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Creating the Perfect Chill Pill

Sleep & Stress Sleep & Stress

Americans are more stressed and sleep-deprived than ever; here’s how to help provide some relief.

Non-GMO Project

March 10 is National Sleep Awareness Day. But approximately 70 million Americans want to be more than simply aware—they want to do it at night. Every night.

According to sleepeducation.org, 30 to 35 percent have brief symptoms of insomnia; 15 to 20 percent have a short-term insomnia disorder, which lasts less than three months; and 10 percent have a chronic insomnia disorder, occurring at least three times per week for at least three months.

Sleep problems are often caused by stress, but now, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are exacerbated by 24/7 access to technology and work/school schedules. This in and itself is often considered a stressor.

Practitioner Holly Lucille ND, RN, founder of Inherently You, believes that stress-induced insomnia is caused by the “overwhelming, confounded, compounded stressors of our modern day that are effecting the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and neurotransmitters affecting sleep.”

She explained, “The traditional definitions of stress summarize the entity as a physical event, for example an injury, or a mental state like anxiety, that disturbs the body’s normal state of functioning and/or requires the body to respond. In its most refined and simple definition, stress is a disruption that causes a reaction.”

The typical stress reaction, she described, is the release of a surge of chemicals in the body following an event perceived as dangerous, the “fight or flight” reaction. During this reaction, the body “switches on all crucial functions for survival and movement.” These functions include accelerated heartbeat and blood pressure, dilated pupils, release of fats and sugars for fuel, and muscle tightening; digestion and libido, however, are non-crucial during this moment and are not as highly functioning.

“This primal method of responding to stress has not evolved with our modern-day society, yet our stress response is still thought to be firing at an estimated 60 times per day without much chance for recovery,” Lucille noted.

We tend to feel stress when it is more acute—more instant irritability, sore muscles, brain fog, fatigue, confusion. An American Psychological Association survey reported that one-third of American adults feel they are living with extreme stress, while 48 percent asserted that their stress levels have increased steadily within the past five years.

Stress and the “fight or flight” response is also triggered very often by thoughts, and this can cause poor quality sleep. Guy Woodman, director of sales for California-based Euromed USA, pointed out that The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for adults 18-64 years of age, however, “unfortunately, many people experience fewer hours of sleep due to employment demands for longer hours, urban living in noisy environments, constant attention to electronic devices like cell phones/computer tablets, and family commitments to children and aging parents.”

Sleepless Nights

Sleep difficulties, in many cases, pointed out Yannick Capelle, product technical manager health, Frutarom, Switzerland, arise from unhealthy lifestyle. And it isn’t just the middle-aged or older populations mostly experiencing stress and sleep deprivation as “younger generations are now experiencing an increasing level of stress in their daily lives,” he said. “Another important cause is the increasing consumption of stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks.”

In agreement is Jackson Zapp, vice president of innovation, Applied Food Sciences, Inc., Texas, who explained that research from the Center for Economic and Policy Research says that Americans get the fewest number of work days off in the world; many other nations require up to 40 paid days off for workers, while the U.S. has no such requirements. Add to this over-worked culture, he said, is the constant need of being connected or “switched on.”

“Therefore,” he observed, “Americans chase one stimulant after another to tackle their day. According to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) report, Caffeine Intake by the U.S. Population, Americans consume on average 300 mg of caffeine per person per day—equivalent to three cups of coffee or two 16-oz. energy drinks. It is increasingly more difficult to ‘switch off’ when the day is done. This inability to relax and recover from the day is likely one of the biggest caveats for sleep-related issues.”

Lucille added that environmental factors influence stress and poor sleep more than ever—these include the EMFs (electromagnetic fields) emanating from Wi-Fi and cellphones, all in constant use, pesticide- and chemical-laden foods, and chemicals in the air and water.

Chronic and acute stress often create and/or exacerbate other symptoms that likewise degrade sleep quality. And, said Woodman, chronic and acute stress engender myriad symptoms that are both physiological and psychological. In the short-term, for example, “one may experience an inability to cope with issues, feel tense and nervous. This can elevate heart rate, increase rate of breathing, cause muscle tenseness in the neck, and potentially contribute to headaches.”

Longer term stress, he countered, may cause sleep loss, fatigue and potentially increased bouts of cold and flu due to a stress-impaired immune system. In addition, it can cause nervous behaviors such as nail-biting, bruxism (teeth-grinding during sleep), hair-twisting, accelerated speech, and attention difficulties to become more pronounced. “The consequences of stress, and resulting sleeplessness, are work-related accidents, poor job performance and, potentially, automobile accidents. Chronic stress has also been implicated in aggravating a number of disease states,” Woodman stated.

Everyone, confirmed Zapp, can relate to common feelings of muscle tension (especially in shoulders and neck), headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and lack of productivity at work, which are often attributed to stress. According to recent information from the Mayo Clinic, long-term consequences of stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and even diabetes. “Symptoms of stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation are some of the most commonly known feelings, and it is clear that it impacts the American public greatly,” he said. “In fact, mental health problems associated with anxiety disorders and stress are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults and costing the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill.”

