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Often caused by hormonal imbalances — both elevated stress hormones and estrogen dominance — insomnia is a condition that plagues 1 in 3 Americans. DIM, short for diindolylmethane, is a supplement often used for hormone balancing. Depending on the cause of one’s insomnia, DIM is now being used increasingly to solve the elusive sleep problem. I have found it very helpful myself.
What is DIM?
DIM (and its precursor I3C) supplements contain a component of cruciferous vegetables called diindolylmethane, which has been found to be beneficial in creating a healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone. DIM is found in vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, but not in high enough doses to be helpful from eating the vegetables alone.
Clinical studies also have scientists excited about DIM’s effect on breast, cervical, colon, gastric, prostate and thyroid cancers — both in terms of prevention and treatment. (source)
How does DIM work?
DIM causes the stronger form of estrogen (estradiol) to convert into the weaker form (estriol). Estriol is considered a more desirable form of estrogen because it is less active than estradiol. When estriol occupies the estrogen receptor, it prevents estradiol’s strong “grow” signals.
Why would someone want less estrogen? Estrogen dominance is common in today’s world due to stress, factory meats and environmental toxins. I discuss estrogen dominance more below.
DIM also blocks the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. (Therefore, DIM is a testosterone blocker and not an estrogen blocker [as commonly thought].) For this reason, DIM is prized by body builders, and can be helpful for men struggling with “man boobs”, those with extra weight they want to shed, as well as issues like acne (truly amazing results with acne!).
Ddiindolylmethane also works in the gut and liver to coordinate estrogen detox. DIM supports healthy estrogen ratios to prevent estrogen dominance.
Please read more below, too, about important lifestyle choices and co-factors necessary for DIM to be effective.
Why DIM prevents insomnia
What I have found, is that my insomnia is related to estrogen dominance. When I take DIM at night, I sleep well.
Interestingly, both estrogen deficiency and estrogen dominance have been linked to waking at 2 or 3 a.m. The former is a common symptom of menopause and the latter often a symptom of perimenopause.
DIM doesn’t block estrogen (as is commonly understood). Instead, it has a balancing effect. In estrogen deficit, DIM actually increases estrogen activity. (source)
When progesterone decreases, as is often the case during perimenopause, estrogen may become dominant, not as well balanced by progesterone. For me, the best solution has been to reduce or balance my estrogen.
Progesterone helps with sleep because it converts to a sedating neurosteroid which soothes GABA receptors in the brain. Losing progesterone during perimenopause results in changes to the brain and stress response system.
While I tried taking progesterone (both natural cream and a stronger oral progesterone) and increasing magnesium to solve the problem, I didn’t find those solutions to be helpful. If you haven’t tried that approach, it is often recommended and may be helpful for you.
DIM detoxes excess estrogen allowing estrogen and progesterone levels to come back into balance.
What causes estrogen dominance
Estrogen dominance occurs because:
- The body is making too much.
- It’s coming from external sources (food or environmental pollutants).
- And/or, estrogen is recirculating because the body isn’t properly detoxifying it.
Additional causes of excess estrogen include hormonal birth control, Hormone Replacement Therapy and obesity.
Estrogen dominance, and therefore struggles with insomnia, can also be more common after pregnancy and before or during menopause — due to the dip in progesterone production.
Additional causes of low progesterone include low body weight, a nutrient-deficient diet and chronic stress.
The endocrine system
One of the most complex networks in the human body is the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls the release of hormones, which are chemical messengers that travel throughout the body. Hormones initiate processes such as growth, metabolism and fertility.
Xenoestrogens are chemical toxins that disrupt the endocrine system. These chemicals alter the normal function of the hormone estrogen.
This is where is DIM for insomnia comes in, helping the body to convert dangerous estrogen into a benign form — thus allowing sleep-inducing progesterone to come back into balance.
The endocrine system and sleep
When estrogen levels are high, the endocrine system is disrupted — thus, sleep is disturbed. For example, an overly active hypothalamus gland, the control center of the endocrine system, may signal the production of cortisol in the middle of the night, causing wakefulness.
DIM converts estrogen and reduces its effect. As a result, the ratio of progesterone increases. As you’ll remember from above, progesterone converts to a sedating neurosteroid which soothes GABA receptors in the brain.
For those who struggle with insomnia due to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, DIM can gently restore a good night’s sleep.
