Sleep issues, which affect some 50-70% of Americans according to federal surveys, are complex, and stem from a variety of disorders. As such, the demand calls for a wide variety of products beyond melatonin, including tryptophan, CBD, adaptogens, chamomile, valerian root, and sometimes even a cocktail of botanicals packed in one individual dose.
With this wide variety of ingredients comes a need for research into the efficacy and safety of short-term and long-term daily use.
MegaFood recently launched a product called Herbal Sleep, featuring a blend of botanicals to provide a blend of all-organic anti-groggy herbal extracts, including valerian root, Sensoril Ashwagandha, passion flower, and hops.
The product was formulated without melatonin for consumers who don’t necessarily have issues pertaining to circadian rhythms, but with secondary issues, such as stress, aches and pains, and a groggy “hangover” feeling associated with melatonin use.
“Melatonin plays a crucial role in maintaining our biological clock, helping our body follow the rhythms of day and night,” Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MegaFood’s chief medical advisor, said. “I often recommend it for individuals who have a hard time falling asleep at their regular bedtime, especially if they are over 50.”
“But the fact is, many people struggle with sleep problems that are not related to a circadian rhythm. They wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep. They are exhausted at 8 p.m. but find their mind racing when they lay down in bed- unable to turn down the internal chatter. Some have difficulty sleeping secondary to aches and pains.”
While many sleep aid ingredients are intended to exhibit fast-acting effects, Dr. Low Dog said that ingredients which prove effective in the long-term can be especially useful, such as valerian root and ashwagandha extract, an adaptogen which provides a blanket of benefits.
“While hops and passionflower are quick-acting, valerian typically takes about 7-10 days for individuals to feel its full effects,” Low Dog said. “Each herb works in a slightly different way to help promote restful sleep but I find that one of the key herbs that is often overlooked is the use of an adaptogen. When it comes to promoting a sense of calm, that would be ashwagandha. Its botanical species name, somnifera, literally means to induce sleep, a nod to its long historical use as a sleep aid in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa. As an adaptogen, over time, it helps the body become more resilient to stress, easing tension and creating a greater sense of calm. It is the perfect complement to valerian, hops and passionflower.”
As with any manufacturer of sleep aids, Low Dog said that it is important to communicate to consumers the behavioral changes necessary to enhance the benefits associated with natural alternative sleep aids.
“This should include dietary interventions, good sleep hygiene (same sleep and wake times, no caffeine after noon, limit alcohol, limit screen time in the evening, practice meditation, etc.) and possibly the use of dietary supplements.”