Many of us have difficulty sleeping from time to time due to stress we experience in our daily lives. Insomnia itself is not about how many hours you sleep but rather the quality of the sleep you get. Sleepless nights if left unchecked can become chronic (long-term) and lead to a number of health issues including fatigue, mood swings, loss of concentration and focus, loss of productivity and irritability. If you’re going through a rough spot, there are a number of natural supplements you can take that can help without the fear of side effects often seen with prescription drugs and over-the-counter sleeping pills. Melatonin is an old time favorite especially for those who have jet lag. A number of botanicals contain a wide range of brain inhibitors to calm nerves and allow relaxation which include Valerian, Lemon Balm and Passion Flower. Often times, magnesium is added to calm nervous tension in skeletal muscle.
Insomnia, although has many causes, often involves emotional issues such as anxiety and/or depression, medications or medical issues such as asthma, pain or sleep apnea or perhaps you do shift work. So, when looking for an appropriate brain supplement, there are certain ingredients you should look for. It’s important to as best you can determine what is causing your insomnia in order for you to take the appropriate supplement. It’s always a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider to pin down what the problem is. Then he/she can direct you to the best solution. Listed below is a list of ingredients that are known to promote restful sleep. Keep in mind, depending on what your issue is will determine what supplement you take.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone and neurotransmitter that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. This hormone is released as the sun goes down to prepare you for sleep. There is a nucleus in your brain that is located between your eyes known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that receives light from your retina. When light levels decrease, the SCN signals the hypothalamus to initiate changes in body temperature and it also sends signals to the pineal gland to release melatonin. This prepares you for sleep making you feel drowsy. People often use melatonin supplements when they have jet lag.
The medicinal benefits of Valerian are found in it roots. Valerian roots have been used for insomnia, headaches, nervousness, anxiety, mood swings and digestive problems. Valerian comes in capsules, tea and extract form. The fastest acting form is the extract. This is often an ingredient in brain supplements when you have stress that generates anxiety and you have difficulty sleeping. It has mild sedative effects. Valerian contains valerine, GABA, isovaleric acid, sesquiterpenes and flavones such as hesperidin and apigenin. Valerian is often taken during drug therapy to help with withdrawal symptoms.
This botanical is often used to relieve digestive problems, lower anxiety and elevate mood. Overly, it has relaxing qualities and is often paired with Valerian and or melatonin. This plant contains eugenol (antibacterial, muscle relaxer), tannins (antiviral), terpenes (relax muscle, relieve pain), rosemarinic acid (antioxidant, increases GABA), quercitrin (antioxidant), rutin (antioxidant) and gallic acid (antioxidant). The eugenols, rosemarinic acid and terpenes are the molecules that create a relaxing effect. They support a calm state and promote better sleep.
This is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and is important for keeping the brain calm. GABA inhibits both muscle and neurons. This relaxes muscle and has a sedative effect on the brain. Prescription drugs are made to GABA receptors such as anesthetics and muscle relaxants.
Passion flower is commonly used for anxiety and mood issues. It’s well known to be a sleeping aid, sedative and muscle relaxer. It can be bought in tablet, tea and extract forms and is commonly mixed with other botanicals to enhance its calming effects. The main ingredient responsible for its medicinal benefits is an alkaloid known as harmala. Harmala is commonly found in beer and wine as well. It is a powerful antioxidant and increases the release of serotonin and GABA. Serotonin is the so called “feel good” neurotransmitter and GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Passion flower also contains flavones such as chrysin, luteolin, orientin and apigenin. Apigenin binds to the benzodiazepine site on GABA A receptors and allows for greater inhibition throughout the brain but without tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
Taurine is an amino acid that binds to GABA receptors allowing for greater brain inhibition providing a calming effect. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
L-theanine is an amino acid that promotes deep sleep. It is also a precursor for the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and promotes a calming effect inhibiting anxiety issues.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is made in the brain from the essential amino acid tryptophan and is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin as well a melatonin. Serotonin is known as the “feel good” transmitter and provides for a sense of well being. Melatonin is a hormone/neurotransmitter that is released by the pineal gland in the brain when darkness sets in (nighttime). It helps you to fall asleep.
Magnesium is a metal that is important for over 300 different biochemical reactions in the body. It is a cofactor on some enzymes and important for activating those enzymes. It also known to promote muscle and nerve relaxation.