Sleep Hacking Part 3: Fall Asleep Fast with Biochemistry

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This is the third article in a series about how to hack your sleep so that you can fall sleep more easily, and recuperate more in less time while staying healthy based on my years of self-experimenting, research, and biohacking.

Sleep hacking – getting more efficient sleep in less time – can be complex, but you don’t need to do everything possible to get a significant improvement in your sleep productivity.  For type A entrepreneurs with too much on their plates (people like me), getting sleepy is a challenge.  If you lie down and you’re not tired, you could waste a half hour or more just falling to sleep.  That’s time when you aren’t working, recovering, or spending time with your friends and family.  It’s a waste of time.

It used to be one for me.  I had less than 5 hours of sleep per night on average for the last 18 months while maintaining my productivity and (mostly) my health.  Many times I cut my sleep to 2-3 hours/night for 4-5 nights in a row.  Part of doing that is simply not wasting time falling asleep.  My Zeo sleep monitor says that my “time to zzz” is always under 6 minutes, and usually it’s 2-3 minutes. Like this:

In this post, we’re going to cover one of the aspects of hacking insomnia – the falling asleep part, leaving the staying asleep tricks for another post.  Today’s focus is on foods, and supplements.  The next one will cover electronics you can use, some of which were on display in my recent talk at the BIL conference.

Sleep Supplements to Help You Fall Asleep

Here’s a list of things that will knock out most people, alone or in combination with each other.  I’m specifically avoiding most herbs because the common ones recommended for sleep (like valerian root) have always left me groggy in the morning.  Who wants to go to sleep fast, only to waste your morning in a fog?  All of these are bed-time supplements, do not take them in the morning.


  • Fat – have a high fat snack before bed. My favorite is a tablespoon of this collagen protein mixed in water with 1 Tbs of this XCT oil.  (Those are very high end supplements and I don’t make much selling them – they simply aren’t available elsewhere on the Internet so I stock them.  I know the inventor personally.)
  • Magnesium – almost everyone is short on it – try up to 400mg.  Too much will give you the runs, which doesn’t help you sleep! (I have worked up to about 800mg/day)  You should be taking this if you want to live a long time anyway.  The best forms are the *ates, including malate, citrate, aspartate, and others.
  • Potassium – synergistic with magnesium; the combination will remove nighttime leg cramps for most people.  Less cramps equals more sleep. My preferred forms are citrate and the harder to find potassium bicarbonate. The bicarbonate form is a part of the kreb’s energy cycle and can help you make more ATP.  All potassium supplements can conceivably interrupt your heart, so you should not mega-dose. I take 400mg of potassium citrate at bedtime. Start with 100-200 and work your way up from there if you feel you need more. (you very well may)
  • L-theanine in capsule form (not tea) helps with relaxation. I use 100mg of SunTheanine at night.
  • Chamomile tea actually does help you sleep.  So do many warm drinks except for coffee, black tea, or alcohol. (I find this is a weak effect but some people swear by it. There is science to back this up…)
  • GABA is a neuro-inhibitory transmitter.  It’s what your brain uses to shut itself down.  Taken away from any other protein, it will dramatically calm you.  Start with 500mg.  I don’t need this anymore, since I hacked my brain with EEG, but I used to swear by it.  I’ve recommended it to stressed out executives for use during the day on days when they were really tweaking. One ex-IBM executive was transformed by 500mg of GABA taken mid-morning during stressful times, for instance.  For most of us, night-time use is best.
  • Ornithine is a relaxing amino acid that helps your body to eliminate ammonia in the gut (excess ammonia causes stressful feelings).  Some people sleep MUCH better with ornithine.  Try 1-5 grams.  It may improve growth hormone levels too.  I take a mix of arginine and ornithine at night for growth hormone release.  Arginine is stimulating for some people so be careful.  Arginine also releases nitric oxide to cause capillary dilation, which is why it’s included in “natural enhancement” formulas for men.
  • 5-htp is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin.  It helps you fall asleep, but it makes blood serotonin levels much, much higher than brain levels.  No one knows what this does to you in the long term.  It was publicized when pharma companies used PR tactics to get the much stronger and safer L-tryptophan taken off the market in the 1970’s after a single batch manufacturing defect led to serious problems in people who took the altered batch (which wasn’t actually L-tryptophan!). This nicely reduce competition for sleep tranquilizer-selling drug companies.  As you’ll see in the next bullet, there’s not a good reason to take this stuff anymore.
  • L-tryptophan is again available over the counter, which is why I don’t recommend 5-htp for sleep anymore.  Tryptophan is powerful stuff, especially taken with GABA.  People who tell you to eat turkey or milk for the trace amounts of tryptophan in them are doing their best to help you, but it doesn’t work at those concentrations, except as a placebo.  There is evidence that a high-tryptophan diet is unhealthy, so only use this stuff if you need it to fall asleep.
  • Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, aka GHB, or a “date rape drug” is available by prescription and is vastly superior to, and safer than, Ambien and its clones.  GHB is a naturally occurring part of meat and beer.  It’s non-addictive and causes sleep along with a huge spike in growth hormone.  It was maligned by a FDA-led media campaign controlled by sleep drug companies in the 80’s as a “date rape drug.”  They never bothered to explain that it takes several teaspoons of it in a glass of water to knock someone out, and it tastes like table salt.  Try mixing that into a drink without someone figuring it out. Funny enough, after the FDA broke the law by pulling the low cost supplement form of it off the market as a dangerous street “drug,” it’s now available as a “safe” prescription drug.  This is one of the first times a pharma company was able to take a supplement off the market to remarket it as a drug.  I don’t use GHB because I don’t need it to sleep, but if I could get it easily, I’d take it just for the beneficial growth hormone effects.  I tried it by prescription a few times and slept very deeply, waking up uber-refreshed.  GHB is non-addictive.  Ask your doctor to try it before you accept Ambien.
  • Melatonin is a potent hormone and antioxidant which your body is supposed to produce on its own if you get real darkness and enough sleep.  Since you probably get neither, there is an open debate around whether you should supplement every day and risk further depressing your natural production, or do it occasionally.  I do it 1-2 nights/week when I want power sleep.  Most melatonin supplements are too strong – you only need 150mcg for men or 100mcg for women, but the common dosage you can buy is 3mg (3,000mcg). Unless you’re shifting your sleep time to earlier or later, I don’t recommend using melatonin without fully understanding what it does.  Yes, I will blog about that too!

