How Martha Rotter Cured Her Acne By Self-Experimentation

Several months ago I posted about how Martha Rotter figured out that her acne was caused by cow dairy products. Now a longer version of her story (by me) is on Boing Boing. There is a ton of useful information in the comments. Some examples:

Dairy is what caused my acne.” Someone replied: “Same here, specifically milk. I switched to soy milk in high school and my moderately-bad acne went away very suddenly. . . . If I eat a lot of cheese at once, like having pizza more than a couple days a week, my backne gets worse and I get acne inside my ears.” Continue reading “How Martha Rotter Cured Her Acne By Self-Experimentation”

Assorted Links

Thanks to Anne Weiss.

Assorted Links

 

Thanks to Ken Feinstein.

More About Pork Fat and Sleep

One day in 2009, I ate a large amount of pork belly (very high in fat — pork belly is the cut used to make bacon). That night I slept an unusually long time. The next day I had more energy than usual. This led me to do an experiment in which I ate a pork belly meal (with lots of pork belly, about 250 g) on some days but not others. I compared my sleep after the two sorts of days. I kept constant the number of one-legged stands I did each day because that has an effect. During the first half of the experiment I kept this constant at 4; during the second half, at 2. I originally posted the results only from the first half.

Now I’ve analyzed the results from both halves. Here are ratings of how rested I felt when I woke up, on a scale where 0 = 0% = not rested at all and 100 = 100% = completely rested.

The two halves were essentially the same: pork belly produced a big improvement.  Here are the results for sleep duration.

No clear effect of pork belly in either half of the experiment.

The main thing I learned was that pork fat really helps. The effect is remarkably clear. With micronutrients, such as Vitamin C, the body has considerable storage. It may take months without the nutrient to become noticeably deficient. With omega-3, which is between a micronutrient and a macronutrient, my experiments found that it takes about two  days to start to see deficiency. With pork fat there seems to be no storage at all. I needed to eat lots of pork fat every day to get the best sleep. That repletion and depletion are fast made this experiment easy. How curious we are so often told animal fat is bad when an easy experiment shows it is good, at least for me.

Effect of Vitamin D3 on My Sleep

I have blogged many times about biohacker Tara Grant’s discovery that she slept much better if she took Vitamin D3 in the morning rather than later. Many people reported similar experiences, with a few exceptions. Lots of professional research has studied Vitamin D3 but the researchers appear to have no idea of this effect. They don’t control the time of day that subjects take D3 and don’t measure sleep. If the time of day of Vitamin D3 makes a big difference, measuring Vitamin D3 status via blood levels makes no sense. Quite likely other benefits of Vitamin D3 require taking it at the right time of day. Taking Vitamin D3 at a bad time of day could easily produce the same blood level as taking it at a good time of day. Continue reading “Effect of Vitamin D3 on My Sleep”

Assorted Links

Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.

What Motivates Scientists? Evidence From Cancer Research

A friend of mine who worked in a biology lab said the grad students and post-docs joked about the clinical-relevance statements included at the end of papers and grant proposals: how the research would help cure cancer, retard aging, and so on. It was nonsense, they knew, but had to be included to help funding agencies justify their spending.

Principal investigators never say such things. Are they wiser than grad students and post-docs? Fortunately for the rest of us, actions speak louder than words. An action — actually, a lack of action — that suggests that P.I.’s know their research has little connection to curing cancer, etc., is 50 years of  widespread indifference by cancer researchers to the possibility that their research uses a mislabeled cell line. For example, you think you are studying breast cancer cells but you are actually studying melanoma cells. A recent WSJ article says that the problem was brought to the attention of cancer researchers in 1966 but they have been “slow” to do anything about it:

University of Washington scientist Stanley Gartler warned about the practice [of using mislabelled cells] in 1966. He had developed a pioneering technique using genetic markers that would distinguish one person’s cells from another. Using the process, he tested 20 of the most widely used cancer cell lines of the era. He found 18 of the lines weren’t unique: They were Ms. Lacks’ cervical cancer. . . . A decade after publication of his findings Gartler attended a conference and introduced himself to a scientist. Dr. Gartler recalled the man told him, “‘I heard your talk on contamination. I didn’t believe what you said then and I don’t believe what you said now.’ “

What he meant was: I ignored what you said. Yet it costs only $200 to check your cell line. Fifty-plus years later, mislabeled cell lines remain a big problem. “Cell repositories in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan have estimated that 18% to 36% of cancer cell lines are incorrectly identified,” says the article. This indicates considerable indifference to the possibility of mislabeling.

