Insomnia

A Pass Favorite: Power to Sleep PM by Irwin Naturals

I have been having a difficult sleeping in the past few months, for no particular reason. I would go to sleep without a problem usually, but then wake up in the middle of the night and then not be able to get back to sleep for far too long. It was awful, because then I would be tired in the morning (sometimes all day) and then would find the cycle repeating, if not the next night, then usually several times a week.

As anyone who has struggled with sleeplessness knows, it’s extremely frustrating. After some trial and error, I found a supplement which has really helped- Irwin Naturals Power to Sleep PM. Power to Sleep PM contains a variety of relaxing herbs including valerian, passionflower, and hops which work well together to reduce stress and help you to sleep. Their formula also contains the amino acids L-Theanine and GABA, which help to reduce anxiety and induce calmness. It also contains melatonin, which helps to regulate the sleep cycle (interestingly, I’ve taken melatonin by itself and it did not seem to help me, but it appears that combining it with relaxing herbs makes a good combination).

The recommended dose is two softgels a half an hour before bedtime. I have been using it and have found it to work incredibly well, especially for helping me to sleep through the night. We do have some samples at the store so you can try it for a night to see if it helps, it really did help me!  

Tart Cherry Juice for Better Sleep

Q: I’ve heard that cherry juice can help you to sleep better. I wondered if that was really true, and if so, if there was a certain kind of cherry juice to look for.

A: Yes, Montgomery tart cherry juice has been shown in research to aid in sleep. For example, one study gave participants an 8 oz. glass of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks. The group who took tart cherry juice slept an average of 84 minutes longer than a separate period when they took a placebo. Their sleep was also recorded as being more efficient, meaning it took less time to fall asleep and they had a better quality of sleep that those who did not use the tart cherry juice. Cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin, which can help to regulate the sleep cycle.

Montgomery tart cherry juice has also been researched with great results in helping to prevent and treat symptoms of gout, as well as reducing inflammation in the body. Tart cherry juice also has documented benefits for heart health and muscle recovery. Click here for links to a variety of research studies on the benefits of tart cherry juice.

When taking tart cherry juice medicinally, it’s important to look for an unsweetened juice without added ingredients. Many cherry juices on the market are mixed with other juices like white grape to make it sweeter, which is not a bad thing if you just are looking for a refreshing beverage, but if you’re looking for tart cherry juice for health benefits, it’s important to get the real thing.

More than any other, we would recommend our Cherry Bay Orchards brand of Montgomery tart cherry concentrate, since it is the specific variety that has been in the most research studies.

Supplement Spotlight: Adrenasense for Reducing Night Wakening and Daytime Fatigue

My daughter started kindergarten a few weeks ago- talk about an emotional time!  Due to the stress and anxiety about school, I wasn’t sleeping well.  I would go to sleep fine, but wake in the night unable to get back to sleep, which would lead to being exhausted during the day- then the cycle would begin again each night.

At the health food store, I was talking, or rather, complaining to Sarah (another one of our employees).  She mentioned Adrenasense by Natural Factors as a supplement she has been taking for nearly a year for the same issues.  She said she used to have horrible problems of waking in the night and then not being able to get back to sleep, which would then ruin the next day since she was so tired.  She said that she started using Adrenasense and that it had literally changed her life, and that of all the things we have at the store, it was her favorite.

After such a glowing recommendation, I thought I had to try it.  The directions say to take 2 capsules at mid-day, up to a maximum of four pills per day.  She said she started taking two in the morning and then two more after lunch, so that’s what I did as well.  I’ve only just started taking it, but I feel like I’m already seeing benefits- better sleep in the night and being less tired during the day.

Adrenasense is a formula made up of five different adaptogenic herbs.  Adaptogens are supplements which help the body to adapt to stress and bring it back into balance.  The herbs in the blend help to energize the body gently while promoting calm and reducing anxiety.  It’s quite a blend, so I thought I’d list the five herbs below along with a few of their benefits (a list which only scratches the surface of the many benefits of each herb, all of which I could write about forever).

Rhodiola
Rhodiola is best known for its ability to reduce cortisol in the body, also known as the “stress hormone”.  Seven different peer reviewed studies have reported its ability to reduce fatigue, and other studies have found it to have benefits for mood, stress, and for improving overall well being.   Many people also find rhodiola to be beneficial for improving concentration and reducing “brain fog”.  Other studies found that it helped to reduce depression and anxiety.

