As usual, the internet is batting 1,000 when it comes to advice.
I’ve been suffering from a bout of insomnia for the past, well, forever.
I often find myself taking a cocktail of supplements to get even a rough night’s sleep. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and I have to bring out the sleep equivalent of the BFG9000, my bottle of Zzzquil (which is literally just Benadryl in a way more expensive liquid form). Even then, that only works for like 2 weeks before my body adapts and we’re back to square one.
A month and a half ago, my insomnia finally reached its zenith. Not one, not two, not even three, but four nights in a row, I woke up at exactly 1:30 AM having what I can only describe as an anxiety attack. I get these from time to time during the day, but unlike most of these pussy millennials I don’t feel the need to publicly whine about them on Twitter and Facebook. I accept them, get through them, and I move on with my life. Unfortunately, that’s not easy to do when they’re waking you up after 4 hours of already-fractured sleep and keeping you up for the rest of the night. Even the power of Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn’t enough to fight that shit. On the plus side, I watched like half of the entire series, and was able to establish the order of MST3K hosts from best to worst: Joel, Jonah, Mike. Seriously, Mike Nelson was a boring host. I’m not knocking him, RiffTrax is actually fucking great and he seems to have found his feet in that. His host stint on MST3K was just bland compared to Joel, and even new-comer Jonah.
I digress. You didn’t come here to read about my opinions on MST3K (that was just an added bonus). You came here to hear about my tale of insomnia, and you probably found this article looking for solutions yourself. If you’re expecting me to give you the cure-all to your sleeping problems, you’re in the wrong fucking place. If you want to read a rant about all the bullshit advice being parroted across the internet and how you’re not the only one who it doesn’t work for, keep fucking reading.
After my fourth middle-of-the-night anxiety attack and getting a grand total of 8 hours of sleep in four nights, I decided enough was enough. I was tired of spending hundreds of dollars a year on sleep remedies that my body would adapt to within two weeks. I was tired of feeling fucking tired every day. Because I never learn my lesson, I turned to the internet for help on my insomnia. Big fucking mistake. What I found was basically a recap of everything I’d already tried, and people swearing by all of it. As I read about all the shit I had already tried and how it was the miracle cure everyone else had been seeking, I felt like a fucking alien, because none of that shit worked for me. What follows is a list of all the bland generic spew I saw parroted across the internet, and why it doesn’t fucking work for me. If nothing worked for you either, you’re not alone.
1. The Supplement Hole
Melatonin, GABA, Theanine, Valerian root, ashwaganda, tryptophan, B-6, magnesium, ZMA. You name it, I’ve tried it, my body has adapted to it within a week or two. My body will adapt to anything except sleeping properly. People say you have to cycle off of these things for a week or two so they work again. Great, so what am I supposed to do for that week or two? Not sleep? Fuck that.
I could do an entire article on the bullshit I saw about melatonin. Everywhere I looked this shit was being touted as the miracle sleep cure to end all sleep cures. Can’t sleep? Your circadian rhythm is out of whack, and melatonin will fix it for sure. Just take some melatonin, it’ll all be fine.
Except it won’t. Just like all the other shit I mentioned, your body adapts to melatonin supplementation. If you’re lucky, it takes a month. If you’re me, it takes a week. On top of that, melatonin is actually not meant for long-term use, as it interferes with your body’s natural production of melatonin and your body will eventually stop producing it. Short-term supplementation is okay if you’re suffering from jet lag or just went from 1st shift to 3rd shift at work, but for people with chronic insomnia it’s just putting a band-aid on a symptom.
To give you an idea of just how immune I am to these supplements, this is the cocktail I usually take before bed:
- 10 mg melatonin (time-released)
- 200 mg L-Theanine
- 3 caplets of ZMA
- 1,000 mg of tryptophan
- 1,000 mg of Valerian root
- 50 mg of B-6 (in addition to the B-6 in ZMA)
Guess who still woke up for his 1:30 AM anxiety attack? Guess who spent the rest of the night high as a kite but still unable to fall asleep for more than 15 minute intervals?
