Questions? We're here to help. Health advisors on staff. Call us toll-free at (866) 947-6789.

Zenbev Sleep Seminar with Dr. Craig Hudson - Feel Great Day & Night

Sleep Seminar with Dr. Craig Hudson

Archived Seminar Transcription - Recorded April 27th, 2011 at Aviva Natural Health Solutions in Winnipeg, MB Canada

Nathan Zassman: Thank you all for coming tonight to listen to Dr. Hudson. For those of you who don't know Doctor Hudson, I've known Dr. Hudson for many years now and partially through his book 'Feel Great Day and Night' which he wrote, how many years ago?

Dr. Craig Hudson: About seven years ago.

Nathan: Seven years ago.

Dr. Hudson was born and raised in Toronto where he attended the University of Waterloo, where he first developed an interest in research science. He earned his medical degree at the University of Toronto in 1988 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada in 1993 with a Specialty Certification in Psychiatry. He is a past recipient of the Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Award, which allowed for extensive post-doctoral research focusing on the role of phospholipids in the treatment of major mental illness.

His current research focuses on natural health solutions to common psychiatric disorders, particularly natural source tryptophan and essential fatty acids. Dr. Hudson is not anti medication, but he likes to include natural health solutions in the treatment of his patients when clinically indicated.

He has published extensively in a variety of medical journals, including the 'Archives of General Psychiatry', the 'British Journal of Psychiatry', the 'Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology' and 'Nutritional Neuroscience'. He is married with four sons — who are all very musical we learned today — and maintains a clinical practice as he pursues his research interests. So, I would now like to introduce Dr. Hudson. Thank you very much.

Craig: Thank you.

Craig: Thank you for coming this evening, and I hope the microphone and everything is working well.

What I'm going to talk about is basically sleep problems and the biology of sleep, but also the psychology of sleep. So, the first part of the talk is purely about the biology of sleep and the second part of the talk really is the psychology of sleep. I think that both are equally important and we'll talk about that. If you get a jar of anything or if you get a prescription of anything, if that's all you get, then you really don't have a solution to chronic insomnia.

I was polling most of the people beforehand, and about half the people here, is that about accurate? Have problems sleeping most nights, is that true of pretty much everybody? Is there anyone here who has just occasional problems with sleep? Is there anyone here who doesn't have any problems at all with sleep, coming for a family member or somebody else?

Feel free to interrupt me with questions at any time.

I'm a psychiatrist. And I do practice psychiatry and I do use a fair bit of medication in the treatment of all sorts of disorders. But, as Nathan was saying, I like to look at first principles when possible and think about how a natural health solution might work.

If you think about chronic insomnia and the medications that I can choose to treat chronic insomnia, they're really quite woeful, if I can describe them that way. The first choice for many doctors looking at chronic insomnia are benzodiazepines. Has anyone received a prescription for Ativan or Serax? Has anyone ever had that experience? Which is not uncommon, right? And it does work if it's taken on the short term, but over the longer term it causes tolerance and dependence. It also affects the quality of sleep. So, the quality of sleep is very important.

When you go to sleep tonight, hopefully you will go to sleep tonight. The first stage of sleep is stages one and two. That's light sleep. Suppose I got really boring, I probably will, someone falls asleep and they're in stages one and two, and I wake them up. And I say, 'Why are you sleeping? You're in my lecture'. And they would know exactly where they were and exactly what they were doing and hopefully, offer some explanation.

If I let them go on a bit longer, they might drift into stages three and four where the brain waves begin to slow. That's deep sleep. If I woke them up, they'd be a little bit disoriented when they woke up.

The last stage of sleep, which you will have tonight hopefully, in the last third of the night, is dream sleep or REM sleep. And when you're in dream sleep, your brain activity looks exactly as if you were awake. You cannot tell on an EEG, an electroencephalogram, the difference between dream sleep and waking brain patterns, other than you're in full muscle paralysis. If you're dreaming about doing harm to someone you're hopefully in full muscle paralysis, you're not actually acting out that dream. But your brain waves are exactly the same.