(Interestingly, cranial sacral work can temporarily restore good sleep, when the practitioner rebalances the hypothalamus gland, “calming down” the control center of the endocrine system. But this approach doesn’t address an excess of estrogen and the potential harm of xenoestrogens.)
How to use DIM for insomnia: dosage and supplements
From several cancer studies, the current recommended dosage for DIM is 300 mg daily.
The common dosages of DIM for insomnia, acne or general detox needs are 200 or 400 mg.
In the morning, I take activated charcoal (using this method) to absorb any toxins released by DIM and the cleansing of the liver.
I use this DIM supplement. I take one 400 mg capsule nightly and find it to be very effective.
If you prefer a plant-based, whole food supplement option, here’s a great estrogen detox product backed by good science. Alpha Prime is formulated for both men and women to help maintain hormonal levels naturally. It supports the detoxification of estrogen to help maintain normal estrogen levels.
ATP Science, whose research and above product I like, recommends pulsing their food-based supplement: 12 weeks on and 4 weeks off.
Detox support with DIM
Estrogen is metabolized and detoxed in the liver. When using DIM to usher it out, the liver has to work overtime. You may wish to support your liver with glutathione, calcium d-glucarate and/or vitamin C.
You can also intermittently use charcoal, detox baths, cold therapy, grounding, infrared sauna and plenty of clean drinking water with liquid minerals — all ways to support the body’s detox mechanisms.
Side effects of DIM
Using DIM for insomnia is not for everyone — especially if you are pregnant or of reproductive age. Because DIM affects estrogen, my own doctor told me to take it with that awareness.
DIM can affect the way oral contraceptives work. For postmenopausal women, who may be at increased risk for osteoporosis, DIM could reduce the estrogen in the body that helps maintain bone density (this is controversial). Talk with your doctor first.
Other ways to support (get) the benefits of DIM with insomnia
If you take DIM for insomnia and to balance hormone levels, there are important lifestyle choices to make as well:
- Choose sustainable animal products: Conventional meat and dairy products contain estrogens. Choosing high quality meat and dairy helps you to avoid growth hormones, antibiotics and xenoestrogens. Choose grass-finished meat and organic.
- Avoid phytoestrogenic foods if you know you’re estrogen dominant: soy, flax, sesame etc.
- Decrease or eliminate alcohol consumption: Alcohol often increases estrogen levels and may impair the liver’s detoxification of estrogen.
- Use better body and cleaning products: EWG.org’s website allows you to enter your personal care products to find out their level of toxicity. For house cleaning, keep it simple with products like Bon Ami, 7th Generation dish soap and magnets in place of laundry detergent (we use these, love them and find they work better than laundry soap, plus they save money over time).
- Avoid plastics: Avoid drinking out of, and eating off, plastics. (I am surprised by how many families regularly feed their kids out of plastic cups and off of plastic plates. Don’t do this.) Also avoid cash register receipts (instead use a budget app on your phone [we use this one, love it, and it’s free] or another system to keep track of spending).
- Dramatically reduce stress: If you balance estrogen levels but don’t manage your stress, you may not see good results with DIM. In addition to estrogen dominance, elevated stress hormones cause insomnia. Be intentional all day to focus on thankfulness and reduce sources of stress. Breathe deeply, stretch, enjoy the sunshine, take comfort in the big plan when the little things get you down, focus on loving others, go for walks, use cold therapy, read the news less if needed etc.
Cofactors needed for DIM to be effective with insomnia
Important note: Necessary cofactors of DIM include folate and B12.
I get methylated folate from my B complex (I use this one).
I give myself B12 shots weekly, but if you have good gut integrity, you may be able to take B12 orally (like this).
As one source points out in regard to DIM, these cofactors “are necessary for this pathway.”
Xenoestrogens vs. phytoestrogens
What’s the difference?: Xenoestrogens are man-made substances — toxic chemicals — with estrogen-like effects. They are stored in our fat cells and can disturb normal hormonal function. Xenoestrogens have been linked to cancers, early onset puberty, miscarriages, diabetes and autoimmune conditions.
In contrast, phytoestrogens come from the plant world. They can cause estrogen dominance. Unfermented soy products are a common example of phytoestrogens. Other examples are flax and sesame.