Finally, here’s some very new research for you. The Life Extension Foundation, one of my favorite biohacking info sources, just released some new research on bioactive milk peptides as being incredibly powerful for inducing sleep.  I haven’t received my order yet, but I’m going to give them a try to see what the effect is.

Next up: electronics for sleep hacking, including the cerebral-electric stimulation, heart rate variability (a la Heart Math Institute), flashing lights, and more.

Please help me keep sharing this information by asking questions or making comments in the area below.  As always, thanks for your mentions, likes, and retweets!

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By Dave Asprey

  • walter

    hey dave! The last bullet mentioning melatonin reminded me about an article by Udo Erasmus on how to beat jet lag naturally. here is the link: “By taking melatonin at one-hour intervals during the flight, our pineal gland’s melatonin production is stopped. Stopping melatonin production by taking melatonin during the flight puts the gland in a state of restful inactivity. This restful inactivity, which lasts as many hours as the flight, breaks the gland’s habitual melatonin production cycle. Cessation of melatonin intake then allows for the pineal to start up melatonin production again, based on the light-dark cycle at the traveler’s destination.The habitual melatonin production cycle will have been broken. A new melatonin production cycle, aligned with the light-dark cycle of the destination, can then begin. Do you have a protocol on beating jet lag?

  • Dave Asprey

    @Walter Udo’s advice is right-on! I used to run marketing for a company based in Cambridge, England. I had to fly there every month to spend a week. Over the course of about 18 months, I was able to titrate a great jet lag formula, which is going to be the subject of an upcoming post. Udo’s advice is good. For all you Quantified Self people, here are the other main variables to monitor and tweak: When you eat What you eat Body temperature When you sleep Exercise timing, type and duration Electrical grounding at the destination (seriously, this matters) …and of course, my favorites, coffee and smart drugs Stay tuned for a full post! From: Posterous [mailto:

  • ArmiLegge

    Great work Dave!I think you’re right on about how you don’t have to try everything at once, and how that is actually the wrong approach. It should be trying to get the absolute minimum to reach your goals, and then maybe bumping up the goals:) A lot of people just start popping every pill they ca get their hands on and don’t take into consideration the synergistic effects of different supplements. Then the just say “screw it” and take a ton of Ambien.I’ve found that focusing a lot of my fat intake towards the afternoon and before bed has worked extremely well, and for a lot of people this might be all thats necessary.Magnesium isn’t even optional in my opinion. I’m so addicted to Natural Calm that my Mom thinks I’m some sort of crack addict;) Almost everyone needs more, and it works great for getting some more Z time. Magnesium also works as an excellent smooth muscle relaxant, so it’s great after a workout and can improve digestion since it pulls water into the digestive tract.L-theanine is the bomb! The SunTheanine is the best as you say, and I think it’s extremely effective for people who have racing thoughts and trouble relaxing before bed. Since it crosses the blood-brain barrier, I find it great when I really need to conk out fast.I think you’re right about the chamomile too. Nice as a relaxing drink, but not really a full blown biohacking tool.Great work man!

    • Dave Asprey

      Totally agree about magnesium. There is a risk of Natural Calm – if you drink it hot like I did (I love the taste), make sure you rinse with hydrogen peroxide or baking soda afterwards. I dissolved the outer layers of my enamel by letting the mag citrate sit on my teeth. My dentist pointed it out on an xray and then told me I needed 4 bridges (that was 4 years ago). But being a biohacker, I politely told her to pound sand and went with another treatment, first using ozone to sterilize the teeth, then remineralization paste. Cost me $150 and avoided all 4 bridges, with no cavities even 4 years later.

      • Sidra

        I’d like more info about using ozone to sterilize teeth and remineralization paste. Do you have something elsewhere on your site or links?

        • Dave Asprey

          Not yet! ?

        • Sidra

          Is remineralization paste something you made yourself? So cool!

        • Andrew Martina
        • Sidra

          P.S. thanks for the tip on protecting teeth from Natural Calm. I love it–great for sleeping through the night, and helps decrease my muscle cramping, but I love my teeth even more!

      • Greta

        Dave, same things happened with my teeth! I used to drink some magnesium when I’d wake up during the night, and then go right back to sleep. Before i realized what was happening, part of my back molar had a big hole in the very back of it.
        Rinsing is VERY IMPORTANT! I brush my teeth thoroughly after i take magnesium just to be safe. =D

  • bodyrecomp

    Dave great post, and thanks for the tip on “Natural Calm” I have been using for just over a week now and will heed your advice about using baking soda after.

    I have read (somewhere?) that Vitamin D also is a sleep enhancer; I take my dose of Vitamin D before bed (7000mg) and it seems to help me sleep. Now and then I take melatonin too

    Any thoughts on Vitamin D and sleep?

    • Dave Asprey

      Just rinse with baking soda after the Natural Calm – your teeth will thank you for it.

      D3 actually is stimulating and your brain expects it during the day. Best to take it in the morning.

  • Justin M

    A lot of these supplements appear to help you fall asleep fast. That’s not the problem I have, nor is staying asleep. Instead, I’d like to spend a lot more time in deep sleep and REM sleep. Are these supplements going to help significantly with that? (will anything affordable help with it?) Thanks a bunch.

    • me

      If you ever notice this thread Justin, the best is magnesium orotate, bar none and it will increase your REM sleep. How do I know? Because of mercury poisoning, I don’t have enough magnesium AND I didn’t dream. I started taking mag O and my sleep is definitely ‘heavier’ and now I dream.

    • Dl Stevenson

      Melatonin will definitely help you dream. With it, my dream life is far more interesting than my waking life.

      • dandilion

        melatonin made my heart race like a chattering chipmunk for about 10 hours. the next afternoon, after shaking & spinning all night, i took it back to the vitamin store. the counter woman said that happens to a small percent of people {although, nobody was decent enough to give me that info when i bought it}.

        • disqus_f23yWYhDc9

          you shouldve done research beforehand.

  • RichieP

    How exactly did you hack your brain with EEG? I’ve tried neurofeedback for low stress tolerance/ anxiety and didnt have much luck. They used an Alpha-Theta protocol, but my brain just wouldnt relax and go into the deep state. What worked for you?

