What's My Alternative: Insomnia

By Meghan Rabbitt

Bill Thomas is no stranger to sleepless nights. For the last decade, the 42-year-old children’s book illustrator has suffered from bouts of insomnia that last three to four nights at a time. “What’s frustrating is that it’s completely unpredictable,” says Thomas, who never drinks caffeine after noon and shuts off the computer and tube an hour before bed.

The Conventional Rx: Ambien and Lunesta, which caused Thomas to feel a little fuzzy and “hungover” the next morning.

The Alternative Rx: Acupuncture. Thomas made an appointment with Mary Saunders, LAc, of Boulder, Colorado. “Insomnia often results from stress, and I insert tiny needles in various points on the body to help calm the nervous system,” says Saunders. “But patients need to commit to more than just acupuncture sessions if they want to start sleeping soundly. Diet plays a huge role.” Saunders’ top suggestions to her patients—including Thomas—who suffer from insomnia: Ditch processed foods (which rev up the nervous system because of the toll they take on the body during digestion) and keep blood sugar steady with a healthy snack before bed (when blood sugar drops, cortisol levels go up, which can wake you in the middle of the night). Saunders also suggested that Thomas take a supplement called CatecholaCalm, a blend of vitamins C and B, magnesium, passion flower, valerian, and ashwagandha.

The Outcome: After his first session, Thomas slept through the night—without hitting his medicine cabinet. “I’m encouraged,” he says. “And acupuncture is a lot cheaper than Ambien.”