24 January 2013 · 54 comments

As part of my renewed focus on fitness, I’m doing a 30-day detox. Since January 6th, I’ve had no caffeine, no alcohol, and no manufactured drugs of any sort. The experience has been…interesting.

I’m also trying to eat healthier than I usually do. I started with a day of fasting followed by a three-day juice cleanse. Since then, I’ve tried to avoid processed sugar (truly my one great weakness) and to up my intake of fruits and vegetables. It helps that Kim loves veggies, and that she’s teaching me to prep and eat them in lots of tasty ways, but getting enough vegetables is still tough for me.

Anyhow, as I said, the detox is interesting. There’s no question that I’m much more alert mentally than I have been in the past few months. My mind is active and agile. I’m able to process a lot. There are obvious advantages to this, but there are disadvantages too.

You see, left to its own devices, my mind will spin and spin and spin without ceasing, morning, noon, and night. This is great when I need to get work done, but it’s not so fun when it’s time to sleep. Before this detox, part of my bedtime routine was to take melatonin and/or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and/or a small glass of alcohol. This helped me to fall asleep. Without these crutches, I tend to lay in bed thinking deep thoughts until the wee hours of the morning. As a result, I’m tired most of the day.

But I’m tired for other reasons too, and I’m not sure why. Even when I do get a good night’s sleep (which happens maybe twice a week), I find myself dragging from the late morning until bedtime. For instance, it’s just after noon right now, and I’m exhausted. I feel like I could go sleep for three hours. I just got back from the gym, and I had absolutely no energy there. My workout was slow and sluggish.

I’m not sure what all of the implications are here. Have I been using caffeine and alcohol so long that my body can no longer operate on a normal cycle without assistance? Are the damned eternal Oregon winters acting as an anchor in my middle age?

There are other interesting effects of this detox too.

I didn’t used to drink alcohol. From the time I graduated college in 1991 until late 1999, Kris and I steered clear of beer and wine and liquor. Then, in late 1999, I suffered a couple of panic attacks. I was anxious all of the time. Believe it or not, my doctor recommended I start drinking wine in order to relax.

Since then, I’ve become a social drinker. I’m very aware that alcohol “takes the edge off” for me, allowing me to ease into group situations. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, Kim and I attended a holiday party for her dental office. The conversation was tentative at first, but as people sipped their wine and cocktails, the talk became looser and more natural. Except that I didn’t have any alcohol, and so remained a little on edge all evening. I’m not sure if others noticed it, but Kim did.

I told my therapist about this incident. She encouraged me to learn how to take the edge off without alcohol. That makes a lot of sense, of course, but I’m not sure how to do this. (Actually, this goes to the core of what I’m discovering in therapy: I put a lot of pressure on my self all of the time, so that I’m naturally tense and anxious in most situations. I need to learn how to relax.)

Part of me wants to end this detox early, after only twenty days instead of thirty. It’d be easier. I could go down to the coffee shop on the corner right now and order a coffee, which would jump-start my energy and help me to last through the day. Then when I see Kim tonight, we could share a bottle of bubbly as we talk about what happened during our weeks. Plus, I could then use melatonin and Benadryl to fall asleep.

I’m not going to do that.

It’s a Big Deal for me to be able to make it through this detox. I only have twelve days left. I feel like even taking a sip of coffee or beer would be a sign of weakness. Maybe that’s silly, but it’s important to me to see that I’m strong enough to do this for thirty days without compromise.

Meanwhile, I’m going to take steps to figure out why my body seems to be so fatigued. Maybe it’s just age, but I don’t think so. I have an appointment with a naturopath on Monday morning, and I’m going to have her do bloodwork. I especially want my hormone levels tested.

I’d love to hear from some of you about your experiences with this sort of thing. Have you ever done an extended detox? What was it like? What did you learn? Do you see a naturophatic physician instead of a regular MD? Why or why not? And if you’re getting on in years, what advice do you have for those of us who are reaching our mid forties? What can we expect? What should we watch for?

1 Amanda January 24, 2013 at 13:00

One reason for the fatigue is likely too low protein consumption. Also, it does take your body a long time to re-balance itself from the long-term consumption of stimulants and/or depressants. I would encourage you strongly to completely break your dependence on Benadryl. It is highly habit-forming and does not necessarily lend you to fitful rest.