Suma
Suma is best known for enhancing athletic performance by giving the body an energy boost.  Research has also reported anti aging benefits for suma as well as immune boosting properties.

Eleuthero
Eleuthero is also known as Siberian ginseng. It has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine for increasing energy, reducing fatigue, and boosting the immune system. Interestingly, some research has even linked eleuthero as a therapy for reducing cold symptoms and severity.  Eleuthero is also known for its use in aiding in concentration and mental focus.

Schisandra
Schisandra is a superfruit which has been long used for its anti aging and fatigue fighting effects.   Schisandra has also been researched for its benefits for liver detoxification and improving liver function.  It also has been demonstrated to help with lowering and normalizing both blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Ashwaganda
Ashwaganda is an herb which has been gaining much notoriety of late for its impressive list of benefits which include stress relief, a reduction in anxiety and depression, and reducing cancer risk.  Ashwaganda also has a protective and healing effects on the brain and has even been suggested as a possible therapy for neurodegenerative diseases life Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Many of the herbs listed above have benefits for hormonal balance as well, for women of all stages, which only add to its effectiveness.

I would very much recommend giving Adrenasense a try if you’re dealing with stress, sleeplessness, and night waking.


Supplement Spotlight: Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body that naturally regulates sleep cycles, signaling the body and brain when it’s time to go to sleep.  Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light.  Natural melatonin production in the body is reduced by changes in schedules as well as late night exposure to artificial light, particularly computers, televisions, and cell phone screens.  Certain medications can further reduce the body’s melatonin levels; aspirin is one that many people take daily to prevent heart attacks, but aspirin also reduces melatonin levels in the body.

Melatonin can be taken as a supplement to help to adjust the body’s internal clock for people traveling and changing time zones, and for shift workers who’s schedule changes.  Melatonin also is useful for people suffering from insomnia.  Research has found that melatonin supplementation helps to reduce restlessness before sleep, and aids in correcting sleep patterns during sleep.

For people having trouble falling asleep, a sublingual form which dissolves in the mouth is best since it is absorbed the fastest.  For those who have trouble staying asleep and experience problems with waking up in the middle of the night, a time release form is superior.  Placebo controlled studies have found that supplementing with melatonin improved sleep quality, reduced the time it took to fall asleep, and also enhanced alertness in the morning.

A new study came out this March which was particularly interesting.  It reported that scientists in China found that supplementing with melatonin could help a person sleep better in a noisy environment.  The researchers found that melatonin provided longer and better sleep than compared to people who wore eye masks and earplugs.  The participants who took melatonin had decreased middle of the night awakenings when compared with the eye mask/earplug group.  The group who took melatonin had a significant improvement in sleep quality and were found to have increased REM sleep.

Melatonin is most effective when taken an hour before sleep.  In addition to being an effective sleep aid, melatonin is also a potent antioxidant, with even a greater range of effectiveness than vitamin C, E, or beta carotene.  For many people, a short time taking melatonin is sufficient to correct sleep dysfunction, though others may find benefit from prolonged supplementation.

 

Healthy Q & A: Natural Ways to Increase Energy

Q: I’ve been tired all the time lately.  I have a lot of stuff going on with my job right now and its hard being exhausted all the time.  Coffee makes me jittery, so I don’t know if there is anything else that can help with energy.  

A: It sounds like you have a lot of stress with your job, which doesn’t help since stress and lack of energy go hand in hand.  It’s a terrible cycle- you’re stressed at work and have a hard time sleeping, which leads to not getting enough sleep at night so you’re tired all day- then the cycle repeats.

There are a number of things which can help with reducing stress and enhancing energy.  Stretching or doing a few yoga poSes in the morning can help to encourage blood flow, making you feel more alert.  The sun salutation is a series of movements which is great for helping to feel more awake in the mornings (here's a video).

Finding time to exercise during the day can also help with energy, as well as encouraging restful sleep at night, as long as you aren’t exercising too close to bedtime.  It can be difficult starting an exercise regimen, especially when you feel tired, but even making time for a 15 minute walk can help to give you an energy boost and clear your head.  A University of Georgia study found that sedentary people who regularly complain of fatigue can increase their energy levels by 20 percent and decrease their fatigue by 65 percent by engaging in regular, low intensity exercise.  Exercise has also been proven as an effective stress relief.  

