insomnia, sleep well, melatonin, L-theanine, L-taurine, phosphatidyl serine, 5-HTP

Sleep Well and Stay Well

Sleep Well and Stay Well

Rosalie and I looked at a house recently a short distance from our home in Sapulpa. It was an auction property that was in disrepair. The most obvious challenge with the property was a crack that ran across the floor of the family room. At first the cause of the crack was not apparent, but after looking at the design of several other homes in the neighborhood the reason became clear.

A prior owner had expanded the size of the family room by enclosing a front porch. Unfortunately, the floor of the porch was a concrete slab that did not have footings. Without a firm foundation the slab could not bear the weight of the wall placed upon it and it fell away from the original stem wall, creating a gap in the floor and external wall.

The crack was a stark reminder of why it is important to lay a firm foundation when building. This is true in the case of a physical structure, such as a house, but it is equally true when building good health. Without a good foundation, health will collapse are surely as an unsupported concrete slab.

One of the key foundation stones of health is a good night’s sleep. It is during sleep that the body performs many of its repair and maintenance functions. Optimum health cannot be obtained without regular restorative sleep.

There are several reasons why a poor sleep pattern causes the body to break down over time. One is the disruption of the body’s internal clock that controls the rhythms of life. When the ebb and flow of hormones, the rise and fall of body temperature, and the natural cycle of other functions is interrupted, disease inevitably develops.

When the body fails to receive sufficient sleep, pathways that lead to the release of inflammatory chemicals are activated. Inflammation is one of the underlying causes of disease and aging. This means that if sleep is restless the body will age more quickly.

When a person does not get a good night’s sleep, blood pressure rises. This may account for the finding that heart attacks and strokes occur more frequently in sleep-deprived individuals.

An ongoing lack of adequate sleep leads to a breakdown of the immune system. White blood cells decline in number, and the white blood cells that are present become less active. Sleep deprived individuals are more likely to experience an infection than people who are well-rested.

In addition, the release of growth hormone, which maintains muscle strength, falls when the sleep pattern is poor. When growth hormone levels fall, the body’s ability to handle sugar is impaired and the ratio of fat to muscle tissue rises.

Signs of sleep deprivation include tenseness, an inability to handle stress, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and a lack of attentiveness. It is not surprising that people age more rapidly when they do not obtain enough sleep.

The amount of sleep that is required varies from person to person. It also fluctuates with each individual’s circumstances. For example, more sleep will be needed if the body is fighting an infection. Most people underestimate the amount of sleep they need to maintain their health.

It is known that prior to the advent of electric lighting the average person in the United States slept 9 hours each day. They were up with or before the sun, but they also went to bed shortly after sundown. Today the average American gets 7 hours of sleep daily and one in three sleeps for 6 hours or less.

When one does not obtain enough sleep a sleep debt is created. People who have accumulated a sleep debt are often “asleep on their feet”, not fully aware of what is happening around them. They make more errors in their work and are involved in a greater number of accidents. One in two people report feeling sleepy while driving, and one in four reports having fallen asleep at the wheel.

The best indication that you are getting enough sleep is the ability to awake without using an alarm clock. Other signs that adequate sleep has been obtained are feeling refreshed upon awakening and being able to remain alert throughout the day.

The inability to get an adequate amount of sleep is termed insomnia. Insomnia comes in many forms. One can have difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, or getting back to sleep if awakened during the night. Some are bothered by early morning awakening and others are not aware of having a sleep problem, but do not feel rested when they awake or tend to fall asleep during the day.

One half of United States adults report having difficulty sleeping at times. One third report having sleep difficulty at least five times in a month, and twelve percent say they have trouble sleeping at least sixteen times a month.

Adults are not the only group that has difficulty sleeping. United States teenagers are among the sleepiest people in the world. This is in part because the body requires more sleep to maintain growth and mature physically, but it is also due to the irregular sleep pattern that is characteristic of many in their teen years.