Visiting your naturopath is an excellent choice, which I recently did and found I was deficient in most vitamins and, no surprise, my thyroid was low. I’ve been on the prescribed vitamin and thyroid med regimen for four months and can tell that it helps a lot.

As for alcohol, sure, it’s a social crutch that almost every person in our society uses. I don’t believe it’s harmful in moderation. And a small amount to aid in sleep isn’t terrible, either. It’s certainly better for you than Benadryl.

STICK IT OUT! Like you, I adhere to the letter of the law on things and one sip or cheat would be unacceptable. You’ll be so glad to complete your goal once you get there.

As for your juice cleanse, was it done with a proper juicer and all fresh fruit and veggies? I just got into juicing and make myself a heaping glass of fresh, organic fruits and veggies every morning. It is delicious and just about the best thing you can put in your body.

2 jdroth January 24, 2013 at 13:02

Hey, Amanda. Yes, the juice cleanse was just fresh fruit and veggies. More and more, I’m beginning to see the benefits of juicing. Kim has a juicer that she doesn’t use often. I’m going to ask if I can borrow it. That’d be an easy way for me to get my veggies. Plus, it’d help with the whole “eating with braces” thing. Nothing to get caught in the teeth!

3 Amanda January 24, 2013 at 13:09

P.S. Regarding the sugar, boy oh boy is it bad for you. I just switched to Fructevia and highly recommend it. Unlike many of the other Stevia products on the market, Fructevia does not have any mystery “natural flavors” added (which is usually MSG or something equally unhealthy). I’ve not found it in stores and had to order it online. Well worth the cost. :) I was forced to give up sugar because of my outrageous hypoglycemia so it’s nice to have something to put in my morning espresso. (Also recommend a home espresso machine, heh.)

4 Stephanie M January 24, 2013 at 13:04

You mentioned the Oregon winters…have you looked into a SAD lamp, maybe to turn on while working at your desk? While mainly aimed at depression, I have a vague memory/thought that I’ve heard of people having good results for other things, such as fatigue.

5 Cely January 24, 2013 at 13:05

First of all, hang in there! You can make it through these last 12 days.

I did seven weeks of Paleo (but allowing wine) awhile back, and it had a huge impact. I was already fit and eating generally well, but my energy went through the roof. I slept better and practically leapt out of bed in the morning.

I am also a spinner. (My mind, that is.) I’m also trying to find ways to take the edge off without a glass of wine. Hypnotherapy has really helped. I first used it to quit smoking in 2005; after three sessions and a tape I listened to for a few weeks, I’ve been smoke-free ever since (with no cravings, no crazy weight gain, etc.). As of a few weeks ago, I saw a hypnotherapist and now have two voice tracks on my iPhone that I listen to before bed. Hypnosis is basically meditation for people who can’t meditate. :) It’s a guided relaxation, you’re never “under” or unaware of what’s happening. You can have sessions geared towards specific goals in your life; my sessions are around making healthy choices and slowing down throughout the day (I have a stressful job). I highly recommend it!

6 Josie January 24, 2013 at 13:16

Some traits that I see in you (through your writing) remind me very much of myself. The all or nothing attitude especially. I’d be interested to know if you’ve ever tried to do 30 days of moderation/compromise in some or all aspects of your life, or if you have any tips on getting over that all or nothing mentality. Or am I just reading your posts completely wrong and imposing my own personality on you (I’m only human after all!)

I personally find that all or nothing does not make for a balanced life. My health/weight is fine, my finances are fine, but I’m either pigging out or strictly dieting, and I’m either putting things on credit, or denying all discretionary spending to pay the card off or save for something. While it all balances out in the long run, it makes for a very stressful right now (or a very hungover one)

7 jdroth January 24, 2013 at 13:22

Josie, this is a very perceptive comment. Yes, I have an all or nothing mentality. Again, that’s something my therapist has been working with me to solve. And I’ve made great progress there. But still I tend to see things as all good or all bad. Crazy, huh? Especially since I know life is much more subtle than that, that everything is shades of grey. I like your idea of doing thirty days of moderation. I like it very much, in fact. I’m going to try it!

8 funder January 24, 2013 at 14:11

Get your vitamin D levels checked! And if you decide to supplement D, make sure you take it in the morning. I read that little tip several years ago on Seth Roberts’ blog, and it worked wonders for me.

Rock on with your detox. Very impressive.

