If I had to choose one biggest obstacle currently facing me on my quest to better health, it would be getting enough sleep. My husband and I do our best to go to bed at a reasonable hour and have reorganized our bedroom to maximize the conditions in which we sleep. With his 50-hour workweek, however, it is still very difficult to clock enough hours of shut-eye per week. Despite studies demonstrating the health and productivity benefits of napping, like this one showing that a nap is more beneficial than caffeine when it comes to learning and performance, most employers prefer to keep the java flowing rather than setting up nap rooms. So most Americans continue their sleep deprivation.

sleep important

A new study released just this week has shown that it isn’t possible to catch up on lost sleep on the weekends. Most adults need to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Without adequate rest, a person has a higher risk of problems like obesity, diabetes, stroke, cognitive impairment, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. Just one week of insufficient sleep causes the up- or down-regulation of more than 700 genes. According to the linked study, the biological processes affected include chromatin modification, the regulation of gene expression and macromolecular metabolism, along with immune, inflammatory and stress responses. If you suffer from adrenal problems like I do, getting adequate rest is essential.

The connection between sleep and methylation is an interesting one because a person needs to get the proper amount of sleep to support methylation. Impaired methylation, however, can cause sleep disturbances and insomnia. An important component to this is a brain hormone called melatonin, which is excreted by the pineal gland. Melatonin is a very important substance and has been linked to disorders like fatigue, anxiety and cancer. It is produced from serotonin and this process requires adequate methylation to occur. I really like the way all of this is explained in this post by Australian naturopath Nicky Wood, which even links melatonin to migraine headaches. Recent studies have even linked melatonin deficiencies to autism spectrum disorders. So we know that there is a close link to melatonin and methylation.

Recently I’ve learned about some very important steps that must be taken to ensure that the sleep that we are getting is effective sleep. Designing your sleeping area to facilitate proper melatonin production is essential here. First, the room must be completely dark when you sleep or melatonin production will be disrupted. Even the tiniest amount of light will result in less than optimal levels. Melatonin secretion peaks between two and four o’clock in the morning and then declines for the next 24-hours. If you wake up to go to the bathroom, for example, and turn the light on, melatonin production will shut down. So be sure to sleep without nightlights or any light coming in through the windows. And if you must get up to use the bathroom, do so in darkness. Dr. Mercola offers several excellent tips for melatonin optimization, including turning off televisions and computers an hour before bed, getting exposure to bright light during the daytime and keeping electromagnetic fields (EMFs) out of the bedroom at night. EM radiation, including cellular phones, computers/laptops and even appliances that are plugged in, can cause your melatonin production to reduce by half.

We are currently working on all of these things in our household to ensure that the quality, along with the quantity of the sleep we get is not impaired. With busy schedules and the increasing demands placed on us in the workplace these suggestions are not easy to implement, but they are important if one hopes to improve his health.

What are your sleep struggles?

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*Updated March 10, 2016*

After two and a half months on MTHFR supplements I was feeling pretty good. My homocysteine was (and hopefully still is) down and the fatigue I was feeling at the start of treatment was starting to ease. I had my second appointment with my doctor where we looked over my lab results and she ordered a few more tests. One of the things that came up was that my methylmalonic acid (MMA) was elevated. When you’re testing for B12 levels, this is the blood test you want because it shows whether you have a functional deficiency. If we went by my serum B12 levels, they would show no absolute deficiency – but this tells me nothing about what is in the cells. Just because a person has a high level of B12 floating around in her bloodstream does not mean that it’s being absorbed at the cellular level. In a similar way, folate levels are difficult to assess. High serum folate doesn’t show whether you have folic acid or methylfolate in your bloodstream, and it doesn’t tell you whether you have a functional deficiency. At least that was my experience.

