Natural Sleep Alternative: Glycine
In 2008, over 56 million sleep medications were prescribed in the US, and most experts believe the stress from worldwide economic challenges have only increased these numbers. While these pills can help us fall and stay asleep, it is known that these medications do not allow the body to fall into the deep phases of sleep that allow for the best health benefits sleep can give us. It is also well known that all of these medications have a risk of dependence and withdrawal effects, which can make them hard to stop using.
Most alarming, a large study of 30,000 people published in the February 2012 issue of the British Medical Journal found a 300% increase in death in people who took fewer than 18 sleeping pills a year (less than 2 a month). Higher doses were linked to a greater than 500% increase in death. The authors of this study concluded that these sleeping drugs “may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths in the USA alone.” (6)
The stakes are high to find a sleep alternative. When working with patients, we find a good naturopathic sleep regimen includes getting to bed on time, dimming the lights and shutting down bright screens (cell phones, tablets, computers, etc..). Sometimes, certain foods like oatmeal or pumpkin seed powder can help (for more sleep foods, click here). Finally, many people need to look more into their emotions to help them process the thoughts that might be running through their heads, keeping them awake. We have excellent results in our clinic helping people sleep without drugs by working on these issues and using the right supplements.
One supplement that can help this process is the amino acid glycine. It is a calming amino acid primarily found in protein-rich foods like meat, fish, dairy and beans. It collects in the pineal gland of the brain, the master gland that produces the sleep hormone melatonin (7). Glycine helps create positive changes in the brain wave patterns that are associated with deep non-REM sleep. Studies show that it promotes a deeper and faster sleep without causing the foggy morning hangover feeling associated with most drugs and some other natural sleep aids (8).
Glycine is most commonly found in a capsule or powder form. You can take about 1500 mg nightly before bed for a good night’s sleep.