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How chronic insomnia drove me to a nervous breakdown, and what finally got me to sleep.

If you suffer with serious insomnia at some point you’ve probably tried damn near anything to sleep.

I spent God knows how much money on supplements, herbs, books, prescriptions and acupuncture. I even got tested for sleep apnea although I suspected that wasn’t the problem (It wasn’t. In fact the doctor said I moved through “all the stages of sleep perfectly.” Really? Tell that to my 3am wide awake brain).

Nothing worked. Well prescription sleeping pills worked but not without horrible side effects (Ambien made me really nasty the next day). And sleeping pills are for short term sleep issues.

The more stressed I got the worse my insomnia. I went from having trouble falling back to sleep, to for the first time in my life, having trouble falling asleep. It was a nightmare. I was anxious, depressed, in a fog.

I did hours of research and finally figured out I probably had something called adrenal fatigue. I sent a sample of my saliva to a company called ZRT Laboratory. ZRT offers home testing for a variety of conditions. The results showed I had mild to moderate adrenal fatigue.

But here’s the problem with that diagnosis.

Conventional doctors (vs. integrative/functional/holistic) don’t believe adrenal fatigue is a real condition. They only recognize adrenal insufficiency/Addison’s disease and Cushing syndrome. So if you ask your health care provider about adrenal fatigue prepare for an eye roll and to hear “there’s no such thing.”

Don’t listen to them.

Adrenal fatigue isn’t quackery. It’s real. If you want to know more about adrenal fatigue and insomnia please read this post.

So I found a holistic MD who confirmed my diagnosis. But she told me my condition wasn’t mild, it was severe. This doctor worked with me for months to strengthen my adrenal glands. And when I finally felt better — I slept better. Not every night, but most nights.

Read: my insomnia – adrenal fatigue story

In my link above I list a bunch of supplements I recently tested after I found out the FDA discontinued my favorite sleep supplement, Kavinace Ultra PM (Oh how I miss you…). I had so-so results with most of the supplements I tested. But with trial and error for the most part, I have it down.

Phenibut pulled from dietary supplements

Kavinace Ultra PM contained phenibut. Phenibut is a central nervous system depressant. It’s used in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and for a variety of other conditions. It worked really well to get and keep me to sleep (in combination with other supplements (see below).

Unfortunately in April the FDA issued warning letters to companies that sell dietary supplements with phenibut. They told the companies to immediately pull their product off the market or to relabel it a “nootropic.” Nootropics are substances that have memory or cognitive-enhancing effects.

Okay great so now I’m stuck without my Godsend of a sleep supplement.

Desperate, I called the company that made Ultra Kavinace PM (NeuroScience). The representative suggested Ultra Kavinace PM users try their Alpha Gaba PM formulation. I tried it. Meh. It works okay. I usually still wake up in the middle of the night.

NeuroScience’s latest replacement for Ultra Kavinace PM is a new formula called Kavinace OS (available in capsules or liquid). I haven’t tried it and I probably won’t. It has ingredients I’ve already tried alone or in various sleep formulas with so-so results.

Like Alpha Gaba PM, Kavinace OS contains L-theanine and melatonin. But Kavinace OS contains 5 mg of melatonin vs. Alpha’s 3 mg. That bump in melatonin might make a real difference for some people.

In my experience melatonin by itself vs. in combination with herbs etc. doesn’t work well for me. Melatonin isn’t a sedative. It’s a hormone naturally produced our brain’s pineal gland as the sun goes down. Its job is to regulate our body’s natural circadian rhythm. As we age our melatonin levels drop.

When I add a higher dose of melatonin to my sleep supplements I sleep pretty well but I have some pretty wicked (unsettling) dreams. Not a great trade-off.

This is the sleep regime that (usually) works for me.

Three to four nights a week I take:

Three to four nights a week:

I replace Alpha Gaba PM with one of my sleep formulas that contains phenibut. How did I get my hands on phenibut when it was removed from the market?

When I heard sleep supplements that contain phenibut were being pulled I stockpiled a few brands that got positive reviews on Amazon. Gaba Complex and Sleep Time (both are no longer available). You can however, also still purchase phenibut by itself at **LiftMode.