Woman Sleeping

You need all five stages of sleep to wake up feeling refreshed. I was thinking about this in my practice, busily prescribing benzodiazepine, and I thought, 'What is it that we're supposed to eat to generate sleep, be it we're not supposed to be taking prescriptions from the doctor?' 100 years ago, 200 years ago you couldn't do such a thing. You might have got a bottle of rye of something, hopefully no one is using that, but that's one solution people would have used. But that's not a very good solution. It's almost like taking benzodiazepine, over time you'd need more and more of it to have the same effect. And it disrupts the quality of the sleep that you're going to have. I want to go back to my medical history knowledge and look at this fellow. Now this fellow is from somewhere in Mississippi. The year is 1915. This is relevant. People are looking at me, 'Oh my God, I came to the wrong lecture.' He has a rash, but the rash is confined to the parts of his skin, which are exposed to the light. It's what's called a maculopapular rash. It was raised up and it's red. Later on, he'll develop dementia. He'll have problems sleeping, problems with anxiety. He'll have diarrhea, and then he'll die.

And this was seen in epidemics throughout the southern United States and had occurred previously in Europe. Does anyone know what this fellow has?

Nathan: Pellagra?

Craig: Anyway, that's what he has. That's coming in two slides. People knew what pellagra was. No one knew what caused pellagra. And at the time they thought that it was an infectious pox, because it looks like an infection, and it breaks out in a cluster of people and it expands out, looking like an infection. They had the US Department of Medicine. The Surgeon General had smart doctors. They would drop into the areas and say, 'Identify the cause, fix it, and tell us what we can do to prevent this from happening.' One guy they had was Joseph Goldberger, who was actually a grocer's son, born in Czechoslovakia, I believe, but raised in New York. They dropped him into the pellagra epidemic in the southern United States and they said, 'Joseph, find out the infectious cause.' He came back and said, 'It's not infectious. It's the crummy diet that they have.' Which they did not want to hear, because that implied that there was poverty that they weren't treating and so they really wanted him to find the infectious cause. To prove it, he went to a prison farm and convinced the prison warden to give people time off if they could be used in an experiment. Half of the prison population ate what the poor people ate: pork fat, and cornmeal. And when they ate that, they also developed pellagra. And then he reversed it by giving them a balanced diet. That's interesting. So the missing element, which he didn't quite identify in his lifetime, he died very soon after of a kidney cancer, was identified by another fellow. Despite the Scandinavian name, he was working in the Midwest of the States. And what he worked on, and I'll quickly explain this, don't panic when you see this thing. Because the missing element was tryptophan.

The food that the people were eating in the Deep South was deplete in a protein source of tryptophan, which becomes vitamin B3. And if you look on this long pathway over here, it also becomes – and we'll talk about this – serotonin and melatonin.

The origins of tryptophan were actually looked at in Cambridge, UK in the early part of the 20th century. And this fellow won the Nobel Prize for it. And what they demonstrated was – this is tryptophan – it's an essential amino acid. Has anyone heard of tryptophan? You've heard of it?

Participant: Yeah.

Craig: Usually in the context of milk, right, or turkey? Jerry Seinfeld, he's giving people turkey and wine trying to get them to go to sleep again. What he's giving them is an amino acid. Amino acids are the things that build protein. And this is an essential amino acid, which means you have to eat it. Your body's not going to produce it. And it is in places like milk and turkey. When it gets into your brain, two quick metabolic steps and it becomes serotonin. A few years ago, I would have had to explain what serotonin is. But now, basically now everyone knows that serotonin is a chemical in our brains that makes us feel happy and relaxed and hopefully, not depressed.

In the dark, and only in the dark, as you've seen here, it gets methylated. So, this gets methylated and a carboxyl group gets added on and that's melatonin. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, which helps us feel relaxed. In the dark, and only in the dark, it becomes melatonin, which induces sleep.