It may be a good idea to evaluate your diet as well.  Truly, we are what we eat.  Refined grains (think anything “white”- white flour, white bread, white rice), processed packaged foods, artificial sweeteners, and excess sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup) all take a toll on energy levels as well as our physical and mental health.  Switching to a diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes can help to provide more stable energy levels and blood sugar.  There are many cookbooks and websites with delicious and easy healthy recipes.

There are also a number of supplements that are very effective for increasing energy and relieving stress.  One of my favorites is panax ginseng (also known as Asian ginseng) which has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine.  Ginseng is known as an adaptogen which means it is able to help the body to better “adapt” to stress.  Ginseng has a number of beneficial uses, one of the most well known is for combating fatigue.  It’s best taken in the morning on an empty stomach since herbs are generally more effective when taken without food.

Other ideas which can help with low energy are supplementing with extra B vitamins via a quality B complex or a multivitamin with high levels of B vitamins.  Many Americans have diets low in B vitamins, and one of the symptoms of a deficiency in any one of several B vitamins is fatigue.  Aromatherapy is another idea.  Citrus and peppermint oils have been used for many years energy.  One recent study at Wheeling Jesuit University even found that dabbing peppermint oil inside a car can increase driver alertness; in fact, citrus oils are frequently used in Japan to help data entry workers to increase productivity.

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for proper energy levels during the day.  Unfortunately when under stress, many find it difficult to fall asleep, even when they’ve been tired all day.  In situations like these, supplementing with relaxing herbs like valerian, passionflower, and hops can be especially effective in helping one to relax enough to be able to sleep.  The above herbs also help with quieting racing thoughts, which is helpful for people who lay down to sleep and feel like they can’t “turn off their brains”.  

Journaling before bed can also help with sleep, and many people find writing out their thoughts of the day is a therapeutic release.  Another idea, which I read in an article on a few months ago, is to count backwards from 300 by 3’s.  The article reasoned that it was complex enough to keep your mind from wandering elsewhere but monotonous enough to help with falling asleep.  I’ve been doing it occasionally when I’ve woken in the middle of the night and think it really does help.

Healthy Q & A: Help for Insomnia

Q: I've been having such a awful time sleeping lately.  I can't get to sleep at night, which makes me exhausted in the morning and tired all day long.  When it comes time to go to bed though, I can't seem to sleep though!  I'm getting to my wits end.  Any ideas?


A:  Insomnia is terrible, and can lead to the never ending cycle you’ve described.    The 
sleeplessness you’re experiencing is most likely caused by stress, which can make it difficult to sleep at night, even when you've felt tired all day.  Nearly 50% of Americans deal with insomnia from one time or another.  There are a number of natural supplements which can help however, thankfully.

The first I'd recommend is valerian, an herb with natural sedative properties.  I like valerian 
because it can actually help you to feel tired, while helping to reduce stress and anxiety.  One 
study found that valerian reduced the time it took participants to fall asleep by half.  It's also non habit forming and should not give you a "hangover" like prescription sleep aids can.  I would take it when you have a full six hours to sleep however.  Nature's Plus has a wonderful 
extended release valerian, which works well, particularly for people who wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.

Hops and passionflower are two other herbs which work synergistically with valerian.   
Passionflower is wonderfully relaxing, and hops has tranquilizing properties.  Many people find 
that it helps with reducing "racing thoughts" at bedtime.  All three herbs work well together. 
 NOW Foods has a product I love called Sleep (imaginative name, right?) which I've used for 
occasional sleeplessness with great results.

Another idea is the amino acid theanine.  Theanine is different in that it does not make you tired (so it can be taken during the day as well), but it does work very effectively for reducing anxiety. Theanine has had impressive results in research studies for improving sleep quality and reducing fatigue the following day.  Theanine is also safe for children to take for occasional insomnia and stress.  The brand Kal has a great chewable supplement for kids called Relax A Saurus.

Finally, I’d recommend trying to get some exercise during the day, though not too close to 
bedtime.  Exercise can help with mood and stress, and give you an extra boost of energy.  It 
seems counterintuitive when you feel so tired during the day, but increasing your activity to 30 
minutes of exercise most days a week can help you to have both more energy during the day 
and to sleep better at night.

Healthy Q & A: Restless Legs

Q: My mother has been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, and she has a terrible time sleeping through the night.  Is there anything you would recommend to help her?

