The pandemic has only amplified the issues Americans are having with getting a stress-free night of rest. Natural ingredients may be the solution.
It is shocking no one to say that Americans are stressed out. And if we weren’t feeling enough stress, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the nation to not only deal with the virus itself, but also with disruptions to the economy, work, education, health care, the list goes on.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) 2020 Stress in America Survey, almost eight in 10 adults (78 percent) said that the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life. Further, two in three adults (67 percent) admitted that they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic.
Stress can also impact the duration and quality of sleep. The Sleep Foundation reported that stress and anxiety can lead to insomnia and other sleep problems. Insomnia, which is often derived from stress, is defined as persistent difficulty with sleep onset, maintenance, consolidation or overall sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, 10 to 30 percent of adults live with insomnia.
And while prescription and/or over-the-counter options to help them sleep used to be the norm, today’s consumers are concerned about products that may be addictive, has side effects or that may be harmful to them in the long run. “Most consumers are looking for a relaxation and sleep product that is non-addictive and doesn’t negatively affect energy levels upon waking,” said Chervin Jafarieh, founder of California-based Rya Organics & Cymbiotika. “Consumers are also looking for a product that can address the very reason why they have anxiety and sleep issues in the first place.”
Dr. Shoji Matsukawa, vice president of Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America (New York, NY) agreed. “More than ever, consumers are demanding more clean-label products and manufacturers who offer complete transparency around the information surrounding their products,” he said. “Consumers want to know what is going into their bodies to ensure that what they are consuming is safe to use. This especially applies to the nutraceutical market, since nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the same standards which govern the sale of prescription or over-the-counter drugs.”
For these reasons, the stress, relaxation and sleep sectors of the dietary supplement industry have been steadily growing. “The dietary supplement industry has been impacted by the global pandemic. In 2020, consumers were looking for immune health products to help support their overall immune system,” said Penny Woods, marketing director for Kemin Human Nutrition & Health (Des Moines, IA). “As time has passed, the industry has seen consumer needs change as they adapt to the new environment and look for ways to support their sleep health, stress and overall wellness.”
According to Sevanti Mehta, president of Unibar Corporation (Houston, TX), the pandemic raised awareness for the negative influence that a lack of quality sleep can have on the immune system. “According to Nutrition Business Journal, this caused healthy sleep supplements to see the second largest growth last year at 36.6 percent,” he said. “While we won’t see a similar number this year, sleep health is going to continue to experience strong growth over the coming years as consumers have shifted lifestyles to better accommodate healthy sleeping habits and incorporate supplements to help.
“Additionally, the influence of stress on the immune system did not go unnoticed, especially as stress has the potential to negatively affect sleep quality,” Mehta continued. “By affecting immune health both directly and indirectly, consumers also looked for ways to better manage their stress, causing CBD and adaptogen markets to experience great sales in the stress and healthy sleep markets before 2020. Herb and botanical combinations that help stress and sleep did exceptionally well in 2020 and are expected to experience top tier growth this year as well.”
The Stress-Sleep Connection
Stress can manifest itself in a number of ways including physical pain, difficulty concentrating, skin issues and sleep problems. According to Trevor Wagner, PhD, global health category manager – brain & digestive health for Wisconsin-based IFF-Health, while stress is a normal, biological response, prolonged stress can lead to persistent activation of our stress response system—the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.
“These stress hormones, such as cortisol, can alter microbiota over time, which can lead to poor results in physical and cognitive health.1 Researchers at IFF realized how probiotics can help combat negative effects of stress through the microbiota-gut-brain axis—a bi-directional communication pathway which transmits signals between the gut and the central nervous system,” Wagner explained. “Prolonged research has shown that orally ingested probiotics can reach the gut, bolster populations of healthy bacteria and improve physical and cognitive health.
