View Full Version : Black boxing sleep supplements

Greg Battaglia
06-17-2008, 11:40 AM
I've recently become really interested in improving my sleep. As a college student I think I've done very well in terms of getting good sleep, but it's something I still haven't completely mastered. Due to an erratic schedule I decided to black box a few sensible sleep supplements to see if I gain anything from it.

So far, I've used two supplements. Firstly, I just recently tried ZMA and it's a supplement that I plan to take for the rest of my life. It helps me to fall asleep, improves sleep quality (lots of vivid dreams), and has honestly allowed me to work harder more frequently in the gym.

Another I tried is melatonin. This one works excellently for zonking me out and leaving me feeling rested the next day, but something has me weary of taking any synthetic hormones. I suppose that long-term supplementation with any hormone will down-regulate it. With that in mind, I've been reserving melatonin for rare situations where getting sleep is really tough.

The last one I tried is one by Hyland's Homeopathic. The ingredients are as follows:
1x triple strength passion flower
1x double strength avena sativa
1x double strength humulus lupulus
2x chamomile

The first time I used this I took it in conjunction with ZMA and it zonked me right out. At first I felt nothing as I laid in bed, then suddenly after about 15 minutes it hit me and I was out cold. Strangely, every time (twice) I took it after that it seemed to have no additional effects over the ZMA. Anybody know why this happened?

Anyway, I'm thinking about trying some other stuff like valerian, l-theanine, and tyrosine.

Has anyone else tried homeopathic supplements? This one has me the most intrigued.

Chris Longley
06-19-2008, 02:16 PM
There's a bit in Lights Out about sleep supplements - I know they don't recommend Melatonin for the reason you mentioned about down-regulation. Might be worth a read. I haven't got it to hand at the moment so I can't quote anything... I'll try and post something more tomorrow.

ZMA rules. It's one of the mainstays of the supplements I take.

Mike ODonnell
06-19-2008, 05:03 PM
Eat some ice cream an hour before bed.....it's the new miracle sleep and fat loss supplement.

Dave Van Skike
06-19-2008, 07:23 PM
when/why did "black box" become a verb?

Derek Weaver
06-19-2008, 09:47 PM
For my money, ZMA is the only one worth it. Aside from sleep I just feel better when taking it.

Garrett Smith
06-20-2008, 08:13 AM
The homeopathic sleep supplement you mentioned is interesting in that it uses very typical "insomnia" herbs at low dilutions. Those are basically 1:10 dilutions of the initial full-strength herbal preparations.

Here are some links to read about the potencies:
A Homeopathic Mother Tincture is the undiluted liquid extract of the original source. Salts, minerals and other substances that are solid in their natural state do not have mother tinctures. The least diluted form of such a substance would be a 1X dilution in liquid form.
Homeopathic medicine potency in the U.S.A. is described by a two part, number and letter designation. You will see the potencies referred to as, 12X, 6C, 30C, 10M or 6LM. The number part indicates the number of times the source substance has been homeopathically diluted. The Letter portion indicates the dilution rate. X being the roman numeral 10, is the slowest dilution rate of 1/10 and LM is the fastest dilution rate of 1/50,000.
If it works for you, that's great. If not, save it for another time. Simple as that.

sarena kopciel
06-20-2008, 12:43 PM
I have been using this product--Nature's Calm (http://www.mothernature.com/shop/detail.cfm/sku/46831/S/10000) (basically a magnesium product recommended by Dr G which comes in several flavors) and also Rescue Sleep (http://www.rescuesleep.com/home/default.asp)! I am so wiped when I get into bed that I am generally asleep quickly!

Cal Jones
06-22-2008, 01:22 AM
I tried taking melatonin on to help me sleep through a flight from US to the UK, and not only did it fail to help me sleep but it made me feel groggy and terrible when I arrived. (Melatonin is prescription only in the UK incidentally). Since then I've avoided it, though right now I'm interested in your study as I got back from the US (again) last week and am still trying to cope with jetlag. Right now my body wants to stay awake until 2am, which isn't ideal when I have to get up for work.