9 Cely January 24, 2013 at 21:41

+1 on the vitamin D. I live in Seattle, similar climate to JDs, and my doctor is adamant about me taking supplements. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to all sorts of terrible things, and nine months out of the year I know I’m not getting enough!

10 sasha January 26, 2013 at 10:04

+2 on the vitamin D check. I, too, live in a grey winter landscape and many friends and acquaintances have recently been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency. After getting enough vitamin D, they all reported much higher energy levels.

11 Martin January 24, 2013 at 14:12

Well it is January, so maybe the cold is affecting your productivity. Along with that, you might have low testosterone or not enough protein in your diet.

I imagine that this detox is what hell or torture feel like lol! I personally need a cup of coffee to get my workouts to the next level and my energy up to be productive.

Is it worth hurting your productivity/work outs for a detox?

12 chacha1 January 24, 2013 at 14:36

I too have monkey brain at night. Sleep hygiene was the only cure, but everyone’s prescription is a little different.

Someone I know had great success listening to audiobooks in bed; she said they would give her mind something to latch onto long enough for her to actually fall asleep.

Others say meditation.

For me, it’s a process: turn off the TV or computer at 10:00, do a few minutes of static stretching, get completely ready for bed, then go lie down and read in a room free of electronics until it’s time for lights out at 11:00.

It will take longer than you might think to completely clear the chemicals from your system. I personally don’t choose to live without alcohol or caffeine, but I stop caffeine at 2 p.m. and limit myself to a glass of wine with dinner most nights – no nightcaps.

I used to be a chronic insomniac but since putting together my system, have been doing much better. Good luck!

13 Aryn January 24, 2013 at 14:46

It could be taking your body a while to adjust to your new caffeine/drug/sedative-free lifestyle because you’re still withdrawing from them. I recently read that the reason people need coffee to wake up in the morning isn’t because of its stimulating effect. It’s because they are in caffeine withdrawal and the caffeine pulls them out of it!

I also recently learned that most people take too much melatonin or take it at the wrong time, so it does more harm than good.

Look into a relaxation technique called progressive relaxation where you tighten and then relax one muscle group at a time. It calms the body and mind slowly, plus it gives you something concentrate on so your brain doesn’t get on the hamster wheel.

14 bethh January 24, 2013 at 14:47

I think you need to be fair to your body – if you get five crappy nights of sleep out of seven, of course you won’t feel very good the one day you DO get a good nights’ sleep. You’re running a mad sleep deficit (I suppose you can think of it as a form of debt!). It sounds like you’re learning some valuable things about your system, and I hope you do find some good ways to combat the energy/sleep problems.

At any rate, keep it up! 12 more days, you can totally make it. Even if you decide to go on a moderation kick after this one’s up, you may as well finish in style.

15 Charlotte January 24, 2013 at 14:51

I have been seeing a Naturopathic Doctor with excellent results.

I agree with the recommendation on protein. Even though you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables, you still need a good amount of protein.

Lastly, have you thought about food intolerance? I do not have allergies but I find that for example, eating wheat makes me very tired. Eating dairy, makes my nose runny in the mornings. The general advice is to eliminate common allergens for 2 weeks and slowly add them back to see if your symptoms go away/come back. These are soy, dairy, wheat, and others. Your ND may recommend some other possible foods to eliminate.

Reduce sugar. My weakness is baked goods and simple carbohydrates like noodles and rice. On days when I don’t eat much sugar/carbs, my brain functions much better and my energy level is good.

16 Lisa January 24, 2013 at 14:57

I find that I sleep fewer hours, and get less quality sleep, as I get older. Although men and women have different hormonal make-up, I think we both feel the effects of changing hormonal levels and cycles as we age. For men, it seems like it may be a vicious cycle – decreased testosterone levels disturb sleep but you need enough quality sleep to boost testosterone. (Help me out here, men. Do I have that right?)

There was an interesting series on The Art of Manliness boosting testosterone levels naturally. (You got me hooked on The Art of Manliness, JD.)

17 Donna Freedman January 24, 2013 at 15:09

Hey, former boss: I second the SAD light and Vitamin D level suggestions, and am throwing in a thyroid test for good measure. Now that I’m back up in Alaska, the SAD light has been a huge boost. When I don’t use it, I notice.
While in Seattle my thyroid was found to be malfunctioning, but the synthroid wasn’t making enough of a difference. The doc tested for Vitamin D and sure enough, I was waaaaay low. A month of megadose therapy and then a regular maintenance amount was a big help.
Hope this is easily fixed.