A: Your mother certainly isn’t alone.  It is estimated that as much as 10% of the US population has restless leg syndrome (RLS).   RLS in a neurological condition that causes an itching/pulling sensation in the legs and an overwhelming urge to move them.  Symptoms get worse while resting, leading to many a sleepless night.  

Though the cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown, some experts feel there is a nutritional link.  Folic acid and magnesium are especially important for people with restless leg syndrome.  Also, supplementing with antioxidants is important to address the free radical damage that is thought to accelerate RLS.

Magnesium, when taken daily, can help with muscle spasms and jerking.   If the body doesn’t 
have enough magnesium, it’s difficult for the muscles to relax.  It’s also been found that many 
people who suffer from RLS are deficient in folate (a B vitamin that regulates homocyctene), so adding some extra folate could be beneficial.

Also, since restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition, adding a high quality DHA 
supplement would be a good idea.  DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in high concentrations in the synapses of the brain.  Taking supplemental DHA can help with the smooth transition of messages between neurons in the brain, which can improve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Since there is no known cure for restless leg syndrome, natural supplements like magnesium, DHA, as well as relaxing herbs like valerian can be very useful to help people with RLS to get a good night’s sleep.

 

Healthy Q & A: Sleep Aids

Q: I’ve had an awful time sleeping lately.  I’ve been under a lot of stress recently and can’t seem to wind down at night.  I’m exhausted, but I can’t stop thinking about things.  I’d rather not take a prescription, but I really need to sleep!  Any advice?

 

A: Stress is horrible, since it saps your energy during the day, but can leave you awake and restless at night.  Thankfully, there are a number of supplements which can help, without side effects or being habit forming like many prescription sleep aids.  The first thing I’d recommend is theanine, an amino acid derived from green tea which is fantastic for stress and anxiety.  While theanine doesn’t make you feel tired, it works very well to reduce anxiety and help you to feel more calm.  Research done on theanine and sleep found that people who took it before bed experienced better sleep quality.  It works by encouraging alpha brainwaves, the brainwaves associated with a calm, relaxed state.  Theanine is also very effective for stress and anxiety during the day.

There are also a number of herbs which can be helpful as sleep aids.  Valerian is an herb that works very well to help with relaxation after a busy day.  Most people report that taking valerian before bed actually helps them to “feel tired”.  For that reason, valerian is usually best reserved for taking before bed, since valerian may make you feel too sleepy if taken during the day.  Passionflower, hops, and kava are other herbs which work very well to help to relieve stress and anxious thoughts so you can sleep.

Come by the store and we’d be happy to help you find the product that’s right for you.  Sleepless nights are no fun, though thankfully we have a number of supplements which work very effectively to help achieve a proper night’s sleep.

Supplement Spotlight: Sleep Aids

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Melatonin

Melatonin is actually a hormone which is produced by the body.  It helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, or the natural cycle of sleeping and waking.  Supplemental melatonin can help to correct sleep patterns and help to make a person feel awake and rested in the morning.  Sleeping disorders can increase with age, and melatonin has been shown in research to help.  In one study of participants over 55 years of age, those who took 2 mg. of time release melatonin experienced better sleep quality and were more alert in the morning.

 

Valerian

Valerian is one of the most well known herbs for sleep.   It’s used as both a tranquilizer and a calmative.  Its benefits are particularly effective for women experiencing menopause.  Research has shown that it can increase sleep quality and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.   There have even been studies which found it to be as effective as a number of different prescription sleep aids.  Valerian is most beneficial for people with chronic insomnia instead of those with temporary or sporadic sleeplessness.

 

Passionflower

Passionflowers are gorgeous if you’ve ever seen them.  They also are great for sleep and have been used as a sedative for over 200 years.  It helps to reduce anxiety and relieve muscle tension.   Passionflower is especially helpful for nervous insomnia.

 

L-Theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid that’s present in small amounts in green tea.  It’s often used during the day because it reduces anxiety without tiredness.  Even though it doesn’t cause sleepiness, it has been shown to be an effective sleep aid.  One interesting study conducted in Japan found that those who took theanine were more alert on wakening and reported, “a significant absence of feeling exhausted and a reduced need for sleep” when interviewed in the mornings.  The majority reported improved sleep efficiency and also a reduction in nightmares.  Another study on children (ages 8-13) found that those who consumed theanine had a significantly higher sleep percentage and sleep efficiency scores.

 

 

Many of the above sleep aids are available in formulas which have several supplements combined together, since while they work well alone, they often have impressive benefits when combined.