However, phytoestrogens may be helpful for those who need more estrogen, such as those in menopause. More often than not, phytoestrogens are consumed without an awareness of their dangers and have been linked to uterine fibroid tumors, cramps, cancers, hair loss, weight gain, depression, heavy periods, man boobs and many other symptoms and conditions.
Surprisingly, DIM is actually a unique phytoestrogen (and not an anti-estrogen). Plant-based, and by definition, phytoestrogens work to maintain a certain amount of hormonal activity. In circumstances when testosterone is adequate or high, and estrogen is low (in males, menopause, PCOS, in female athletes with low body fat and low estrogen levels), DIM will actually bind with and activate estrogen receptors, while blocking the receptors to decrease testosterone activity.
Kelly t. says
I have been following you for years. Your information is always so informative and thorough. I don’t suffer from insomnia, but I love reading your info. And I am so glad I did. My 26 year old son has had man boobs since 5 years old. It has affected his self image and self esteem his entire life. I can’t wait to share this with him. Thank you and blessings to you and your family.
Hi Kelly, thank you for commenting. 🙂 I am so happy to hear this and hope the supplement will be a huge help! I feel so blessed if able to make a difference. Many blessings to you and yours too!
Hi Megan, I appreciate this article and others as well, and your recipes often get rave reviews at our house. We’ve taken DIM before, but aren’t currently. I also have insomnia issues, usually in getting to sleep rather than waking and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m sprouting broccoli seeds and eating them pretty regularly. Do you think that would possibly work similarly to DIM? The supplement we were taking had broccoli and cauliflower in it.
Hi Dorothy, thank you, I’m so glad! 🙂 Broccoli sprouts support phase 2 detox of the liver and are a great whole food way to support that process, which certainly helps to usher excess estrogens from the system. DIM is stronger, but isn’t for everyone. The only way to judge if it’s right for you is to decide if you want to try it again. If you do, be sure to be mindful of the co-factors needed and the lifestyle choices. So a B12 that your body can assimilate, reduce stress etc. There are a lot of sleep hygiene tips that are popular to share in sleep-related articles, but I wrote the ones in this article that are the most important for me and when using DIM. I also keep my room dark, where a silk eye mask etc, but I love how easily my insomnia was resolved when I addressed the hormone piece in the right way for my body. I also take calcium d-glucarate, but that is not necessary for everyone, so may or may not be right for you. It’s ideal to go through each of the recommendations, and see how they resonate with your specific body and stage in life, so the supplement has the right environment in which to work. I hope you get it resolved sooner than later. So many of us go years with this struggle, and it’s just amazing to sleep well again. Love and best!
Thanks for your thoughts, Megan. I use an eye mask and black-out curtains, soothing music some nights, and usually wear dark glasses at night as well. When I get little exercise early in the day, it’s helpful too. So part of the time I sleep well, and usually sleep soundly after I get to sleep. I think hormones may be a piece of the puzzle for me as well. When we took DIM before, we weren’t taking methylated B vitamins, so it may have been counterproductive. Stress reduction is important, and thankfully it’s more manageable for me again at the moment. Trusting in God through Jesus Christ, and believing the promises in his word is crucial in these turbulent times.
So true, Dorothy!! I’m glad sleep is better for you right now. Thank you for sharing, and much love!
Eva Williams says
Thanks for your post! Very useful and interesting. For example, I take a bath before going to bed and try to completely empty my brain from thoughts with the help of meditation and yoga. Although physical exercises work better in the morning and the body reacts better in the morning, I am more comfortable in the evening. I also always close the curtains in order to be as fast as possible. And my bedroom is executed in green tones.
Hi Eva, thank you for your comment and sharing what works well for you. It sounds like you have some great sleep hygiene practices! 🙂
I’ve been taking this & charcoal for 2 months, and it’s been a great help with both insomnia and acne! But I had awful migraines during my last 2 periods. Is it best not to take it before/during menstruation? I can’t figure out why I’ve had such bad migraines the past 2 times.
Hi Kylie, migraines around the time of menstruation are definitely a common symptom due to hormonal changes. The DIM may be causing an imbalance at that time. Here’s a great article on Overcoming Migraines (that looks at the causes of migraines and natural remedies) that might be helpful: https://eatbeautiful.net/migraine-relief-5-ways/
My brother was treated with firmagon injection for 5months as to prevent suspected enlarged prostate cancer in 2015, after the treatment he has enlarged breast and no sperm after ejaculation. He is using Dim-plus for his enlarged breast and to balance his homone as to restore his sperm back. Do you think Dim-plus will be of any help?
