Solve This One Problem and You Can Sleep Soundly Without Drugs

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

August 5, 2019



One of the things that plague many of us as we grow older is an inability to sleep well. Sometimes the problem is falling asleep. Sometimes it’s not being able to go into the deeper stages of sleep. Sometimes it’s waking frequently. And sometimes it is a combination of all of these symptoms.

But know this, nothing is more important to our health than the restorative effects of adequate sleep. So today, I’m going to show you how to do it.

Getting a good night’s sleep is serious business for your health. But it’s also big business for Big Pharma. Drug companies make a killing off the sales of sleep drugs. And the reason is twofold. One, it’s such a common problem. And two, most doctors have not learned that the cause of poor sleep is not a deficiency of medications.

A recent study showed one of the clearest indications of the real problem. For many people, the reason they don’t get the full advantages of a good night’s sleep is because they are deficient in certain brain chemicals. And the good news is you can fix the problem without drugs.

Now I have no problem at all with taking a sleeping medication periodically. I often use one to reestablish my sleep schedule when traveling overseas. I also use one if I’m exceptionally wired before bed. But the regular use of them is a bad idea.

First, they can become habit forming. After taking them for several weeks, your brain starts to depend on them. And the sleeplessness can actually get worse due to withdrawal from the drug. So there’s just no way that you will ever be able to get off of them and still sleep well.

Secondly, they don’t correct the problem, which is a chemistry imbalance.

Poor Sleep Is Genetic

The first thing to understand is that we all have different brain chemistries. It’s genetic. We are born that way. And, as we get older, any brain chemistry imbalance we were born with tends to get worse. This is why depression, anxiety, and insomnia are so much more common in the over-50 crowd. It’s also why these symptoms commonly run in families. Additionally, brain chemistry differences explain why some of us don’t feel good after ingesting sugar, alcohol, or coffee.

In other words, if you want to correct these problems, you have to improve your brain chemistry. And you can’t do that with drugs. You can only do it naturally. And a new study demonstrates how to do it.

The study looked at 18 people who had sleep problems of various kinds. The researchers gave some of them a placebo before they went to bed. They gave a second group the nutritional formula GABAdone (more on this formula in a moment). The results of the study were nothing short of remarkable.

The group that took the nutritional formula fell asleep 31% faster than the placebo group. And when the researchers studied how long the patients slept, they found that those taking the formula slept an average of 36.6% longer. For many of them, this amounted to a full one-and-a-half to two hours more sleep!

This was while the placebo group showed no improvement at all.

In addition, as you would expect, the nutritional formula group woke up less often during the night – 50% less often. And they also felt much more rested in the morning than the placebo group – 80% more rested. All of the findings were statistically significant. Now let me tell you why this happened.

GABAdone contains several ingredients. But the primary ones are the amino acid 5-HTP, the fat soluble B-vitamin choline, and the neurotransmitter GABA. The amino acid 5-HTP is the precursor molecule for the brain chemical serotonin. That means that your body makes serotonin from 5-HTP. Serotonin is what the brain needs to induce us to fall asleep. One of the first signs of having a serotonin deficiency, although it is not always present, is an inability to easily fall asleep.

After you take this amino acid, your body will convert it to serotonin, and your body corrects the deficiency.

There’s More to the Serotonin Story

Serotonin is also very much affected by the hormones estrogen and progesterone and to a lesser degree testosterone. We call these sex hormones. But they are involved in many other aspects of health besides sexual function. And one of these aspects is brain function. A deficiency of these hormones decreases serotonin function. And this is one of the primary reasons that men and women, especially women, develop insomnia as they get older. The other factor is the hormone melatonin.

Melatonin levels, which were very high when we were young, take a nose dive starting in our 20's and get worse from there. And your body makes melatonin from serotonin. As the serotonin levels go down, the melatonin levels also come down. So if you’re not getting the quality or length of sleep you need, it may very well be because you are deficient not only in 5-HTP, but also in melatonin and/or the sex hormones. The best pathway to good sleep is to ensure that you attend to all of these factors – not just one.

How to Get Really Deep Sleep

Another nutritional substance the study used was choline. Choline is in the B-vitamin family. It’s the precursor molecule for the brain chemical acetylcholine. So when you take choline, it increases the levels of acetylcholine in your brain. This is important because acetylcholine is responsible for ensuring that your body goes into the deeper stage-3 and stage-4 levels of sleep. It is in these stages that the restorative effects of sleep occur.

Many people have slept the whole night, but still wake up feeling less than fully refreshed because even though they were asleep, they did not spend enough time in stage-3 and 4 sleep. One way to recognize this is restless sleep. If you toss and turn, and are easily awakened during the night, then the odds are that you need more acetylcholine. And just like with serotonin, acetylcholine levels decline with age.

In addition, three other factors can deplete your acetylcholine levels: sugar, alcohol, and estrogen dominance. So if your sleep is particularly restless, be sure to decrease your intake of sugar and alcohol, especially before bed. And if you are a woman, discuss the issue of estrogen dominance with your doctor.

The Final Piece to the Deep-Sleep Puzzle

The last nutrient the researchers used was GABA. GABA is a very unusual nutrient. GABA prevents nerve impulses associated with anxiety from reaching the motor centers of the brain. It does this by interacting with the receptors in the brain known as the benzodiazepine receptors. It is precisely these receptors that most of the anti-anxiety medications such as Valium and Xanax work on. So GABA acts in our brains in the same way as a tranquilizer, but without the side effects.

Many people who have chronic anxiety, especially those who feel better on tranquilizers, are that way because they are deficient in GABA. Taking GABA orally is a way to correct the deficiency. And by doing so, it improves the quality of sleep. Coffee and alcohol decrease GABA levels. So once again, if you have sleep difficulties, be sure to stop coffee and alcohol until you fix the problem.

Even though you can find GABA in foods such as mushrooms and herbs such as valerian root, it’s tough to get enough. So you need to take it in a supplement. But that brings up the next problem.

You can find GABAdone online, but there aren’t a lot of places to buy it. In a sense, I don’t think it’s really necessary to take this particular proprietary mix to get all of the benefits of what’s in it. For over a year now, I have used a combination of two supplements that are extremely effective for my patients.

One is called Sleep Factors. It contains melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, and several other nutrients that enhance the activity of these ingredients. The other is called Stress-X. Stress-X also contains GABA and 5-HTP, but in addition has lithium. Lithium is a powerful mineral that’s often effective as a brain calmer.

I usually start my patients on two Sleep Factors before bed. If they have a component of waking up frequently during the night, and/or if they tend to be tense during the day, I will add in one to two Stress-X capsules. This combination, especially when you combine it with the other measures I mentioned above, is just remarkable. You can get both of these products online.

If you’re a restless sleeper, and taking these supplements doesn’t correct the problem, try boosting your acetylcholine levels. You can do this by taking phosphatidyl choline. I recommend 500-1,000 mg before bed.

You can safely take these products for as long as you need them. In many cases, especially where there is a genetically caused deficiency of brain chemicals, you may need to take them continuously. But, in many cases, just taking them for several months will completely correct the problem, and you won’t need them any longer. This is especially true the younger you are.

And don’t forget, these supplements are not drugs. They don’t work fast like drugs do. They work by actually correcting an imbalance of brain chemistry. This may take a good four to six weeks to happen. So be patient. In only a few weeks you will start noticing a significant improvement.


Shell, W., D. Bullias, E. Charuvastra, L.A. May, and D.S. Silver. “A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of an amino acid preparation on timing and quality of sleep.” Am J Ther. 2010 March-April;17(2):133-9.

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