JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Steve Gibson's Sleep Cocktail

If I keep to my regular sleep schedule, I generally don't have a problem getting a good night's rest, but if something disrupts my normal pattern, sleep becomes difficult. So I was intrigued when I saw that Steve Gibson had devised a sleep cocktail.

Typically I go to bed around 10:00 PM and am awoken by my phone's alarm at 5:30AM for my morning walk. Seven and a half hours seems to be about the right amount of sleep for me.

What can disrupt that? If I stay up later (for example, going to a play or a concert), my sleep suffers. If I'm in a different bed (in a hotel or visiting relatives), my sleep suffers. If the neighbor upstairs starts making noise (he has a disconcerting habit of dropping things at the most inconvenient times), that can keep me awake. If I have a coughing, sneezing, stuffy/runny nose cold, I simply can't get a decent night's sleep. Now I can at least partially alleviate the problem by having two or three drinks of the adult beverage variety, but that creates another problem: my cold symptoms frequently last two to three weeks, and after three weeks of nightly adult beverages, I develop a slight dependency from which it takes several nights to restore my regular sleep rhythms.

(Just adding, that I've tried various antihistamines and the side effects are far worse than the lack of sleep; alcohol, in the dosage of two or three nightly drinks, has the virtue of no side effects to speak of--other than the slight dependency that develops after a few weeks.)

Now my respect for Steve Gibson's expertise in the realm of computer security and related fields is boundless. There is no one better at taking complex concepts and explaining them in terms that the average person can understand. Just listen to his Security Now! podcast.

So when he devised a sleep cocktail at a time when I was suffering through a miserable cold, I was hopeful that he might be on to something. And when he claimed that it has worked for everyone who has tried it, or at least everyone who has reported back to him, I was encouraged.

(Side note: Steve calls it a “Healthy Sleep Formula”, but as neither a sleep nor a formula can be “healthy”, I'm going to continue to call it a sleep cocktail. If you think I'm being too fussy about terminology, just listen to his podcast and notice how he takes exception to the incorrect use of various buzz words, like “back door”, for example. Had he used “healthful”, I wouldn't have had a problem.)

The interested reader may to refer to Steve's own page for the details of the cocktail and his reasoning for selecting the specific ingredients, but briefly the cocktail consists of six dietary supplements, most of which are produced in the human body.

I suffered a bit of sticker shock when I realized that getting a supply of all six would set me back over $70! But after thinking it over for a few days, I decided to give it a whirl.

(Steve warns that his recommended melatonin contains 10mg of vitamin B6. Since I know that that amount of B6 produces an adverse reaction in me, I opted for his alternate melatonin without the adulterating B6.)

I've just been suffering through a two-week-long cold where the after-effects lasted yet another week, and by last Thursday I was ready to exchange my adult beverage cocktail for Steve's sleep cocktail.

Although I ordered everything together from Amazon.com, I received the ingredients piecemeal, and when I was ready to give it a try, the glycine had still not arrived. But Steve says that not all ingredients are necessary for each person, so I decided to go ahead.

Day One: Steve says the taurine has a stimulative effect in some people, so I decided to try that by itself during the day, just to see what it might do to me. The effect was not stimulative. It was more like a very mild codeine, where it just made me a bit sluggish and groggy for well over six hours.

This spooked me a bit, so I decided to try just a half dose of all the ingredients except the melatonin. I mixed the contents of one of each of the capsules together, divided the resulting mixture in two, and stirred in a teaspoon of plain yogurt. The melatonin was a tablet that I swallowed with a bit of water.

I knew this would not be a fair test of the cocktail because the glycine was missing, but for the record, it took me about an hour and a half to fall asleep and I woke up frequently thereafter. This was about what I would normally expect after depending on alcohol to get me to sleep for three weeks straight.

Day Two: Once again I took a half dose of the cocktail (sans glycine), and this time I fell asleep in about an hour but woke up to go to the bathroom about 2:15. I never really got to sleep again after that, although I did dream a little bit. It's actually normal for me to dream lightly even if I'm not fully asleep. Again, this is just the result I would have expected for a second night without the alcohol.

Day Three: The glycine finally arrived, so I mixed that into the cocktail. I now had all the ingredients, but I still took just half a dose. It took at least an hour to fall asleep; I did sleep fitfully but restfully for the remainder of the seven and a half hours.

Day Four: This time I took a full dose, one of each capsule, but since I have difficulty swallowing large capsules, especially so many at once, I still mixed the contents with plain yogurt to ingest them. Had a fitful night's sleep.

Day Five: Took a full dose again, and this time I fell asleep fairly quickly and stayed asleep until about 3:15 when I had to go to the bathroom. Slept on and off thereafter. And this is just what I would expect by this point without Steve's cocktail. I think I'll increase the dosage tonight.

Day Six: This time I took one and a half of each of the capsules (just one of the melatonin tablet), and I had intended this would be my last test. Alas, shortly after I went to bed, I started coughing and had to get up to get it under control--a last gasp of that blasted cold. After that it took me awhile to fall asleep, and I woke up several times during the night. So I don't regard this as a fair test. I'll try one more time.

Day Seven: I took one dose of the sleep cocktail last night, and while I slept ok, it was nothing special. I did wake up a few times.

Day Eight: I decided to try a night without the sleep cocktail. It probably took me about a half hour to fall asleep but I slept until about 3:30 when I had to get up to visit the bathroom. After that I never really fell asleep again.

I'm calling an end to this experiment as I think I'm about where I would be if I hadn't used the cocktail at all. Plus, there's something else that I didn't mention: I've noticed a definite uptick in the number of ziggies.

Ziggies are the name that I use to describe what other folks call the aura, or migraine with aura. Briefly, it's a period of about 20 minutes when part of my field of vision is filled with a coruscating zigzag pattern, and no, it isn't any fun. Happily for me, I rarely experience a migraine following the ziggy, or if I do, it's usually relatively mild. But I've definitely experienced more ziggies during this sleep cocktail phase than I usually do.

Conclusion: The only actual conclusion I can reach is that the sleep cocktail didn't work for me. Perhaps I could tweek the ingredients a bit, but I'm frankly skeptical that that would do any good. As to the ziggies, I've never been able to pinpoint any triggering mechanism for those, so I can't conclude that the sleep cocktail caused the increase.

But how to reconcile my results with Steve's claim that his cocktail has worked for everyone who has tried it?

First of all, I don't doubt Steve's claim for one minute. He has built up his credibility over many years, and I have no reason to doubt his word. So it's possible that while the cocktail might be effective for many people, even most people, I am one of the exceptions. That would make me exceptional, but I'm highly doubtful.

Another possibility is that he's hearing back only from those who have found it effective, a self-selected sample. Since his results are, at best, anecdotal, this seems a bit more likely, but I emphasize again that the only conclusion I can reasonably draw, is that the sleep cocktail doesn't work for me.

I just wish it would.