[Note: Dr. Cates and Dr. Pringel's related work is referenced and linked herein]
Sleep problems are complex. Poor sleep contributes significantly to accelerated aging, disease onset, energy level, emotional health, and could impact the quality of your personal and work relationships.
There is a range of defined sleep disorders all of which suggest different remedial approaches. None of these modern medicine approaches comprehensively address natural medicine and lifestyle remedies which could correct nearly all underlying problems better than the typical medications prescribed for sleep and anxiety disorders. Increasingly leading medical doctors, including neurology specialists, agree with the long held belief of the world’s oldest medicine systems that healthy diet and exercise habits will eliminate most sleeping disorders without need of prescribed medications.
Everyone knows today’s hectic paced stressful lifestyles and poor diet routines prevent many people from reaching deep sleep levels regularly. The solution is simple – improve diet, exercise regularly, incorporate stretching, breathing and meditation techniques into your weekly routine, and above all stop being aggressive, critical or hostile towards others – practice as often as possible emitting positive energy, compassion, and appreciation. While Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is best known for his quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” perhaps his most brilliant saying is “First, do no harm.” Practicing this principal in your life, especially to yourself, may be the core element of a successful protocol to address sleep, anxiety, headache, memory loss and other problematic brain conditions.
For some other tips to help improve the quality of your sleep read Dr. Cates’ article.
MAIN SLEEP NUTRIENTS & HERBS
Natural nutrients-botanicals shown to help relieve stress and anxiety and improve deep sleep cycles include:
- Melatonin (1 mg nightly an hour before bedtime should be safe and useful – be careful not to take too much too often)
- 5-HTP (L-tryptophan)
- Magnesium (very important mineral for quality sleep with other benefits – many people are deficient in this key mineral – as with all nutrient supplements and sources, quality varies greatly)
- Valerian Root (velarium)
- Kava Kava
- Kapi Kacchu
- Cat Nip (Nepeta Cataria)
- Evening Primrose
- Lemon grass
- Oat Bran
- Passion Flower
- St. John’s Wort
ADDITIONAL HELPFUL NUTRIENTS AND HERBS
In addition to the items listed above, with 5-hydroxytryptophan considered the most effective, these more commonly known nutrients have been shown to aid sleep in appropriate dose levels:
- B-5 and B6
- Rhodiola rosea
- and if high cortisone levels are at issue L-serine.
Some of the above items are briefly discussed below. Please reference our RESEARCH library for more information.
MORE INFORMATION ON SELECT SLEEP NUTRIENTS & HERBS
For thousands of years people have used chamomile tea and oils for their calming effects and for insomnia relief. Multiple tea bags steeped for 10 minutes or more may be needed to aid relaxation.
Besides being known as a sleep cycle aid, many age related problems are linked to declining melatonin. Melatonin is somewhat unique as it can penetrate and protect a cells mitochondria (its power plant). Studies have shown it slows aging in mice. Other studies show it inhibits cancers, protects against degenerative diseases, and stimulates other antioxidant effectiveness.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle (circadian cycles). Numerous studies have shown that melatonin helps with insomnia — whether the trouble is falling asleep or staying asleep.
L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found almost exclusively in green tea that exerts beneficial effects on brain metabolism. Theanine induces relaxation without causing drowsiness. Japanese studies support findings that Theanine is a natural relaxant decreasing stress, calms the brain, aids learning, concentration, memory and protects cell nuerons against glutamate induced toxicity a major cause of brain decline.
For more than 2,000 years, valerian root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment. Many published studies suggest valerian may help sleep come more quickly and improve the quality of sleep. Valerian becomes more effective over time, so taking it nightly works best, rather than taking valerian only on random rough nights.
Tryptophan is considered the best amino acid for sleeping problems. L-tryptophan is not available directly to consumers anymore, but 5-HTP is and it is a metobolic step closer to serotonin. 5-HTP is a natural plant extract that helps increase serotonin depleted by stress. 5-HTP aids sleep due to being a precursor to serotonin, improves and stabilizes mood, calms anxiety, reduces pms, fibromyalgia, headaches and can help control appetite to aid weight loss. Derived from south african seed griffonia plan, more than 300mg daily could have contraindications especially if on antidepressants. Helps brain produce serotonin to combat depression and insomnia while stabilizes moods. It may help child hyperactivity. Clinical studies have shown that 5-HTP increases the amount and availability of serotonin produced. Tryptophan is found in high levels in turkey (also in pumpkin seeds and legumes) and is associated with sleepiness after eating turkey. Studies suggest 5-HTP uptake is improved when taken with N-acetyl-L-carnitine (taken widely for other purposes today). [more]
Studies have supported findings that Kava Kava relaxes the mind and helps anxiety and stress. CONTRA: antianxiety or antidepressant medications. May help migraines . Kava is a member of the pepper family.