Stress can also activate autoimmune conditions and digestive dysfunction (constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, appetite swings). And, said Capelle, stress may cause or exacerbate depression and anxiety, degrade self-esteem and also cause skin problems.

Stress and sleep problems are at the heart of many health issues, annoying symptoms and even potential risk of disease. Since we cannot banish stress from our lives, formulating supplements that help a wide variety of individuals manage stress in a healthy way may be the foundation of increased quality of life and well-being, which anchors sound health.

Ingredients to Consider

“A condition gaining more understanding in the medical community is ‘burnout,’ intensified stress symptoms and attendant sleep disorders,” said Mitch Skop, senior director new product development for Pharmachem Laboratories, New Jersey. “The more people ignore mounting stress and continued sleep deprivation, without giving themselves a break, the more this condition can take hold. Our ingredient, Lactium, a patented hydrolysate of milk proteins that contain a bioactive peptide, has been studied and shown to have beneficial affect when this condition exists.”

According to Skop, Pharmachem’s Lactium has been the subject of several research studies for both stress and sleep.

In a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research, Target 1—a formula featuring Lactium—helped significantly decrease symptoms of burnout. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial looked at the effects of the formula on participants with burnout syndrome, and followed study subjects’ symptoms of burnout using different evaluation instruments for the 12-week study period. In the placebo group, 14 participants still presented with a high level of burnout at the end of the trial compared with 26 on the first day, whereas in the supplement group, only two participants had a high level of burnout at the end of the trial compared with 33 on the first day. Study participants came from a wide range of professional backgrounds across several economic sectors.

Another 30-day study of 63 women who showed at least one stress symptom demonstrated that those who took Lactium (150 mg/day) reported a significantly greater improvement in stress symptoms (vs. placebo) in the following areas: digestive, intellectual, social, cardiovascular and emotional.

Sleep improvements from Lactium was the goal of another study of 44 adults with sleep difficulty, who took 150 mg of Lactium per day for four weeks. Results showed that Lactium improves sleep duration and efficiency, especially in those individuals with a moderate anxiety or depression profile. Lactium was also shown to reduce daytime sleepiness. And a new study has shown that Lactium is capable of facilitating and promoting sleep, with no or minimal sedative properties.

“These results show that Lactium naturally enhances sleep without the groggy side effects that can be attributed to drugs,” said Skop. Lactium is positioned as an ideal sleep aid for natural products marketers.”

According to Capelle, Frutarom offers a broad range of botanical extracts well known for supporting healthy sleep and stress resistance. For natural sleep onset promotion, the supplier provides lemon balm, valerian, passionflower, linden flower, hops and chamomile extract. In the category of healthy sleep, we noticed a growing interest in the market for lemon balm extract, with several new product launches with this extract in the last months,” he observed. “Frutarom’s lemon balm extract utilizes a specific process where the essential oil is carefully extracted by steam distillation and then combined with the extract. We also offer a high quality valerian extract fulfilling the strict requirements of the new E.U. regulation related to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.”

For stress resistance, Capelle added, Frutarom provides extracts from adaptogenic plants, such as ginseng, schisandra or Neuravana, a patented extract from a selected green oat variety with five clinical studies showing efficacy in supporting increased concentration and performance in stressful situations.

Zapp noted that Applied Food Sciences, Inc. is introducing its newest branded ingredient, KAVOA kava root (Piper methysticum) extract. While there have been no clinical studies conducted on the company’s specific ingredient, he noted, the active compounds in kava, kavalactones, have been studied in more than a dozen human clinicals for their temporary benefits in calming anxiety and stress, as well as promoting sleep. The etiology of stress and other anxiety-related mental illness is not yet fully understood, Zapp pointed out, but current evidence suggests mood disorders are heavily influenced by changes in gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, a substance in the central nervous system that inhibits nerve transmission in the brain by calming neurons that have become overexcited. “Kava uses complex neuronal communication where specific plant metabolites bind to neurotransmitters and alter neurotransmitter synthesis having a damping effect on stimulatory pathways,” he explained. Research demonstrates that kava indirectly affects GABA neurotransmission which ultimately can provide an overall calming effect on the brain, benefiting mood and a relaxed state of mind.

According to Zapp, a recently published analysis of the evidence for kava demonstrated that there is a statistically significant reduction in anxiety and stress scores with kava supplementation. This evidence was supported by the positive results in the Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study (KADSS), a three-week double blind crossover study involving 60 subjects with elevated anxiety. Another study conducted by the same research team also demonstrated in 75 subjects a statistically significant reduction in anxiety scores in the kava group relative to the placebo.

Aside from stress reduction, Zapp explained, the study yielded a secondary mental health benefit from kava—improving sleep quality without impairing REM. “Sleep is one of the most historically researched benefits of kava showing it to influence cerebral information processing, providing sedative effects without product dependency,” he said. “Further research specifically on the active lactone compounds found within kava substantiated these mental health benefits associated with a reduction in stress, tension or restlessness and improved quality of sleep.” NIE

For More Information:
Applied Food Science, (855) 885-2399
Euromed, (925) 935-0334
Frutarom, (951) 734-6620 or (513) 870-4900
Pharmachem, (800) 526-0609

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