Better Sleep for Shorter Days

November 9, 2018 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Submitted by Vital Nutrients

Better Sleep

During the winter and early spring, reduced exposure to light during the day can actually interfere with proper melatonin secretion, which can exacerbate insomnia. An estimated 64 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year, reporting difficulty falling asleep, waking too early, and general sluggishness. Chronic sleep deprivation due to insomnia can lead to a deterioration of cognitive alertness, ability to function in the daytime, and may be associated with conditions, such as anxiety, depression, stress reaction, pain, sleep apnea, and hormonal changes.

Sleep hygiene may help people with insomnia improve the amount and quality of their sleep. When the days are shorter, this may include a regimen of light exposure in the early morning hours (before 10 am), whether by going outside, sitting by a window, or using a light box for about 30 minutes to help stimulate melatonin production and promote a healthy circadian rhythm. It is also helpful to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, limit caffeine to the morning, and avoid eating, vigorous exercise, and exposure to bright overhead lighting or computer screens in the few hours before bedtime.

In addition, certain herbal and nutritional supplements, along with a physiological dose of melatonin (0.25 mg in the hour before bedtime) may help promote relaxation of mind and body. It’s recommended to take a synergistic combination of some or all of the below botanicals and nutrients to help calm the central nervous system and support restful, refreshing sleep.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a popular herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia, with a long history of use in North America. Two studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating anxiety and in one of the studies it was found to be as effective as benzodiazepine medications. However, unlike benzodiazepines, regular use of passionflower extract does not appear to lead to dependence.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a medicinal plant in the mint family with mild sedative properties. It has traditionally been used for its calming effects on both the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. In research studies, lemon balm has improved self-rated mood, increased calmness, and enhanced cognitive functioning in healthy people under ordinary circumstances, while performing stress-inducing tasks.

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are mostly known for their use in flavoring beer. It also can be used as a medicinal treatment for insomnia and anxiety and has been supported by animal and in vitro studies. Studies suggest that hops extract quiets the central nervous system by increasing GABA activity and activating melatonin receptors.

California Poppy (Eschscholtzia californicum) is a flowering plant in the poppy family that is known for its sedative effects and has been used historically for insomnia, nervous tension, and sensitivity to weather changes. Its ability to influence the metabolism of several neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine and serotonin, has been documented.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a flowering perennial plant well known for its ability to ease nervousness and promote sleep. Studies suggest that valerian terpenoids and flavonoids may exert anxiolytic and sedative properties by affecting GABA and GABA receptors. Some studies comparing valerian extract to benzodiazepines have found them to have similar effects.

L-theanine (N-ethyl-L-glutamine) is an amino acid present in green tea. In human studies, L-theanine supplementation increased alpha brainwave activity, indicating a more relaxed state. It also reduced physiologic signs of stress in people given stress-inducing tasks in the laboratory.

Lavender Essential Oil (Lavendula angustafolia) is a perennial flowering shrub with a distinctive fragrance that is widely believed to ease tension and enhance relaxation. Aromatherapy with lavender oil has had relaxing to sedating effects in a number of studies. Inhaling lavender oil during sleep increased deep, slow-wave sleep, decreased rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, and increased a reported sense of vigor upon morning waking in one study. A preliminary study also found that aromatherapy with lavender oil improved sleep in people with insomnia.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland to regulate the sleep/ wake cycle. Melatonin release is strongly affected by light and darkness, with levels normally dropping during daylight hours and rising at night to induce drowsiness and lower body temperature.

Melatonin levels are low in people with insomnia and supplemental melatonin has been found to be an effective treatment for insomnia in controlled trials. Melatonin may also help shift the sleep phase and improve sleep in shift workers and people with jet lag. In addition, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant.

Incorporating sleep hygiene techniques and supplementation into your daily routine can help improve the quality of your sleep and help decrease mental health and sleep related issues that occur during the cold weather months.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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