Over the past couple years, I’ve placed quite a bit of stress upon my circadian machinery, what with all the overnight shift work (either 7pm to 7am or 4pm to 4am) and all of the time spent traveling, that I’ve felt the need to explore supplemental support. These are the various supplements I’ve been experimenting with off and on.
Now I don’t take them all at once, and I don’t take any of them regularly, but I do have them in my toolbox. There are some that I’ve found more helpful than others and some that I’m still trying to decide whether or not I’ve just spent money on expensive urine. These aren’t intended to be full reviews, just general impressions, to give you a sense of what I’m currently experimenting with.
Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate – It’s a white powder that you mix in a glass of warm water and is supposedly one of the more absorbable forms of magnesium (although Tim Ferriss has recommended magnesium oxide to his buddy Kevin Rose in one of their recent Random Shows). Apparently as a population, we’re all deficient in magnesium, so we can all benefit from magnesium supplementation. This was also something recommended by Phinney and Volek in The Art And Science of Low Carb Performance, although they recommend magnesium chloride. I’ve used Natural Calm immediately before heading to bed and haven’t really noticed a difference in terms of sleep quality.
What I can say is that I don’t like the taste of the original flavor that I have… it tastes very sour. They have other flavors available like cherry or raspberry lemon, that I’d rather try in the future. The other issue that arose was the having to mix it in water part. One of the draw backs of drinking a glass of water immediately before bed is that I have a very strong urge to pee in the morning… and this is especially disruptive when the urge makes itself known after only 4-5 hrs of sleep.
Solaray Vitamin C – This is the form of vitamin C recommended by Dave Asprey in his Better Baby Book. The pills are on the larger side, and is an issue for the BJJ Cavewife. I make sure to take this after nights I’ve gotten less than 6 hrs of sleep, because it’s an antioxidant and I want to try to minimize the oxidative stress my body is subjected to when sleep deprived. How do I know it’s working? I have no clue! I don’t feel any different… although I generally don’t feel any different when taking any other vitamin C supplement, and I don’t know how you could even tell if the vitamin C that you’re taking is actually working… although I did have one clue.
Recently both the BJJ Cavewife and I got sick at the same time with a nasty virus. Worse yet, I was doing a week working nights. I dramatically upped my vitamin C dose to 2000 mg in the morning and 2000 mg in the evening, while the BJJ Cavewife didn’t take any because of the size of the pills. In the end it took her two full weeks to recover, whereas I was almost 100% at the end of the first week. Was it the Vitamin C? Maybe. But I was also taking a new greens supplement called Athletic Greens (which I’ll go into in a separate post), that she wasn’t using, which may have confounded things.
Nutrigold Krill Oil Gold – Krill is reportedly one of the best sources of Omega 3s available since fish oils can be prone to rancidity and contaminated with heavy metals and other bad stuff if the fish that it’s sourced from aren’t the best quality. While I try to take this on a more regular basis to get my Omega 3 levels up, on nights I sleep less than 6 hrs I up the dose as another form a damage control because of it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.
Thorne Vitamin B and Relora – I first came across this as I was browsing through the Thorne Fx site after listening to Ben Greenfield interview a guy from the company and openly vouching for the quality of it. Since I know that a big part of circadian rhythms are closely interrelated with cortisol I reasoned that if my circadian rhythms are screwed, my cortisol rhythms must be screwed too (remember cortisol is one of the end products of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. So if this supplement can help me with my Thorne Vitamin B and Relora, I’d feel better after my night shifts… and I can say that after taking this I HAVE felt better about anywhere from 20-40% of the time. It’s not always reproducible, but it’s worth it for me to take it when I know I’m going to be working a week of nights for the possible benefit.
Thorne R-Lipoic Acid – This is definitely on the pricey side at $37 a bottle, but after listening to the Ben Greenfield podcast on supplement quality I was more willing to shell out money for good quality stuff, and since Thorne is the parent company of ThorneFX, I reasoned that this was good quality. I won’t go into too much detail as to why this supposedly helps circadian rhythms since I wrote a post about it recently, but I wanted to try it out and have found that I’ve had a more restful… longer sleep when taking this about 30% of the time. Enough that I’m willing to continue messing around with it for the near future.
Source Naturals L-Tryptophan – Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used to make serotonin which is a precursor to melatonin, so I reasoned that taking this would work as a support to my poor circadian-melatonin machinery. I’ve actually noticed improved sleep a good 40% of the time, so I make sure to take this on my night shifts also. While there is concern that prolonged use of melatonin supplementation can lead to reduced secretion of endogenous melatonin from the pituitary, there doesn’t seem to be any concern with L-tryptophan use. Why did I choose this particular brand? Because it is affordable and subject to free 2 day shipping with Amazon prime.
Natures Way Melatonin Lozenge – Designed to be absorbed under the tongue, I can say that this is the best tasting melatonin I’ve ever had. It actually tastes like candy, and I’ve often found myself chewing on it like it like a mint, despite promising that I would it under my tongue until it had fully absorbed. This is supposedly one of the most absorbable forms of melatonin, and I’ve actually found that it works better than other melatonin brands that I’ve tried. I do try to take as low a dose as possible (never going over 5 mg, mostly taking 2.5 mg, and never more than 3 days in a row) because of the concerns I mentioned, with impaired release of your body’s natural melatonin from the pituitary with prolonged use. I’ve actually been using this less because of the next one.
Melatonin MZS – I’m not sure where I first heard about this form of melatonin. I thought it was from Ben Greenfield or maybe even Jack Kruse, but now that I’m searching for the link I can’t find it. Each tablet contains 3 mg of Melatonin combined with 8.7 mg of Zinc and 50 cmg of Selenium. There’s something about this combination that makes it super effective, because I notice that I get the best sleeps after I take this. The only draw backs are the taste (if you get it on your tongue, you will never mistake it for a piece of candy like the lozenge) and the fact that it only works about 60-70% of the time for me… but I’m more than willing to accept these drawbacks, and this is now my preferred form of melatonin.
Gaia Adrenal Health – I picked this up on a particular bad week of nights and I was desperate for some help. It’s a sort of herbal concoction that is supposedly helpful for the adrenal glands. It was a little on the pricy side at $29.99 a bottle, but I was won over by the positive reviews on Amazon and by Amazon Prime shipping… and I can’t tell a difference at all… and it tastes terrible especially when you take it without food and burp some of the powder back up… and I won’t be buying anymore of this stuff.
Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager – I also picked this up during a tough week of nights and was swayed by the positive reviews and Prime shipping (now you get a sense of how my mind works, and it can be easily influenced by free 2 day shipping). This is also an herbal concoction designed to help manage cortisol, as the name suggests. I noticed that it contains Magnolia Officinalis which is also found in the Relora Complex. This supplement actually helped me sleep better about 30% of the time. Not mind-blowing… but enough that I’m willing to keep it in my toolbox and add it to my supplement stack when I know I’ll have a tough time.