circulation and reducing the amount of liquid that enters the bladder during the night.

Memory foam bed
A very soft memory foam bed helps to reduce how often I wake up to change position. And, because I'm bedbound so much of the day, a comfortable bed is very important. Even though it's a low odor bed it still needed to offgas for a few days. When it's covered in a couple of bed sheets I can't smell the mattress.

Weighted blanket
I feel better and more comfortable with some weight on me, possibly because I have such low blood pressure. It's a 20 pound blanket that has many pockets filled with tiny glass beads to add weight. The usual recommendation is to use a blanket that is 10% of a person's body weight, plus a couple of pounds.

Many people sleep better with a weighted blanket. Some people with autism, anxiety, or PTSD also find benefits.

Blocking out light for a dark sleeping environment is important to encourage my body to produce melatonin (in addition to the supplemental melatonin that I take).

LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone)
Possibly the biggest aid to sleep although I had some insomnia while I was adjusting to it. I take 2.5mg per day.

Within two days of starting methylfolate I was able to relax more because the wired-but-tired feeling was starting to dissipate.

Time release melatonin before bed, (Natrol brand) 1mg. Regular melatonin doesn't keep me asleep, but long acting does.

Sleep tea
Nighty Night Tea with valerian. There is a Nighty Night Tea with catnip but I wake up feeling as if my brain has been deprived of oxygen, so I avoid it.

750mg at bedtime

200-350mg at bedtime; then another 175mg in the middle of the night. The amount varies based on how much calcium I have consumed in a day. I always wake up around 12-1am and sleep more lightly after. The second dose of magnesium helps me to sleep more deeply after midnight. This post helped me understand why I woke frequently, especially after midnight -- I needed more magnesium.

I use Vitacost Natural Tranquility (powdered magnesium carbonate with citric acid dissolved in hot water to form ionic magnesium citrate). I like this form of magnesium because it fully dissolves into the liquid which I expect results in easier absorption.

Magnesium is a muscle relaxant that helps calm the body for sleep.

At least 12mg/day. I take it with the cofactors; selenium is especially important.

60mg an hour before bed. It deepens sleep, and without CoQ10 I rarely dream. Too much CoQ10 lowers my blood pressure.

A few spoonfuls at bedtime is enough to help with taking supplements (they're easier to swallow with food), maintains blood sugar during the night, and encourages the release of serotonin for better sleep.

Ear plugs
I'm a very light sleeper so ear plugs help to block out noises that could wake me. 3M Ear Classic are the most comfortable that I've found. I buy them in bulk and use them for roughly 5 days per pair.

Not over-exerting
Difficulty sleeping is a sign that I have pushed too much. If I stay within my energy envelope and don't over-exert then I usually sleep better.

What I avoid
I've tried niacin and l-theanine but both caused excessive tiredness and brainfog for several hours after waking. Inositol and glycine suck the energy out of me so badly it's like I've been sedated all day long. Vitamin-D helps my sleep but increases my light and sound sensitivity. Some people have found these additional supplements to be very helpful so experiences vary by individual.

  • Jan 8, 2018 - Updated medical disclaimer; added CoQ10; Updated entries for magnesium, and ear plugs.
  • Mar 10, 2018 - Updated the magnesium section to include info about taking a second dose for better sleep after midnight; added the section on using a weighted blanket.
  1. PatJ
    "Do you recommend taking LDN in the morning or evening?"

    I've never tried taking it in the morning because evening works for me. From everything I've read, it seems that the response varies by individual. Some people do better taking it in the morning, some better in the evening, some like a split dose (one AM, one PM).

    At one point I experimented with different evening times and noticed some small differences. Now though, I just take it when I wake up during the night, which is usually between 11:30pm and 1:30am. Then I usually go right back to sleep.
    YippeeKi YOW !! likes this.
  2. PatJ
    "Have you experienced anything like this [back pain] and if so has elevating the head of the bed helped?"

    I haven't had any back pain since I've had this bed. Even before then I rarely had any back pain from a bed.

    Elevating the head of the bed changes the way blood circulates and is reported to help with many different health conditions, so it might help you.

    "How did you arrange the bricks in order to accomplish the elevation?"

    I use two bricks, one on the other, and then a piece of 2x4 on top of them to add a little extra height. They're perpendicular to the head of the bed so they provide a broad base for the wide legs and better support. I've only had to adjust it once in 18 months.
    YippeeKi YOW !! and overtheedge like this.
  3. xcell
    Do you recommend taking LDN in the morning or evening? Before we test it...
    YippeeKi YOW !! likes this.
  4. overtheedge
    Hey PatJ,
    I like your advice to use memory foam, I bought a memory foam mattress a year or two ago and it has done wonders for my back pain, hasn't fixed it completely but it is bearable where it wasn't before. The issue I've been having with it is that every now and then my spine will start hurting, sharp pains and whatnot, I think because of the way the spine sort of sinks into the bed instead of being supported by it. When the spine pain gets bad to a certain degree I end up having to sit and stand straight for a few days till it goes away, this will drive the pain away for a time. Have you experienced anything like this and if so has elevating the head of the bed helped?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm interested in elevating the bed in general even if it isn't going to help my spine. How did you arrange the bricks in order to accomplish the elevation? Is it a single layer of bricks under the head of the bed longways or is it more complex?
    YippeeKi YOW !! likes this.
  5. PatJ
    LDN is Low Dose Naltrexone.
  6. Sita505
    Please, what is LDN? Thanks, Sita
  7. Wayne
    Hi PatJ,

    Thanks for sharing your protocol. I recently discovered that upping my melatonin from 3 mg to 6 mg. has made a big difference for me. I have a friend who takes about 15 mg, and will take another 15 mg in the middle of the night if she's unable to get back to sleep. She said she's never had a negative reaction to taking that much, and that she started taking that much after reading about another person who routinely took 60 mg per night. Makes my 6 mg. look pretty "measly" compared to that!
  8. PatJ
    Sorry for the late reply @perchance dreamer, I didn't get the alert that you had posted a comment here.

    I had disrupted sleep for the entire time I was titrating the dose. It took a month before I stopped at 2.5 mg/day, and shortly after that my sleep stabilized. Even though my sleep was disrupted it had periods where it was better. An example is that I might have had deeper than usual sleep before midnight, then no (or interrupted) sleep after, but still felt better in the morning than I would have had without taking the LDN. So I lost sleep for awhile, but the sleep I did get was better quality.
  9. realturbo
    Good write up
  10. msf
    LDN is probably working by inhibiting microglial activation, which is probably caused by LPS. Cort mentioned in one of his articles that Trazodone has a similar effect - combining this with dietary changes and gut treatment has meant that I have gone from waking up every 30 mins to sleeping through the night most nights.
    Sidny and PatJ like this.