  • RichieP

    Also, I’ve read elsewhere that GABA supplements dont cross the blood-brain barrier. What’s your take on that?

    • rumraisinyum

      GABA isn’t proven to work, and it doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. What does work are GABA precursors-picamilon and phenibut (used by Soviet astronauts).

      • Hoosy

        Supposedly PharmGABA gets over that hump, and I can tell you that it must get through to my BBB. If I take a whole pill, I’m groggy the next day and a friend reported the same. So this past week, I am taking only 1/2 of the pill and man, I can’t begin to tell you how clear my thinking is the next day. Taurine works with the GABA receptors and I just bought it last night to try.

        • cristobaldelicia

          What makes you think it needs to get past the blood brain barrier? There are GABA receptors throughout the nervous system and if your body is getting messages to relax, the brain is going to interpret that, even if not directly triggered. True, if you are specifically looking to turn off thought processes, picamilon will cross the BBB to do that more efficiently. Phenibut is addictive, though, similar to benzodiazipines. Common energy drinks and shots contain taurine, I’m not sure why except it may combat caffeine jitters.

      • John Furr

        GABA works better than all of the above for me. There may not be a science paper that say’s it work, but enough people are getting effects from it. Like Hoosy said I feel drowsy from it the next day and it’s certainly not placebo effect.

      • janet

        phenibut is poison. it has major withdrawl symptoms and doesn’t help sleep, not to mention hangover. GABA works for people who take it, but it doesn’t get the user high like phenibut.

        • Joe Canter

          If you get effects from GABA it means you have a leaky brain and need to go to doctor ASAP. (GABA only crosses into the brain if your barrier is not working right)

        • Brian Henry

          Complete nonsense … Read up real user experiences on Redit … Only idiots abusing Phenibut have issues with this miracle substance

      • Guest

        The BBB is SO 1995. There are neuroreceptors and neurotransmitters in the gut. That’s where GABA works.

      • Brian Henry

        You are 100% correct… Only folks abusing these nootropics have issues. Those types would have issues with anything they can take. None are for people with addictive personalities..

    • nozferat

      LOL…this is hilarious:

      – GABA doesn’t work
      – GABA doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier
      – GABA works for me!
      – GABA is better taken as the precursor
      – the precursor is poisonous!

      lol…truly hilarious…talk about chasing the tail!

  • Daniel

    I’ve been having trouble over the past couple months with waking up (wide awake can’t go back to sleep) at 1, 2 or 3 AM even though I can fall asleep just fine.

    This post focused on getting to sleep and in checking out the other sleep posts that seems to be the focus. Any tips on supplements or techniques to help STAY asleep? Would magnesium help with this as well…?

    I’ve stopped drinking a morning mug of coffee (semi-Bulletproof) for a bit over a week to see if that made a difference but it has not so far. The only supplement I take is 5k IUs D3 most mornings and my diet is primal/paleo style (I realize that’s fairly broad).

    • Dave Asprey

      Try 3 tsp raw honey at bedtime. If not enough, add:

      Magnesium potassium GABA and Valerian.

      • Daniel

        Many thanks Dave! I’ll see what I can find available here in Boquete (shipping from online sources is $$$).

      • Results report: Magnesium citrate = SUCCESS!

        March 1st: 3 tsp. honey directly before bed. Sleep time: ~11 PM – 2 AM. Honey = not a solution.

        March 2nd: 200mg magnesium citrate in the AM and 200 mg before bed. Sleep time: ~10 PM – 4 AM. An improvement.

        March 3rd: 200mg magnesium citrate at each of the 3 meals of the day. Sleep time: ~11 PM – 7:45 AM. Success!

        March 4th: 200mg/3 times a day again. Sleep time: ~11 PM – 7 AM.

        I haven’t used the honey at any time other than the 1st since I would have expected that to work immediately if it was part of the solution.

        It seems I’ve been developing a magnesium deficiency for the past few months since another improvement I have had besides better sleep is greatly reduced muscle tightness and soreness.

        Since my move to Panama in Nov. 2011 I’ve had progressively painful muscle tightness in my legs which I attributed to sitting a lot for my work (despite the fact I change positions quite a bit and haven’t had the problem before).

        Now it is evident that the muscle pain (I wouldn’t have called them cramps) was the first sign of magnesium deficiency. My sleep didn’t really become affected until the beginning of February.

        I haven’t pinpointed what I’ve been lacking since moving here as far as magnesium intake is concerned. I’ll have to give that some thought. Obviously the soil here is different so the food will have different mineral content. The main changes in diet I can think of since arrival in Panama are:

        -I started drinking coffee regularly (Boquete Panama is coffee country after all)

        -I stopped eating about one handful of almonds on most days as I had before the move. I was tired of almonds and those for sale here seemed less fresh.

        -I haven’t had raw milk regularly since the move.

        Many thanks for the help Dave. It feels good to get more rest 🙂

        • Just to clarify I did stop drinking coffee -I only had one cup in the AM anyway- for over a week with no positive results before I tried the magnesium.

          I realized some folks might be saying, “Duh, you started drinking coffee and you stopped sleeping well!” Seems correlated but not causative from what I can tell.

        • Dave Asprey

          Nice work Daniel! Great biohacking.

          Bad coffee (poorly processed) is associated with causing magnesium deficiency. The body tries to flush the kidneys. How were those beans made green?
          Definitely add potassium too. Synergistic with magnesium. And sleep well!

      • Zingbo

        Dave, do you take the honey along with the mct & collagen as detailed above, or has your protocol evolved?

  • Brent Arias

    I’m intrigued “Holy Basil” (aka “tulsi”) is not on your list. It has worked for myself and a fellow engineer when nothing else did.

    • Dave Asprey

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve read about Hu basil but not needed it

  • Theidea

    naicin also releases growth hormone before bed. I just found out. check it out-

    The author, Abram Hoffer lived to be 91 years old. Very productive life. What a great hack!

  • TJ

    What potassium do you buy? The biggest I can find are 100mg capsules on amazon. 800mg seems like a lot.

    • Dave Asprey

      100mg mag citrate. I take about 4-5 of them. They’re tiny.