There’s nothing wrong with supplementation from time to time. In fact, if you train with weights I’d recommend taking ZMA every night. However, long-term reliance on supplements to sleep is fucking dangerous, and if you do it for too long you end up turning into a 31 year old blogger-in-denial with anger issues and a shitty job.
There is one supplement that I feel is worth mentioning. Knocked the Fuck Out, by 5% Nutrition. This shit is basically a cocktail of sleep aids rolled into a powder, which you mix with hot water and drink 20 minutes before bed. It’s also, ironically enough, the last supplement Rich Piana announced before he died. Knocked the Fuck Out is one of the few supplements that consistently worked for me, and took me a very long time (4+ months) to adapt to for some reason. The only downside is that it’s $30 for 30 servings, so if you’re taking it every night you’re spending $30 a month. If you have $30 a month to spend on this it’s well worth it. I’ve been trying to find alternatives though, since I’m not made of money, and it’s still not fool-proof.
2. Caffeine and alcohol are the source of all evil ever.
It seems like no matter what problem I’m searching out, one of the main solutions is to eliminate caffeine and alcohol from your diet. Have cancer? Cut the caffeine and alcohol. Caught your girlfriend banging your best friend? Studies have shown that limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake can resolve this. Have a chest-sucking gunshot wound after being caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout? This study by NIMH shows that caffeine and alcohol can make you more susceptible to gunfire.
Every now and then I decide to tease myself with false hope and I cut all caffeine and alcohol from my diet for a month or two just to see how I’ll react. The only difference is I feel tired all day and after a long exhausting shitty day at work I get to come home and watch everyone else crack cold one after cold one and get fucked up and have a good time while I remain stone sober and bored out of my mind. Don’t give me that shit about withdrawal either, caffeine and alcohol withdrawal last at max a week (unless you’re a raging alcoholic who also ingests 500+mg of caffeine a day, in which case you’re fucking retarded and you’ll probably die of a heart attack soon).
That cup of tea at 5:30 in the morning isn’t causing me to lose sleep multiple nights a week, jack ass. Neither is having a few beers once a week. Take your cover-all cop-out and shove it up your naturopathic ass. Caffeine and alcohol have been around since the dawn of man, they’re not some evil concoctions manufactured by some evil corporation hell-bent on destroying mankind. If these assholes were right about this shit the human race wouldn’t have even made it to 10,000 BC. Of course abusing booze and caffeine is going to have adverse side effects, but using them in moderation isn’t going to do shit. Having six beers a week and a tea/soda/caffeine pill every day isn’t abuse, dumbfuck.
3. “Just meditate, bro!”
Meditation is another catch-all as far as advice on the internet goes. Just like with avoiding caffeine and alcohol, you’re most likely to find meditation as a suggestion to cure whatever ails you.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. There is nothing inherently wrong with meditation. It’s a healthy practice with many benefits.
The real problem lies in the fact that not only do stupid hippies on the internet greatly exaggerate these benefits, but they also assume that anyone can just drop into a state of meditation at will. Here is the cacophony of noises I am currently listening to right now in my little apartment in the ghetto of Philadelphia:
- Upstairs neighbor watching YouTube videos on max volume, and apparently practicing for Riverstomp while his cats hold ECW matches.
- The upstairs neighbor’s roommate’s 3 year old daughter running back and forth while he smokes weed and chats up bitches on his cellphone.
- A car parked out front of my house blasting Puerto Rican gangsta rap as they run inside the local bodega, which is very obviously a drug front.
- Cars driving down my street (which is considered a main thoroughfare) with a loud exhaust system and heavy sub-woofers. (Side tangent: I have a guy in the area who drives a shitty 2006 Chevy Blazer with expensive rims and tinted windows. His sound system is so loud I can literally hear and feel him coming from 4 blocks away. They like to drive around the neighborhood all hours of the night blasting Puerto Rican gangsta rap. I call him and his homies “Burrito Patrol”, and always yell “LOSERS!” as they pass by. I hope Burrito Patrol wrecks their car and every one of those obnoxious losers dies in the ensuing fire.)
