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Catching Zzz’s Naturally

Sleep & Relaxation Sleep & Relaxation
Longevity By Nature

How lifestyle habits and natural supplements may improve sleep and relaxation.

Eating well. Drinking lots of water. Exercise and rest. All of these are important elements of health promotion. But what if rest isn’t as easy to get as one would like? According to statistics by the Sleep Foundation, Americans struggle to get good, quality sleep. While it’s recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night, a third of adults in the U.S. get less than this amount. The states of Hawaii, Kentucky and West Virginia report the worst sleep, while Vermont, Colorado and Minnesota have the best sleep.

Stress is certainly a cause of both poor sleep and trouble relaxing. But are there other causes? Is there hope through lifestyle changes and natural supplements for individuals struggling to get good sleep and be more relaxed? And what do natural health experts recommend to their patients?

What Causes Poor Sleep and the Inability to Relax?

Sleep problems in the U.S. are a big issue, one that has several causes, said Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum. With his practice in Hawaii, the doctor and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! along with other titles explained why. He stated that sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome used to be major causes of disordered sleep. Now, however, circadian rhythm disorders are moving to the forefront. “Basically, these reflect poor functioning of the hypothalamic sleep center and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal dysfunction,” said Dr. Teitelbaum. This is caused by low energy and increasing stress, he noted, along with post-viral fatigue syndromes such as those associated with long COVID.

Dr. Elizabeth Livengood who practices at Livengood Health in Arizona, stated that sleep is a complex problem with many root causes. “Some of these causes are ubiquitous such as less melatonin with age, pain from disease or injury, and sleep apnea,” she noted. Anxiety has become a worsening problem since the pandemic, she explained. Even people who’d never experienced anxiety in the past now have sleep issues. “Also, the increasing prevalence of obesity will exacerbate issues such as heartburn and sleep apnea which can thwart good sleep,” Dr. Livengood added.

Sleep and Stress Product Manager at Pennsylvania-based Boiron, DeAnna Swinton, noted that this area of the market has gained a lot of traction in recent years. “The sleep category across all retail channels grew by double-digits prior to the pandemic and exploded during the pandemic due to its negative impact on sleep schedules,” she explained.

New Findings and Studies: Sleep and Relaxation

New studies point to the way that long-term COVID-19 has on sleep health. “Long COVID affects 10 to 15 percent of people who have had COVID,” said Dr. Teitelbaum. Upwards of 20 million Americans, he pointed out, have been affected. “And the research is showing that 60 percent of these have disordered sleep. Clinical experience with post-viral fatigue syndrome suggests that this will go up to over 90 percent with time.” Dr. Teitelbaum pointed to a study by the Patient-Led Research Collaborative for statistics supporting this theory. Another study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, “Sleep Disturbance Severity and Correlates in Post-acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC)” further supports these ideas, said Dr. Teitelbaum.

While “miracle mornings” and early morning exercise are often promoted by the media, Dr. Livengood said that many people benefit from evening exercise. This, she said, can release physical tension held in the muscles and lower cortisol levels. “It can also help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation by releasing endorphins,” she noted. “An Epsom salt bath or warm shower afterward can further promote a good night’s sleep.”

While gummies continue to grow in popularity in the natural health market—especially among younger individuals—some individuals question their effectiveness when it comes to sleep. Deanna Minich, PhD, chief science officer at Utah-based Symphony Natural Health, said that melatonin, while it can be very effective in helping with sleep disorders, may not be the best candidate for gummies. “From a quality perspective, I question the integrity of having a compound like melatonin in a more hygroscopic matrix like a gummy and its longer shelf-life and breakdown products,” she noted.

What she doesn’t see losing popularity soon in the sleep and relaxation market are minerals and melatonin. There is a lot of discussion in the nutritional field about how soils have become depleted of essential minerals, which results in less being consumed in foods. “Additionally, more people are filtering their water supply, taking out those precious minerals,” Minich explained. “Concurrent with the decline of mineral intake through food and water, there is the rise of heavy metals, which only further compete with activity and uptake of essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, selenium and iron. Having a high-quality, less-refined supply of minerals either added to food and/or to water would be a way to get more of those elements to support the body pathways.”

