• It's not what you eat. It's when and what you eat.
• It's not how well you exercise. It's when and how well you exercise.
Description of the Problem
So-called "sleep disorders" such as jet lag and narcolepsy destroy the circadian rhythms. For normal
people, the disturbance is temporary. If you take care, the body's natural clock eventually gets back on track.
Unfortunately for narcoleptics, the disturbance can be chronic.
Hypothalamus. Narcoleptics don't have the normal regulatory functions of the
hypothalamus.1 This structure resides above the brain stem, at the base of the brain.2
The hypothalamus controls time-related body functions such as body temperature,
thirst, hunger, and wakefulness. Even sex drive comes under the jurisdiction of this
peanut-size region of the brain.3 But in narcoleptics, the hypothalamus can't produce
a sufficient amount of the neuropeptide orexin (hypocretin). Orexin is essential
to both vigor and the regulation of circadian rhythms. Yet a narcoleptic hypothalamus
contains precious few orexin neurons.4
Not sleep disorders. Jet lag and narcolepsy aren't really
sleep disorders. Since the hypothalamus serves an overall regulatory function, throwing it
out of kilter can cause many problems. Only some of these problems relate to sleep.
Symptoms. At right are symptoms that we've observed in narcoleptics. (Fortunately,
not all symptoms occur at the same time.) Many of the same symptoms are common in
normal individuals with jet lag, flu, or hangover. While these three disorders aren't
equivalent, they share a time-shift or phase-lag component. That is, they all upset the
body's circadian clock.
Phase lag. In the case of flu, a virus causes the main damage. Yet while fighting the virus,
the body is likely to stop tracking its normal dayparts. As with narcolepsy, when timekeeping goes awry,
the disorder takes on a phasal dimension. So many aspects of our existence depend on synchronization with
daily internal schedules: For example, sleep-wake cycles, hunger, regular bowel movements, body temperature
and more. After some malady upsets the circadian clock, the clock loses sync. The whole body
falls out of homeostasis. Normal day and night routines might proceed, but they lose coordination, or
occur at inappropriate times. We mentioned four examples of phase-lag disorders. Many other common
ailments might also reset the clock. For example, perimenopause, including dizziness,
nausea, indigestion and food craving.
Introducing the Wakeup Diet™
The Wakeup Diet is the first program that deals with narcolepsy's chronobiology. Like diets by Drs. Charles
Ehret5 and Sidney Baker6, the Wakeup Diet can also relieve jet lag. The Wakeup Diet has
- To relieve excessive daytime sleepiness and restore wakefulness.
- To consolidate and improve nighttime sleep.
- To synchronize the circadian clock and body systems with local time.
The idea behind the program is this: The subconscious brain programs sleep, hunger and activity level. This
internal program isn't set in stone. Instead, it's merely a default. You can alter the program by
systematically varying resting, eating and exercise behaviors.7 There are other salient programming methods, such as
avoiding certain emotions, including sadness. Now you can build a new program that provides sleep, hunger and activity
level matching behaviors of everybody else. This program, the Wakeup Diet™, also tends to synchronize the internal
organs and the immune system to one another. Result: Homeostasis. A stronger, more healthy, better performing body
and mind. Athletes in training follow a parallel method. They demonstrate what excellent results are possible.
How the Wakeup Diet affects energy. In narcoleptics and everyone else, rising blood glucose levels
reduce the amount of the neurotransmitter orexin.8 Then, as research proves, eating can cause fatigue.9
Starches (sweets, glucose-rich or high-glycemic foods) have the greatest impact. During the workday, the
Wakeup Diet restricts starches and total caloric intake. Result: Vigilance and focus. The Wakeup Diet also
restricts fats. Fats slow the digestive process and could inhibit the absorption of glucose, keeping orexin low.
By burning glucose, exercise can also promote energy. The Wakeup Diet uses exercise in the morning to improve
alertness. Your midday meal will be a small portion of protein.10 Nothing else. In the evening,
exercise promotes both hunger and fatigue. The Wakeup Diet uses these effects to
integrate sleep into the nighttime hours.
The four pillars of the Wakeup Diet
- Conscious Regulation.™ Wakeup Diet™ followers must
look after themselves. They must reproduce the rhythms of the circadian clock by eating, exercising and
sleeping on the prescribed schedule. In the case of jet lag, this program restores the clock. In the case of
narcolepsy, this program actually builds the clock.
- Self-stewardship.™ The key to phasal problems is in your own body. There is no magic "pill" that can
straighten you out. No "diet leader" coaches you to keep on track. You are the leader of your own body. And you are
the beneficiary of the Wakeup Diet. Be a poor steward of your body, and you suffer. Be a good steward of your body, and you flourish.