- A neighbor revving his motorcycle.
- Some assholes shooting off their bottomless supply of fireworks at the nearby playground. (A nightly event now, I guess you can buy these with welfare cash assistance or something)
- The police helicopter “patrolling” the area.
- A group of young teens hanging out at the drug front store mock-fighting and yelling incessantly.
- Neighbor’s dog barking its head off because it’s currently 33 degrees out right now and its retarded owners have left it outside in the yard for the last half hour while they sit on their fat lazy asses getting high.
I couldn’t even meditate in this environment if I were fucking high. Our house literally has zero insulation, it was built by some dumb fucking pollock back in the 1920’s and probably financed by a Jew. I can hear everything my neighbors both next to me and upstairs do. It would take a lobotomy to be able to meditate.
The common response to this is to “incorporate the sounds” into your meditation. What? Is there really someone out there who can meditate to a motorcycle or a welfare firecracker cabana? What a crock of shit, I bet the people saying this are the kinds of motherfuckers who roll up their windows when they drive past a black person waiting for a bus. It’s easy to say “Just incorporate the sounds into your meditation!” when you’re living in your nice San Francisco flat and not the ghetto of Philadelphia. There’s no way in hell I can meditate in this environment, and neither can any of you stupid hippy fucks.
4. Cut off all electronics an hour before bed.
Or as I call this one, the “Blue Light Special”.
No TV, no computer, no cellphone, nothing. According to the professional blogger scene, the “blue light” from your electronic devices functions as “artificial sunlight” and tricks your brain into decreasing melatonin secretion or some shit. Before you pass this off as pseudo-science, research has shown that this is legit.
That said, as practice I do this, and have been doing it for a few years. An hour before bed time, I get off my computer and I do dishes, pack food for work the next day, and lay in bed reading a book until it’s lights out time. I also don’t sleep with my cellphone in my bedroom, and have even banned my girlfriend from keeping hers in the bedroom (much to her annoyance). Still I find myself tossing and turning restlessly. Meanwhile, I fall asleep during the day or evening if I try to watch anything on the TV longer than an hour.
I’ve even taken this to the extreme on more than one occasion, going multiple days without sitting in front of my computer or TV just to see if there was any difference. Aside from being bored out of my fucking mind, there was no real difference in sleep quality or anything.
I’ve also seen people go even further with this one and say that even reading or doing literally anything an hour before bed isn’t a good idea. What am I supposed to do then, stare stupidly at the fucking wall for an hour? Are the people giving advice on the internet high, or are they giving this advice from the comfort of a parallel Earth where everyone is hit in the head repeatedly with hammers on their 13th birthdays?
I started this article a month ago. Since then, I’ve (sort of) resolved my sleep issues… for now. You’re probably wondering what DID work for me. As it turns out, it may have been an overabundance of vitamins B12, B6, and vitamin C. Many of my supplements had large amounts of B12 and B6 in them, in addition to what I was getting in my diet (meat is a large source of B vitamins). Too little B vitamins can cause insomnia, and too much B vitamins can do the same. B vitamins are finicky fuckers. I was also taking a Vitamin C supplement every morning for no good reason, and too much Vitamin C causes insomnia too. I’ve cut out all unnecessary supplementation, and since then it’s been slightly easier to sleep (and has saved me money). I still need to go to a doctor and get a sleep study done, but this is tolerable for now.
In the meantime I’ll continue enjoying my caffeine and beer, and will continue to relax by playing video games instead of fighting with my noisy environment to meditate.
Have a secret weapon in the fight against insomnia? Want to share your experience with insomnia? Want to just let loose on a sleep-deprived rant about why you can’t sleep? Feel free to drop a comment!