Sugar For A Simpler Sleep Aid or Acute Insomnia Cure

This was a rather tough little experiment I’ve done on occasion for quite a while now, perhaps over a year or more. That’s simply because I really don’t have much problem with good sleep. Since I’m human, live in a complex world, and have made my way in producing my own income since 1992, I expect that sometimes I’m going to have disturbed sleep. Or, hell, I’m married, too. ;)

…Sometime back, on the late Seth Roberts’ blog, I caught wind of an intervention where one takes maybe 1-2 TBS of honey (17-34g sugar carbs) before bed each night, and has better sleep. I’ve mentioned it in comments a couple of times and have been told that Ray Peat and Matt Stone have advocated fruit juice for the same purpose. It got me thinking. Could that be why my dad, and so may others, like a glass of warm milk before bed? (I dislike warm milk—I like ice cold milk—and I suspect the therapeutic value is in the sugar, not the temperature.)

I’ll get to my details in a minute; but first, I Googled around this morning…something like: ‘sugar before bed for insomnia.’ And zero of the links on the first page of results mentioned anything about sugar. Instead, it was all links to popular bogs with lists of up to 10 things to avoid. News Flash: Don’t drink a Venti mega-quadruple-shot mocha chocolate latte frappuccino before bed. Some of this was from “paleo” bolgs of the sort where you have to have a list of instructions to, literally, do anything, Cage-the-Animal, style. Curiously, when I was in college, senior year, taking a course on vector calculus for fun that I didn’t need, I found that pulling all-nighters in advance of tests, with copious coffee, nonetheless didn’t hamper my ability to crash at 4-5am for a few hours.

So it’s taken a while, since I sleep pretty damn well. I’m BULLETPROOF! (apologies to Dave). But I also got interested because the dream state often reported with lots of fibers for the gut opened my eyes to the vast complexities of what we take for granted every night. I wondered what might happen, combining the two.

So I did. Now, I use a fiber concoction of more than a dozen things, and I often mix it with 4 oz of OJ, and 4 oz of whole milk, and often with a raw egg (Orange Julius with smoothness and texture). …I’ll be putting up my recipe soon: no longer interested in developing and marketing a product.

OK, so as I said, this took a while, because I wanted to intuitively shake out the confounders—not in a purely scientific way, but more an intuitive one. Just make sure I’ve done it in enough differing circumstances that I get some sense of real resolution. Obviously, someone with chronic insomnia would make a far better test subject. On the other hand, one doesn’t need to be an insomniac to enjoy better, deeper sleep.

Accordingly, sometimes I take a TBS or two of honey, sometimes about 4oz of OJ, and I’ve even tried 4-6 oz of craft root beer, made with cane sugar (I just avoid HFCS, I doubt it would make a substantial difference towards the goal). Can’t tell any difference, which leads me to believe that sugar can help you sleep better, deeper, longer. When I do this, I very often experience bouts of very deep sleep lasting 4-6 hours in a stretch, without waking up, or having to expel yellow saline. Add the gut fibers, and you get a dream novel on top of it—leading you to believe that you do, actually, have a novel or two of your own weird making, in you. Various probiotics might help too, and I’ll soon be blogging about a new one from the UK—mega high dose, intended for short-bout dosages of 3-6 days, periodically.

The other thing I’ve done many times, and perhaps more importantly, is to not do any of that before-bed intervention, but wait for one of those nights where I wake up sometime between 2-4 am, and it takes 1-2 hours to get back to sleep. I’ll eventually always get back to sleep; but what I’ve found for myself, including last night—which prompted this post, finally—is that it almost never takes more than 2 hours, or less than 1 if I do nothing, but it can take only 15 minutes.

Since I’ve been doing this a while in many different ways, last night I decided to try to bring it home for me. I went to bed tired at about 11pm, having been up since 6am. Went to sleep head-pillow like. Woke up 4 hours later. Usually, it’s take a piss, go right back to sleep. Not this time. Tossed, seemingly wide awake. Had a little bout of restless leg (this is a rare acute thing for me; chronic for my dad—since I was a kid). So, after an hour—it’s 4am—I go in, take about a half cup of OJ with a couple of ounces of salty club soda (straight OJ is too sweet for me), and next thing I know, it’s 7:15.

