I’m sure you’re as sick as I am of the constant “My Pillow” ads that saturate virtually every TV channel 24/7. Mike repeatedly states: “My passion is to help each and every one of you to get the best sleep of your life.” He seems to be sincere, but I also know that he is entirely wrong. In my opinion, there is one irrefutable fact—people with normal brain function never have trouble sleeping. Throughout most of the several hundred thousand years of human evolutionary history, there were no high-end pillows, bed sheets, mattress covers, and similar bedroom items. Our ancestors were lucky to have a bit of straw for a pillow and an animal hide for a blanket, and they never had insomnia. How do I know this? To deal with predators, enemies, and other threats, these folks needed to be fully rested from a good night’s sleep. If they didn’t consistently sleep well, they quickly ended up on Darwin’s shortlist, because adequate sleep is an evolutionary advantage that is now baked into our genes.
The Key Role of Serotonin
It’s also clear that insomnia is now rampant in modern societies. Why exactly is that so? To understand, we need to go back to the basics of sleep. As you likely already know, melatonin is the human sleep hormone. Where does it come from? After all, our body must somehow manufacture melatonin in the right amounts at the right time to help us sleep at night and to be alert during the day. The building blocks of melatonin come from our diet. The amino acid tryptophan is consumed mainly from protein, and it is then converted to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-htp), which is converted to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Our brain also has a biological clock or circadian rhythm that cycles the melatonin production to put us asleep at night. If you more details about controversies related to sleep, I recommend reading Dr. Mercola’s excellent blog post on the topic.
Cavemen and Cavewomen Never Had Insomnia
This system works smoothly unless your levels of serotonin tank. And throughout human history, low serotonin was likely very rare. Over the past 50 years, that has changed. There is one factor that we now drive most low levels of serotonin in modern humans—our diet loaded with highly processed food. It is now clear that over time this diet causes brain neurons to dump out too much serotonin, eventually leading to serotonin depletion. This diet also leads to mitochondrial dysfunction in neurons driven by inflammation, and this, in turn, results in less serotonin production. Less serotonin = less melatonin = poor sleep. To learn more about the role of inflammation in this process, I recommend reading “The Resolution Zone” by my friend Barry Sears of Zone Diet fame. We now call this form of diet-induced brain dysfunction Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. I discuss this new disease model in more detail in my upcoming book “Brain Drain”. Insomnia is only one of the 22 symptoms of CARB syndrome.
Now let’s go back to Mr. Pillow Mike Lindell. He is not shy about discussing his 40 years history of being a “functioning crack addict”, whatever that is. He was also driven to develop My Pillow because he could never sleep, especially when he was high on crack cocaine. People with CARB syndrome are much more prone to any form off addiction than folks with normal brain function. People with CARB syndrome also tend to store excess body fat, varying from a little to a lot. Not all people with obesity or excess body fat have CARB syndrome, but everyone with CARB syndrome does have excessive body fat even when they have normal or low weight and BMI. You have to measure body composition to appreciate this excessive body fat in some people. Under Lindell’s ubiquitous blue shirt, he does seem to have moderate visceral obesity. When I watch him on TV, he reminds me of someone who has bipolar syndrome II. We now know that virtually all patients with this form of bipolar disorder have CARB syndrome that isn’t related to the less common traditional bipolar disorder I. I can’t formally diagnose him with an illness unless I have personally evaluated him, so I am merely speculating what might be driving and motivating Mr. Lindell.
Forget About the Fancy Bedroom Accessories When it Comes to Better Sleep
I also know that fancy pillows, bed sheets, mattress covers, and blankets don’t do much to help people with CARB syndrome sleep better. For that, they need effective medical management. The lead symptom of CARB syndrome is having intense cravings for sweet and starchy foods, pushing people to consume more of the very food that is frying their brain. Thus, the first focus of treatment is to suppress these dangerous cravings. One of the simplest and safest ways to do so is to take the supplement L-glutamine 1,000 mg 2-3x daily. Another pillar of treatment is to increase levels of serotonin and the other monoamine neurotransmitters that are depleted from consuming high glycemic carbohydrates. The easiest way to do so is to provide the body with the precursor amino acids that are converted to the neurotransmitters in the brain. L-tyrosine is the precursor of dopamine and norepinephrine, and as we previously discussed, 5-htp is the precursor of serotonin. Over decades of trial and error, we learned that a fixed-dose supplement containing L-tyrosine and 5-htp in a ratio of 10 to 1 is the most effective at raising the levels of all depleted monoamine neurotransmitters. This type of supplement is hard to find, so I sell one called CARB-22 on my web site. I recommend taking two capsules twice daily on an empty stomach and then gradually increase to four capsules twice daily. This type of supplement is extremely safe, and it can be combined with virtually all common brain drugs.
Diagnose and Treat Your CARB syndrome
Once the cravings are controlled, I recommend that people consume a whole foods diet free of the triple whammy of highly processed food: 1) excessive fructose mainly from added sugars, 2) excessive high glycemic carbohydrates especially from grains, and 3) excessive omega 6 fatty acids mainly from vegetable oils. I prefer a Mediterranean style diet with plenty of soluble fiber to feed your healthy colon bacteria. As Barry Sears points out, supplementing with a pharmaceutical omega 3 fatty acid supplement to get your AA/EPA ratio between 1and 3 and taking a water-soluble polyphenol supplement can also be helpful for reversing and resolving the inflammation that drives the CARB syndrome disease process. The good news is that over time the disease can be completely reversed, and the rabbit can be put back in the hat. That isn’t the case with many chronic diseases. My book “Brain Drain” will outline these treatment components in detail so that anyone can learn to diagnose and treat their own CARB syndrome. At this time, that’s your best option if you fit the CARB syndrome pattern because the medical and scientific communities completely missed this disease that is now at epidemic levels throughout all modern societies. This unfortunate situation likely evolved because the symptoms of CARB syndrome overlap with a long list of traditional brain disorders, creating a diagnostic and therapeutic mess.
The Sleep Industry in General Sucks
Lindell isn’t the only one cashing in on the CARB syndrome driven insomnia epidemic. In the medical field, there are now high-priced sleep centers and specialists. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is now a common plague treated with expensive C-pap and Bi-pap devices. Many prescription drugs target insomnia. All of these approaches are like putting a band-aid on cancer because the underlying pathology of CARB syndrome is not addressed. Despite Lindell’s enthusiasm and success as a businessman, he has run into a few roadblocks. He has been successfully sued for false advertising and has a Better Business Bureau rating of F. I don’t even think the mafia has managed to achieve that landmark!
We Do Share Some Background
I don’t want to be too hard on Lindell. He has a somewhat charismatic personality and we do have a few things in common. I graduated from high school a few miles from his factory west of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and for trivia buffs, Prince died in the same area, creating somewhat weird karma. So, go ahead and enjoy his commercials and enthusiasm, but when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, you need first to understand the CARB syndrome concept and use that information to fix your brain! Don’t worry–I will be with you all the way to guide you through the treatment process. Stay tuned because there is a lot more information on the horizon. I will announce on this web site when “Brain Drain” is available.