18 bon January 24, 2013 at 15:35

I want to echo the earlier points on listening to guided meditations before bed – it has helped me tremendously. There’s an old CD by Dr. Emmett Miller available on Amazon that my husband and I use quite a bit. Alternatively I also like listening to a podcasts/npr shows with soothing voices (Talk of the Nation is usually a good one) or lectures on Buddhism by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (free from

I’m also having issues with exhaustion during the day (despite a good amount of sleep) and have seen several medical doctors – I’ve done lots of tests and possible explanations have included lyme disease, Vitamin D deficiency, Thyroid dysfunction, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Mycoplasma but no diagnosis yet. If you have any swollen or painful joints do go see a Rheumatologist.

19 Ramona January 24, 2013 at 15:44

Could your sleep apnea have returned?

20 jdroth January 24, 2013 at 16:54

Possible, but unlikely. Kim says I’m not snoring significantly. She notices once in a while, but it’s never bad. (Of course, she never heard me when I had sleep apnea, so who knows?)

Having said that, I do have a deviated septum, which is increasingly frustrating as I get older. When I run (or exercise heavily), I have to breathe through my mouth. When I sleep, it’s tough to breathe through my nose. Etcetera. Maybe if I got more oxygen, I’d feel better.

21 Ramona January 25, 2013 at 15:20

Anytime I hear someone say that they’re not feeling well rested, I encourage them to get checked for sleep apnea. Seems to be a common issue.

What about those nose strips to keep the passages open? No personal experience, but it might be a low cost solution.

22 Tyler Karaszewski January 24, 2013 at 15:47

I still have no idea what you’re trying to accomplish with this experiment. What effect did you expect it would have after 30 days? What effect did you *hope* it might have after 30 days? Have you made any effort to try and track your progress to see if you’re getting there?

23 jdroth January 24, 2013 at 16:42

Tyler, I’m not after anything specific with this exercise. I guess I want to see how I feel. It’s been a l-o-n-g time since my body was “clean” of the various crap I put into it. I want to see what happens when I just remove this stuff from the equation. Will I feel better? Will I feel worse? My hypothesis, of course, is that I’ll feel better. That’s what we’re always told, right? But what if I don’t feel better? What does that mean?

Not every exercise like this needs to have measurable metrics. Sometimes these things are just fun to do for the heck of it.

24 jdroth January 24, 2013 at 17:02

A couple of quick notes before I cook dinner:

* I’ve used a lighbox in the past. I like it. There’s no doubt that it makes me feel better. I pulled it out after Christmas and used it for a few days. Right now, though, it lives at Kim’s house. She uses it every morning (during which time it doubles as a makeup lamp!)

* I’ve also tried the guided meditation before sleep. You’re right. That helps me fall asleep easily. I like it. But I forget about it, for some reason.

* About an hour ago, I tried magnesium citrate for the first time. (A friend who’s a nutritional therapist recommended it.) I’m a little surprised at its quick effects. There’s no doubt that I feel calmer and more relaxed and I’m in a much better mood than I was earlier. Side effect? My stomach is upset…

Also, I started taking vitamin D drops again yesterday morning. We’ll see if they help too.

25 Joan Faux January 25, 2013 at 06:50

I second what Aryn mentioned – when you perk up after taking some caffeine, it is not the buzz from the caffeine, it’s because your body is coming out of withdrawal effects of caffeine. Caffeine is extremely addictive. Magnesium citrate is not very well absorbed by your body and as was mentioned it can have a laxative effect. Another alternative is to soak in a nice warm bath with epsom salts (add at least a cup or two). Epsom salts is magnesium sulfate – the magnesium is absorbed through your skin, so your body gets the same benefits with out any digestive issues. Make an effort to stick with the guided meditation, maybe it will have the added benefit of teaching you how to slow down your brain. Maybe try to establish a set routine as you approach bedtime so your brain recognizes that it is time to wind down and go to sleep. Definitely avoid working too close to bedtime.

