Sleep Better Tonight

Sleep Better



by Andrew W. Saul

Over the decades that I was a natural therapeutics consultant, the first questions I’d ask a new client were “Are you in pain?” and “Are you sleeping okay?” When one lady answered the second with a rather emphatic “No,” I knew it was time to consider lecithin.

"I sleep one, maybe two hours a night,” she said. She was just short of 50 and looked seriously tired: lined, strained and just barely coping. “So that’s why I’m here. I’ve been to doctors and tried what seemed like every medical option available.”

“I’m going to guess that lecithin has not been mentioned.”

“No, it has not,” she replied. “Why?”

“Doctors get little if any instruction in clinical nutrition in their medical schooling. A lot of people know this, including most doctors. But it drops off there. Sort of like everyone knows you should eat right, exercise, and stop smoking. Doing it is another matter.”

“Well,” she said, “if taking lechthin will enable me to sleep better, I’m game for it.”

"You might not care much for the taste,” I said. “Many people take the capsules, but capsules, big as they may look, do not provide a food-portion amount. It takes several tablespoons of lecithin granules to make an effective dose. Mixing them into yogurt works well."

"No problem. I’ll do it. Got little to lose, and a lot of waking hours to try it out.”

Well, she did. It was only a matter of days before I got a phone call.

“I’m sleeping seven hours a night now!” came a voice more relieved than happy.

"Great!” I replied. “That is terrific.” Then I asked the usual follow up question: “How much lecithin are you taking?”

“Not sure,” she answered. “I just walk around the house all day eating it right from the jar.”

Now THERE is a statement I will not soon forget, and this case was over thirty years back.

Why does it work? Because lecithin is high in phosphatidyl choline. Your body readily absorbs the choline, right into the brain, where it is made into acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter of your parasympathetic nervous system, your "calm down and relax" or "rest and digest" part of the autonomic nervous system. More lecithin means more choline which means more acetylcholine. This is literally a food acting as a drug. But it is a safe and natural tweak, as your body not only likes lecithin, the brain is literally one-third lechthin!

Learn more about lecithin at .

It does no good to have someone tell you to get some sleep.
It does no good to lie down and stay awake, either. So here are more techniques that help you get to sleep more quickly and without drugs. 

 1. Read for a while. This will improve your mind while relaxing your body. 

 2. Get some fresh air. Open a window, walk the dog. 

 3. Try some moderate exercise, such as isometrics, yoga, or stretches.  Couples have found that lovemaking works well, too. 

  4. Get more L-tryptophan in your diet. L-tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids that your body uses to make neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin. These neurotransmitters are chemical nerve messengers that help your brain to shut down for the night... and be fully awake during the day. Seafood, chicken, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans and cashews are foods that are high in L-tryptophan foods. More of the L-tryptophan in dairy products gets to your brain when you have a carbohydrate along with it. That's why cheese and crackers, or milk and a whole-grain cookie are good bedtime snacks. 

  If L-tryptophan is taken as a nutritional sleep-aid, the target dose is around 1,000 to 1,500 mg, taken a couple of hours before bedtime. I think the supplement is too expensive, and prefer food sources. I mean, you have to eat anyway, right?

  5. Vitamin B-3 as niacin or niacinamide, in larger than RDA doses, will help induce sleep. Taking between 100 and 500 milligrams about 20 minutes before bedtime usually works best. The amount required varies considerably from one person to another. Ideally, you take the least amount that makes you the most sleepy. If you use niacin, expect to experience a brief niacin "flush" (like a hot flash or blushing sensation) which usually fades away goes away in short time. The warm feeling is pleasant to most people, but may be avoided by either taking less niacin at any one time, or by using niacinamide intead. A bit of practice will tell you how much you need. 

  6. I'll say it again: LECITHIN makes up nearly a third of your brain's dry weight.  This natural food substance is found in soy products and egg yolks and is available as a supplement as well. Three or four tablespoons daily has consistently shortened the time needed for people to go to sleep. 

  7. Prayer or meditation may be very settling and help you sleep sooner and better. Certainly there are other benefits as well. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to produce deep rest, reduced anxiety, and very effective relief from insomnia (Miskiman, D. E. "The Treatment of Insomnia by Transcendental Meditation," Scientific Research on Transcendental Meditation: Collected Papers, Orme-Johnson, Domash and Farrow, Eds., Vol. 1, MIU Press, 1974.) 

The Trappist monastic tradition contains the phrase, "I lie down, and sleep comes at once."  Directly from the Bible, we find: 

 "For he gives to his beloved sleep."  (Psalms 127:2, RSV) 

  8. You may have heard about melatonin, the body’s own natural sleep-promoting hormone. You can increase your body’s melatonin production by keeping your bedroom as dark as humanly possible. You can also try 3 to 6 mg of supplemental melatonin, taken about an hour before bedtime. Melatonin is very safe: studies using over 200 mg/day failed to show harm.

Melatonin: Make your own

How? Go to bed early and keep your bedroom dark, and your body will make plenty for you. Consider lining or doubling your curtains or drapes, adding blinds or a dark-colored window shade, and getting rid of light-up digital clocks. Keep a nightlight in your hallway for those ever-popular trips to the salle de bain, but keep your bedroom door closed. These steps, and others that you think of, will keep your sleeping environment darker, and your melatonin (sleep hormone) production will go up.

That “go to bed early” comment will be quickly discounted by any number of readers, who might say, “I can’t go to bed early. There is too much to do.”  You might be right. My reply?  If you are too busy to sleep, you are too busy. Many people are sacrificing sleep time for family time, for TV, or, increasingly, for work.  In an age of cheap, programmable DVD recorders, I think the TV excuse can be flushed where it belongs without delay.

I can hardly object to family time, but kids should not be up late, either.  Several school nurses have told me that an eight-grader needs ten to twelve hours of sleep a night.  If the school bus comes at 7 AM, that means a pretty early bedtime. Easier said than done? Yes. But do the math: well-rested kid(s) plus well-rested parent(s) has got to equal better quality time at home, and better school performance.  It wouldn’t hurt for your children to make a little melatonin of their own, now, would it?  Back when I was in grammar school, we actually got a grade on our report card that evaluated the extent to which we were “rested and ready for work.” (I cannot help but wonder why they didn’t think a little more deeply about the fact that we also walked three-quarters of a mile each way to school, AND home for lunch, for a total of three miles daily… at age 7?) At day’s end, I was as pooped as a farm boy. I’ll bet your kids are more tired than they let on.  Try it: they’ll hate it.  But you will all sleep better, and that can be a very big payoff.

One of the best things about natural sleep aids is that they are safe and not habit forming.  When your brain and body are well nourished, more restful sleep is a natural result.  You are feeding your body, not drugging it. 

Why avoid sleep medication? 

First of all, we get way too much medication in general.  Enough prescriptions were written in the US to provide each man, woman and child with seven individual medications a year. . . back in 1986! (Williams, S.: Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 1986, p. 672). Did you know that, again way back then, two million Americans took prescription sleeping pills EVERY NIGHT for at least two months at a time!

It is not getting any better. Today, nine million Americans take prescription sleeping pills. The worst part of it is that even occasional (twice monthly) use of sleeping medication shortens life. Sleeping pill use is "associated with greater than threefold increased hazards of death even when prescribed less than 18 pills per year."

Sleep is a natural process, and natural methods are safe and effective.  It is time for everyone to start "just saying no" to excessively prescribed drugs... and those over the counter drugs, too. 

Copyright 2023 (revised), 2005 and previous years Andrew W. Saul.

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )


Andrew W. Saul


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