to sleep, perchance to dream…

Most of my adult life, sleep was not an issue. Of course, most of my adult life I was a serious stoner, and would inevitably be high before crashing. My nightly cycles were typically being up until 1-3am, and then crashing hard, not waking until 8-10am, sometimes later if it was a weekend.Waking was often a long and tedious process, with dozens of snooze cycles and generally a lot of bitching and complaining. This made me believe that I was not a morning person, and that situations that required me to be present at a consistently early hour I was certain to fail — I’ve been fired before for being constantly late in the morning, even from jobs where I was making the company in question hundreds of thousands of dollars…

But I also slept through the night, and slept very, very hard. I also very rarely dreamed (or, rather, very rarely remembered my dreams).

Eventually, I dried out, and started trying to treat myself better. Almost immediately, sleep problems set in. I had ALL the problems: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, apnea, sweats, horrorshow nightmares and heartpounding anxiety attacks that would wake me in the dead of night and wring me out with horrific bouts of introspection. And still I couldn’t wake up.

Sometimes, working out would have short term impacts, but then even that stopped working, leaving me energized and chasing sleep into the wee hours of the morning. I was certain that I had damaged myself beyond repair with the decades of getting high and sleeping stoned.

About six months ago, I was listening to Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution Podcast, and he had on a guy (whose name escapes me, maybe when I’m in the edit phase I’ll go find a link) who talked about a similar situation to mine, and how he’d addressed it with the use of neurotransmitter precursors — literally, hormone management.

Using a combination of L-tyrosine and 5-HTP, taking the tyrosine in the morning and the 5-HTP at night, a half hour before bed, would encourage healthy cycles of dopamine (of which tyrosine is a precursor) and serotonin (again, the precursor of which is 5-HTP).

The dosing varies, but the important consideration is a 10/1 ration of tyrosine to 5-HTP. I’m currently taking 2000 mg of tyrosine (with a B-complex to aid absorption) to 200 mg of 5-HTP. I also take GABA, which helps me stay asleep once I get to sleep, and my regime is rounded out with 250mg twice daily of Bromelaine Quercitin, which has replaced my once-daily allergy pill and decongestant.

First and foremost, the impact of this regime on my sleep patterns cannot be overemphasized. These days, I am generally in bed by 10-11pm, and can routinely wake anywhere from 6 to 8am. And when I do wake, I am almost immediately coherent, ebullient and active. No grumpiness, no sluggishness, and in my new job, I am acquiring a reputation as an early worker — an unheard-of notion in my entire career.

But much more generally is the impact to my continuous and active mood — I am much more balanced and in control of my emotions — and can tell within a DAY if I come off the regime, as I am much more short-tempered and flagrant.

Clearly, this could be some mood damage and hormonal impacts from the decades of marijuana use that I’m now papering over by creating “normal” dopamine and serotonin flow. SO BE IT. I’ve got great focus now, am sleeping better than I have since the pot years, and am in better emotional control than I think I’ve ever been my entire adult life.

I’ve seen a couple of sources that talk about these outcomes: here’s one, which gives a highly anecdotal account, and also refers out to Dan Kalish’s book, that goes much more in depth into the mechanisms and effects.

Sitting here after about six months of this regime, I would never have guessed that it could have had such a profound effect — but it is working for me, and I’ve been sleeping better than ever, so for now, I’m sticking with it. I’m hoping that this new-found emotional stability will better enable me to focus on some upcoming projects, like a 30-day meditation sit, and others…