- Stability Principle.™ Followers of the Wakeup Diet seek to stabilize their circadian rhythms. For
this reason, the diet restricts the use of certain substances, foods and behaviors. Generally, anything that causes
metabolic peaks and valleys is off the diet. Note that this isn't a weight-loss diet. The Stability
Principle™ calls for weight maintenance. (Still, those who wish to lose weight may do so.) The Wakeup Diet™ does
recommend following the dietary guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- The patient's right to participate in his own treatment. Nobody cares about you more than you do. When you visit your caregiver, be skeptical. Ask about side effects, drawbacks, financial costs, and behavioral deficits that may
occur. Read the fine print on the medical instructions. How do you feel about the warnings? Are you satisfied, or dubious? Ask your caregiver about alternatives. When you undertake treatment, periodically assess yourself: Are you better or worse than before? If the treatment leaves you without improvement or causes new problems, consider
dropping it. Try the Wakeup Diet™. And start
a better day tomorrow.
The two parts of the Wakeup Diet
Timed diet and exercise are the two main parts of the Wakeup Diet. Followers practice
both every day. By itself, neither component works adequately. Unregulated
phasal disorders are too powerful for a half-baked approach. On the other hand, the body responds to strong, chronobiological cues. A properly timed diet plus exercise
produce satisfing results.
The element of timing makes this program unique. Each part of the program follows a fixed schedule that repeats
every day. That is, the time of day (daypart) determines activity level and eating behavior. Timing of
exercise and meals is essential. Without proper timing, good nutrition and exercise alone are ineffective. Sleep times
and sleep duration must also adhere to the schedule.
No temporary fixes. The program is strategic and not tactical. For this reason, the Wakeup Diet forbids
temporary "fixes," such as snacking to "increase the blood sugar." The cost of temporary "fixes" is sleep or cataplexy
attacks. Avoiding such fixes drives the body toward stable performance. Here are some examples of forbidden
substances and behaviors...
Examples of Wakeup Diet™ Taboos
• Indulging in strong emotions
John K. Young, Hunger, Thirst, Sex, and Sleep: How THe Brain Controls Our Passions (Lanham,
Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2012), 97-100. • Re: Narcoleptics missing some
Ibid., 7-9. • Re: Hypothalamus location
Ibid., 2. • Re: What hypothalamus controls
Ibid., 96-100. • Re: Orexin regulates vigor & circadian rhythms; narcoleptics have
few orexin neurons.
Dr. Charles F. Ehret & Lynne Waller Scanlon, Overcoming Jet Lag (New York: Berkley
Books, 1983). • Re: Diet and exercise program for Argonne Labs reduces jet lag by restoring
circadian rhythms: Emphasis on protein with low carbohydrates. Scheduled exercise and eating
Sidney MacDonald Baker, M.D., The Circadian Prescription (New York: G.P. Putnam's
Sons, 2000). • Re: Smooth, even energy all day, including recipes with basis in Ehret's work.
Ray Sahelian, M.D., Melatonin: Nature's Sleeping Pill
(Marina Del Rey, California: Be Happier Press, 1995), 53-54. • Re: Programming the hypothalamus and pineal with light,
temperature, meal schedule, physical activity, or social schedule.
R. Ouedraogo, E. Näslund, A.L. Kirchgessner, “Glucose Regulates the Release of
Orexin-A from the Endocrine Pancreas,” Diabetes 52, no. 1 (January 2003): 111-7. See
page 111. • Re: Glucose vs. orexin.
D. Bruck, S. Armstrong, G. Coleman, “Sleepiness After Glucose in Narcolepsy,”
Journal of Sleep Research 3. (September 1994): 171-179. • Re: Glucose increases sleepiness,
especially in narcoleptics.
Heather Twist, “Eggs and Orexin,” Eating Off the Food Grid Blog.
(October 26, 2012). • Re: Eggs promote wakefulness. Sugars cause sleepiness.
Symptoms of Phasal Disorders
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Abnormal or fluctuating body temperature, such as "hot flashes"
- Prominent veins on backs of hands
- Extreme chills
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Swelling, possibly from edema
- Headache and overall body aches, as in a hangover or the onset of flu
- Ringing in the ears
- Sore, stiff, hot, or numb neck
- Cold sweats
- "The shakes"
- Palpitations or unusually slow heartbeat
- Abnormal hunger, lack of hunger at mealtimes, or dietary abnormalities
- Reading difficulties: No comprehension, eye fatigue,
wandering thoughts, subvocalization, or intermittent fainting
- Uncontrollable drowsiness, insomnia, or abnormal sleep habits
- Superficial numbness
- Sudden loss of strength or even loss of consciousness
- Sleep paralysis
- Distorted sense of time and space
- Altered depth perception
- Peculiar or intense dreams, sometimes night dreams or sometimes daydreams
- Falling asleep at inappropriate times
- Awaking unrested from a long nap or nighttime sleep
- Disturbed nighttime sleep
- Fragmented sleep
- Sleeping with eyes open
- Visual distortions, such as graininess, motion streaks, faded or
- Delays in the update of visual imagery
- Delayed responsiveness: “Remote control” effect
- Hypnagogic & hypnopompic hallucinations (Optical, aural, tactical, momentary, long-term, partial, total,
positive or negative)
- Distorted perception of time and space
- Memory problems (particularly lapses in short-term memory)
- Learning difficulties
- Lack of confidence
- Gradual dispersion of self-awareness
- Progressive attenuation of ego
- Hyper-sensitivity to sound and light
- Microsleep events (thought discontinuity)
- Automatic (zombie) behavior