Likewise, Minich stated that melatonin is continuing to gain popularity, especially for sleep promotion. “There is significant scientific evidence to support its use not just to get to sleep, but for the repair processes that occur during sleep,” she said. “After childhood, the body produces less melatonin, a physiological shift associated with increasing risk for chronic diseases, particularly those that relate to the central nervous system and immunity. Therefore, a quality melatonin supplement is an imperative to consider for adults throughout the lifecycle.”

Lifestyle Changes that May Promote Better Sleep and Relaxation

Humans are creatures of habit, and this can be used to one’s advantage when it comes to getting better sleep, explained Dr. Teitelbaum. Having a calming routine before turning in helps. “You wouldn’t dream of putting your children to bed without a bedtime routine. When it comes to sleep, adults are just big children,” said Dr. Teitelbaum. He suggests a hot bath with two cups of Epsom salt and a few drops of lavender oil, candles and a glass of wine. While excessive amounts disrupt sleep, one to two glasses per day is okay, he noted. “Give a half-hour after the bath to cool down while reading a fun old book or watching a lighthearted show that you have seen numerous times before. Create your own fun bedtime routine to reward yourself at the end of each day.”

Dr. Livengood too, believes in the power of a bedtime routine. “The golden hour before bedtime is critical for preparing the body for sleep,” she said. “I suggest that during that hour, my patients dim the lights and engage only in light activities such as reading or stretching; avoid LED lights or at least use a blue light filter on devices; drink a cup of calming herbal tea or ‘Golden Milk;’ sleep in a quiet, cool, dark room with Wi-Fi and phones off or at least several feet away,” she stated.

There is a lot of talk in the media about “good sleep hygiene,” and many believe this starts with a restful bedroom. Naturepedic, a manufacturer of organic mattresses, is based in Ohio.

There, Arin Schultz works as the vice president of sales and marketing. Traditional mattresses can be laced with chemicals—like pesticides, flame retardant chemicals, or glues and adhesives, he explained. “Those materials and chemicals can have a profound negative impact on your health and wellness,” Schultz said. They’re also not healthy for the planet, he added.

Another benefit of choosing an organic mattress, Schultz said, is that people sleep cooler on them. “Petroleum-based materials like polyurethane foam trap heat and can make you feel hot and sweaty,” he explained. Organic mattresses use breathable organic cotton and moisture-wicking organic wool for cooler, comfier sleep, he noted.

Along the lines of mattresses, Mikey Goldman is the CEO of Quiet Mind, a weighted pillow company based in California. While weighted blankets have been all the rage in recent years—they’re thought to reduce stress and promote better sleep—Quiet Mind has come up with a similar yet different product: the weighted pillow. “The greatest benefits of our weighted pillows stem from Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS),” Goldman said. Unlike weighted blankets, which provide a more diffuse pressure, weighted pillows offer a more targeted and effective application of pressure, Goldman explained. An elevated mood, improved focus, reduced sensory overload and better sleep are just a handful of its benefits, Goldman said.

This is a market that’s experiencing significant growth, he stated. With increasing rates of anxiety and worsening mental health, Goldman believes that Quiet Mind will play an active role in the continued growth of the weighted blanket market—which is expected to reach $1.5B by 2026, he said.

Key Natural Ingredients and Supplements That May Improve Sleep and Relaxation

Dr. Livengood also recommends a handful of natural supplements to her patients which may help them get better sleep. She doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach though. The root cause she alluded to earlier is an important consideration when she looks at how to best help her patients. “When anxiety and/or cortisol is high, Cortisol Manager by Integrative Therapeutics helps almost every time,” she noted. When the body is restless, she recommends magnesium glycinate at 400 mg, while Skullcap s. laterifloria is helpful for musculoskeletal discomfort.