If you truly wanted to cure breast cancer, would you spend $200 (out of a grant that might be $100,000/year) to make sure you were using a relevant cell line? Of course. If you were trying to cure your daughter’s breast cancer or your mother’s melanoma, would you make absolutely sure you were using the most relevant cell line? Of course. I conclude that a large fraction of cancer researchers care little about the practical value of their research.

I believe that one reason my personal science found new solutions to common problems (obesity, insomnia, etc.) is that my overwhelming goal was to find something of practical value. I wasn’t trying to publish papers, impress my colleagues, renew a grant, win awards, and so on. No doubt many cancer researchers want to cure cancer. But this 50-year-and-not-over chapter in the history of their field suggests that many of them have other more powerful motivations that conflict with curing cancer.

Thanks to Hal Pashler. Hal’s work on “voodoo neuroscience” is another instance where the guilty parties, I believe, knew they might be doing something wrong but didn’t care.

Assorted Links

Thanks to David Cramer and Nadalal.

Science in Action: Unexplained Changes in Brain Speed

This is me a few days ago. I did a choice reaction time task many times. Each dot is a session with enough trials to supply 32 correct answers.The y axis is in “percentile” units, meaning speed relative to recent performance. If my speed was at the average of recent performance, the percentile would be 50, for example. Higher percentiles = better performance = faster (shorter reaction time). Each point is a mean; the vertical bars are standard errors. The dotted line is the median of the means.

The graph shows that Friday afternoon I was suddenly unusually slow. After dinner, I returned to normal. A change from 60%ile to 20%ile to 60%ile resembles an IQ change from 105 to 87 to 105 (an 18-point change).

At the same time accuracy was roughly constant:

Because accuracy was roughly constant, the change in speed was not due to a shift on a speed-accuracy tradeoff function.

There are two puzzles here. 1. Why were my scores low Friday afternoon? 2. Why did they recover after dinner? On Friday I didn’t feel well. As a result, I didn’t eat much. Maybe my blood sugar was lower than usual. I usually eat 30 g butter twice/day. On Friday I didn’t have any. At dinner I did have moderate amounts of pork fat (but not butter) and sugar (in lemon citron tea). Friday 6 pm I had a cup of black tea. Although I haven’t noticed effects of tea on these scores, there’s a first time for everything.

Here is a clue to what makes my brain work well (= fast), I conclude. Butter causes sudden improvement, I have found; which makes it plausible that lack of butter (and other animal fat) could cause sudden degradation. Another possibility was that my blood sugar was low Friday afternoon. (I didn’t think of this at the time, and didn’t measure it.)  I’m surprised that something as important as brain function would be as fragile as these results imply. When various nutrient deficiencies are studied with conventional measures, it generally takes weeks or months without the nutrient for the bad effects to become apparent. It takes many weeks without Vitamin C to get scurvy, for example.

These results raise the intriguing possibility that everyone has sudden ups and downs in brain function and that these ups and downs can be detected at high signal/noise ratios. If so, we can use these ups and downs to learn how to make our brains work well. These results also imply — because my choice reaction time test required only a laptop — that anyone can detect them, study them, and learn what causes them. No experts needed. What a change that would be.