“To address these concerns, IFF introduced a signature probiotic called HOWARU Calm, which promotes a reduction in perceived stress. The product contains Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Lpc-37, a bacterial strain that has been demonstrated in a clinical trial to significantly decrease perceived stress compared to placebo from baseline to end-of-study. Not only does it help adults manage the psychological response to stress, HOWARU Calm also supports brain health by promoting a balanced mood and relaxed state of mind and supports overall mental well-being.”
And while stress on its own can cause sleep issues, digital devices are not doing us any favors in the sleep department. According to Mehta, “We wake up and look at our phones, we go through the day working on computers, watching TV and checking social media. And unfortunately, it’s all too common to be staring at a phone right before trying to go to sleep. This is a problem for sleep because blue light has been found to trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime—impacting the body’s circadian rhythm—and suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that helps influence sleep. Blue light is more impactful on sleep than any other spectrum of light and leads to difficulty falling asleep, drowsiness, and could even lead to the development of insomnia.”
To combat this problem, Unibar offers CapsiClear, a capsanthin ingredient that can provide holistic support to the eyes, including protection from eye fatigue and blue light, which will support the body’s efforts to fall asleep more quickly at night after exposure to blue light through smartphones or other digital devices.
“While the ideal way to address this would be to refrain from the use of digital devices for several hours before bed, supplementation can help to support functions within the eye that filter and block blue light,” explained Mehta. “Research on CapsiClear has demonstrated that after consumption its presence can be found within the retina and helps to protect the eyes from blue light. Additionally, it helps the eyes to recover more quickly after exposure to bright light and digital light.”
Ingredients for Sleep & Relaxation
There are a number of ingredients that have been utilized for sleep and relaxation. Among them include melatonin, magnesium, ashwagandha and passionflower.
“Core relaxation and sleep ingredients have often included plant-based ingredients like chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm and more. There are a wide range of plant-based ingredients available to consumers that can soothe stressed minds and bring about peaceful sleep,” said Wagner. “Right now, we’re seeing botanicals like valerian and passionflower trending. Both are natural sleep aids, helping combat insomnia, while also providing calming and relaxing affects.”
CBD has a place in the sleep and relaxation category. Jafarieh noted that, “CBD is non-psychoactive and best known for its abilities to mimic and augment the effects of compounds in the body called endogenous cannabinoids—which scientists now refer to as part of the endocannabinoid system,” he explained. The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes such as our mood, energy levels, immunity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, pain receptivity, stress hormones, hunger, digestive health and more. CBD provides relief to a physically and mentally stressed body. It is known to relax the muscles, reduce pain and inflammation, reduce anxiety and improve rest and relaxation.”
According to the company, Rya Organics created the first liposomal CBD sleep formula that lets you sleep deeply naturally. RUMI DREAM, the company’s most successful sleep and relaxation formula is a blend of advanced herbs, minerals, neurotransmitters and CBD that offers a deep restful sleep with no grogginess the next day.
Kemin Human Nutrition & Health offers its sleep ingredient, DailyZz, which is formulated using Kemin’s proprietary spearmint plant, which has achieved the SCS Certified Sustainably Grown certification status. DailyZz is a water soluble ingredient that is complementary to other sleep ingredients and allows for a variety formulation needs. “An important aspect of building the credibility of an ingredient is to show that the ingredient works,” said Woods.
“Kemin invests in clinical research to demonstrate how our products work. In April 2021, Kemin shared a recent publication of a clinical study on Kemin Human Nutrition and Health’s DailyZz sleep ingredient,” she continued. “Michael Grandner, PhD, an internationally recognized expert on sleep and health and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, led the study.” The study found that DailyZz may improve sleep quality and daytime functioning in healthy individuals with occasional sleep complaints.
Earlier this year, Unibar introduced Univita Holy Basil. “As an adaptogen, it is able to support functions that reduce physiological and psychological stress,” said Mehta. “Our Univita Amla-Indian Gooseberry can also play a role in helping relaxation and sleep because of its higher magnesium and zinc content to accompany certain phytonutrients that provide needed support.”