      • TJ

        Do you take citrate for your potassium as well? Also, do you know of any absorbability differences in Natural Calm Magnesium and mag citrate capsules?

        • Dave Asprey

          My mistake. I take potassium citrate, 4-5 caps. I take magnesium with mixed *ates like malate, aspartate, orotate, etc.

  • crainbf

    Hi Dave, just found your blog recently and have been enjoying greatly.

    I’ve decided to do a 4 month experiment starting in September with reducing sleep to 5 hours and taking Modafinil. I actually for a year in 2008/09 and the effects were insane. I also have a bit of experience with sleep hacking. Have had a ZEO for a while and tried out supplementation with magnesium, Huperzine A and 5-HTP. (The one thing that really made a difference was 5-HTP which increased REM sleep by around 50%, although I felt it was decreasing my sex drive so I discontinued using it after a while.)

    Here’s my question:
    You list so many supplements. Which one’s do you recommend taking? I take it you think magnesium and potassium are mandatory. Of the other ones which ones should I try first? Which only resort to later if some fail?

    (Diet-wise I eat a Paleo diet very close to what you recommend. Although I’ve just started taking significant amounts of MCT oil.)

    Keep up the great work!

    Also, I’ll be at the Quantified Self conference in Stanford in September. Look forward to seeing you there!

    Brian Crain

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  • Could you please hack a pill that has all of these….

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  • Kjerstin

    Thanks, Dave! I have the worst insomnia of anyone I’ve ever met or heard of. I’ve tried most of above, but you offer some new alternatives. Just received your MCT oil. Do you recommend I take 1 tbs at night only? Or both in the a.m and p.m?

    I will try “ornithine” and L-tryptophan (been using 5htp). And I will try and get a prescription of GHB. (I’m allergic to ambien)

    One more question – if I get GHB, can I take it with all of the above?

    • Greta

      Hyland’s “Nerve Tonic” is AMAZING for sleep! It was so well for me. I have the 500 count bottle. They’re tiny white tabs, and I take about 12-18 some nights and fall right asleep! They’re all natural I believe.

    • janet

      no you won’t need to mix GHB with anything especially other depressants. It’s very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you are not of engineering caliber I would recommend you stay away from it. You might get in legal trouble as well. Look at a perscription for gabapentin. It will help your mind relax before bed. Take only when you can’t sleep though. Don’t be dependent on anything long term (more than a few days)

    • Helena

      Kjerstin, I too have the worst insomnia of anyone I know and no health practitioner has been able to help so far. Would love to hear if you have had any improvements.

      • steve

        Look up sleep restriction and follow it for 21 days it works. I have tried all supplements and they failed. Thi has a well documented 90percent success rate.

  • Yaniv

    Thanks for the post.
    Does the honey break the intermittent fasting?

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  • Chris

    I have a question regarding magnesium. Will it ‘only’ help for muscle cramps or dose it also have a relaxing effect? I have no problem with cramps but with sleeping.

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  • 5-htp – I take it at bedtime now for sleep aid and more so for migraine prevention. I also take magnesium and potassium at bedtime. I have been weaning myself off of Nortriptyline(migraine preventative) and trying to avoid taking sumatriptan(when migraines strike). My doctor has told me that those two drugs help the uptake and regulation of serotonin so I am wondering if you would still recommend L-tryptophan over 5-htp in the case of migraine prevention and as a replacement for one or both of those prescriptions? I get 95% of my migraines while I’m sleeping and wake up 3-4 hours before I should from the pain.

    Last note is that Ive been on the BP diet since November and have lost over 40lbs. I am 15 lbs lighter than I was in HS as a 3-sport athlete, helped family and friends lose weight and feel better, and my migraines HAVE improved since upgrading my health last fall.

    • Janine Dunagan Finney

      Wow…I’ve never heard anyone with my same migraine symptoms…I also get mine 95% of the time, while I’m sleeping. I take Sumatriptan/Imitrex and it works really well, but I keep thinking that I’m missing something, biologically, because of the pattern of my migraines…I just purchased the 5-HTP (just got it today) and was excited to start taking it. I was also prescribed the Nortriptyline to prevent the middle of the night migraines, but I’m not sure it really helped…I’m off of that now….I don’t see a response yet about your question….but am so amazed that you have the exact same thing I do!!!! Never heard of it before!

  • thQS

    what about glycine? A Japannese study showed 3gr improved sleep without side effects…


    • Lord Plopington

      Glysine is abundant in his “collogen protein” he mentions, otherwise known as gelatin. Pretty cheap stuff. Good to take before bed, raises HGH while sleeping.

    • janet

      it lowers body temp while sleeping (allegedly)

  • janet

    GHB can cause dependence, if you take it every night. It induces rem sleep for 4 hours then wakes you up. you have to take more to fall back asleep. the more you take the more rebound you have,,,, this can be a problem if abused. It is not normal sleep, and you can never feel optimal from it’s use. However if you must sleep and can’t otherwise fall asleep it’s the most safe and effective sleep aid on the planet. If you mix it with alcohol you can die. Also if you double the effective dose you can get very ill, and puke, pass out and drown in your own vomit. If you don’t already know everything about GHB it’s beyond your grasp and just forget about it. Hope that helps. gabapentin is a gaba derivative that is prescription. If you have trouble falling asleep once a week it can help calm your mind while trying to fall asleep, with less dangerous drug like dependence. It’s easily gotten by prescription. GHB is so regulated you might risk imprisonment if you try and acquire it.

    • dandilion

      {janet} that’s frightening!

    • Brian Henry

      Here you have scare tactics… Please quote your sources…

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  • TeeDee

    Hi Dave,
    There have been a lot of warnings lately to watch the dosage of melatonin, as well as duration of use–a good thing, of course. However, when one reads deeper, it’s often said that those over 60 do not produce enough on their own and can take it long term when sleep is a problem (a fact annoyingly left out of the conversation, too often) Does this sync with your research on the subject?
    Thanks for any clarification you can provide, as well as all the good work you do on this site…

  • I’ve just discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it. Having had trouble with my sleep for quite a while, over the counter sleeping aids (melatonin, valerian) have been a real life saver.

    Melatonin does the trick for me although i think care needs to be taken here. When i took it for > 4 days in a row, i found myself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep again.

