This is number 18 in the series Chronicle of Sleepless Nights

Treatment 14: Naturopathic supplements and dietary changes

Michael and I went together to my first appointment with Sydney, the naturopath recommended by my endocrinologist. Sydney was quite young but seemed smart, confident, and competent. She listened intently to my story while typing quickly on her laptop. After telling her about my months of sleep problems, I added that I was feeling optimistic about resuming my sleep restriction program (part of CBT-I), and, in addition, had booked an appointment with a psychiatrist. I was hopeful that I would be able to finally get off the sleeping pills, and eventually sleep again. Now that there did not seem to be anything wrong with any of my internal organs and my thyroid seemed under control, I wanted to concentrate on getting off the medications in a safe way.

At the end of my first appointment, Sydney printed out a summary of her recommendations. These were grouped according to categories including lifestyle, diet, and supplements. She recommended several supplements to help ease my transition off the sleeping pills. Before going to bed I was to take Cortisol Manager, Cerenity PM, Inositol Powder, and a calcium magnesium citrate powder. She believed that the sleeping pills worked so poorly for me due to a numbing of receptors in my brain. The supplements were to increase my brain’s production of neurotransmitters and restore the ability of receptors to respond normally again. The pills were also to help me feel less anxious when going through drug withdrawal.

Sydney also urged me to add a beef collagen protein powder to my smoothies as a way to get more protein in the morning. She advised me to continue hot baths at night and acupuncture treatments. I was still seeing Chris for acupuncture, as I had been since the previous December.

Another recommendation was to drink much more water during the day. I agreed to keep track of how many liters of water I drank. Our plan was to follow up with a phone appointment a few weeks later. I went home and started to take the supplements. For the first time, I had an idea of why I was taking them and what they were supposed to do. Sydney was extremely helpful in enabling me to eventually withdraw from drugs, and continues to be a valuable member of my health care team today. I am grateful that my endocrinologist referred me to her.

Back to CBT-I

I was mentally preparing to return to Dr. D, my sleep doctor. This meant I would be resuming a sleep restriction program. I knew that once again I would have long periods awake at night. I thought that perhaps listening to music would soothe me during these times. Since I was working on improving my relationships with my siblings, I asked them for suggestions of music we had listened to growing up. My parents were great music lovers and I thought that listening to familiar songs from my childhood would be comforting. Stan made me a playlist on Spotify. Each song brought back vivid memories and reminded me that my love of music was a gift from my parents.

I finally resumed my regular visits to Dr. D after a several week detour. He was encouraging and gave me tips about how to slowly decrease my Ambien dose while working on the sleep restriction protocol. I would go down .25 mg every ten days. He also suggested that when I cut my dose down, I should go to bed a half hour later that night. I told him I was going to see a psychiatrist and he was skeptical about how a psychiatrist could help me. He told me that a psychiatrist would only give me new drugs. And I would later find out that he was right!

I started the sleep restriction protocol again. Michael moved back to the basement so he would not be awakened each time I got in and out of bed at night, going to my office for 20 minutes to read when I was not able to quickly fall asleep. I again set up my office so I could lounge comfortably in dim light, listening to Stan’s playlist and knitting a never-ending scarf. Having been through the protocol for several weeks previously, I knew what to expect. And now that I believed that there was nothing seriously wrong with my body, I felt prepared to forge ahead and retrain my brain to sleep.

Returning to Former Routines

It had been a long time since I had gone to the YWCA for my regular yoga classes and personal training sessions. Now I felt able to resume yoga again, as well as gentle sessions with my long-term personal trainer, Kym. She gave me easy stretches to do on the TRX machine, and then we went into the pool where I did different exercises for strength and cardio. It felt so good to be back in the pool. I even forgot how little sleep I had the night before or how tired I was. It was nice to see some of my old friends at the Y again, some of whom knew what I had been going through and expressed their concern and support. I felt that at last I could glimpse the end of a long dark tunnel.

Next post: Time to See a Psychiatrist

Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, author or editor of books on teaching and learning statistics, as well as cooking.