Has anyone ever heard of Julius Axelrod? Julius Axelrod was a Jewish fellow, and the reason that's relevant is that he wanted to be a doctor. But because at that time they had quotas on a number of Jewish students that could enter medicine he went into pharmacy instead, which was actually quite helpful for all of us. He was an organic chemistry genius. And he won the Nobel Prize for figuring out the impact of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

And in a laboratory experiment, he blinded himself in one eye. And then became interested in the effect that light has on the metabolism of tryptophan, which again is quite helpful for us. What he demonstrated is, if the light as seen by the retina, if that signal runs into a nucleus in the brain, it runs up to the spinal cord, back into the pineal gland and you produce serotonin from tryptophan. OK?

If it's dark, and I don't mean just dark to for body, but dark for your retina, what happens is that melatonin is produced. So, that very exquisite production of melatonin is very much light dependent. And that's really a health concern for a lot of people.

One of the first things I say to my patients if they have chronic insomnia, I ask how dark their room is. I ask, 'Do you sleep in a dark room?' And everybody looks at me like I'm a little bit spaced out and say, 'Why would I not sleep in a dark room?' But it has to be so dark that you cannot see the hand in front of your face.

‘If one of the problems you have is insomnia, that's one of the first things that you can do today when you go home, really make your room dark.'

If one of the problems you have is insomnia, that's one of the first things that you can do today when you go home, really make your room dark. You'll have to work at that. You'll be surprised at how light your room is.

Now, what I have used and I use this every night, is just a very inexpensive sleep mask, but it's also extremely opaque. So, when I put that in front of this powerful lamp, it blocks out all of the light. A lightweight inexpensive sleep mask could be your first step towards a good night of sleep.

Now that we're producing melatonin, why don't you just go over right now and just buy a bunch of melatonin? That would be the solution for many people and that will work for some. The problem is, melatonin has what's called a short half-life, and a short half-life means that it doesn't stay around your body for very long. If you think about it, that makes sense, right? Your body's producing melatonin in the dark all night long. And so, you're a caveman, and then a saber-toothed tiger is going to eat you. You wake up. You don't want to be sitting there groggy for an hour or so while the tiger eats you. You want to be pretty much instant on. As soon as you see light again, the production of melatonin stops and it's becoming serotonin.

The problem with taking synthetic melatonin is, it does work, but you have to use an awful lot of it to maintain sleep all night long. Typically where it works well is day shifting people from jet lag, and it helps people fall asleep quickly, but it tends not to maintain sleep all night long.

Other things people have heard about are 5-Hydroxytryptophan, (5-HTP), have people heard of that? OK. 5-HTP, we'll talk a bit about it, is a chemical that also works. It's one step away from becoming serotonin. In two steps, it becomes melatonin. It also has a short half-life. It stays in the body for about an hour, so you have to use an awful lot of it to get it in.

Zenbev Chocolate

If I can just mention tryptophan, tryptophan is the star of the show. Tryptophan was available. If you want to get any, it is an over-the-counter item in the United States. If you can imagine, you can't do this in Canada, but if you could go down to the health food store and say, 'Nathan, I would like a bucket full of tryptophan, please. I have a problem sleeping.' Then, in some places, you can buy a bucket full of tryptophan.

This shows the growth and the use of tryptophan in the US between 1980 and before it was banned in 1989. And what it demonstrates is, two percent of the American households were using tryptophan on a regular basis. It was a huge market.

Now, a company in Japan, called the Showa Denko company, decided it was expensive to produce tryptophan. So, they were going to genetically modify a bacterium that would grow it in large vats. And then they would harvest it from the vats and sell it as a drug. Does that sound like a good idea to anybody? It sounded like a good idea to Showa Denko, so they did that. They started selling it into the US, and people started dying of an autoimmune disorder called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. Your eosinophils, your white blood cells, would go up. You'd have muscle aches, you'd become sick and you could die. And many people did die. The US government traced it back to Showa Denko and said, 'Would you please explain yourselves?' And they said, 'We'd rather not.' And they didn't. They didn't. They settled out of court for about $1 billion and stayed in business. And tryptophan was banned in most countries. But the US is back in the market, not at the same level it was because of obvious concern. But in many European countries, in Canada, you can get it, just by a prescription only.

