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Originally published October 19 2004

Treating insomnia / sleep disorders with herbs and nutrition

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

... continuing from part 1 ...
A reader asks, "Are there any foods, vitamins, herbs, etc, that can help with insomnia? I've had sleeping problems for years, and I would really appreciate any kind of useful information."

In part one of this Q&A, we talked about how lack of exposure to natural sunlight causes hormonal imbalances that result in chronic sleeping problems. In part 2, we're moving on to talk about the dietary influences of sleep disorders:

As far as the main imbalancers of hormones in the body, the primary culprits are dietary stimulants, or what I call metabolic disruptors. Perhaps the most frequently abused stimulant of all is coffee and caffeine. A person who is taking caffeine on a regular basis typically does so because they feel drowsy in the morning since they haven't had a good night's sleep in the first place. But by drinking coffee to wake up, a vicious cycle is created. The caffeine perks them up in the morning, but at the same time, it overstresses the adrenal glands and the endocrine system, which causes imbalances later on during the day, especially when used over a long period of time. So if you are a regular consumer of caffeine, you're going to find that your production of melatonin and other hormones is disrupted in the long term, even though caffeine may make you feel more awake in the morning.

The trick to all this is getting off caffeine permanently and never ingesting this neurotoxic substance ever again in your life. One of the best ways to do that is to pick up the book by Dr. Jonathan Wright called The New Detox Diet. This book teaches people how to get off caffeine and also informs them of some of the very good reasons why you need to stop poisoning your nervous system with this insecticide (caffeine is created by plants to kill insects).

There are other nervous system stimulants that tend to disrupt healthy function of the endocrine system. These include sugar and MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is something you have to look for on food labels because it's hidden in a lot of grocery store products. This is a highly toxic ingredient. It will not only cause sleep disorders, it will also tend to cause migraine headaches and can even lead to Alzheimer's disease. MSG does not belong in the human body. It can even interfere with normal appetite regulatory functions and make it almost impossible for people to lose weight, especially if they are currently obese. So MSG is one thing to avoid, and refined white sugars are another because of the way they overstress the pancreas and other organs involved in hormone regulation throughout the body.

Carbohydrate cravings

An interesting side note to all of this is that if your insomnia is being caused by imbalanced melatonin levels, it is very likely that you are also suffering from carbohydrate cravings due to suppressed serotonin levels in the brain. When melatonin levels are too high in the brain, it naturally results in the suppression of serotonin. This makes a person feel down. They get the blues. They feel drowsy. And one of the quickest ways to self-medicate and raise the levels of serotonin in the brain is to eat carbohydrates (and the more refined the carbohydrates, the better). Refined white flour is going to perk up those serotonin levels very quickly. Drinking a soft drink will also do the same thing. And if that soft drink has caffeine in it, then a person is getting a double dose of medication through the caffeine and the high-fructose corn syrup contained in that beverage.

So I think you get a pretty clear picture here of how people can easily create a destructive cycle of dependence on psychoactive food ingredients and drugs like caffeine just to make it through the day, when typically the source of the problem is really something relatively simple, like lack of sunlight. If you are a person who is consuming caffeine on a regular basis, if you find yourself experiencing carbohydrate cravings, if you need sugar to elevate your mood, then these are signs that you need a fundamental detox in order to get back to the basic foods that support human health and will naturally create healthy hormone balance.

Once you do that, you will find yourself sleeping quite soundly. You will fall asleep easily, you will sleep restfully, and you will wake up fully energized without any need whatsoever for coffee in the morning. I know this from personal experience. Typically, I sleep 8 hours a night. I think long-duration sleep is very important, especially if you're involved in strength training or gymnastics or other forms of intense physical activity like I am. Eight hours of sleep is great for the human body, and when I wake up, I feel fully energized and ready to go, ready to take on the projects and challenges of the new day. I'm not a coffee drinker and I never have been. I don't consume caffeine, and I strongly urge those who are on caffeine to consider doing whatever it takes to get off that drug. It will make your life far easier in the long run.

Herbs for sleep

One last comment on all of this --- the question posed at the beginning of this article asks if there are any vitamins or herbs that can help with insomnia. Of course there are herbs that can help you sleep. Those include chamomile, hops, or valerian root, but these are really just herbs being used like drugs. It's no different from taking Valium, which is in fact a derivative of the valerian medicinal herb. If you're using drugs to get to sleep, then you have a serious problem. Drugs are not going to give you sound sleep. They are only a temporary mask for the root cause of the problem.

Remember, the human brain already creates the hormones or "drugs" that you need to get plenty of sleep. It does that naturally on its own. A healthy human being should never need to supplement human brain chemistry with outside drugs or pharmaceuticals in order to fall asleep.

I strongly encourage you to avoid the seduction of using herbs or drugs to get your sleep. Instead, take the more difficult journey: a journey of detoxing your diet, of taking a good, hard look at everything that's going on in your life, what foods you're putting into your body, what drugs or psychoactive substances you might be consuming, how much physical exercise you're getting, how much sunlight you're getting, how much water you're drinking on a regular basis, and so on. This is a difficult journey for a lot of people, but it is the only journey that can really cure insomnia.

At the same time, you'll be happy to know, the side effect of this journey is that it will also prevent practically every chronic disease known to mankind. Remember, health is simple -- it's not necessarily easy to get to it, but it is fundamentally simple, and once you pursue that path in an effort to solve one particular problem, you will find that virtually all your health problems are helped at the same time.


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