For the last couple years, it seems that my need for sleep has grown. I’ve never been a fan of early rising, but I do know that in my younger years I could function on 3-5 hours, even sans caffeine, without
feeling on the brink of a crash. That is absolutely not the case now. Perhaps it is the stress and craze of life at the moment. The work days and weeks are longer and that does require more energy. And let’s be real, most of us don’t have the freedom and luxury to fight for our right to sleep. Life demands, we
rise to the occasion, sleep takes to the back burner and we make the often empty or half full promise to make it up later in the week. And we can make up the lost hours, sleep in a day or two if we’re lucky and feel more rested. But rest is only one of the many advantages of sleep. What cannot be made up as
easily are the other crucial processes that occur while we sleep: cellular repair, regeneration, protein production, stress hormone reduction, and growth hormone production to name a few.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to make room in our daily lives for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. But on those days that adequate rest seems unattainable, a natural aid can help enhance the quality of our sleep and allow for more biological benefit during the abbreviated time. Please note however that these natural alternatives are still sleep aids and, as such, capable of disrupting our natural cycles when overused. Best bet is to resort to them only when necessary and for no more than 7 consecutive days at a time. Your physician can provide more specific guidelines based on your individual needs. Most importantly, never combine even a natural sleep aid with alcohol or other pharmaceutical aids and consult with a medical professional if you suspect you are suffering from a chronic sleep disorder. As for those of us experiencing the occasional lack of sleep:
Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the body, is available as an over the counter
supplement in potencies ranging 1 to 5 milligrams. Unique benefits are attributed to each the 1mg, 3mg and 5mg doses. Recent research and study indicates that Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, halts tumor growth and therefore may be a cancer preventative. Supplemental Melatonin circulates the hormone prior to its natural release in our system, thereby altering our own natural sleep rhythm. 1-2mgs can be used to fall asleep more quickly, 3mg to sleep more soundly through the night, and 5mg is known to be helpful in regulating sleep cycles. Jet lagged travelers supplement in 3 – 5mg doses for this purpose. Because the brain’s pineal gland secretes Melatonin at night and in darkness, people working the “grave yard” shifts are often deficient and more in need of supplementation than others. There are no foods known to increase the body’s Melatonin levels, but sleeping in total darkness will boost your production without supplementation.
Valerian Root, considered a sedative herb, has a very strong calming effect on the nervous system and has been used for centuries to fight insomnia. Supplemented by itself or alongside other calming substances, it is available in tablets, capsules, teas and tinctures. Despite its centuries’ old use, or maybe because of it, Valerian’s reputation has been mixed and to date the science community deems the available research inconclusive. Though there are no known toxicity issues, some clinical study participants have reported side effects with excessive and prolonged use. Increase sleepiness, grogginess, upset stomach, dizziness and headaches are the most commonly reported; yet it should be noted that those effects have also been experienced and reported by study participants who received a placebo instead of Valerian Root. Additionally, studies have been conducted to gauge the safe and appropriate potency of the herb; and when unpleasant side effects have occurred, the dose used has usually been equal to or greater than 900mg.Taking doses between 450 and 600mg has shown some positive impacts on sleep quality -decreasing the time elapse before falling asleep and reducing the number of times users wake during sleep without stunting alertness or concentration the morning after. Caution should be exercised when taking Valerian for extended periods of time due to some reports of emotional numbness and agitation after prolonged use.
The tincture extractions of Valerian Root are thought to be the most effective for sleep promotion. Perhaps because some of the herb’s active oils are sensitive to high temperatures and may be stripped by the boiling water often used to prepare teas. Many of us enjoy a nice cup of tea before bed, and if this is your preferred method of supplementation keep the water temperature out of the boiling range.
L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from tea leaves and isolated from the Boletus Badius mushroom.
It can be supplemented alone, but it is often used in conjunction with other nutrients for stress relief, mood enhancement and insomnia. It increases Dopamine and GABA levels in the brain and consequently helps to balance emotions and inhibit over activity of the nervous system. L-Theanine seems to work synergistically with both calming and energizing herbs enhancing the other nutrients’ primary
action. Additionally, it acts as an immune booster by increasing the ability of the body’s T-Cells to fight disease. Because it is relatively new to the science community’s attention, research and study are somewhat limited, but its popularity and consequent use as a supplement are growing. An effective dose
for stress reduction has not been firmly established, but to date there are no known toxicity issues with higher doses and few reported adverse reactions. Headache, dizziness and stomach upset are among them. The doses used to treat anxiety range 200-250mg and sleep formulas may contain between 20 and 50mg of L-Theanine. The FDA recommends limiting our daily intake to no more than 1200mg /day.
Currently, my favorite sleep supplement is Beauty Sleep by ResVitále.The full two capsule serving combines 3mg of Melatonin with 50 mg of L-Theanine. It also features a detoxifying Liver blend of Milk Thistle, Turmeric and Artichoke as well as Organic French Red Wine extract for added antioxidant
protection. My experience with this product is a deeper more restful sleep even when the duration is shortened. I do wake feeling more refreshed and I haven’t experienced any grogginess, headaches or lack of focus the following day. Vegetarians and those more sensitive to allergens can also use this product as it contains no gelatin, corn, soy, wheat, yeast or lactose!
Once again use the natural alternatives as directed by their makers, with care and respect for their potency.
Sweet Dreams and BeWell