Can’t Sleep?  A Natural Approach to Insomnia

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Interview with Richard M. Carlton, M.D.

Editor’s Note:  Dr. Carlton will be a featured panelists at the 3T Renewal Summit in NYC.

counting sheepDo you struggle to get a good night’s sleep no matter how tired you are? Do you wake up in the middle of the night, anxiously watching the clock?  If so, you know the toll that insomnia can take on your energy, mood, and ability to function at your best.  Chronic insomnia can even contribute to serious health problems, including a predisposition to depression and dementia.  However, some simple changes in your lifestyle and daily habits can help you get to sleep more easily……without the need for medication.

TREATMENT: Sleep Inducing Foods, Nutraceuticals and Herbs

 Foods That Promote Sleep

  • Ripe avocado (1/3 to 1/2 of an avocado contains good oils, plus the amino acidtryptophan which helps induce sleep).
  • Turkey, which also contains tryptophan.
  • Good quality oils before bedtime, such as olive oil, and fish oil capsules.

NOTE: If you have trouble initiating sleep, eat the above foods 1 hour before bedtime. Whereas if you have trouble maintaining asleep, eat the above foods at bedtime.

 Nutraceuticals and Herbs to Neutralize “Sleep Anxiety”

Recommended nutraceuticals include the mineral magnesium, and time-released melatonin. If sleep is interrupted you can take an instant-release melatonin, but not within 3 hours of the alarm going off.

The herbs that induce sleep include hops, ashwagandha, lemon balm (Melissa), and kava kava. The latter must be water-extracted, because in rare cases some other formulations of it have damaged the liver. Excellent combination products can be found in health food stores, but those that contain valerian make some peoplegassy.

One of the most potent sleep-inducing herbal agents is cannabidiol (CBD), which is the major non-psychoactive component of hemp and marijuana.

  • CBD does not produce a “high”. In fact if someone were high on THC, taking CBD would quickly bring them back down.
  • Recent laws enacted by Congress make it legally tolerated for companies to ship CBD through the mail to any state in the nation, provided (1) that it is derived from hemp (as opposed to marijuana), and (2) that it contains less than 0.3% THC by weight.
  • My insomnia patients tell me that CBD makes them “sleep like a log”. However, about one out of 20 people gets a bit energized by CBD, and they should not use it as a sleeping aid.
  • After many years of searching, I finally found a brand of CBD that is organically grown, that has the right profile of beneficial components, and that lab testing confirms to be free of cadmium, lead and other soil contaminants. You can contact me for the brand of CBD I recommend.

Cranial electrical stimulation
This technology uses an FDA-approved, battery-driven hand-held device with wires that delivers an extremely small current to the temples. Clinical trials demonstrated that this at-home procedure induces sleep and helps manage PTSD. It requires a prescription, but your physician can write it for you. Or you can contact me to for further information.

PREVENTION: Developing A Better Bedtime Routine

  • An hour before bedtime, turn off bright screens (cell phones, tablets, computers). Their brightness prevents your brain from producing melatonin, the sleep hormone.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Before bedtime, do things that quiet body and mind, such as meditation, yoga, calming music, inspirational reading, warm baths, etc.
  • Let the room cool down to a reasonable temperature.
  • A light snack is OK if hunger interferes with your falling asleep.
  • If you’re having more than 3 cups of coffee or tea per day, begin to slowly
  • No chocolate at or after dinner, as it can rev you up.
  • If you snore, get tested for sleep apnea.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Handling Intrusive Thoughts with Detachment

  • If you can’t turn off your thoughts at night, cognitive-behavioral techniques work well.
  • Here are some “self-talk” skills for peace of mind.
  • Just because something pops up in your mind doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to it.
  • You can politely tell the intrusive thought “You’re right, but it’s 3 A.M., and I’m not going to come up with a better solution right now. I will think about that later.”
  • If being polite doesn’t work, get feisty: “That’s enough! I refuse to pay attention to you right now!
  • Keep coming back to the sensations of breathing in and breathing out, which helps you to stay present. Watch those intrusive thoughts with detachment, rather than getting “hooked” by them.
  • While you cannot stop intrusive thoughts from popping up, nevertheless you do not have to pay attention to them. Meditation helps you gain some control over what you will, and will not, focus on.
  • We all “talk” to ourselves, and you can gain skills with that inner dialogue. My patients appreciate it when I tell them “You are the conductor of your own orchestra. You decide which ‘instruments’ come to the foreground.”

new dr. carlton photoRichard Carlton, M.D. is an Integrative Psychiatrist who since 1975 has been using nutrition-based, drug-free approaches to alleviating mental and physical problems. He has offices in Manhattan at 19 W. 34th St, Penthouse, NYC, NY 10001, as well as in Port Washington, NY. Phone: (917) 697-4233. E: Web:





  • Anne Akers

    Anne brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as The Three Tomatoes’ Beauty, Health and Wellness Editor. As a champion of health and well-being for all, she is the Founder/Publisher of GLOW Beauty, Health and Wellness magazine; previous Founder of Castle Connolly Graduate Medical Publishing, publishing educational review manuals for doctors to pass their board exams in 15 different medical specialties and co-Founder of, publishing and marketing books for health professionals. A winner of the SMART CEO award for "entrepreneurial spirit with a sense of give back to the community," Anne sits on many Boards for women's health, with a particular passion for Veterans and her current role as Special Advisor to Operation Warrior Shield, "healing their hidden wounds". Visit Anne at: or:

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