I don’t sleep quite as well with Alpha Gaba PM as I do with phenibut sleep formulas. But my holistic doctor increased my bioidentical progesterone by an extra 25mg per night to support my adrenal glands and that helps (as a note to women in menopause, bioidentical progesterone helps among many symptoms, sleep).

I may try adding GABA supplements to my Alpha Gaba PM. I read a study that found that GABA and L-theanine in combination are more effective than taken alone. I suggest taking the PharmaGaba form of GABA. PharmaGABA is the form, not a brand.

So that’s what I’m doing to stay asleep.

Trial and error. Please note that long term insomnia may be caused by a number of underlying or interrelated issues (stress, chronic pain, sleep apnea, etc.). Please consult with your health practitioner.

And please let me know what you’ve tried that’s working for you.

To better sleep and sweet dreams ~ Laura

**Please note: phenibut has the potential for tolerance and abuse. Use the lowest possible dose and regularly rotate with non-phenibut products.Phenibut requires careful, disciplined and responsible cycling and limited consumption to maximize its benefits and minimize the potential drawbacks. 

Disclaimer: Please note I don’t recommend any products or service I haven’t  personally tried or that haven’t receive positive reviews from Amazon. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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Laura G Owens

Writer. Blogger. Essayist. My focus is wellness, social commentary and personal essays that explore the messiness of being human. Our ambivalence. Our uncomfortable feelings that when revealed, shed shame and reveal our authentic selves.

Comments (6)

  • Rebeccasays:

    November 21, 2019 at 7:42 am


    Thanks for updating. I know that my adrenals are still the reason for my chronic insomnia. Every damn night, going on 2 years now. Did you do anything else for them besides the Adrenal Rebuilder??

    • Laura G Owenssays:

      November 21, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Hi Rebecca,

      I really do sympathize and I still struggle sometimes. My holistic MD put me on an adrenal recovery plan that I’ll share below. But also go to Dr. Wilson’s website for his adrenal recovery plan.

      Getting tested is helpful (DHEA and cortisol levels) but you could also just take his free online AF questionnaire to find how severe your AF is and proceed from there.

      I recently started back with his protocol for “mild” AF.

      So, my holistic MD saw that my DHEA blood levels (an adrenal hormone) and cortisol were dangerously low. I almost had Addison’s Disease. With AF cortisol can be too low OR too high, depending in what stage of burnout you’re in.

      High in the earlier stages, low in the advanced stages when your adrenals simply can’t pump out any more cortisol (an important hormone when balanced).

      She put me on bioidentical DHEA topical cream daily and 25 mg of Pure Encapsulations DHEA.

      Ancient Minerals magnesium spray during the day and at night. Magnesium is CRITICAL for AF. I can’t overstate this. I did 10 sprays on my legs in the afternoon, 10 sprays before bed. Now I just do 3 sprays because I’m loaded up on magnesium and too much has a laxative effect.

      Pure Encapsulations magnesium capsules 1-3 caps per day to bowel tolerance.

      I took Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder 3x a day, his C 3x a day, his Stress formula 3x a day and his Herbal adrenal support formula without licorice 1-2x a day (**licorice is great for AF but it can raise your blood pressure so be careful). My doctor didn’t put me on Dr. Wilson’s protocol. She doesn’t prescribe ANY supplements with magnesium stearate but I like Dr. Wilson’s AF protocol so I do it on my own.

      For a week or two take whatever it takes to sleep. Meds, anti anxiety pills. Sleep lowers cortisol and restores the adrenals. Poor sleep raises cortisol and taxes the adrenals. I know, a freakin viscious circle!! When I was diagnosed my doc gave me a script for 1 mg of Klonipin (an anti anxiety) to take every night for a week or two. I slept like a baby!!!!! Then I weaned totally off of it after week two….(*****gradually, this is IMPORTANT do NOT stop Klonipin abruptly. Do 1/2 mg for a few days, then 1/4mg, then 1/8th etc). Klonipin is HIGHLY addictive but I only take 1/2 mg 1-2x a week if I just can’t get back to sleep. 30 pills last me forever which is the ONLY reason my doc will prescribe. ***Taper Klonipin under a doctor’s care. But if you can get a script for that you’ll sleep. And your anxiety will drop, which means your cortisol is less likely to be elevated which gradually puts you in AF recovery. This is the POSITIVE cycle you want to get in so it’s worth taking Klonipin for 1-2 weeks (again, taper slowly it’s extremely dangerous to go cold turkey).