 

Fermented Foods Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It’s hard to get scurvy. If you eat anything resembling an ordinary diet you won’t get it. The existence of scurvy, produced by extreme conditions, led to the discovery of Vitamin C.  From the case of scurvy and Vitamin C we learned — well, most people learned — that some diseases are clues to what we need to eat to be healthy. Continue reading “Fermented Foods Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome”

Nick Winter’s Big Success with Percentile Feedback

I have posted several times about using what I call percentile feedback to boost productivity. Percentile feedback means comparing your current performance to your previous performance using a percentile. If the current performance is in the middle of your previous performances, the percentile is 50, for example. Percentile feedback is easy to understand (scores above 50 are better than average) and is sensitive to small improvements — so even small improvements are rewarded. My implementation had three other helpful features: 1. It adjusted for the time I woke up to make different days more comparable. 2. It measured efficiency (time working/time available) to further improve comparability across days. 3. It was graphical. I made a graph of efficiency throughout the current day versus previous days. It greatly increased how much I worked every day.

I love it and wish I had it for everything I measure. Unlike so many feedback systems, it is realistic and encouraging. I found it worked extremely well — to my surprise, actually. It’s not so surprising I would think of it because it vaguely resembles an animal-learning procedure. (Animal learning is my area of expertise within psychology.)

Nick Winter, one of the developers of Skritter (which I use), recently started to use it. He gave a much-too-short QS talk about it in Pittsburgh a month ago. I asked him about his experience. He is as enthusiastic as I am. He wrote:

The percentile feedback has been a huge success–I’m getting way more done than I ever did, and I’m much better at prioritizing toward my main project. Seeing the graph going in real time has been much better at making me aware of what I need to do to hit high targets each day. I will do a full writeup on this, and on my self experiments, when I finish this iOS app and stop focusing so much on work. The short teaser goes something like this:
Phase 0: just tracking normal work at end of day in a Google Doc, average 2 hours a day on iOS development
Phase 1: tracking normal work and iOS dev separately in the Google Doc, average 4 hours a day on iOS development
Phase 2: using Beeminder to have better graphing and goal incentive for iOS dev, average 5 hours a day
Phase 3: first three weeks of using percentile feedback, average 6.4 hours a day
Phase 4: second three weeks of using percentile feedback, deciding to really push it based on the positive feedback from my metrics (more productivity, more happiness), average 9.4 hours a day
So now I’m getting close to averaging 70 hours of focused iOS dev a week and it feels great. In a normal work place, “time spent working” != “productivity”, but for me they’re very similar as long as my energy is good, which it almost always is now.
The surprising insight is that changing the way that I measured my work performance–from spreadsheet, to better spreadsheet, to graph, to better graph–has had such a huge impact. I have been working on maximizing work productivity for four years, ever since starting the startup, but in the last six months I’ve become radically more effective. I love the percentile feedback graph design!

You can see his implementation on his homepage.

Coconut Oil Cures Foot Fungus

About ten years ago my doctor pointed to a thin white line on my foot: That’s fungus, he said. Huh. He prescribed an  antifungal medicine, previously available only by prescription, that had recently become over-the-counter (OTC). I tried several OTC remedies from my drugstore. None worked. According to the directions, they were to be applied twice per day. My doctor said the reason for the failure was that I hadn’t precisely followed the directions. This reminded me of a doctor who said that fat people know what to do about being fat (eat less) and simply fail to do it. Continue reading “Coconut Oil Cures Foot Fungus”

Personal Science and Varieties of DIY

How does personal science (using science to solve a problem yourself rather than paying experts to solve it) compare to other sorts of DIY?

Here’s an example of personal science. When I became an assistant professor, I started to wake up too early in the morning. I didn’t consider seeing a doctor about it for several reasons: 1. Minor problem. Unpleasant but not painful. 2. Doctors usually prescribe drugs. I didn’t want to take a drug. 3. Sleep researchers, based on my reading of the sleep literature, had almost no idea what caused early awakening. They would have said it was due a bad phase shift of your circadian rhythm. They often used the term circadian phase disorder but never used the term circadian amplitude disorder — apparently they didn’t realize that such a thing was possible. I decided to try to solve the problem myself — an instance of DIY. Except that, if I made any progress,  that would be better than what the experts could provide, which I considered worthless.