    • Andrew

      That’s because taking exogenous melatonin in the form of a pill shuts down your body’s natural production of melatonin, which has a very short half life of something like 35-50 minutes. Your body normally produces melatonin from sunset to sunrise in order to maintain constant blood levels which is what prepares your body for, and allows normal sleep patterns. So in essence when you take a melatonin pill your blood levels of melatonin sky-rocket to much greater concentrations than what your body could naturally achieve which knocks you out quick, but then that short half life means that those blood levels start to fall rapidly which leads to you eventually waking up again 4-5 hours later and since you’re pineal gland isn’t producing it anymore it leads to a disturbed sleep over-all.

  • DLA

    Can I take 5-htp in the morning and afternoon then gaba at night for sleep? 5-htp is helping me feel good but still having sleep issues.

  • Kiki Gurl

    It’s 3:48 a.m. I’ll take the staying asleep blog post now… 😐

  • Jayla

    Tried the GABA and had anxiety filled nightmares and the was horribly ” hung over” until the middle of the day. I even tried taking the GABA around 8 pm to try and prevent the hangover.. Is there a way around this? I have the same problem with taking melatonin . Is this common with GABA? I would really like to get off of the ambien.
    In all fairness , I don’t have a very active GI system . The bulletproof coffee has helped tremendously with GI motility but not sure about the absorption. Any thoughts are appreciated !

    • MissF

      I had the same results with GABA and melatonin and 5-HTP.. my health practitioner said that there are people who because of differing brain chemistry respond with awful nightmares to melatonin. I can only guess it is the same for the others as that was my experience.

      • Meagan

        If you get vivid dreams/night mares, then it’s not the supplement for you. It means you already have enough of those neurotransmitters and by taking the supplement you now have them in excess, which causes the vivid dreams.

        • ChristianRodder

          Was told by my Naturopath to take Vitamin B-1 with the Melatonin if you’re having wild dreams. It does work!

    • Hoosy

      Same problem here with the hangover effect … take half.

    • Mark Ross

      are you taking the GABA with Ambien? That might be the problem.

    • Mark Ross

      Consider just taking GABA during the day to keep you calm, and then it wears off by bed time, but your calm mind carries on into sleeping that night.

    • janet

      stop drinking coffee first, if you can’t sleep. also try tryptophan before going to bed. and choline+tyrosine in the morning. all 3 are amino acids. letting go of your thoughts should help you fall asleep

  • TeeDee

    Dave, can you post something that tells people you don’t answer all questions so they don’t waste their time? I asked a question about 3 months ago and have yet to see a reply. Is there a time limit from when the original article is written? If there is, no problem, I guess, but I’d just like to know so I don’t have to keep checking back.

  • TJ Nelson

    Melatonin has never affected me that good. Sometimes gives me nightmares.

    5-HTP would actually give me an energy boost.

    Then I discovered L-Tryptophan and magnesium. I haven’t had insomnia ever since. I reset myself with the L-Tryptophan and magnesium and now I just take magnesium powder every night.

    • Mark Ross

      What brand of L-Tryptophan do you recommend? What type of Magnesium do you take?

      • TJ Nelson

        I take Natural Calm Natural Vitality magnesium. Works for me. Source Naturals L-Tryptophan is a good brand, I felt the most effects with it. NOW Foods is another brand that works, but not as strong as Source Naturals.

        • Dudio

          I’ve been trying to figure out why tryptophan makes me sleepy…but 5 htp makes me feel like im on adderall….sounds like you have the same experience TJ Nelson

        • TJ Nelson

          Probably something to do with the conversion process. Tryptophan has to be converted into 5-HTP first. The body will convert some of the tryptophan into niacin if you need niacin. I used to actually take tryptophan with niacin sometimes because it potentiated the tryptophan.

        • DonnaJ

          Exactly how much magnesium and L-Trypt do u take?

        • TJ Nelson

          Varies. Used to take a lot, then I didn’t use too much, now I don’t take anything at all other than fish oil and digestive supplements for my stomach.

    • nozferat

      I do the same thing and it does nothing for me.

  • standa man

    has anyone tried the milk peptiedes ? they sound to good to be true. Dave have you tried them yet ?

  • Knox

    Does anyone know anything about stuff like Somatomax? Is it addictive, does it work?

    • Sandra Walter

      I tried this product and i believe it threw my neurotransmitters off. Been tempted to try again becuz’ it does seem to have a strange addiction to it.

      • Jake

        Somatomax has Phenibut in it. Phenibut is a powerful anxiety eliminator and relaxation agent. It’s also addictive and shouldn’t be taken every day.


    look, my problem is, how do i sleep for just two hours at night and feel satisfied without feeling sleepy during the day?

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  • Nolan Rosterden

    There is just too much stuff on this site. I am overwhelmed.

    • Skilluck

      Take it one article at a time.

    • dandilion

      I AGREE, NOLAN. taking it one article @ a time doesn’t work, eddie. it’s still too much info, some contradicting, & too many “cures” to figure it out. some of us cannot understand which to TAKE, COMBINE, AVOID. do we take all of these @ once? if not, how do we decide which person knows what he is talking about?! i’d hate to have another opposite reaction to something that these folks swear works the best, as i had happen with melatonin, for pete’s sake. i’ve seen tweakers on ‘cops’ acting the way i did ~ wth! this is overwhelming, & impossible to decipher. >:^(

      • hey dandilion, that’s exactly what I thought in the past….had a severe burnout and still working on it (still can’t go to work after 2,5 years, sometimes I can’t even take a walk every day) and was completely overwhelmed by all these informations and “if you have these symptoms you should take xyz” “this helps 95% of the people” “you must take this if you have xyz symptom” etc etc etc (I know that you know what I mean). I’ve invested over 25.000€ (!!! sold almost everything I have) during this time on private docs, meds and supplements (last one took a huge part) – I could make significant improvements but not even close to what I’d like it to be after that huge investment.