      Severe adrenal fatigue takes a long long time to repair but don’t lose hope. You WILL absolutely get better. And sleep better. Follow Dr. Wilson. Dr. Lam is good too.

      I hope this helps. I know how horrible it is to have chronic insomnia. It wrecked me emotionally and physically. It literally drove me to my knees sobbing. Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂


      Oh and P.S: If you have the chance nap when you can.
      Exercise, gentle at first.
      Good nutrition. Avoid caffeine late in the day.
      All the good calming stuff people recommend which is great but didn’t do sh…t to help me sleep. Nothing helped but drugs, and getting my adrenals strong again. Meditation, yoga, calming music, EFT, the Calm app you can download.

  • Kayleesays:

    November 23, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Laura, geez I don’t know where to begin, your journey is close to mine – it has been a long and unpaved road for me, I am 68 and my problems started at birth! I didn’t even sleep much as a baby, drove my mother nuts. By 9 months old I climbed out of my crib and they have no idea how little I slept (they tried harnessing me in but could not take the screams after a week). Growing up it never occured me to ask why everyone else slept and why I got up and read or roamed once they all went to sleep. I have only slept at my very best 4 – 6 hours, I don’t sleep at all many nights. Now I am lucky to sleep a couple of hours in between many non-sleep nights. I have been taking Ambien since 1992 with a couple of years of halcion when the ins. company took Ambien away. I have spent SO much money on supplements, alternative treatments, most have not worked. I take 5 mg’s of melatonin, 5-htp, & L-Tryptophan and still have to take an Ambien every night, and usually don’t sleep much of the time. I just did a sleep study, apnea machine came yesterday. DX’d with hypothyroid finally in 2000, Pituitary tumor in 2001, tested for AI many times in the states, have fibrothen here in France in 2018 with a ACTH test, they gave my an injection, never gave me that in the US. I take Prometrium and Evamist, took testosterone for a while too. Endo in US thinks my hypothalamus maybe has caused the lifetime insomnia. The HC I started in 2018 made me really sick, I am down to 5 mg’s a day, gained 42 lbs, ended up at the pulmonologist and cardiologist because I could not breathe – turns out it was the HC, hair falling out, not healing, even smelly feet and itchy all over. I used to say I just wanted to sleep normally, then I just want to know why I can’t sleep before I die – I have given up, I am never going to sleep and it is taking its toll after all these years. And to think there was a doctor right in Orlando that might have been able to help me, I lived in Melbourne Beach for 30 years. haha and this is just my sleep issue.

    • Laura G Owenssays:

      November 25, 2019 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Kaylee

      Wow you’ve had quite a journey. Yes if you can make an appointment with Dr. Pati at Sajune it would be worth it. She doesn’t take insurance but labs are likely covered on your own insurance. She’s like a doctor detective! Sounds like it might be your hypothalamus and clearly if you have sleep apnea that affects sleep. I wish you all the very best. Well-being and sleep WILL be yours again! Take it one step at a time with Dr. Pati. She can overwhelm at first with her recommendations because she’s so thorough, and frankly after 8 years I go to her Nurse Practitioner now because Cristelle is cheaper. Start however, with Dr. Pati. And, everyone needs to take a good magnesium. I take Ancient Minerals spray AND Pure Encapsulations Magnesium glycinate. Dr. Pati only recommends stellar brands. Garbage in with supplements, garbage out. Keep me posted please 🙂


        • Laura G Owenssays:

          November 25, 2019 at 8:23 pm


          I imagine there are integrative/holistic doctors in your area? I wish you all the best. Please keep in touch with your healing journey.


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