There are thousands of instances of DIY, from fixing your car yourself to sewing your own clothes to word processing. Here is one dimension of DIY:

1. Quality of the final product. Better, equal, or worse to what you would get from professionals. Richard Bernstein’s introduction of home blood glucose testing led him to much better control of his blood glucose levels than his doctors had managed. Same as my situation: DIY produced acceptable results, the experts did not.

In contrast to Bernstein, who reduced his blood glucose variability within months, it took me years to improve my sleep.  That is another dimension:

2. Time needed. Personal science, compared to other DIY, is orders of magnitude slower.

Here are some more dimensions:

3. Training needed. I don’t know how much training personal science requires. On the face of it, not much. I had acne in high school. I could done self-experimentation at that point. It just didn’t occur to me. On the other hand, I think effective personal science requires wise narrowing of the possibilities that you test. For most health problems, you can find dozens of proposed remedies. How wise you need to be, I don’t know.

4. Commercialization. Some forms of DIY are entirely the creation of businesses — cheap cameras, home perms, IKEA, etc. Bernstein’s work happened because of a new product that required only a drop of blood. The company that made it wanted doctors to do DIY: measure blood glucose levels in their office (fast) rather than having the measurement made in a lab (slow).  When I started to study my sleep, no business was involved. Now, of course, companies like Zeo and the makers of FitBit want users to do personal science.

5. Price. My sleep research cost nothing, which in the DIY world is unusual. The term DIY is almost entirely a commercial category: Certain books and goods are sold to help you DIY.

6. Customization possible. Some kinds of DIY give you the tools to build one thing (e.g., IKEA, home perms). Other kinds (e.g., Home Depot, word processing) give you the tools to build a huge range of things. This dimension is variation in how close what you buy is to the finished product (Ikea = very close, word processing = very far). Personal science allows huge customization. It can adjust to any biology (e.g., your genome) and environment (your living conditions).

7. Benefit to society.  If I or anyone else can find new ways to sleep better — especially safe cheap easy ways — and these solutions can be spread, there is great benefit to society,  by comparison to DIY that allows non-professionals to reproduce what a professional would create (e.g, IKEA).

You might say that personal science isn’t really DIY because, compared to other DIY, (a) it is much slower and (b) the potential benefit to society is much greater. But those features are due to the nature of science. Any form of DIY has unique elements.

My mental picture of DIY is that there are two sides, producers and consumers, and in many domains (health, car maintenance, word processing, etc.) they creep toward each other in the sense that what producers can make slowly increases and what consumers are capable of slowly increases.  When they meet, DIY begins. In some cases, the business has done most of the changing; the DIY is very easy (e.g., Ikea).  In other cases, the consumer has changed a lot (literacy — not easy to acquire). Either way, the new DIY causes professionals who provided that service or good for a living to lose business.

One Doctor’s View of Personal Science (more)

A few weeks ago I blogged about a leukemia doctor’s disapproval of self-experimentation (“you won’t learn anything and others won’t learn from it, either”). What I wrote was reposted at The Health Care Blog, where it elicited this comment (by “rbar”):

Sigh. Mr Roberts did it again, he simply does not (want to) understand that anecdotal evidence is of little value (let me give you an example: I self experiment with traffic signals; I noted that I can considerable cut down on travel times when ignoring red lights and stop signs; there are no drawbacks whatsoever, no one get hurts, and even my gas mileage/carbon footprint got better) .

Individuals who have similar questions as Mr. Roberts should look up the following key words, because they may understand why controlled studies are far superior to anecdotal evidence:
-placebo effect
-regression to the mean
-misattribution error [apparently rbar means error in determining the cause of a change]
-self limited conditions/natural fluctuation of chronic conditions
-and in terms of drawbacks of experimentation: primum non nocere, and also the fact that anecdotal evidence adds relatively little to humanity’s knowledge base

Does all that mean that patients should not be well informed, active and making suggestions to their treating physicians? Of course absolutely not. Being knowledgeable about one’s condition is different from self experimentation. Is that intellectually challenging?