Gittit Shwartz
06-22-2008, 06:45 AM
I'm usually "wired but tired" at night and have a hard time getting to sleep. I tried all of this stuff recently:
- GABA - no noticable effect.
- valerian - helps me calm down if I'm not too wired.
- Melatonin - nothing, wide awake. I wonder why? The tablets I take have 3 mg.
- ZMA - if I fall asleep within 15 minutes after taking it, sleep is deeper and more refreshing. If I don't, it will keep me awake for hours. It's funny, because I used to swear by ZMA for sleep.

Garrett Smith
06-22-2008, 08:12 AM
Maybe we should talk if you're not sleeping well, sounds like high cortisol at night to me...something I wouldn't expect those supps you listed to help with much.

Mike ODonnell
06-22-2008, 08:33 AM
I'm usually "wired but tired" at night and have a hard time getting to sleep.

Like Dr G says.....cortisol is too high....ergo giving you the "wired" feeling (as cortisol regulates blood sugar and increases it in times of stress/fight or flight)

You need to as I say "dumb down" at night. Look at your lifestyle and take out anything that may be promoting the whole "fight or flight" stimulus such as TV (esp when you talk about exciting shows or scary ones), Computer time, too much going on in general, stressing out about the next day....etc. Just wind down and keep the lights low (light is a stimulus), otherwise you rebound into that wired stage (for me it's about 10pm....once I start getting back wired past 10 then I could easily stay up till 2.....so I know I need to shut things down starting around 9).

Never really tested it but have heard cinnamon as being a good thing to have an hour before bed as it is a glucose shuttling agent....so will help the blood sugar to come down.

Gittit Shwartz
06-22-2008, 12:48 PM
Thanks Dr. G and MOD for your advice and concern. I should be getting my ASI results within the next couple of days and will definitely get in touch ASAP to discuss them. (ASI for those who haven't heard of it stands for Adrenal Stress Index - tests for saliva cortisol and DHEA levels at 4 points during the day.)

Greg Battaglia
06-22-2008, 08:55 PM
Thanks for all of the interesting feedback. Just to set the record straight (if it even needed to be in the first place) I don't think sleep supplements are necessary for proper, healthy sleep. In a pristine world sleep would come easy. It's just that at this point in my life my schedule is too erratic for me to get to bed at the same time for the same amount of time every night, which inevitably will mess with my circadian rhythm. Hence, I use some sleep aids to help get the sleep ball rolling.

Anyway, I've been sticking with the ZMA and haven't used any of the others since my original post. My sleep quality has been excellent, I just really need to work on getting to bed at the same time every night. I think consistency is important.

I notice the same thing. About an hour after dinner I begin to feel really sleepy, which will last for about 30 mins before it fades and then I actually get really wired and revved up. Once I reach this point I feel like I'm prepared to do met-cons galore 'til 3:00 AM.

Garrett Smith
06-23-2008, 07:04 AM
Greg, no need to justify using something to help you sleep in today's world. I wish I didn't feel the need to use them either, but I'd rather sleep than worry about pride/ego preventing me from helping myself...

Mike ODonnell
06-23-2008, 01:15 PM
Wine and Family Guy before bed....works like a charm 100% of the time.

Paul McKirdy
07-01-2008, 06:45 AM
+1 to the post feast carb induced coma :). Whether it be a glass of wine or a huge bowl of all natural cherry vanilla iceam mmmm ice cream or both :p...

All sustinence intake is a chemical stimulant to some angle of deflection from balance, apply as necessary ;).

Allen Yeh
07-01-2008, 07:37 AM
-1 for carb induced coma

The last few weeks after eating a heavy carb meal as my last one prior to bed I've been finding it very hard to go to sleep.