I've told you all about tryptophan. And I've told you that milk is rich in tryptophan, yogurt is rich in tryptophan and turkey is rich in tryptophan. So, if you were a bit impetuous, you might say, 'OK, I've got all the info I need. I'm going to run home, forget the rest of the talk.' — don't do it it's not going to work — and buy a turkey. “I'm going to buy a turkey.” Suppose you got the whole turkey, and you ate it, what do you think would happen?

Participant: You'd be sick.

Craig: You'd be sick, yes. You'd feel not so great, right?

Participant: You'd fall asleep.

Craig: You would fall asleep. Actually, you wouldn't. You'd feel upset and you might have what's called gastric steel where blood's going to your stomach. And you might feel a little faint headed, but you probably wouldn't fall asleep. The amount of tryptophan in your brain after eating an entire turkey would be less, not increased. If you eat a high source of tryptophan it actually reduces the amount of tryptophan in your brain. It's called the tryptophan paradox. And the reason for that is the blood/brain barrier. The blood/brain barrier is supposed to be there. It helps select those things in the blood that belongs in the brain, and tryptophan obviously belongs in the brain. It becomes serotonin, melatonin and it has to get on a transport site to get across the blood/brain barrier. The problem is in the design of the blood/brain barrier — who knows why — that transport site is shared between tryptophan and other large nutraamino acids. So, leucine, isoleucine, valine, all those have more abundancy and greater affinity for that transport site.

So you eat the turkey, your blood level's tryptophan goes soaring up, which you would expect. But because the other amino acids in the turkey are better and more abundant at getting on the transport site, the transport site is blocked.

So, have you ever met someone on the Atkins diet? Eating all protein all the time? Has anyone ever been on the Atkins diet? Do they seem relaxed and calm? Not typically. They tend to be sort of anxious and have problems sleeping and that's exactly because of the digestive strife.

So, I'm sitting there thinking in my office. I'm working in Stratford, so I have lots of time to think and I'm thinking, 'OK how would we get around this problem?' How does the body get tryptophan in the brain? It must happen. What happens? And I knew the work of two guys at MIT from the early 1970's, first German workers, and they were not interested in people. They were giving rats insulin. And when they gave rats insulin they had the good sense to measure the amino acids. And what they found was every amino acid in the blood went down when you had insulin, yet tryptophan was unaffected. Tryptophan then could get across the blood/brain barrier and get into the brain. It's called the tryptophan paradox. You eat tryptophan laden foods and you get no tryptophan in your body. You eat a carbohydrate that has no tryptophan and tryptophan goes soaring up in your brain. Does that make sense to people?

Participant: Could you say that again?

Craig: Let me explain it. If someone's depressed what do they want to eat? What are the comfort foods?

Participant: Chocolate.

Craig: Chocolate. Baked goods. Cookies. That's because the body knows it needs tryptophan. You go out and you crave carbohydrates and carbohydrates turn on insulin. Insulin suppresses every other amino acid, tryptophan then gets into your brain. That's the tryptophan paradox. Right? Now, it can only do that for a short while. One or two cookies and you've used up your floating tryptophan. So, there I was thinking away. I was actually having a shower trying to solve the riddle and then the two things actually came together. I looked at a Right Guard bar and I said, 'What would happen if I had a very high source of tryptophan with a carbohydrate that turned on insulin very quickly? What would happen then?'

‘One single gram of pumpkin seed protein is the equivalent to a full glass of milk.'

So, the first thing I needed to do was find the highest natural source of tryptophan. Does anyone know what that is? Any idea? Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are loaded in tryptophan. There's 20 to 25 milligrams of tryptophan for every gram of pumpkin seed protein. To put it in equivalence, one single gram of pumpkin seed protein is the equivalent to a full glass of milk.

Zenbev Powder

That's basically what I did. I took pumpkin seeds, a certain variety. Cut the shells off them. Cold pressed them because half the seed is oil, so if you cold press the seed you de-oil it and double the concentration of tryptophan in the de-oil seed fuel. Then I combined it with dextrose. OK. All right. All I'm showing here is if you drink Zenbev and in ambient light conditions, you're increasing serotonin. You increase it in low ambient light conditions, you're increasing melatonin.