I do not sleep and if I do I have nightmares. Am on medication for Leukamia take magnesium at night and DIIM in morning as it gives me energy. Do you suggest I take at night as well for sleep? Am in chemo induced menopause and sleep in a non event for me now in fact I dread going to sleep. Should I take vitamin bs in daytime too? Feel quite desperate. Use bio identical hormones occasionally but they don’t seem help and I have only been using DIIM for over a week in mornings but feel insomnia has worsened? Grateful for any advice. Thanks
Hi Tanya, I’m sorry I can’t speak into your situation as it’s clearly a medical scenario that needs a doctor. Can you find a functional medical doctor that will help you? DIM is not for everyone, so listen to your body. Best wishes for wellness!! Much love and I have just prayed for you!
Ruth Saa says
Hello, can I take DIM with evening primrose oil?
Shannon Sauric says
Hello, I have two questions for you. Is it safe to take dim while on hormone replacement therapy? I had a total hysterectomy 2.5 years ago. I’m getting mixed answers from different doctors. One said yes, take it. The other said no. My second question is- is it safe for my 18 year old daughter to take? She’s done accutane twice and still has bad breakouts before her period.
Hi Shannon, I’m sorry, I can’t answer safety questions. If your daughter’s taken accutane, though, you might consider the vitamin A detox diet. Another option for acne is pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). You could ask your doctor about it or look into it for her. 🙂
Weekly Vitamin B 12 shots seems to be contributing to my acne breakout. I am a female late 50s with cystic acne around my chin and cheek area. I am just now starting DIM, but nothing was said by the doctor to supplement with B 12. My doctor did prescribe oral progesterone so perhaps that can be taken since insomnia is not an issue but acne is. In my case the DIM Was prescribed to offset higher levels of testosterone.
Dear Ms. Stevens,
How long did you take DIM before you noticed improvement with your sleep?
Hi KD, within a couple of days, because it detoxed excess estrogen for me pretty quickly.
Do you take it with food right before sleep? I just got DIM in today. Thanks.
Hi Maria, I take it shortly before bed whether or not I’ve eaten recently, so it doesn’t need to be with food.
Thank you. I’m hoping it will help with insomnia.
I thought in the article you said you take DIM st night.
Hi Maria, I’m sorry. I corrected my earlier response to you. You are exactly right. (I confused your question with someone else’s on a different article.)
For DIM to help with sleep, can it be taken anytime of the day? Sorry for all my questions. Thank you!
Hi Maria, for me it works best at night. I try to take as few supplements as possible, so I have experimented with taking it in the morning as well, and that wasn’t necessary, and it benefits me more just at night as opposed to just in the morning. I have not experimented with only taking it midday, though. Because a lot of detoxification happens at night when we sleep and up until breakfast, I do think night is the best time of day to take it. No problem on multiple questions. I am very happy to help and just sorry I answered your above question wrongly the first time and confused you!
Thank you! I started taking it 2 nights ago. I’m hoping to see an improvement in my sleep soon. I keep waking up between 2-3am and am unable to sleep the rest of the night.
That’s the worst. If the DIM doesn’t help, you can look at other causes as well. Another approach is L-arginine, oftentimes helpful with L-citrulline. You can read about them here: https://eatbeautiful.net/how-and-why-to-use-l-arginine-for-insomnia/ As you said, hopefully the DIM will help, but often it’s a bit of work to figure out the cause and solution(s). Sounds like you’re having a cortisol spike in the middle of the night, so the goal is to have that not happen.
Here’s a broader article on insomnia that might be helpful, too: https://eatbeautiful.net/natural-supplements-insomnia/
Do you have any tips on lowering cortisol during the night? I’m still not sleeping well. Thanks!