BioPQQ from Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America is an all-natural, nutritional supplement ingredient that supports brain health by stimulating nerve growth factor, increasing mitochondria, and providing superior antioxidant protection.
“While there are many ingredients that promote sleep, BioPQQ is unique because it has shown to stimulate mitochondria and support cognitive performance,” explained Matsukawa. “As the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria is responsible for regulating cognitive function, energy and mood, among other important functions. A healthy body continually creates mitochondria in a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis, but as the body ages, mitochondrial function declines, and much like overall energy levels, can lead to brain function being impaired. By reenergizing the mitochondria, BioPQQ can fuel cellular activity, providing more efficient energy production, thus boosting energy and increasing restful sleep.”
According to Matsukawa, in one open-label study, BioPQQ demonstrated positive effects on stress, fatigue and sleep. Test subjects who took 20 mg of BioPQQ daily for eight weeks saw significant improvements in vigor, fatigue, tension-anxiety, depression, anger-hostility and confusion. Additionally, measures for quality of life, appetite, sleep, obsession and pain also improved considerably among both male and female subjects during this same period of time. The BioPQQ study revealed improvement in drowsiness at awakening, sleep onset and maintenance, and sleep duration as well. In addition to HOWARU Calm, IFF Health offers Neuravena, a green oat extract that can help address mental fatigue,2 poor concentration3 and irritable mood.4 According to the company, it has been associated with changes in brain activity based on effects in the left front temporal area of brain, an area known to be involved in cognitive tasks.
Among the plethora of ingredients and delivery options in the stress and relaxation category, another trend that ingredient suppliers and manufacturers are notice are the combination of ingredients to offer formulas that offer multiple benefits.
“Think outside the box when it comes to helping consumers relax and sleep better. Consumer acceptance of natural solutions continues to grow, so now is the time to help them from multiple angles,” said Mehta. “For example, formulating a product that comprises a combination of ingredients that directly help relaxation and sleep, like melatonin, and that indirectly help by supporting the eyes from the effects of blue light exposure right before bed, such as CapsiClear. Incorporating immune health support ingredients is another avenue that is sure to grab attention. Products that address multiple pain points for sleep-challenged consumers with more well-rounded support will have a higher likelihood of being purchased.”
Wagner agreed, noting that consumers want combination solutions that offer more than one benefit in a single product. “We’ve noticed that probiotics in the brain health space are especially appealing to consumers when paired with other ingredients, to maximize end-product benefits. Added convenience for an on-the-go consumer is a plus, so they’re able to reap multiple benefits from just one supplement.
“Consumers want products that have been clinically demonstrated to address brain health, and they expect to see these solutions in aisles and e-commerce sites where they would shop for those products already,” he said. “Brands need to provide innovative, quality products that really deliver health benefits.” NIE
1 Keskitalo A;Aatsinki AK;Kortesluoma S;Pelto J;Korhonen L;Lahti L;Lukkarinen M;Munukka E;Karlsson H;Karlsson L; (n.d.). Gut microbiota diversity but not composition is related to saliva cortisol stress response at the age of 2.5 months. Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33729084/.
2 Dimpfel, W. et al. (2011). Ingested oat herb extract (Avena sativa) changes EEG spectral frequencies in healthy subjects. J. Altern. Complement Med. 17, 427–434. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0143.
3 Berry, N. et al. (2011). Acute effects of an Avena sativa herb extract on responses to the Stroop Color-Word test. J. Altern. Complement Med. 17, 635–637. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0450.
4 Kennedy, D., et al. (2017). Acute effects of a wild green-oat (Avena sativa) extract on cognitive function in middle-aged adults: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects trial. Nutr. Neurosci. 20, 135–151. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2015.1101304.
For More Information:
IFF Health, https://iff-health.com/
Kemin Human Nutrition & Health, www.kemin.com
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America, www.mgc-a.com; www.biopqq.com
Rya Organics, https://ryaorganics.com/
Unibar Corporation, https://unibarcorp.com/