I know a lot of the stuff we've said we've never talked about this today. And for the sake of selling products, and this is a product, but it has to have good science. And my saying it's so and presenting good evidence doesn't make it so. So then, we did this study that was published in Nutritional Neuroscience, which is a good journal. And we compared the product to the drug tryptophan mixed with carbohydrate, and the last arm of the trial was carbohydrate alone.

And what we demonstrated is the drug tryptophan and carbohydrate works. It works best at falling asleep. Zenbev was effective by 40 percent of reducing time awake in the middle of the night.

So it's not a panacea, but it reduces the amount of time awake in the middle of the night. If you wake up, you're more likely to go back to sleep faster, and stay asleep longer. We also did a study during daylight hours now, on social phobia, people who had difficulty speaking in public. Zenbev versus carbohydrate, it showed a 16 percent reduction in perceived anxiety.

So let me talk about the psychology of it now. Does anyone want to try a taste of that? And I made it taste good. OK. Someone to help me pour? The idea is all I'm doing, it's a massive amount of tryptophan. Nothing bad is going to happen to anybody.

Participant: I won't fall asleep driving?

Craig: No. Because of the high ambient light, right? Now, in low ambient light conditions, you would fall asleep. But that methyl-transferase comes on when it's dark. The main thing people do to fall asleep, you could do this with a turkey dinner. You could have turkey and potatoes. That would work. But who wants to have a turkey dinner every single night? What I like to say is that two scoops is like a turkey dinner in terms of potatoes and vegetables. For those who want it, it's just a chocolate drink.

Nathan: It's yummy.

Craig: All that there is really pumpkin seeds with the oil crushed out, bilberry file leaf treated with dextrose. This is chocolate flavour now, rice starch, and guar gum. That's all that's in that. The pumpkin seeds, does anyone know where the only organic pumpkins seeds are growing in North America right now? Does anyone have any idea? I'll give you a hint. It has to be a warm, hot summer, and a cold autumn.

Participant: Winnipeg?

Craig: It could be. It's Wisconsin, actually. Just outside of Duluth. So, it's a very similar environment to here. This is the ideal environment that I was thinking about this, to grow pumpkin seeds. It has to have a hot summer and a cold fall. A hot summer for the pumpkin to grow and cool, so that it has a snap and the leaves come off and it ripens with the sun.

Questions people ask me, 'What if I take Zenbev during the day, will I get sleepy?' And the answer is no, you will feel a little relaxed.

“Can't I just eat some pumpkin seeds?” No, all the oil has to come out in order to allow the insulin spike to come and also heighten the tryptophan.

“Why does it have dextrose in it?” Dextrose is the thing that is powering up the insulin, which is suppressing the other amino acids.

“I took some Zenbev last night, and I did not sleep any differently. Why?” One-third of people have a response the first night. Another third it takes a month to have this work. And for the final third it won't work. So, that's why we offer the money back guarantee. It's not going to work for everybody.

The other important thing we found in the study is, we stopped everyone on the third week to see what would happen. So, what do think happens if you're getting better sleep with something like this, if you stop everything? What do you think?

Participant: You go back to where you were.

Craig: No. Because you're actually loading, that's what you'd think, right? But you're actually loading up on a natural source of tryptophan, which stays in the body for a while. The effect will carry over, the benefits. So, we recommend off and on, not to avoid so much to be addicted, but rather just to get the jar to last longer. That jar should last about a month. After a few months on it, that should last a few months. And the benefit will carry over. It also gives you confidence in your sleep again.

Just to show you the difference between the drug tryptophan is an amine, and in a food form, it's an amide. Now the chemists amongst enjoy that sort of thing, it's only one water group different, but it makes a huge impact. If you take the drug tryptophan and you heat it up, you actually break it down by about 30 percent every half hour, depending on the temperature level. What happens if you heat natural source tryptophan? What did your mother say? Did she tell you to have a cold glass of milk or a hot glass of milk? A hot glass of milk. And that actually does increase the tryptophan levels for whatever reason, so there is something to the old wives' tale.