Hi Maria, you might consider reducing oxalates and salicylates in your diet, which cause stress and cortisol dysregulation. Here’s an article on salicylates and stress/insomnia: https://www.drlamcoaching.com/nem-therapy/detoxification/salicylate-sensitivity-and-adrenal-fatigue/ And here’s an outline of how to reduce these food compounds in your diet: https://eatbeautiful.net/lox-oxalate-and-low-salicylate-food-list-with-printable/ Insomnia is also linked to just general stress, so choosing to control that during the day can be a big benefit. But many people also benefit from supplements that help the body to know when to produce cortisol and when not to, calming the HPA axis etc. I assume you already have implemented good sleep hygiene practices. Seeing a naturopath might allow you to find the right supplement for you. Seriphos is one to consider. https://amzn.to/3vzjcv6 And oftentimes it’s used with an adrenal extract, but there are so many individual considerations, that a doctor is best to help you know which supplements, timing and dosage. Best wishes!
Thank you for all of your help and the articles. Can I take DiM at night and take L-arginine together? Should L-arginine be taken in the morning? Thanks
Hi Maria, no problem taking DIM and L-arginine at the same time. You can read the L-arginine post about when to take it, as it’s different for different people, what works best. Be sure to see the paragraph about possibly taking it with L-citrulline, too, or ornithine, because again, everyone’s bodies respond differently, and you may benefit from a combination of amino acids.
Thank you! Could I also add Ashwagandha to that mix? Or is that too many different things? Thanks for your help.
Hi Maria, I’d wait on the ashwagandha until you’ve tried the other options, and that way you’ll also know for sure the effects each one has in your body. You’re welcome!
Have you heard of DIM helping with endometriosis flare ups?
Hi Jeri, yes, I have. I found it to be a little helpful for myself, but not enough for me to overcome it completely. I know most people don’t talk in those terms; so to simply answer you, it did help. Extra info ~ I did put endometriosis into remission myself. I did this through a low lectin, low histamine, low vitamin A diet and am now symptom-free. (I do have mild flares if I’m exposed to forest fire smoke, as that’s my remaining trigger.) I’ve written a few articles on the topic, but this one is probably the best if you’re interested: https://eatbeautiful.net/mcas-histamine-lectin-intolerance-tips/
Mary-Ann Aveline says
This is a great informative article thank you.
I used to wake up at 2-3am every night feeling wide awake, and taking dim before bedtime has made me sleep so much better. Although I still wake up I can drift back to sleep again easily. The only problem I’m having is that I feel so tired still in the mornings, sometimes for half the day or longer, I just feel exhausted. I tried halving them dose but then I just woke up in the night again.
I’m wondering if you’ve any advice on helping this or maybe I just carry on taking it and my body will eventually get used to it. Maybe my hormones just need to rebalance? The tiredness during the day is almost making me feel worse then when I used to wake up during the night. A contradiction really because I am sleeping so much better with Dim. I wonder if I have too much progesterone with Dim and that’s why I feel so sleepy all day?
FYI I did start off taking dim in the morning but it makes me feel tired then too, so before bed time seems a better option.
Would love to hear your suggestions, thank you.
Hi Mary-Ann, I’m sorry but I don’t have insight into your body. You may need to find a practitioner who can help you figure it out. Best wishes!
Migraines during a period is a symptom of low estrogen. For some, it will help to stop taking the DIM a few days before and during your period. Or take something that raises your estrogen when youre on youre period to lower migraine incidence.
Shanna Miller says
How about people who have both high estrogen and progesterone? Is DIM still safe?
Hi Shanna, this is a good question to ask your doctor.
I’ve started taking a DIM supplement one week ago. I gained 10lbs in 2 months (mainly belly and arm fat) and that was off for me. I have been able to maintain my weight successfully before that. This along with other issues such as cyst acne around my period, heavy bleeding, vaginal dryness, face rash around ovulation, trouble falling asleep (even though I have to take Ativan to help with that), and trouble waking up (normally sleep until 10-11am), having no energy, lead me to think maybe it was my hormones. I’m 41 so I know my body is going through changes. Anyways I started taking this supplement, although I’m only a week in I have noticed I fall asleep a lot easier and faster but wake up naturally now at 7:30am!!! I also have no acne breakouts on my face and I should start my period tomorrow. Sugar cravings have slightly gone down. I’m hoping after a few more weeks that increases and maybe I can start losing some of this rapid weight I gained. There has been some detox systems I’ve experienced like bad headaches and yellowing of my urine. Over the counter pain medication has helped with the headaches.
Great to hear this, Mandy! I’m so glad for you, and thanks for sharing for others’ benefit as well. Best!