Teens commonly stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights and sleep in Saturday and Sunday mornings. Many find it difficult or impossible to get to sleep earlier on Sunday evening and they therefore begin their week with a sleep debt that worsens throughout the week. The erratic sleep schedule has the same effect as flying coast-to-coast every few days. Those teens are, in effect, in constant jet lag.

Insomnia has many causes. Physical challenges, especially painful ones, can disrupt sleep. Emotional concerns may keep one awake, as can spiritual issues. Surrounding electromagnetic currents can interfere with sleep and disrupted biorhythms can result in sleep deprivation.

Sleep is normally triggered by three things: The onset of darkness, an increase in the earth’s magnetic field strength as it rotates away from the sun, and lower evening temperatures. Our society has successfully negated each of these triggers. We cancel darkness with artificial lighting, we block the subtle changes in the earth’s magnetic fields by living within walls that contain electrical wiring, and we have central heating to maintain a regular temperature.

It is possible to lessen insomnia and improve sleep quality by addressing those issues. The bedroom should be dark. Extinguish lights upon retiring and install dark curtains or shades if exterior lighting is an issue. If this is not possible, use an eye cover. Limit noise or wear ear plugs.

Remove electronic devices such as clock radios or electric alarm clocks from the head of the bed. Place an electromagnetic field enhancing device, such as an E-necklace, on a bedside night stand.

Temperature change can be achieved in several ways. Lower the thermostat several degrees at night. 68 to 72 degrees is considered optimum for sleep. Since a drop in the body’s core body temperature tends to trigger sleep, it is helpful to exercise in the late afternoon or to submerge the body in a warm bath or hot tub two hours before bedtime. Wearing socks to be can also be helpful in getting to sleep.

Anyone who has raised a child is aware of the importance of maintaining a bedtime ritual. Children are quite attuned to the series of steps that lead to going to bed and to sleep. If one of them is skipped or forgotten the child will resist going to bed and will be unable to go to sleep until it is completed.

While it is less obvious, teenagers and adults also rely upon ritual to bring on sleep. Performing the same actions over the last 20 or 30 minutes before going to bed each evening will signal the time for sleep and result in a more rapid onset of sleep.

Diet plays a major role in one’s ability to sleep. It is important to avoid caffeinated foods and beverages in the afternoon and evening. Coffee, colas, and chocolate are the most likely to disrupt sleep.

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco can interfere with sleep. Greasy foods can promote gastric reflux, a condition that can disrupt sleep. Spicy foods can be activating. Foods that contain the amino acid, tyramine, have a wakeful effect. These include cheese, sauerkraut, wine, beer, smoked meats and fish, brewer’s yeast, and beans. On the other hand, foods rich in tryptophan, such as turkey, bananas, dates, figs, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, tuna, and peanuts, are natural sedatives and tend to cause sleepiness.

Specific nutrients are helpful in establishing and maintaining a restful sleep pattern. Magnesium is useful in muscle relaxation, which contributes to relaxation in general. B vitamins, which are needed by the body to manufacture chemicals that manage stress, are helpful in the relaxation process.

Free radical activity can interfere with optimum brain activity, including that associated with sleep. Oligoproanthocyanidins (OPCs) such as grape seed extract carry antioxidants into the central nervous system to protect against free radical damage. Supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin E, and an OPC is therefore beneficial in easing chronic sleep disturbances.

A number of herbs have sedative or sleep-inducing effects. Examples are valerian, hops, skullcap, schizandra, and chamomile. A cup of chamomile tea may be as effective as a “sleeping pill” in reducing the time needed to fall asleep. When I recommend herbs I commonly use combination rather than single herb products. I have found Serenity, a combination of B vitamins and sedative herbs, and Vitality’s Herbal Combination # 5 helpful in dealing with insomnia when stress or anxiety is present. One or two capsules are taken approximately thirty minutes before going to bed.

Because sleep challenges are so commonplace, I have formulated a product specifically for the purpose of restoring and maintaining a restful sleep pattern. It is called Sleep Well. In pre-release trials, people using Sleep Well reported less difficulty getting to sleep, being able to sleep for longer periods without awakening, less difficulty getting back to sleep if awakened during the night, a decrease in early morning awakening, and a feeling of being more refreshed and rested upon arising.