26 Bella January 25, 2013 at 07:18

I’m a little confused by the strict adherence to a no stimulant etc detox, but then you readily add this – magnesium citrate stuff to counteract the quite natural withdrawl symptoms.
As for the detox – I appreciate you honesty – it’s really great. I gave up coffee and chocolate for lent one year – my husband made me promise never to do that again. Yea, coffee is a crutch, but on the list it’s pretty low down – the benadryl/melatonin/alcohol cocktail I would be a lot more concerned about so I applaud your efforts to get yourself back to a baseline and then go from there. But you should be aware that ADHD is not an ‘all in your head’ disorder. In fact very few phychotic disorders (I’m sure I’m using the wrong terminology – so anyone who knows the right terminlogy feel free to chime in) are ‘all in your head’. Quite often the definition of it being an actual disorder is that there are real underlying chemical imbalances inherent in the person. So a combination of therapy and ‘drugs of some sort’ (whether it be a ‘natural’ regimen or pharma cocktail) is often the BEST solution. Accepting help to be your best person is NOT a sign of WEAKNESS.

27 julie January 25, 2013 at 12:11

i too take magnesium at night. if the pills upset your stomach, try a product called “calm”. i found it at new seasons market and at our local health food store. it comes in powder form and you can pour cold or hot water over it and sip it before bed. i love it hot and i feel drowsy about 15-20 after sipping.

also, re lightbox – i found a company that makes a visor that you can wear around in the morning to get the “good light”. i can’t sit still in the morning in front of a box! the site is but i see that amazon also carries it. this was actually prescribed to me by my shrink for a slight case of ADD that i have. it has helped with the ADD and feeling depressed and unenergetic in the winter.

good luck! i love following your adventures here!

28 Tyler Karaszewski January 24, 2013 at 17:33

magnesium citrate

I don’t know what you’re using this for, but you realize it’s a laxative, right?

29 Glen Craig January 24, 2013 at 17:55

When you get your blood work done have them look into your thyroid levels. It could be your fatigue may be due to low thyroid.

30 Jody January 24, 2013 at 18:27

I went on a sugar detox & I could not believe what it did to me. It make me angry/ sad/ lethargic, until I got it all out of my system. It seems like lots of us have minds that spin. My therapist gave me a workbook to help me through some anxiety issues I have. One great trick I learned is that when your mind won’t stop, get up and smell something strong. I reach for lavender oil or cooking vanilla. The structure of your brain literally has to stop spinning for a second to register the strong smell. Sort of like the needle scratching across a record to stop. Sometimes it is enough to knock the spinning off track, if that makes sense. :)

31 Kylie Ofiu January 24, 2013 at 23:59

I was told by my naturopath years ago that it takes 3 – 5 nights of good sleep for your body to recover from a bad nights sleep or two. That combined with a detox and winter, I’m not surprised you are tired.

I’ve done a few detoxes, although alcohol was never an issue. I find the first few days are hard, then after that I am ok. Have fun finishing it.

32 Stephen January 25, 2013 at 00:11

Surprised no one has mentioned it but you are going through withdrawal. Caffeine is a drug and what you have mentioned fits the symptoms exactly.
Good news is that is usually starts improving pretty quickly and you start recovering from the tiredness too.
If you have been a little heavy on the caffeine intake before hand, it can take a bit longer to start noticing the improvements but it is worth it. Unfortunately, at least for me, it is an all or nothing proposition, even a can of coke once a week is enough to throw out all of the benefits.

The other thing is to check you are actually eating enough calories. It is extremely difficult to eat enough solely through veggies, more so if you were previously eating junk food. The BMR calculations aren’t always accurate and the best way I’ve found is to monitor you weight twice a week. If it drops continuously for two weeks at > 1lbs a week, increase the amount of food you are eating.

33 Chloe January 25, 2013 at 05:05

I decided to cut out caffeine a couple years ago now. It took a good month for me to start feeling human again and the first 3 weeks were hell.

So I think you may still be feeling the effects of that.

It’s pretty amazing tho, I now feel the caffeine if I eat a small piece of dark chocolate or eat something with coffee in it.

34 Heather January 25, 2013 at 05:44

Three things that help me the most with managing stress are: acupuncture, acupressure, and Sam-e. I bought a Spoonk mat so I can do acupressure at home and when travelling. I’ve never meditated before, but acupuncture and acupressure definitely help me achieve a meditative state.