So, there you go. You can try it if you like, or stupidly believe it’s going to kill your pancreatic beta cells…and that it’s more important to live in sleep frustration over years and decades than “kill beta cells” in your imagination, because: that’s what the LOW CARB RELIGION HUMANOIDS want you to believe because they live in deprived sleep misery themselves, and want plenty of commiseration and comfort—perhaps so you can come up with a low-carb alternative.

Or, just whatever. Try it and see, or don’t. And I don’t care either way.

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  1. Jackie D on March 20, 2015 at 11:14

    I’m willing to try this. Those nights where I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep are brutal.

    I did try the honey trick previously, and it helped…I think. I used to do a bunch of stuff in combination to try to help with sleep: 4T RPS every morning on an empty stomach, 10k IU vitamin D (minimum) every morning with a little fat, magnesium before bed, 1T raw honey before bed, wearing a sleep mask to eliminate all light disturbance…It all helped, for a while. But I have definitely been lax on keeping up the whole regime consistently. (And honestly, I sometimes just get sick of being on regimes to do something as simple as sleep. My attitude can be my own worst enemy.)

    • wildcucumber on March 20, 2015 at 13:22

      I find the honey works best for me with a goodly sprinkle of salt. Or in extreme cases, ice cream with salt.

  2. Duck Dodgers on March 21, 2015 at 07:17

    Also, the 8-hour sleep isn’t even normal. It’s been shown that our ancestors slept in a bi-phasic sleep pattern—having two sleeps at night…

    BBC: The myth of the eight-hour sleep

    Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

    Interestingly, it was reported in 19th century texts that the “second sleep” imparted more vivid and “immoral” dreams than the first sleep. That was actually one of the reasons why people began campaigns to convince people to give up their second sleeps.

    You can learn more about how people dropped their “second sleep” by listening to this short segment of BackStory:

    BackStory: ‘Til Morning is Nigh

    Historian Roger Ekirch tells Peter about how Americans used to sleep — in two segments, with a break around midnight when people would get up and attend to business. We hear how the rise of factory time sparked a movement to sleep straight through the night.

    There’s absolutely nothing unnatural about waking up in the middle of the night. The only thing unnatural about it is turning on artificial lights and spiking your cortisol. Light a candle or use blueblockers, or these flashlights or reading lights, which mimic candle light.

    • Duck Dodgers on March 21, 2015 at 18:36

      Ekirch also has a book going into great detail about the first and second sleeps:

      It’s also been hypothesized that it would have been highly advantageous to evolve with an urge to wake in the middle of the night in order to tend to the fire.

    • gabkad on March 22, 2015 at 16:42

      Duckie, this is all like when I’d go canoeing in September. Two weeks in, carry everything, lots of portaging….. I’d just get in the sleeping bag when the sun went down and stay there until the sun came up again. I’d wake up during the night and lie there listening to the noises of animals or birds or whatever. Probably would be in silent reverie for a couple of hours and then fall asleep again. The BEST! I’d finish my vacation feeling like a whole new refreshed human… only to get back to the rat race again. The perfect vacation: no or minimal people, move a lot, eat enough to keep a body moving, sleep a lot, enjoy the night animal noises…. keep food in a sealed portage bag suspended high up and far away from the tent. No campfires. Just use a little hiking gas stove. (Don’t fry bacon.) Almost stealth camping…. leave nothing behind.

    • Duck Dodgers on March 22, 2015 at 18:57

      Oh… and sooooo many stars! Hard to find sky like that these days near civilization.

  3. OldTech on March 20, 2015 at 17:28

    Hmm.. I did this for years before I was diagnosed with type II diabetes. And it did help with both insomnia and restless legs.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 20, 2015 at 18:43

      So, have you come up with a cause for your diabetes and restless legs?

      Guess what? The vast majority of people who take in lots of sugar don’t get diabetes or die in any other way that could be directly tied to it. Another? The vast majority of people who smoke don’t die from it. In fact, all 4 of my grandparents smoked, and a great grandmother who didn’t die until I was 29 (she had my grandmother at 14). All five lived well into their 80s and except for a grandfather with leukemia, all died of natural causes.

      The point is that actuall causality is running amok in all of this “health” hand wringing.

    • John on March 20, 2015 at 20:27

      Until recently, pure fructose had been touted as a “safer” sugar for diabetics, because it has a very low glycemic response. In fact, sugar and foods than contain it generally have lower GI indexes than starches. One theory is that fructose doesn’t need insulin to enter a cell like glucose does.

