There are few things to like about stressful periods, but perhaps the most destructive of all is the lack of sleep. Sleep, and indeed relaxation is essential for digesting, healing and recovering. Persistent and chronic lack of sleep creates disruption in mood, concentration and the ability to think clearly and focus. Temper is very affected, and tolerance reduced – creating more stress. Long term chronic lack of sleep can also generate hormonal disruption – resulting in skin breakouts and weight change. Attempts to alleviate stress using stimulants like caffeine can lead to a ‘tired and wired’ effect, and an ever more vicious cycle of sleeplessness. In times of stress, and particularly when sleep is being affected, it can be easy to get lost in all of the sleep and relax aids available.
When thinking about stress and relaxation it is important to understand how far up the stress scale you are, and how far away you are from relaxation. Long term chronic stress can make us forget what it feels like to be relaxed. As a Naturopath, I always ask clients how many days of holiday does it take for them to feel like they are on holiday? That feeling of not worrying about work, or bills, or how you look: that true ‘holiday mode’. Well, that ‘holiday mode’ is the relaxed state that one needs to aim for with stress relief. In the absence of holidays, many turn to natural products to help them unwind or sleep.
Premier Research Labs have put together a beautiful calm down and relax formula to facilitate relaxation, and if needed: sleep. Let’s take a journey through the ingredients and see what makes this formula so relaxation targeted:
Magnolia bark has been shown to contain chemicals that have an affinity to relaxing mechanisms in both body and mind.
Research suggests that phytochemicals in Magnolia Bark may inhibit. Adrenaline. Adrenaline which is a hormone that is responsible for stimulation. When appropriate, adrenaline saves lives. When out of balance, due to stress or anxiety: increased production of adrenaline can cause wakefulness when it is time to sleep.
Magnolia bark also increases production of a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA has the effect of quieting excitatory neurons in the brain, particularly those that are associated with wakefulness that is generated by racing thoughts or mental activity. It is also an antioxidant which reduces inflammation and inflammation is thought to play a role in waking from sleep.
One interesting aspect of magnolia bark is that it activates cannabinoid receptors in the body, something that has been thought to only respond to cannabinoid products. It is well documented that activation of these receptors correlate with pain relief, reduced levels of inflammation and improved mood.
Many relaxation ingredients can have the effect of being drowsy or sedating. L-Theanine is different in it’s action as it promotes calmness without sedation or drowsiness. Research into L-theanine shows that it can greatly improve sleep in animals and humans.
A famous sleep herb, valerian has been shown in research to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and also the quality of sleep.
Turmeric is a super herb, well known for its anti-inflammatory and immune assisting properties. But the magic of turmeric does not end there. In studies on cortisol, the stress hormone, curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) reduced cortisol levels.
Raised cortisol levels are thought to be responsible for belly fat and also for inability to sleep.
The cortisol lowering effect of turmeric will be why turmeric is best taken at night, and why it makes for a great ingredient for a sleep formula.
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis is a herb that has been traditionally used to calm anxiety and relax tense nerves. In herbal medicine it is referred to as a nervine herb and has a very gentle relaxation effect that increases with dose.
Lemon balm grows freely in many gardens and is effective as a tea, tincture or in aromatherapy. It is frequently used topically on the temples for stress induced headaches and has a long history of use for relaxing tense nerves.
Passionflower is a herb that has been used in ancient traditions to combat sensations of stress, sorrow and melancholy. In animal studies, passionflower has reduced anxiety and increased cognitive function (possibly because we think better when we are less stressed).
In animal studies on sleep, passionflower was shown to significantly increase slow wave sleep (deep sleep), and regulated sleep patterns.
In traditional usage, before the advent of chemical medicines, passionflower was a frequently used sleep, relax and anti-depressant aid.
Calcium facilitates the production of that lovely sleep amino acid tryptophan, which goes on to manufacture melatonin – the sleep hormone. It is for this effect on melatonin that makes calcium a valuable addition to a sleep formula, and why foods that contain high amounts of calcium such as warm milk, has been culturally associated with sleep throughout time.
Magnesium is a frequent go to mineral for stress related symptoms such as muscle tension, restless legs and physical tension that is felt in the muscles. Stress can create muscle tension and restlessness, which in turn can affect sleep. By helping the body to relax and unwind, magnesium can be a useful sleep aid, particularly for those who toss and turn throughout the night.
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