        You see, in simple cases, these articles/podcasts/tipps and the basics may or may not be helpful – in more complicated cases I’d ALWAYS encourage people to work with somebody who really knows his/her stuff (CHEK Practitioners, FDN or alike), who can really get to the root cause and also work on things you may or may not overlook (nutrition, daily schedule, psychological issues, past experiences, environment etc). In the end, a ton of these informations in the web are just (very) little pieces of the whole puzzle, you can overlook (and not measure) a TON of things (problems with certain foods/combinations, supplement timing/combination/dosage/quality,….) and what I found most overlooked – a plan (where to start, when to take certain steps like gut healing/killing, detox, energy improvement, symptom relief etc, how long to do certain things, how to measure improvement,…).

        And always remember – there is NO one-size-fits-all – not with supplements, not with food (macronutrients, food choice,..), not with daily routines and so on – you gotta find what helps YOU and what YOUR body tells you that he needs (sometimes my body wants more protein, sometimes more carbs, sometimes carrots, sometimes more meat, sometimes no meat, sometimes fish etc). I feel like so many people take stuff and eat things and do things they don’t really like and feel good with, but there’s so much praise by popular ppl in the field and scientific proof…. Maybe a step back would help quite some people because the stress due to all this information can be very impactful on the healing process – and sometimes psychological issues are really overlooked because there may be that “quick fix” (supplements or alike) right around the corner.

        Hope this helps…I personally found information by Paul Chek very helpful – he’s not the “take-this-pill-guy” and rarely suggests a brand or so, and he really thinks in a holistic way. All the best on your journey!

  • Ali

    How long after eating protein can I take my gaba supplement to work for sleep?

  • ferrethouse

    Anything that acts of GABA will cause down-regulation of GABA receptors over time which means you will develop a dependency. This includes GABA itself, GHB, and even magnesium. I do take magnesium every night as the benefits outweigh any downsides.

  • Caution: It is wisely adviced to study all the information before consuming any content or physical ingredients.

    Powerful sleep supplements (I apply daily on myself, approved by my body and chemistry)

    Info from:

    Evening/Before bed

    1 cup of Chamomile tea – plus add honey

    400mg Magnesium

    100mg Suntheanine

    100mg Potassium to start with and build up to 300mg

    15 mg Collagen protein

    5mg coconut oil

    Study first (Optional)

    Gaba 500mg first study:

    Ornithine 1-5 grams

    Arginine Growth hormone 1-5 grams


    GHB ambien


    Valerian Root


    Just a few examples

    Breakfast big meal

    Get enough Vitamin b6, b12, calcium and iron

    Adviced for better sleep 90 mins before bed no electric devices


    Sleep journal


  • Dear friends,

    I am convinced this article is worth gold to all living entities in the universe who wants improved sleep or want to delete or reduce the suffering from sleep disorders.

    1. Study:

    It is wisely adviced to study all the information, do personal research, information retrieval, data gathering (google) and inquire knowledge about these topics before consuming any content, supplements and physical ingredients or practicing any activities related to sleep induction.

    2. Related study material:

    Sleep disorders:

    Why sleep improvement? -Sleep benefits:

    Sleep tips and advice:

    Advanced sleep advice:

    3. Validation:

    I apply the powerful natural sleep supplements on myself daily since October 2013, this is totally approved by my bodies chemistry. I also know of other individuals and associations acknowledging the benefits from it.

    4. Motivation:

    I myself experienced insomnia in month june till july 2013 (4-6 hours sleep a day), and because of the setback, pain, sleep deprivation, frustrations, and multiple other negative symptoms that impacted my life, I was moved to want to solve the issue for myself and humanity.

    5. Powerful sleep supplements, for evening and before bed

    1. 1 cup of Chamomile tea – plus add honey

    2. 400mg Magnesium

    3. 200mg Zinc

    4. 200mg Calcium

    5. 100mg Suntheanine

    6. 100mg Potassium to start with and build up to 300mg

    7. 15 mg Collagen protein

    8. 5mg coconut oil


    Binaural beats 8 hours deep sleep

    6. Caution, study before application, wrong application can lead to health problems (Optional)

    1. Gaba 500mg first study:

    2. Ornithine 1-5 grams

    3. Arginine Growth hormone 1-5 grams

    4. L-tryptophan

    5. GHB ambien

    6. Melatonin

    7. Valerian Root

    8. Orgasm/Ejaculation/Copulation

    9. — Severe sleep disorder — go to the doctor and ask for sleeping pills.

    7. Other practical sleep advice:

    1. Breakfast big meal

    2. Dark room

    3. Exercise for improved sleep

    4. Get enough Vitamin b6, b12, calcium and iron throughout the day

    5. For better sleep 90 mins before bed adviced not to use electrical devices

    6. Meditation

    7. Sleep journal

    8. Lavender

    9. Sleep induction mat:

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  • Hoosy

    I’m surprised that you did not mention Taurine or Glycine and I suggest taking a look. Of course, I don’t know when you wrote this article (I didn’t see a date). Also, the endocrinologist I see has suggested acupuncture because research is showing it to help, especially for those with a dependency on Ambien. I did my first session yesterday (I think in the studies it took about 5 sessions, but in combination with supplements, I saw results last night).

    • Dave Asprey

      Collagen is the protein highest in glycine, which is one big reason it’s useful before bed! Taurine, ornithine, and lysine are all useful for different people. ?

      • Trace

        Dave I really need your help getting started.. I am a 44 year old female.. approx 70 pounds to lose… need it broken down and detailed,, also what are the limitations to bring the butter over the border>

  • Robin

    Hey Guys.
    Iam in need of some big time help. So I took melatonin for over a year back in 2010, and I used to sleep fine before taking melatonin. Reason Itook it was because I liked the way it felt and I had noisy roommates.
    After taking it for a year, I was heavily fatigued and always dreaming. My sleep has improved a little bit, but still not like before.
    Any recommendations for my case? It is a unique case, regular MD have no clue, and there is nothing wrong with me healthwise. Just not at optimal due to sleep issues ( unrefreshing sleep, lots of dreaming but not deep sleep)
    If anyone has any feedback, please do so. thanks!

    • Pious Augustus

      You did stop the melatonin, correct? Ever try tryptophan instead? Way more expensive (though the Vitacost brand is relatively economic if you get the big bottle) but far safer I would say. Do you find food sources ingested 3 or so hours before bedtime to be inadequate, even if you have carbs shortly before bed? That has typically worked for me. Also, I’ve found B2,B3,B5,B6 and B9 (folate, found most abundantly in greens; I fully suggest avoiding all folic acid because it’s synthetic and must be converted, which many lack the genetic rigor to convert enough of it to prevent it from building up in the blood and causing all manner of subtle devastation) to vastly improve its efficiency, as they’re all involved in its conversion to serotonin then melatonin (well as I understand it B3 isn’t but it does help ingested tryptophan’s efficiency in that it won’t be converted to B3 instead of the needed serotonin).