The Psychology of Sleep

I'd like to talk about the psychological aspects. I think the product works quite well. I'm quite proud of what my wife and I have done. At the same time, we have to also talk about the psychology of sleep. Many of you have chronic insomnia. You've tried everything, right? Gravol, Benedryl, medications, prescriptions, just about everything. And the thing you have to consider is you have to take personal responsibility for the insomnia. I'm not saying you created the insomnia. But you've got to find your way out of it to regain confidence that when you go to bed, you're actually going to remain sleeping and get a good night's sleep. That's why I wrote the book with my wife.

Eight Steps to Better Sleep

Here are the eight stages of sleep, things you have to do, it's in the book. It's really easy. It's also on the website. Who here looks after children? Or has young children? Nobody else? You're lucky. Who would take a small child that you're looking after and before bed, run them around the house and give them some chocolate and coffee? Does anyone do that? It's laughably stupid. But we do it to ourselves, right? Because we have to get so much crushed into the day. You've got some washing, you've got some cleaning, and so you run around the house before you go to bed getting all those last minute things in. And then you jump into bed and say, 'I don't feel sleepy. Oh no! It's going to be one of those nights.' So, one of the first things you can do is say, 'OK.' You need to restrict the amount of time in bed to when you are actually going to sleep. And the first night seems absolutely paradoxical. But if you need eight hours of sleep, I recommend you cut back to six. Get six hours of sleep, and then slowly expand it out.

(1) One of the things you need to do is take some time every night for unwind time. It sounds like I'm going to indulge myself, but it's actually quite important. Does anyone know how often our brain cycles? The day cycle is 24 hours. How often does our brain cycle, circadian rhythm?

Participant: 90 minutes.

Craig: 90 minutes? That's the sleep cycle that gets you to REM. But actually saying on a 24 hour a day cycle, our brains work on a 24 and a half hour clock. Does that make sense? We have a 24-hour world and our brains work on a 24 and a half hour clock. It doesn't make any sense. But that's why when you're flying East, it's difficult. When you're flying West across time zones, it's relatively easier. Your brain's always a little bit off, but we need what the German scientists called Zeit keepers (time keepers) to entraining us into the day.

(2) So, one of the very important things you can do is set a natural ritual before bedtime, an unwind time can be that. If you have small children you do this naturally. You say, 'OK, go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.' Unbeknownst to you you're actually initiating the chemical events in their brains, which are going to allow them to sleep. You're saying, 'Look, we've got our ritual going every night. It works every night. You're going to do it this night as well.” We do it for children. You need to do it for yourselves as well.

(3) Go to bed when you're sleepy. Does that sound naively stupid to anybody? People with chronic insomnia have a bank account of sleep and they keep a record of how many hours they need. So, someone told them in Grade 8 health class that they need eight hours of sleep a night and they keep a record of that. So, they've had six hours last night, so now they're missing two, right? And then they have another bad night, so they're missing four. That's all they can put up with, they know they're going to get bad health next. When they come home, they walk in the door and say, 'Tonight I'm going to bed at 8:00 or 7:30,” whatever it is they think they need in order to recapture all the sleep, but that's not going to happen. All that's going to happen is, they're going to get frustrated. And have less sleep. And they're going to associate the bed with not sleeping. So, one of the first things you can do is restrict the amount of time you're in bed.

(4) Avoid clock watching. People with insomnia have a clock by their bed as a form of torture. And then, they watch it all night long. 'Well it's 3:00, 3:30, 4:00.' And by 5:00 they make this fateful decision, 'Do I need to get out of bed now and do something productive? Or do I lie here and get more frustrated?' And usually they get out of bed. So, take the clock and set it so you have to get up in the morning, but then turn the clock towards the wall. Don't watch it. You're just setting up a cascade of negative events.

‘People with insomnia have a clock by their bed as a form of torture.'

(5) Regular sleep time and regular wake time. You do it with children, right? You don't do what we do to ourselves, which is from Monday to Thursday is one wake time and one bedtime. We to compress as much as possible. On Friday, that's a different wake time, then Saturday is different and then Sunday is different. No one told our brains. Our brains are really exquisitely developed – evolved – over thousands and thousands

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2011. Published with permission.

For detailed product information, see Zenbev.

Related: Also see Styrian Pumpkin Seeds and Styrian Gold Pumpkin Seed Oil.