Rejuvenates nervous system, immune boosting, anti anxiety and anti depression, anti-inflamatory and anti-aging. mind power herb. Has phytonutrients, aminos and vitamins like choline in it. Scientists have discovered that the Indian herb ashwagandha counters some of the oxidative damage generated by nervous tension. Ashwagandha has been shown to confer improvements in overall well-being and is perhaps the most widely known ayurvedic botanical.
Believed helpful for cardio related matters, anxiety, hyperactivity, headaches.
Believed to aid sleep, relieve stress and decrease anxiety. It may however stimulate appetite.
As with all supplement programs, because your bio-chemistry is unique, the only way to determine what is safe and effective for you is to obtain qualified medical and nutrition advice from experienced professionals to develop dosage levels and frequency protocols after evaluating blood work and other data gathering assessment procedures. If you take natural health serious the benefits should be substantial particularly over time.
For a good primer article on depression and anxiety by Dr. Pringel click here.
Also, here is an interesting excerpt from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and Dr. Trevor Holly Cates adding depth to the above information:
The holidays are upon us, and busy home, social and work schedules can lead to excess stress and anxiety. Combined with cold and flu season this time of year, it is important to keep your immune system strong to prevent getting sick at a time when nobody wants to feel tired, feverish or congested. Prepare yourself this year with natural remedies that can help you keep on schedule for a happy holiday season.
An important factor in keeping your health and your wits is getting a good night’s sleep. Sleeplessness can lead to daytime irritability, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and immune system suppression. If you are tossing and turning, there are things you can do to help relax into sleep naturally.
While we generally enjoy the holidays, we all know they can be stressful. Instead of struggling through the holidays, enjoy a healthy, low-stress holiday season this year with the following tips.
Tips for reducing stress and improving sleep:
- Avoid excess food and drinks before bedtime. Aim for an early dinner, and choose fresh fruit over sugary treats.
- Instead of a cup of coffee or hot toddy after dinner, enjoy a cup of herbal tea to help you relax in preparation for sleep — hops, passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile, and valerian are a few herbs traditionally used to help promote relaxation.
- Create a calm sleep environment by ensuring your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable.
- For a sedating effect, you can listen to soothing music or take a warm bath with a few drops of chamomile or lavender oil and 1 – 2 cups of Epsom salt.
- Try to incorporate daily stress-management techniques such as meditation or yoga.
Tips for protecting yourself from the common cold and flu:
- With all of the hand shakes at holiday parties, be sure to wash your hands often with soap and water, and try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth since that is often how the viruses enter the body.
- Improve your nutrition by keeping your intake of fresh fruits and veggies high, and hold off on excess sweets and alcoholic drinks.
- Take a high quality daily multi vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure adequate nutrition.
- Participate in moderate daily exercise (30 minutes a day), which has been shown to help boost the immune system. But avoid intense exercise since the body may perceive it as additional stress.
- Minimize your intake of alcohol, sugary and processed foods during the cold and flu season.
- Considering taking immune boosting supplements such as probiotics, elderberry syrup, and vitamin D
Following these tips can enhance your immune system and reduce your stress this holiday season, but sometimes our bodies need extra help. If you are continuously stressed, have a chronic illness or catch every cold and flu, you may have a nutritional deficiency, adrenal insufficiency, or another underlying cause that is preventing you from achieving your optimal health. For example, nutrient deficiencies in B12, vitamin D, and iron can reduce your ability to fight off infections as well as maintain emotional balance.
Naturopathic physicians are trained in both conventional and natural medicines. Through comprehensive evaluations and testing, they can help unveil your obstacles to healing. Using natural medicines, naturopathic physicians can assist you in restoring your health and vitality. If your symptoms are not improving, look for a naturopathic physician in your area to assist you on your path for a healthy holiday season and New Year.
Dr. Trevor Holly Cates received her naturopathic medical degree from the National College of Natural Medicine in 2000. Dr. Cates is the Naturopathic Physician and Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator at the Golden Door Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Park City and practices in Santa Barbara, California as well. In addition to private practice in Park City, Dr. Cates was twice appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to California’s Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine Advisory Council and serves on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians board of directors. She is a frequent lecturer and writes articles on natural medicine for various local and national publications.
Alternative Medicine, Celestial Arts, 2002.
Prescription for Nutritional Healing.