35 Joe January 25, 2013 at 07:19

I felt like that for a few years before I quit work. I was fatigue all the time and I was just dragging myself through the day. I had frequent headache, dizziness, , backache, and other symptoms as well. Most of that have gone away now that I’m a stay at home dad. I sleep much better and life is much more rosy.
I don’t know if you are just stress out, but good luck with the detox. There are only a few days left so keep it up!
Yes, try acupuncture, meditation, yoga, and other alternatives too. They will help you relax.

36 Jackie January 25, 2013 at 07:25

Yeah for you for trying. Obviously, from your posts, it is easy to see you are on a journey, a life journey. When we get out of our comfort zones, be it food, caffeine, relationships, old habits, or bodies and our minds rebel. But, thankfully, we can learn new habits and new ways of doing things. I agree regarding the thyroid issue, vitamin D, and withdrawals. It takes time. Quit trying to “figure it out” and give your body time to adjust. The ADHD and anxiety are issues all on their own, just “accentuated” because you are not “medicated.” Good Luck.

37 Jon January 25, 2013 at 09:40

Enjoyed reading through your thoughts and perspectives on your detox. The fatigue is an interesting side effect. There were so many great thoughts in the comments section too! I liked Josie’s comment about moderation. I’ve found that to be the best method of producing long-term change in my life. I’m currently cutting back on my soda habit that was pumping about 128lbs of sugar into my body each year. I set down at the beginning of the year and actually weighed out the amount of sugar I was drinking each week. That was sobering enough to help me make some real changes. Cutting back soda consumption to 1/3 of what it was has actually convinced me that I am better off without it. Before the cutting soda back, I built a treadmill desk in my office and have been using it for a few months now. I have found that to be a helpful solution to the afternoon lethargy and the movement and extra blood pumping have helped with creativity and focus. Although walking and working might be the last thing you are interested in with the amount of lethargy you are describing. Keep up the good work and I’ll be curious to hear your final conclusions.

38 Marina January 25, 2013 at 09:41

Cleanses and detoxes are never easy. As for your mind spinning, a while back I was seeing a psychologist and she recommended a very simple and short book called The Mindful Path through Worry and Rumination: Letting Go of Anxious and Depressive Thoughts. There are techniques in there that helped me greatly, especially at night when your thoughts are overwhelming. I never really meditate, but this is something you can do in the moment when you need some calm and quiet.

p.s. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and difficulties on this. A lot of times people make detoxes seem so easy and they never are!

39 Tim Stobbs January 25, 2013 at 10:14

Ok, let me get this straight you used to drug yourself to sleep EVERY NIGHT!?! Wow, I can’t believe that.

Anyways, I completely get the over active mind issue. I had a similar issue until I got much better at controlling my ablility to relax. Now I can fall asleep in five to 10 minutes…drives my wife nuts. Also works great to deal with social situation where you feel uncomforable.

How? Lots of lots of pratice at mediation, while you don’t have to do mediation to fall asleep the first step of clearing your mind if very useful to start to relax just about anywhere at anytime. It took me so many tries to get to the point where I could actually clear my mind, but it is a useful skill.

Best of luck on finding what works for you.


40 jdroth January 25, 2013 at 10:16

Not every night, Tim, but many nights. Maybe even most nights.

I think that I need to focus on meditation. Those of you who meditate have a peace and calm that I crave. Plus, you seem to be better rested. :)

41 Betty January 25, 2013 at 10:27

Curious, are you drinking lots of water? Are you urinating frequently?
Is your urine clear? Are your hands and, feet cold? These symptoms
along with the ones mentioned in your post could mean you are
lowering your salt and, glucose too much. Perhaps not enough to
register low on a lab test. But, lower than your body would normally
like to run.
Eat well and, don’t over do the fluids.

42 Julie Rains January 25, 2013 at 11:08

Don’t know much about detox but do know some about getting older (I don’t consider myself “getting on in years” but am older than you). Many people don’t need as much sleep and/or it becomes more difficult to sleep well as they get older. For me (and my athlete friends in their 40s, 50s, and 60s), intense exercise — at least a few times each week — is helpful (okay, essential) for sound rest. It also helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and boost emotional resiliency.