  • Julia V

    I’ve tried almost everything on the list. I agree with you about most melatonin supplements being too strong, although what you were mentioning was weaker than I would go with personally. I think 1-3 mg is ok (Total, not per capsule which some are). And not for long term use either. Need to take breaks. I think combos can be the best, and the key is getting the exact blend in the perfect ratios. Most companies are way off the mark and put far too much of one thing at the expense of another. Another key is ensuring that the ingredients are top quality, which is also rare. When you mention valerian for example, it’s important to not only say “valerian”, but also include the % of the active ingredient “valerinic acid”, because that number really defines the strength.

    A friend of mine from university, who is a professional naturopath, told me SleepX from 88Herbs is coming to market soon. The ratios have been developed with naturopaths from Asia and North America. They look to be in the right ratios and are from excellent sources.

    For people who want to try ingredients one by one, my favorite (in no particular order) are:

    Magnesium (Citrate or Bisglycinate)
    Melatonin (3mg MAX)
    L Theanine

  • kathy

    Why is L-tryptophan better than 5 HTP? I thought 5 HTP was absorbed better.

    • janet

      l-tryptophan is a natural amino acid you get in the diet. your body converts it to 5-htp and serotonin and melatonin as needed (inside the brain I think). 5-htp is not something normally in the diet, and it being in your stomach means you have it cycling throughout your system that could be potentially harmful to your body outside your brain. 5-htp is also an MAO-Inhibitor which can be dangerous. Stick with natural tryptophan.

  • Aaron Oakley

    GABA doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

    • cristobaldelicia

      but there are receptors for it throughout the nervous system. If the rest of your body is getting the message to relax, crossing the BBB is unnecessary.

  • Mike Monsour

    GHB is not addictive? That is a dangerous claim, my friend. It just so happens to be highly addictive with nasty withdrawal symptoms:;jsessionid=DD68706AD53BEA8E291DE6A3114C5FD3.f02t03

    Do some research before giving advice.

    • janet

      it’s not “addictive” it’s just mildly habit forming, just like coffee in the morning. for someone to have serious withdrawal symptoms they would have to take it all day every day, equivalent to drinking alcohol for breakfast. if that’s what you’re doing you’re crazy to begin with.

      • Beetlejuice

        OH, just “mildly habit forming”.
        GHB is really some nasty stuff.

  • Stephanie Culbreth

    Dave, I’m trying the supplements to hack my sleep and am following the protocol you outline in your posts. Still, I have a question about waking up. Do I just set my alarm for however long I want to sleep and wake up no matter how I feel when my alarm goes off or do I allow myself to sleep until I don’t feel tired anymore? I ask because I don’t think my body is ready to jump out of bed after 4 hours but if I have done all the steps you outline, should I be able to roll out of bed and function as though I got a full 8 hours? How will I know if my body was able to fully recharge as though I had a full nights sleep without having access to labwork on demand? Thanks for all you do!

  • therealjeaniebeanie

    I’m a little confused on timing. Of GABA you said, “Taken away from any other protein, it will dramatically calm you,” and you say it’s best taken at night. Then later you say take tryptophan with GABA, presumably at night. You also say you take a combo of ornithine and arginine at night. So, if these can’t all be combined, how do you take them all at night? Or take them on alternating nights? I know this question is late to the party, but I’m hoping someone will respond. Thanks!

  • jodicohen

    Great article. sleep is so important! There is also an essential oil blend created by Vibrant Blue Oils that triggers the pineal gland to release melatonin naturally. worth checking out!

  • HGLtraveling

    Hi. thanks for this blog. Where do you get bioactive milk peptides? and FYI, Melatonin can have disastrous side effects of depression in some folks. Best beware! Also, where can i find more on these electronics for sleep hacking? I’ve been a chronic insomnia my entire life since i took prescribed amphetamines for dieting at age 13.

  • Rich

    Interesting article. I recently started taking 3MG of melatonin and I experienced the effect of waking several times during the night and then feeling groggy and exhausted the following day. I don’t have difficulty falling asleep but rather staying asleep. When does the next part come out?

  • powerofone

    I take a product called tranquil sleep by natural factors that comes in a large chewable tablet. They recommend taking two tablets an hour or two before bed but I just take 1/4 to1/2 of one pill and it works about 60 % of the time. The lozenge contains 5htp, L-theanine, and 1 mg of melatonin. The nice thing is you can break off a smaller piece so you get lower doses. I’ve tried almost everything you mentioned but ghb and tranquil sleep works the best especially if you can get by with a small dose like a third of one pill.

  • jude

    Can you tell me, which of your recommended supplements will help with my restless legs which keep me awake at night?

  • A F

    No chance a doctor is going to prescribe GHB for sleep. No one is that lucky.

  • Ari_Abubluiban

    Speaking of pills, am I taking crazy ones? Does this guy sound sketchy as hell to anyone else? I bet he dies in the next ten years

  • HackerGirl

    Nothing really works, tell us more about this statement ~ “I don’t need this anymore, since I hacked my brain with EEG”

  • Charlie Forzano

    Most, of the many forms of magnesium end in “ate” The worst forms of the “ates” are sulfate, glutamate, and aspertate – I think glycinate is said to be the best for sleep – malate is energizing but is good for fibro and fatigue – great article Thanks!

  • nozferat

    There is so much information and counter information here that no one can make heads or tails out of it. At the end of the day…everyone is right and no one is right…so what do you do?

    I started taking Tryptophan would help my insomnia. That’s after I read positive articles about it. Then I found an article that has a host of extremely damning things to say about it.

    The issue is all these articles and studies use the same language: “may” “could” “possible”, etc….etc etc.

    It’s quite hilarious. Articles that say GABA works say TP doesn’t work and visa versa. And so on..

    So what is the point of all this information?

