I’ve been writing a lot recently about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and the incredible benefits it has for your health overall. In fact, just a few weeks ago I released a complete, in-depth, step-by-step protocol that can help you get to the bottom of any sleep problems you may be facing — and solve them for good.
I’m not overstating it when I say that good health just isn’t possible with good sleep. Adequate sleep is essential for bolstering your immune system, combating inflammation, regulating blood sugar, and keeping your metabolism humming.
Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can stand in the way of getting the rest your body needs. I go over all of them in my new protocol. But today I want to go over one in particular.
We already know selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs — the most common class of antidepressants) have numerous health risks, including suicidal thoughts, weight gain, libido loss, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, bone fracture risk, internal bleeding…the list goes on and on.
Well, now we know that these drugs can significantly disrupt sleep too. Not only that, but they may contribute to early signs of neurodegeneration that can progress to dementia.
I’ll be honest with you. I do sometimes prescribe SSRIs, when all else fails. I always warn patients of the possibilities of weight gain and sexual side effects. But I haven’t ever discussed how they can affect sleep.
But you can bet I will now…
I’ve had my eyes opened by a new study that shows SSRIs increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, decrease rapid eye movement (REM) sleep duration, and are linked to REM sleep behavioral disorders, including nightmares.
The REM sleep behavioral disorders are something to pay attention to, because they may be an early sign of neurodegeneration. And that increases risk of dementia.
Because disruptions in REM sleep are so disruptive to normal everyday functioning, doctors often prescribe another medication to deal with this particular side effect. (And it goes without saying that the other medication brings about its own side effects, but we won’t go down that rabbit hole right now.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advising “toughing it out” or ignoring depression. It’s a real problem, and it needs to be taken seriously.
The good news is, though, that there are natural ways to treat depression that are proven to be just as effective as pharmaceuticals.
Here’s the supplement program I’ve designed to help my depressed patients:
- SAM-e. This amino acid helps boost levels of serotonin — the “happy” hormone that helps support proper moods. I recommend 400-800 mg each morning.
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the direct precursor of serotonin. I recommend 50 mg taken three times daily, 20 minutes before a meal.
- Vitamin D3. Studies show 2,000-10,000 IUs daily can improve your mental health and help alleviate depression. The goal is to keep your levels in the 80 to 90 ng/ml range.
There are other drug-free ways to cut depression risk too. Exercise, for instance, can cut your depression risk by half. All it takes is as little as 20 to 30 minutes of light-intensity exercise a day.
Keeping your gut happy (with a healthy diet and probiotics) is essential too, since the gut is basically a second brain. In fact, it produces more serotonin than the brain does.
And here’s another tip for a happy gut and a positive mood: Skip the fast food and pastries, which have been shown to increase risk of depression by 37 percent.
If you’re struggling with depression, try these strategies before reaching for an SSRI. Not only will they help lift your mood, but they won’t disrupt your sleep (quite the opposite, in fact). And, perhaps most important, they won’t increase your dementia risk.
Now that’s something to smile about.