43 Brian January 25, 2013 at 11:49

New reader here, so be gentle. :)

I used to be a regular Benadryl user myself. I didn’t take it every night because I found that doing so would eliminate it’s effectiveness, but I did take it 3-4 times per week. That all changed when I bought a Zeo sleep monitor (I swear I’m not here to shill for Zeo). It’s not exactly a medical-grade device, but I could see an obvious difference in my sleep quality with Benadryl than without it. I was spending less time in deep and REM sleep, and more time in light sleep, when taking Benadryl. Even though I was sleeping fewer hours, I was getting more deep and REM sleep without it. I realized I could function just as well or better without it, so I stopped taking it. I think there’s a big pscychological aspect to Benadryl — you start to believe you can’t sleep without it, and it becomes self-fulfilling. Over time my sleep improved, and now I sleep almost as much as I used to with Benadryl, but without having to take any pills. It’s been about 10 months now.

Other things that have helped include watching a light-hearted sitcom or doing some light reading before bed. Using earplugs and an eyemask while I sleep, along with a white noise machine (I use a Marpac). I sleep better than before, but I’ve never cracked the code to a perfect night’s sleep. I think I’d have to find a less stressful job for that. :)

44 stellamarina January 25, 2013 at 12:26

Coast to Coast talk radio show is my night companion. At least it takes your mind of current problems or relationships and as I relax, I go to sleep with it still on.

Re the Magnesium……also good for the older folk who wake up with leg cramps in the night.

45 PawPrint53 January 25, 2013 at 18:10

I’m one of those”older” folks and after complaining about nightly foot cramps to my doctor, she said to increase magnesium. It’s worked really well for me. I tried the magnesium bath salts that are absorbed through the skin, but that did nothing, although I enjoyed relaxing in the tub. Now I just take 800 mg of magnesium.

46 Sabrina Allen January 25, 2013 at 12:57

I concur with the Vitamin D, protein and hypnosis.

I would also focus on the sugar thing – I have had a similar experience to a previous poster -and I had no idea that it is so addictive!

Also: Grain/Gluten? How much are you eating? Once you cut everything else that is a “stimulant” out of your diet, your body can focus on other things that are screwing with it – which could be grains. I would experiment with going a week grain free and seeing how it goes. For me, I felt bounds better, had energy I didn’t know existed.

47 JoDi January 25, 2013 at 14:23

I figured someone would have mentioned this in the comments already, but I didn’t see anything as I read through them. Alcohol actually has a disruptive effect on sleep so even though it will make you sleepy initially, its overall impact on your sleep is negative. My husband has trouble sleeping and suffers from depression and the inability to shut off his brain at night. He also tends to wake up during the night. His doctor is the one who told us how alcohol was contributing to his sleep issues. I did a quick Google search and found an article.

It’s an alcohol abuse website, but the effect is not limited to those who abuse alcohol. Even one drink affects your sleep. I’m not sure what the magic cut-off time is for drinking alcohol so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep. My husband stopped drinking entirely 8 years ago so we never had to figure that out! ;-)

48 Debbie E. January 26, 2013 at 21:04

Great job JD on sticking to the detox. I was curious to see how you’d feel but wasn’t surprised to read that you weren’t as full of energy as you thought you might be. I’ve heard that from others who have done similar cleanses.
Something I thought I’d mention going forward – melatonin levels can actually build up in your body if not exposed to sunlight which breaks it down. Having lived in the Seattle area for 20+ years, I made sure to only take it in the summer months as the build up can cause depression, etc. Something to consider…
Again, kudos on your journey! I’ve enjoyed following along :)

49 Jess January 27, 2013 at 09:15

I take magnesium every night about 2 hours before bed and it helps my quality of sleep greatly. Additionally, to calm the thoughts that won’t let me sleep I sometimes take lemon balm tincture. Helps me greatly, and while it’s still a crutch, it’s way more natural than Benadryl. :)

50 Olga King January 28, 2013 at 09:35

Whole 30. That did wonders to my husband on all fronts. I am just pretty much living it as is:) I do have monkey mind, with 2 young adult problem children and other relates stuff, so I take melatonin at least couple of times a week. I can’t get any less sleep than 6 hrs (my best bet) and still train hard.

51 Linda January 28, 2013 at 12:21

I’m late to party here, but after reading through all the comments I think there’s something I can add. When you see the naturopath, do talk about the blood tests that s/he will run. Several people have mentioned thyroid and getting your “thyroid tested,” but what may not be known by many people is that often more than one kind of test needs to be run to test your thyroid function. Unfortunately, there is at least one potential thyroid dysfunction that no tests will uncover, but a good doctor will work with you on management by clinical presentation/symptoms, too.