One reply to this comment said we should be aggregating data across patients. “I believe Mr. Roberts is alluding to the power of aggregating real-world data across patients to generate insights into what may and may not work, not to giving undue weight to any single anecdotal case.” No, I was looking at it from the point of view of the self-experimenting patient. If you have a health problem, and you can measure it often (daily, weekly) you can find out what works faster than your doctor — often much faster. You can test many more possible solutions. This is what Richard Bernstein taught the whole world of diabetes, starting in the 1960s, when he pioneered home blood glucose testing. Apparently rbar also objects to that.

Rbar’s comment is dismissive (“Sigh”, “Is that intellectually challenging?”) and partly obscure (“ignoring stop signs and stoplights” — huh?).  Because patients who self-experiment may make “misattribution errors” they shouldn’t self-experiment? That’s like saying because people may make reasoning errors they shouldn’t reason.

The true meaning of rbar’s comment may be hidden in his statement that it’s okay for patients to “make suggestions to their treating physician.” Which shows who he thinks should be boss in the doctor-patient relationship. When a patient self-experiments, the doctor is no longer boss. Maybe rbar is a doctor. Maybe he feels threatened by self-experimentation. If so, I hope he’s right.

More A later reply to rbar put it well: ” Your list of possible pitfalls . . . is similar to lists I remember seeing back in graduate school in various research handbooks. I do not see how you go from the fact that these effects and errors are possible to the conclusion that the whole endeavor isn’t worthwhile.”

 

 

One Doctor’s View of Personal Science: “You Won’t Learn Anything”

Bryan Castañeda, who lives in Southern California, told me this:

The law firm I work at specializes in toxic torts. We represent people who have been occupationally exposed to chemicals and are now sick, dying, or dead. Most of our clients have been exposed to benzene and developed some kind of leukemia. We sponsor various leukemia charities, walks, and other events. [On January 21, 2012] in Woodland Hills, CA, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society held its first annual Blood Cancer Conference. Although the speakers were mainly doctors, it was a conference meant for laymen. The chair was an oncologist from UCLA Medical Center.

After introductory remarks and the keynote speaker, there were several breakout sessions. I attended a session on acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia. The speaker was [Dr. Ravi Bhatia,] a doctor specializing in leukemia from City of Hope in Duarte, CA. His talk was almost exclusively about new drugs and clinical trials. Very dry and dull. Things got more interesting during the question period. At one point, [Dr. Bhatia] told an attendee not to experiment on his own because “you won’t learn anything and others won’t learn from it, either.”

I would have liked to ask Dr. Bhatia three questions:

1. What’s the basis for this extreme claim (“you won’t learn anything and others won’t learn from it”)? Ben Williams, a psychology professor at UC San Diego, wrote a whole book (Surviving “Terminal” Cancer, 2002) about taking an active approach when faced with a very serious disease (in his case, brain cancer). Likewise, the website Patients Like Me is devoted to (among other things) learning from the experimentation of its members. Lots of forums related to various illnesses spread what one person learns to others. MedHelp has many forums devoted to sharing knowledge.

2. What’s so bad about “learning nothing”? Why should that outcome stop one from trying to learn? It doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.

3. Do you have a bias here? In other words, what do you want? Do you prefer that your patients not self= experiment? Doctors may prefer that their patients not experiment for their (the doctors’) own selfish reasons. When a patient self-experiments, it makes their doctor’s job more complicated and makes the doctor less important. If Dr. Bhatia is biased (he wants a certain outcome), it may bias his assessment of the evidence.

Vitamin D3 in Morning Increases Energy Levels: Story 9

I know Robin Barooah from Quantified Self meetups. When I learned he had started taking Vitamin D3 early in the morning, I asked him what happened:

I’ve been taking it since December 20. I initially thought of trying it immediately on my return from London because I thought that it might help to reduce jet lag, given its apparent coupling with the circadian rhythm.