  4. John on March 20, 2015 at 20:12

    One of the most mind blowingly vivid dreams of my life was thanks to potato starch. Sadly, there was only the one. I think I moved on from that to the juice/honey ideas (both before bed and if I woke in the middle of the night), and yeah, juice/honey worked great! After reading this, I can’t believe I never thought to combine the two myself! Damn, I feel kinda dumb.

    Recently, however, I have been having more realistic dreams (though not as vivid as the PS one). And this time, I think it’s thanks to increased use of glycine/gelatin (something I’ve mentioned here before). If some combination of the sugar/RS/Glycine produce great sleep along with amazing dreams, I will be very happy.

  5. Harriet on March 20, 2015 at 20:33

    One of the supplements I seem to need at night is vitamin B3. I’ve had enough trial and error with it to know to keep taking it. I went off it and was OK for almost a week but my ability to go to sleep and stay asleep was compromised. I also need some Mg from time to time, though not continuously. Plus the PS helps though its not enough on its own.
    My sleep deteriorated badly on the potato only diet after only one day and to get the good sleep back I have to have a high RS of multiple types plus B3 and I’m much better after a late-ish supper or some honey just before bed.

    Interesting experiments.

  6. Duck Dodgers on March 21, 2015 at 07:06

    This reminds me of some interesting research that Gestalt did with sleep last year…

    Supercharge your health by sleeping less – Polyphasic sleep & it’s effects on cortisol

    The only thing I’d add, since having read that, is that light with color temperature greater than candlelight (i.e. sunlight and artificial light) is known to have a significant effect on the suppression of melatonin along with an increase secretion of cortisol. So, the large 8 am jump in cortisol is a combination of factors—such as getting exposed to sunlight and waking up the body.

  7. MissMcGillicuddy on March 21, 2015 at 09:48

    Does the sugar boost serotonin levels, resulting in restfulness?

  8. Jed on March 21, 2015 at 12:45

    On one of those PBS Pledge Drives, a doctor said if you consume any type of sugar close to bedtime you will not produce HGH during sleep, when we naturally produce it.

  9. Tim Maitski on March 22, 2015 at 12:25

    I’ve been experimenting with honey before sleep for a few months now. I was hoping that it would allow me to sleep throughout the night without waking up. But I still wake up after 3 hours and then it usually takes about an hour to get back to sleep. I thought that was a problem but the links that Duck Dodgers posted seem to say that it might be natural. After reading the information about the first sleep and the second sleep, I might not fight it and maybe take advantage of it and try to optimize the time by maybe meditating during that window of time.

    I have been lifting for the past 3 years and was intrigued by Seth Roberts report about honey at night increasing his strength. After the first three weeks of taking honey at bedtime, I saw my high in the bench press increase by 20 pounds. Can’t say for certain if it was related or if it was just a normal cycle I happened to be going through.

    • Duck Dodgers on March 22, 2015 at 16:06

      Good for you, Tim! Though, I do encourage you to at least make an effort to be cognizant of the research on how artificial light affects your circadian rhythms. Waking up an turning on a low blue light, or a low blue nightlight, or true full-coverage blu-blocker glasses or tending a fire, will not affect your melatonin production. But, switching on a standard white light will (i.e. that’s anything with a cooler color temperature than fire).

      Even a glimpse of white light will begin to trigger melatonin suppression and increase cortisol. And the more you do it, the more a pattern will develop, where your body anticipates the pattern—which is how a circadian rhythm develops.

      There’s a lot of research to show this. And even For instance, here’s a lecture done at Oxford showing how powerful light is at suppressing melatonin: keeps a list of articles/studies detailing much of what is known on how light affects sleep patterns. And the owner, who used to work for GE labs, wrote a book compiling all the research and how to use the cheap blue-blocker glasses properly.

      The knowledge of the issues with blue light are starting to go mainstream too.

      See: Harvard Medical School: Blue light has a dark side

  10. Jer on March 24, 2015 at 03:20

    I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on TV, but I have heard of a condition known as “nocturnal hypoglycemia” – usually associated with diabetics, but I’m sure it can affect others as well. Basically your body runs low on blood glucose, senses that, then mobilizes the body to get the level back up. Maybe more fats (like in milk) before going to bed at night would work as well as fruit juices

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