Grant Anderson
07-27-2008, 06:40 PM
In regards to melatonin as a sleep supplement, from what I've researched/read, most people are essentially overdosing (for lack of a better word) with melatonin. I don't mean really overdosing, as in dangerously, but from all the studies I've read, you only need low doses to feel the effects of melatonin. One study found significant improvement with doses ranging from .3 to 1mg. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7768078?dopt=Abstract) (w/f/s)

I've read another article (which I can't find right now unfortunately) which suggested that larger doses of melatonin could build up resistance to its effects.

I've found ZMA to be helpful for more restful sleep, but it doesn't seem to help much with getting to sleep.

As for comments about trying L-tyrosine for sleep, I've used that for alertness, so using it for sleep seems rather counterproductive. As fas as I know, it helps brain function (vague, I know) and CNS activity, something I wouldn't associate with sleeping.

From my own personal experience, I've found that a big meal somewhat high in carbs before bed gets me to sleep pretty fast, as does a casein shake.

Garrett Smith
07-27-2008, 08:03 PM
The new remedy from Guna that I've been using to help with my sleep actually has homeopathic doses of melatonin in it. I've been sleeping like a baby these days. If I actually take some of the Pharma-GABA now, I don't wake up all night and arise in the same position I went to bed in! That didn't use to happen...

Ivan Wolfe
07-27-2008, 09:45 PM
FWIW, here's what works for me (I've black boxed all of these at various times):

GABA - works great. Only thing that really works at all. However, I find I need increasing doses over time if I don't take a week off once every couple of months.

Valerian - causes my brain to go wonky. I'm not sure how else to describe it - whenever I use it, I can't concentrate, my brain seems to begin firing randomly, and I feel like a zombie (mmmm .... brains!)

Kava Kava - gives me a headache.

Hops, Chamomile - nothing.

ZMA - nothing.

Melatonin -1 mg or less helps a little. Anything over that, though, causes my dreams to be so vivid that I wake up unable to distinguish between reality and dreaming. That's too freaky for me, so I stay to 1 mg or less, and that seems to work allright.

5-HTP & L-Tryptophan: Nothing.

Winfield Featherston
08-23-2008, 01:33 PM
Melatonin - tried it once a couple of weeks ago, slept like a rock but woke up the next day pretty groggy.

Valerian - makes me drowsy enough to aid in getting to sleep. I've only tried the tea made from dried roots, which smells pretty horrible. I'm not kidding. I knew a girl in college who claimed such things wouldn't affect her, drank two cups of the tea and was sleeping on the FLOOR within an hour. :)

Chamomile - mildly relaxing, but doesn't really make me sleep. Tastes ok though.

Mugwort - not so much for sleep inducement, but really works for making you have crazy vivd dreams, and recalling them the next day.

Also, aren't many homeopathic remedies so dilute as to contain NO active ingredients other than distilled water?

Garrett Smith
08-23-2008, 02:07 PM
In answer to your last question--there are potencies of homeopathic remedies that are so dilute as to not contain "material" doses of the original remedy. However, the energetic imprint of the original remedy is still there, which is the important thing.

That's about all I'll go into it, I don't do discussions of energetic medicine over the interwebs anymore, especially not with questions as loaded as that one.

I'm yet to see modern science show the active ingredient of "love", yet we know it when we feel it. I'll stop there.

Winfield Featherston
08-23-2008, 02:31 PM
Oh, I'm not saying they don't work. I'm just not understanding the mechanism. And like you say, I don't have to know the mechanism to know some things work, because experience tells me they work. But knowing the mechanism is icing on the cake. :)

Garrett Smith
08-23-2008, 02:50 PM
A quick Google of "homeopathic theory mechanism" should give you everything you're looking for.

Craig Brown
08-23-2008, 03:53 PM
I beat several years of insomnia by brewing up about a pint of tea made from passionflower, skullcap, and peppermint with a touch of honey. Starting drinking it about an hour before bed, usually only drank half, kept the rest by the bed in case I woke up thirsty. No hangover, didn't 'knock me out', but just soothed the nerves enough to let me go down easy and stay down.