methylcobalamin shot

So my doctor sent me home with two prescriptions, one for methylcobalamin (B12) injections and one for Deplin 7.5 milligram (mg) tablets. Off I went to the compounding pharmacy, learning that Deplin costs $500 if the insurance won’t cover it (ours does not cover vitamins). That wasn’t happening. I also sincerely do not believe that I need that much methylfolate. I’ll be speaking to my doctor about this at my next visit, but going from one mg of methylfolate to seven and a half just seemed like a huge jump. Especially as I’ve had symptoms of overmethylation when I took much more than that. Of course, this was before the B12 shots, but I will get to that in a moment. I have since learned that it’s possible to buy the Deplin online at a discount through Brand Direct – so if you need it and insurance won’t pay, consider looking there. **Update** It’s important to know which type of B12 to take – as it turns out, methylcobalamin wasn’t the best form for me. Check out this post about what forms of B12 are out there and how to figure out which one is right for you.

I was so afraid of my B12 shot that I put it off for almost a week. Would my heart race? Would I overmethylate? Would I feel like utter crap the first day? My husband was also procrastinating because he was not too thrilled about having to give me the shot. As it turns out, he’s an excellent nurse. He watched some videos and read some online articles and by the day it was time to do it, both of our nerves were relatively calm. We used a Safetec Insect Sting Relief wipe, giving a nice dose of both alcohol and lidocaine to the injection site (Dr. Neubrander recommends the buttocks). I barely felt a stick and then it was over. Great job, hubby!

I have committed to sharing all my mistakes here on this blog because hey, maybe someone else can learn from them. The lesson here is to double check your dosage before leaving the pharmacy. Make sure you are clear about how much methylcobalamin is in the vial and how often the shot is to be administered. I ended up with a month’s worth of B12 over the course of a week, taken in two separate injections. The pharmacist told me the prescription was weekly so I assumed that meant the entire vial was for one week. They also gave me an odd number of syringes, adding to my misunderstanding. Luckily, I had no adverse side effects. Yes, I know, I could have double checked with the doctor’s office but I’m a busy person and thought I knew what I was doing. It all turned out well and further investigation revealed that the amounts I took were not ridiculously high. But, you know, don’t try this at home.

A few hours after the first injection I did feel some very slight symptoms of overmethylation. I was a little edgy and felt very awake and alert. But after that I transitioned to a calm, clear energy, which lasted for the next few days. By the fourth day I felt more like the pre-shot Andrea. After the second injection I had none of the jitters, just the calm clear energy. The third shot at the normal dosage produced the same results. Needless to say I’ve been very happy with the effects of the methylcobalamin shot and will continue to take them until my prescription runs out.

There was still the matter of the suggested increase in methylfolate. From talking to other people with MTHFR I have learned that dosages of methylfolate change. I have also learned that ideally (everyone is different, consult your healthcare practitioner) one wants to be taking more B12 than methylfolate. As I mentioned, prior to increasing my B12 I couldn’t tolerate more than maybe 1,000 mcg (1mg) of methylfolate. Now that I’m getting more B12 I can handle a lot more methylfolate and I have been taking quite a bit more with no side effects. As Dr. Ben Lynch discusses in his video on methylation and supplementation, everyone’s needs differ. My understanding is that the methylfolate needs methylcobalamin (B12) to form methionine out of homocysteine. Without it, the methylfolate can’t do its job and it simply returns to the blood, allowing homocysteine to build up. This is called a methyl trap.

Professional Supplement Center
Please refer to a site like MTHFR.net for more detailed information should this interest you (and really it should if you are dealing with these problems). And remember, getting a full picture of your genetics is very important. Many people have SNPs that don’t do well with methyl donors like the supplements I’m discussing here. If you react poorly to methylfolate or methylcobalamin, it can be because of all sorts of reasons. I do not advocate self-medicating on this site. Please do find a health practitioner to work with. The video linked above will explain all of this in more detail.

What are your experiences with methylcobalamin and methylfolate?

If you have a comment that is related to your own health or have questions that require an answer, please leave these in the community discussion forums and not in the comments below. Thanks! =)

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