healthy living through science & education
Millions of Americans suffer from sleep difficulties, spending a fortune on sleeping pills. Yet, the root of sleep problems may be found in drugs (e.g., caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, statins), obesity or sedentary lifestyles. Many sleep difficulties respond to safe, inexpensive and noninvasive foods and supplements. A good sleep foundation starts with adequate intake of basic nutrients from quality food or basic vitamins, such as calcium, magnesium, B complex (vitamin B6, B12 and B5) and chromium. Beyond vitamins and minerals, several amino acids and herbs are documented as sleep aids.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid not found in proteins, but is abundant throughout the brain and spinal cord. Organisms synthesize GABA from glutamate using pyridoxal phosphate (vitamin B6) as a cofactor. Interestingly, glutamate is the principal excitatory neurotransmitter (glutamate) and GABA is the principal inhibitory one, blocking cell-to-cell signaling in nerve cells. GABA improves sleep cycles and promotes restful sleep, and helps relieve the intensity of pain. GABA can induce tranquility in individuals who experience abnormal mania or agitation. Its effects are seen within 1 hour of its administration to induce relaxation, diminish anxiety and, perhaps due to these effects, enhance immunity under conditions of stress.*
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid in the human diet, obtained from food or supplements. Besides being a building block for protein and the B-vitamin niacin, tryptophan functions as a precursor for serotonin and melatonin production, with the help of vitamin B6. Serotonin is the chief feel good signal in the brain, with the help of vitamin B6. Low tryptophan levels are associated with mood disorders and may arise because of stress. Recent studies have shown that L-tryptophan has positive effects on mood and behavior. L-tryptophan supplementation promotes a more positive outlook.*
Melatonin, a pineal gland hormone, has the important role of inducing and maintaining sleep. Because L-tryptophan is converted to melatonin in the body, it plays an important role in promoting restful sleep.* The body’s natural supply of melatonin diminishes with age. Older people with sleep difficulties may correct this problem with either tryptophan or melatonin. Although indiscriminate supplementation of melatonin is not advisable, when used wisely, the hormone can pay big dividends for people with sleep problems. Melatonin also appears to have some use for jet lag and for people who work rotating or night shifts.*
Melatonin is practically nontoxic and appears to exhibit almost no side effects in the short term when healthy people take it at low doses. Taken 30-90 minutes before bedtime, it advances the period of melatonins presence in the blood to promote sleep.*
Various herbs have been used to help promote sleep throughout recorded history. Traditionally used as teas, they are also available in dietary supplements.
Hops are the female flower cones of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus), used primarily in flavoring beer. Besides its antioxidant and positive inflammation response activity, hops has been known to help with nerves, anxiety and sleep.*
Valerian is the herb prepared from the roots of the plant Valeriana officinalis. It has been valued for its mild sedative and calming properties since the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greek physician Galen prescribed it as a remedy for sleep difficulties. The component of valerian extract most associated with sedation is GABA. Valerian is used for sleeping disorders, restlessness and anxiety, and as a muscle relaxant, as supported by a recent meta-analysis.* It works best when taken over several weeks, though the effects can be immediate. A valerian/hops combination was shown to reduce caffeine arousal and to be an option for non-chronic and non-psychiatric sleep disorders in randomized, controlled trials.*
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L) is an herb in the mint family used widely as a mild sedative, memory-enhancer and antioxidant.* One clinical study has found it to be effective at reducing stress. Lemon balm herb and valerian work together for relaxation and anxiety reduction.*
Jarrow Formulas Sleep Optimizer combines herbs and amino acids that work together to address all three stages of sleep by promoting relaxation, facilitating falling asleep, and helping maintain a regular sleep cycle.*
No product offered for sale is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always seek advice from your professional healthcare provider before taking any medication. Always read the details and instructions on the label, keep the tub tightly sealed and out of the reach of children.