It didn’t seem to have a dramatic effect on my jet lag – which was as bad as I usually experience it for about the same number of days (around 3-4). However it had a very pronounced effect on my general energy levels. At first I was almost hyperactive, yet my concentration was good. I was using 5000 IU per day, at 7:30 am. The hyperactive feeling subsided but the dramatic improvement of my energy levels (and increased concentration) continued until I decided to reduce the dose to 2000 or 3000 IU per day [from 5000 IU/day]. My mood has improved too, although I think indirectly though feeling more capable and productive.

I decided to reduce the dose because I was concerned that my sleep wasn’t noticeably better than before taking the D3, and might have been worse.   Reducing the dose caused a huge reduction in my energy levels and concentration, and no improvement in sleep. After a week of that I went back to the 5000 IU dose, and again am very happy with the effects. The improvement in sustained concentration is so dramatic that it’s disturbing to think of how much this could have changed my life had I been using it for years (assuming the effect lasts).

It’s possible that my sleep quality has improved in some way that isn’t reflected in my subjective experience of sleeping, and this has caused the improved energy and concentration. I am sleeping about the same length of time, and waking up in the night just as often and feeling about as rested as before I started (which is not quite as rested as I’d like to feel, despite having a lot of energy). I am not taking a multivitamin, so it’s also possible that I’m not getting all of the possible benefit.

Without doubt, this is one of the most effective things I’ve ever tried.

Emphasis added. He takes Now Foods Vitamin D3 (easy to buy on Amazon), the 5000 IU and 1000 IU softgels. He also said:

I used to get quite severe tiredness (enough to need to lie down) at numerous times during the day. Now I seem to get tired just a little in the afternoon, and then progressively so into the evening. There’s a very distinct slowdown in my energy that happens very obviously around 5pm, which is coincidentally around dusk here at the moment.

I have noticed something similar. Before Vitamin D3 early in the morning, I used to get really tired around 10 am. Enough to make me lie down. This happened on more than half of all days. Now that I am taking a lot of D3 (8000 or 10000 IU) first thing in the morning (8 or 9 am) it doesn’t happen at all. (I may eventually go down to a lower dose, such as 5000 IU/day.)

Vitamin D3: Which is Better, Gelcaps or Tablets?

I have been getting good sleep improvement from Vitamin D3 (early in the morning) using tablets. However, Tara Grant and Paul have gotten good results with gelcaps. Apparently both formulations work. Which is better?

This story, from a woman I’ll call JMW, suggests gelcaps are better:

Sorting out all the nutrition for [celiac disease], about 3 years ago, [my two boys and I] started taking D3 – 2000 IU of Solgar in capsule form. That first winter, NO ONE had seasonal affective disorder [= depression]. I had had it since I was 21, can’t remember further back than that, the youngest had had it since he was 4 yrs old, can’t remember the others.

We unintentionally proved it needs to be in capsules (i.e. oil) rather than tablets when I mistakenly repeat-ordered with tablets, and everyone got worse until I got the capsules again.

Vitamin D3 First Thing in Morning: Story 6

In November, I wrote about Tara Grant (aka Primal Girl)’s discovery that taking Vitamin D first thing in the morning rather than later improved her sleep. Then several people commented that they had observed something similar — some in response to my post (my post led them to try it), some independently. Perhaps people who tested her observation and found it wasn’t true didn’t comment.

One way to assess this possibility is to ask people who have tried it what happened. In the comments to one of my posts about this, Tyler Tyssedal said he would try it. A few days ago I asked him what had happened. Here’s his reply (shortened):

I have been tweaking the timing of my Vitamin D3 intake since I made that comment [on December 13 — one month ago]. I have also made a few other life changes (such as supplements), so the changes I’ve experienced cannot be attributed only to Vitamin D3 (5000 IU) timing. But yes, taking D3 first thing in the morning instead of later noticeably improved my sleep quality. I have been experiencing perpetual, involuntary biphasic sleep on and off for years. I would go to bed around 11 and wake up every day between 4 and 6 am, conscious enough to check the time and sigh. I had been taking my D3 with lunch or dinner, sometimes never. I changed my D3 intake to first thing in the morning. Within a week I noticed I would wake up two out of three nights, around 6 (so a little later), a marked improvement.