Sleep Well contains five ingredients, selected to work synergistically (boosting each other’s effectiveness) to support a healthy sleep pattern. Each has specific actions, which enhance the effectiveness of the whole.

The first is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland at the base of the brain. The pineal is unique in that it is designed to respond to subtle changes in the earth’s magnetic field and the onset of darkness. When the earth’s electromagnetic field intensity increases and light fades, the manufacture of melatonin also increases. Because it responds to changes in magnetic field strength and light intensity as a location on the earth rotates away from the sun, the pineal gland is instrumental in regulating the body’s biorhythms – its internal clock.

Melatonin supplementation is particularly helpful in adjusting to different time zones when traveling or adapting to changes in sleep schedule required by shift changes in the workplace. It is effective in setting an earlier sleep time, in responding to electromagnetic sleep challenges, and, since melatonin production tends to decline with age, it helps restore sleep cycles affected by aging.

Melatonin supplementation offers additional benefits unrelated to regulating sleep cycles. The hormone supports the reproductive system, modulates the immune system, and protects against free radical damage. It has even been shown to slow the rate of tumor growth.

The second ingredient in Sleep Well is L-theanine, an amino acid that is extracted from green tea. Tea is less likely than coffee to disrupt sleep because theanine neutralizes the wakeful effects of caffeine. Theanine relaxes the body and calms the mind without causing drowsiness. Theanine also enhances sleep quality and supports recovery from exhaustion.

In addition to its benefits in improving the sleep pattern, theanine improves memory and learning ability. It tends to lower blood pressure and ease the effects of stress. It has been shown to promote fat-burning. Theanine moderates the effects of alcohol and reduces side effects associated with chemotherapy.

The third nutrient in Sleep Well is another amino acid, L-taurine. L-taurine levels are often low in vegetarians, women taking estrogen, and individuals who are receiving chemotherapy. L-taurine exerts a calming effect on the brain. It balances the “up” effects of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine and thus acts as a natural sedative.

L-taurine has benefits beyond sleep induction. It slows the aging process, lowers blood pressure, and supports potassium levels in the heart. Because it stabilizes cell membranes it lowers the risk of seizures and helps control motor tics. L-theanine has even been shown to improve sperm counts in men.

The fourth ingredient is phosphatidyl serine, which is extracted from soy lecithin. Phosphatidyl serine, like L-taurine, stabilizes cell membranes. Its presence improves the uptake of neurotransmitters and lowers stress-elevated cortisol levels.

The benefits of phosphatidyl serine seem endless. It supports memory and mental sharpness and has been shown to slow, stop, or even reverse age-related decline in memory. It has been reported to increase energy levels, reduce the frequency of headaches, ease dizziness, lessen tinnitus (ringing in the ears), improve depression, stabilize blood sugar, support adrenal function, and increase the effectiveness of the body’s immune system.

The fifth constituent in Sleep Well is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). As the final building block required in the process, 5-HTP supports serotonin production. 5-HTP has sedative effects that reduce the time needed to fall asleep. The increased production of serotonin results in improved sleep quality.

Seratonin has many beneficial actions. It supports weight loss by reducing carbohydrate cravings and improving the sensation of satiety (fullness). Seratonin is a key in the management of depression. An entire group of anti-depressant drugs, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by increasing the amount of serotonin available at nerve junctions. By improving the body’s ability to manufacture serotonin, 5-HTP can often be more effective than SSRIs in the management of depression. I have not personally found the need to prescribe an SSRI for treatment of depression in over ten years. When an adequate amount of serotonin is present, migraine headaches occur less frequently. It also lessens the muscle pain of fibromyalgia.

The five substances – melatonin, L-theanine, L-taurine, phosphatidyl serine, and 5-HTP - work together to bring about a restful sleep. Individuals of all ages who have insomnia can benefit from their synergistic effects.

© 2007 Wellness Clubs of


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