“When the mind is restless, I suggest a stress-reducing herbal tea that includes passiflora, lavandula, avena, melissa, leonora and/or kava,” said Dr. Livengood. An all-around helpful addition to any of these issues, she noted, is 10 mg of CBD/CBN. “Some people benefit from 10 mg in total, while others may need 10 mg each.”

CBD and CBN are ingredients that are sprouting up more and more in the sleep and relaxation market. These ingredients should support healthy sleep patterns and one’s circadian rhythms without leaving the individual with grogginess or hangover-type symptoms, though. That’s what Balanced Health Botanicals CEO, Chase Terwilliger, believes. The manufacturer, based in Colorado, has a few brands, all focused on relaxation and sleep promotion. “CBN and CBD are the perfect pair, and are featured in all of our sleep product formulations,” Terwilliger said. “They work with your unique sleep cycle to get you quality and restful sleep that leaves you feeling energized in the morning, with no side effects. The known benefit of these two cannabinoids when paired together is that they help you not only fall asleep but stay asleep through the night.”

When it comes to natural supplements that may help promote relaxation and better sleep, Dr. Teitelbaum recommends EuroMedica melatonin 10 milligrams sustained release. “This is superb.” He said about the product. “Regular melatonin can help people fall asleep, but a few hours later they wake up. This helps to keep people asleep throughout the night,” he noted. While he believes cannabinoids can be very helpful, they also tend to be quite expensive. Instead, he recommends a product called AnxioCalm, also by EuroMedica. “This is a unique high-dose cannabinoid product derived from echinacea. People can take one or two at bedtime and it even increases in effectiveness over time.”

At Symphony Natural Health, Minich stated that its product, Original Himalayan Crystal Salt—which contains 84 trace minerals and no microplastics—would be an excellent addition to one’s daily regimen, through intake or even the use of bath salts. And while the company believes that the intake of melatonin is effective for treating sleep issues, most of what’s on the market is chemically synthesized, said Minich. This incurs greater risk of contaminants through the manufacturing process. “Symphony Natural Health has made great progress over the years to create a plant melatonin (Herbatonin) made from rice, chlorella and alfalfa,” Minich noted.

Swinton stated that Boiron offers SleepCalm as a plant-powered homeopathic alternative for occasional sleeplessness. “The medicine is formulated without melatonin to restore the balance of nighttime and daytime states in the body, rather than just masking symptoms with a substance that induces drowsiness,” she stated. And while conventional sleep aids usually only have one ingredient designed to sedate, Swinton stated, SleepCalm is created with four key components.

“The four plant-based active ingredients of SleepCalm target different types of sleep disorder symptoms, so the formula works well for more than one kind of occasional sleeplessness and will help one to fall asleep and stay asleep,” Swinton explained. The product is melatonin-free and is a convenient choice for those who are new to homeopathy or not yet skilled in choosing a single homeopathic medicine, Swinton said.

Catching Those Zzz’s

Terwilliger noted that more people are prioritizing sleep and getting serious about a wind-down routine at night. “It is impossible to ignore the positive or negative long-term health effects when you do or do not get quality sleep,” he noted.

One silver lining of the pandemic is the increased interest in and focus on good quality sleep. Individuals are recognizing the need for proper rest and are emphasizing getting better sleep through lifestyle changes, natural supplements that may help, and nutrition that supports good rest. As more is learned about natural sleep and relaxation, perhaps poor sleep will one day be a thing of the past.

Healthy Take Aways

• Americans are dealing with increased rates of sleep issues and deficiencies in the past few years.
• The states of Hawaii, Kentucky and West Virginia report the worst sleep, while Vermont, Colorado and Minnesota have the best sleep.
• Lifestyle changes including a bedtime ritual that is relaxing often helps individuals slip into sleep more easily.

For More Information:

Balanced Health Botanicals, https://balancedhealthbotanicals.com/
Boiron, https://boironusa.com/hcp/
Naturepedic, www.naturepedic.com
Quiet Mind, www.onequietmind.com
Symphony Natural Health, www.symphonynaturalhealth.com