Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Sleep Cure

It seems like such a simple thing. Just go to bed early in a very dark room, and stay in bed late. And viola! (as we musicians say) you're cured. Now there's a remedy that sounds like it's worth a try. But as I am finding out, it's not so easy to do (especially for a musician).

It all started with an article in the LA Times about a study that was conducted by a doctor named Pereira who compared the effects of a cocktail of naturally occurring substances including melatonin with omeprazole (Prilosec) on GERD. (You will need a subscription to access the full article.) In the study, it was found that the melatonin worked just as well, if not better, than the omeprazole. I clipped this article out not realizing that in a month or so I would be hit with an attack of severe acid reflux myself.

In researching the connection between melatonin and GERD, I discovered several other studies that attested to the efficacy of melatonin to sooth the esophagus and protect it from digestive juices that might find their way there. It also suppresses stomach acid from being formed in the first place, which makes sense, since your stomach shouldn't be producing acid while you sleep.

So in the all-American modern medical way, I thought, Hey, just take a pill—melatonin can be had at my local grocery store. But I also found that taking melatonin can cause your pineal gland to stop producing its own so I wanted to be careful.

Then I discovered Lights Out by TS Wiley which I have mentioned previously. If you can follow my thread here, this led to the realization that we have so separated ourselves from our animal heritage that we have forgotten how to sleep! We have forgotten that it is not normal to stay up late at night with the lights burning and push ourselves to work day after day with only 6 or 7 hours sleep, not even 8, when our paleolithic ancestors would be sleeping or resting for the full 12 to 14 hours of darkness that happens in winter.

So I decided to try to get more sleep, encouraging my pineal gland to make more melatonin, and thereby curb my reflux symptoms. I indulged in my body's desire to go to bed very early—9 pm most nights and made myself stay in bed, in the dark, until 7 am. Actually, you don't have to be asleep to make melatonin, you just have to be in total darkness. And I got a little help in the beginning with a melatonin supplement. It worked like a charm! In fact, I am off the supplement now and sleeping better than ever. If I have acid reflux symptoms during the day (I believe it will take awhile, like months, to fully recover), I watch my carbs and take the other various remedies (DGL, bitters, etc.) that I mentioned earlier.

Oh, and by the way, no TV before bed. The light is too bright. Only gentle, non-stimulating activities—meditation, not exercise; reading, not web-browsing; knitting, not practicing. But... next week I will have children's concerts in the morning and rehearsals at night that last until 10:30 pm. No going to bed early, and no staying in bed late. It will be tough.

1 comment:

  1. That's very interesting.

    When I last saw my rheumatologist, and he found out that I had not taken methotrexate in 6 weeks, and he found that my arthritis symptoms were as mild as when I was taking methotrexate, he asked me what I had done.

    I said that I had severely cut down my activities outside of the bare minimum (get Iris to school, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed).

    I walked 10-15 minutes 3 times a day, stretched a bit in the mornings and evenings, and then went to bed early.

    The house could be a mess, but I ignored it. I didn't make the mess so it was not my problem. I slept 8-10 hours each night.

    On weekends, I cooked large batches of healthy foods with mostly organic ingredients and reheated them for lunch and dinner on weekdays.

    He said, "Congratulations, you rediscovered the 10-day rheumatoid arthritis cure." He elaborated that doctors used to hospitalize rheum. arth. patients for 10 days. Patients rested whenever they weren't in physical therapy. Healthy meals were brought to them. They got well and were sent home.

    Insurance companies stopped paying for this treatment when it was discovered that, after 12 months, the group who got this "cure" were no better than the the group that didn't. I said that was to be expected if you sent the patients back to the lifestyles that were making them ill.

    He didn't even mention this "cure" to me. He put me on a chemotherapy agent instead. When I couldn't hold it down, he upped the folic acid supplement dose (which ups the colon cancer risk). When the acid reflux was giving me pain and exacerbating my asthma, he prescribed Prilosec for the acid reflux and inhaled corticosteroids for the asthma.

    I didn't follow his advice, preferring to split the methotrexate into twice weekly instead of weekly doses.

    So, instead of behavioral modification, the protocol is to prescribe a dangerous drug and then pile more drugs on top of that. Insurance pays for pill popping so let's switch to that!

    No one even told me there was an alternative. Do we let insurance companies determine our treatment?