The tests that are effective for thyroid dysfunction are TSH (or thyroid stimulating hormone) levels, Free T3, and Free T4. Most docs only run the TSH, which actually will only tell you if your pituitary gland is producing this hormone in response to a perceived need for more T4 and T3 released into your circulatory system. Your TSH could be in the “normal” range (which was recently changed, so hopefully a good doc knows the suggested normal levels are between .3 and 3.0), yet your Free T4 or Free T3 could be non-optimal and you’d still feel bad. T4 is the “stored” form of T3 which is the hormone that actually stimulates metabolism. Most T4 to T3 conversion takes place at a cellular level, but there is no test that will show if your cells are converting efficiently or even at all. So, it is possible to have a “normal” TSH and still be hyper or hypothyroid!

Thank goodness my doc tests all three at least once every year. I’m supplementing with Armour Thyroid, a prescription med that is natural dessicated thyroid from pigs. It contains both T4 and T3, unlike the synthetic version usually prescribed, Synthroid, which is only T4. Based on my clinical presentation, it’s very likely that I have issues with T4 to T3 conversion, and I may even need to supplement with additional T3 at this point. (I’ll find out next time I see the doc.)

At least once a year, my doc also tests my B12 and Vitamin D levels. Without oral supplementation, my D levels drop to the lowest level on the scale. For some reason I seem to have lost the ability to digest B12 from food, too, and oral supplements don’t help me here. (There is actually an autoimmune disorder called pernicious anemia that causes the body to destroy the enzyme used to digest B12; this can also be tested through bloodwork. I didn’t test positive for this autoimmune marker, but for some reason I still can’t digest B12.) So, I also inject B12 once a week.

I was tested for food sensitivities and am sensitive to cow dairy and pineapple. It’s not so hard to avoid pineapple (even though I love it), but cow dairy is a challenge because I love cheese. If I eat a lot of cow dairy then I’ll feel more tired and dragged out and achy.

There are many things that may be going on with your personal biochemistry, so it’s good to get thorough testing and work with a good doctor who will actually listen to you and your symptoms/feedback and not just shove you out the door in 15 minutes with a bunch of prescription slips. Good luck figuring it out!

52 Karl February 2, 2013 at 01:21


Remeber that one or two nights of good sleep does not make up for five or six days of bad sleep!

53 jim February 9, 2013 at 13:04

You want to calm your mind, get a great night’s sleep, up your vitamin D and do something incredibly nutritious for your body? Go buy yourself the best prime rib you can afford (and if you’ll only be feeding 2 people, just get 1 bone in cowboy ribeye). Grill that – eat it, then bake the bone(s) in the oven @ 400 degrees for an hour. Then put it in a pan with enough water to cover it, throw in some apple cidar vinegar as well as a couple of onions, 1 cup chopped up celery, 1 cup of chopped up carrots and simmer it for a few hours. Drain everything but the liquid and you’ve got yourself one of the most rest restoring liquids you can dream of. You can sip it straight or use it for stew or soup. The marrow, vitamins etc that are leached out of the bones and veggies will do WONDERS to calm everything down in your body and mind. Best of luck. My mind used to race at night but it doesn’t anymore and if you’re detoxing – this is a great thing to speed that detox up and make you feel sane again.

54 valleycat1 February 12, 2013 at 08:44

Latecomer to the discussion but here’s my 2 cents: First, I agree with the others that one night’s sleep isn’t going to make up for long term sleep deprivation. And a short, set before-bed routine can teach your body to recognize when it’s time to fall asleep (just like we train our kids to go to sleep at bedtime).

Sleep studies have found that when people are in a windowless room for long periods of time (so they control ‘day’ and ‘night’ cycles), they sleep shorter times and often have shorter awake times as well. The implication being that expecting to sleep for 6 hours or more every night might be unrealistic.

I have had problems falling asleep and with staying asleep all night, and I’d usually wake about a half hour before the alarm went off and stay in bed in building anticipation of it going off. When I gave up the alarm (other members of the household got up early too, so I knew I’d hear them & wake), I was eventually able to stay asleep better. I also moved the clock so I couldn’t easily see it from bed – and taught myself not to check the time if I woke in the middle of the night. As far as falling asleep and waking during the night, I have taught myself not to see that as an evil or distressing event, and use the time I’m awake to stay in bed with my eyes closed and do relaxation/meditation exercises – so even though I might stay awake, I’m at least relaxed & resting.

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