  • Tonar Foran

    Any advice as far as combos to avoid? Combos that work well? I’ve gotten everything on this list except for GBH, Magnesium and Potassium. I also take an ambien (10 mg) which is somewhat effective some nights, not so effective other nights, but still cannot sleep without it.

  • Pee Wee Jahn

    Ghb is incredibly addictive. It has a short half life so you have to take it pretty frequretly to get there but the withdrawals are the same potentially life threatening horror of alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal. Some people do fall into dosing every three hours to keep it at bay, which is something to keep in mind when someone calls it non addictive.

  • Guest

    Can’t believe Dave is still using ‘biohacking’ as a selling point.

  • TrenchGoat

    Stay away from the drugs, kids.
    What goes up must come down.


    Hacking sleep. 2-3 hours a night. The entire concept goes against 100% of all published data on brain health, overall well-being and disease prevention. Enjoy early dementia and / or Alzheimer’s .. if not a host of other neurological conditions, and a drastically-reduced lifespan. You can’t “hack” sleep anymore than you can “hack” your brain to perform faster and better. What goes up, will come down. Especially when it comes to neurotransmitters and artificially-induced adrenal fatigue. And while you’re obsessing over that 15 minutes you wasted trying to fall asleep, you’re unaware of the 10 years you’re cutting off the end of your life. Want to properly “hack” your health? AKA live as long as possible and be healthy and vibrant into old age? Moderation in everything. 8 hours of sleep every night, with zero supplements. Stress reduction and exercise. Proper food intake. In the end, the guy who “wins” at life is the 75 year old who’s out playing racquet ball while all the “Entrepreneurs” died 10 years prior.

  • Michael Blakeslee

    When should someone take l-argenine if it seems to be a stimulate?

  • Good overview. Some notes on my part….chamomile is on the FODMAP list as I discovered after having a good amount of bloating the day after drinking it. Since I’m following a rotation diet I rotate between these night-baverages: banana tea + passionflower tea and holy basil tea….works pretty good for me. Going to try cherry juice and St John’s Worth tea aswell the next days.

    The info on melatonin is great – the dosages are so high in a LOT of supplements out there, my holistic doc gave me 3mg pills which I cut in half after a week or so and not taking them after another while because it has just been too much.

    That leads me to my next point tho….GABA. I tried over 30 different supplements, herbs,… for sleep and when I took 500mg GABA I couldn’t sleep well on the one side and I was really “off” the next day – now I tried 100mg sublingual (I open the capsule) and I am from 1-3hours till I fall asleep + waking up several times + being tired and having headaches the next day to falling asleep pretty easy, waking up 1 time max and feeling much better the next day. Also, taking vitamin C (I take 500mg) along with the GABA seems to help aswell to feel better.

  • disqus_f23yWYhDc9

    you’ve never tried GHB. f’en liar

  • Heather Turnmeyer

    Use Advocare Sleep Works. Done!

  • GO

    This is article is riddled with the kinds of mistakes that can get a person addicted or killed. First of all, GHB is super unsafe — it’s the single most unsafe GABAergic drug currently in use. There’s a reason only one pharmacy in the US — Jazz — prescribes it (in the sodium oxybate form). The liquid doses have to be measured incredibly carefully because a tiny bit too much can depress a person’s breathing severely and even send someone into a coma. And the drug lasts for only for four hours. You are actually given two doses each night — one for the first 4 hours and another to take when you wake up four hours later. Oh, and yeah, you do become tolerant of more and more until you need to take it all the time — even when you’re awake. In fact, the actor Nick Nolte wound up in this predicament. And as a neurobiology researcher, I can tell you that people who have experienced benzodiazepine withdrawal describe GHB withdrawal as exponentially worse. Google their stories — they will warn you never to take GHB in your life. Meanwhile, Ambien and Lunesta are rather easy to slowly wean yourself of with proper care and they also can’t kill you if you take a tiny bit too much, and they don’t force you awake in the middle of the night either for a whole new dose.

    Oh, and your idea that people ingest GABA for sleep? This is fake, crackpot science at its worst. GABA can’t enter the brain when ingested. The only ways to increase GABA are to take things that increase GABA inside of you — precursors — or GABA receptor agonists or allosteric modulators. Oral GABA ingestion literally cannot work — the blood-brain barrier doesn’t let that molecule in like that.

    I’m sure Dave Asprey is a well-meaning guy, but if I were he, I’d withdraw this article and issue retractions immediately. Otherwise, he’s open to lawsuits that could shred his finances and conscience for the rest of his life. And I’m sure I could find plenty of doctors who would file briefs in support of his pursuers.

    • Gilles Bkk

      that is why there is PHARMA GABA or Phenibut…. 1 gram and you are dizzy the next day

    • Yasser Shaaban

      You’re absolutely right . For example over 400 mg of Magnesium and accumulating it would kill you . It would seize the respiratory muscles from moving leading to respiratory failure . That’s one example of how badly misleading this article is .

      • Mark

        Don’t be ridiculous. You either missed a 0 or you’re talking out your behind.

        a) In a healthy human Magnesium does not “accumulate,” it is absorbed by the body and the excess is removed by the kidneys.

        b) 400mg is considered the *tolerable* limit (not toxic), because any more than that may cause gastric distress (ie the runs).

        c) an overdose of magnesium (again, which would be waaaay more than 400mg) would cause various symptoms such as irregular hearthbeat, lethargy, muscle weakness, nausea, etc. It would certainly not cause muscles to “seize” and respiratory failure.

        • Yasser Shaaban

          People also ask
          Is too much magnesium bad for you?
          Doses less than 350 mg daily are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Large doses might cause too much magnesium to build up in the body, causing serious side effects including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, coma, and death.

  • Charlie13

    Thankyou so much for the information! I suffer from brain damage after a car accident and my ability to “shut down” my brain was destroyed. I have tried almost everything over the years in combination or alone with varying results. The ones that work well don’t last long due to developing a tolerance to them. At that time my frustrations flare because of my desire and need for the beauty of deep restful sleep. My health has suffered from lack of the healing sleep and my quest has become sustained deep sleep regularly. I will take this article to my doctor and ask about the new things I haven’t tried. Thankyou for the term hack as it is fitting for me. I have used the term “hijack” up until now. Hack is so much more succinct. Thankyou and I will share this everywhere! Pleasant dreams!

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  • So, what about lysine?