I am a 6’2″, 160-lb male. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Desk job, lift 2-3 times per week, 45 min-1 hr per session with 15 min walking to and from gym.  I typically eat two meals a day (1-2 pm and 6-8 pm). In the morning (between 7:30 and 10am) I consume about 20-30 oz of coffee with 1-3 T cream. I also eat 1 T coconut oil with my coffee and 1 T of it with my dinner.

When I changed my 400 mg magnesium citrate supplement to early afternoon rather than right before bed, I experienced even better sleep. After all these changes, I no longer wake up in the middle of the night. I sleep straight through. A week and a half ago I started taking ALA and NALC with my D3, coconut oil and coffee in the morning. The results have been fantastic and I feel a strong clear headedness in the morning.

Here’s a summary:

WAKE (7:30-9:30am): 5000 IU D3, 500 mg acetyl l-carnitine, 250 mg alpha lipoic acid, 1 T coconut oil, 20-30 oz coffee, 1-3 T cream.

LUNCH (12-2pm): 30% food for the day, typically lowish carb, 400 mg magnesium citrate, 1.2 g EPA/DHA fish oil (on days I don’t consume sardines or salmon, which is 2-3 days a week), Vitamin K2 (1000 K2 MK4, 1000 K2 MK7).

DINNER & POST DINNER: Rest of food (100-150 g carbs post workout workout days; 50-100 g non workout days). On restless nights, 2-5 mg melatonin.

I’ve been pleased with 2-5 mg melatonin before bed on days when I am not heavy eyed by 9:30 pm. I have taken melatonin on and off for years and would still experience biphasic sleep, with or without it.

Vitamin D3 and Sleep: More Good News From Primal Girl

Late last year, Tara Grant (aka Primal Girl) considered the possibility that taking Vitamin D3 has the same effect as sunlight exposure. For example, taking Vitamin D3 at 7 pm is like getting sunlight at 7 pm. This idea — with my advice about how to sleep well (get an hour of sunlight first thing in the morning) ringing in her ears — led her to try to improve her sleep by taking Vitamin D3 first thing in the morning. It worked:

I usually took my supplements mid-afternoon. I vowed to take them first thing every morning. If I forgot, I would not take the Vitamin D at all that day. I tried it the next day and that night I slept like a rock. And the next night. And the next. Days I forgot and skipped the D3, I still slept great. That was the only change I made to my lifestyle and my sleep issues completely resolved.

I called this “a stunning discovery” and have blogged about it several times. I recently asked Tara for details and an update. She replied:

I am so happy to hear that 1) other people didn’t make the connection easily so I’m not a little slow and that 2) there seems to be something to my discovery. 🙂 I’ve had a few comments from people who have said it has worked for them too. So let me answer your questions:

[What type of Vitamin D3 do you take?]

I take Trader Joe’s brand of Vitamin D3, which is a 1000 IU gelcap, in olive oil. 180 capsules for $4.99. Best deal I’ve found. I tried the tablets years ago and they had no affect on me (even on 8000 units a day plus tanning twice a week my blood levels were only at 58.)

[Has your sleep remained solid?]

My sleep HAS remained solid. I have not had ONE night of bad sleep since I started paying attention to when I was taking my Vitamin D.

[How much do you take?]

I was initially taking 10,000 units a day. After about 2 months, I cut that back to 5000 units to see if there was a difference. I did not wake up quite as rested, but I still slept soundly through the night. On days that I increase my dosage, I sleep better, deeper and feel more rested the following morning. I’ve tried this several times, even when I’ve been spending the night away from home, and it has made a difference. I have also tried eating sugar shortly before bedtime and caffeine in the afternoon (both things that would always make my sleep restless in the past) and I still sleep well!! I’ve also thrown exercising into the mix to see if it makes a difference but it doesn’t change the quality of my sleep – it just makes me tired earlier in the evening. I continue to change my dosage randomly and monitor the results.