Health Guide

Balancing Mood & Sleep in a Turbulent World

The pace and demands of modern life can be stressful and disruptive to healthy habits. Managing and balancing daily responsibilities—at work, at home, in social groups, and in local communities—is a tall order, but it’s vital to overall health and wellness.

Two-thirds of U.S. adults said they are stressed about the future of their nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 Stress in America survey, a nationwide poll conducted annually for the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, the same survey also evaluated the use of technology and mobile devices on mental health and stress. Results showed 86% of U.S. adults reported that they constantly or often check their e-mail, texts, and social media accounts. This attachment to devices and the constant use of technology is associated with higher stress levels, the APA said.

“The emergence of mobile devices and social networks over the last decade has certainly changed the way Americans live and communicate on a daily basis,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy. “Today, almost all American adults own at least one electronic device, with many being constantly connected to them.

What these individuals don’t consider is that while technology helps us in many ways, being constantly connected can have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health.”

As for parents, almost half (45%) said they feel disconnected from their families even when they are together because of technology. More than half of parents (58%) said they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed (65%) somewhat or strongly agreed that periodically “unplugging” or taking a “digital detox” is important for their mental health. However, only 28% of those who said this actually reported doing so. “Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” Dr. Bufka said. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media.”

A Sleepless Society
Nearly half of people in the U.S. report sleep-related problems. Disordered sleep can cause emotional disturbance, memory difficulty, poor motor skills, decreased work efficiency, and increased risk of traffic accidents.

“The cumulative long-term effects of sleep deprivation have been associated with serious health conditions, including increased risk of stroke, hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity,” said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa, East Windsor, NJ. “According to various studies, more than 30% of the population in America suffers from insomnia. In comparison to men, women are twice as likely to experience this problem.” These trends are leading more consumers to search for products designed to help them get restful and restorative sleep, particularly as they become aware of the risks.

The gravity of the “sleep-deprived” state is more complex than many people understand, he added. “More than 50% of the U.S. population at some point in their life will suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia, hypersomnolence and others,” and this can lead to other health conditions. “Additionally, anxiety and depression are known to be the underlying causes of insomnia, which furthers anxiety and depression.”

Diminished sleep has been linked to the development of a litany of diseases and biological declines, from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and immune system function to memory, learning, and cognitive function, said Jeff Lind, vice president of sales and marketing, Natreon, Inc., New Brunswick, NJ. “This list firmly places sleep as a foundation of healthy aging. The supplement industry is just waking up to this connection, as companies are now including sleep/stress ingredients in healthy aging formulations.”

While the supplement industry as a whole is experiencing about 6% growth, the sleep category is growing by approximately 16%, according to Nutrition Business Journal. “As a result, we are seeing new science and new product introductions, which indicates continued double-digit growth for the category,” said Mr. Lind.

While sleep/stress issues are increasingly prevalent for all ages, the growth of this market segment is directly related to aging boomers, he added. “They are the most active group of people hitting 50 and 60+ and these consumers want to feel better as they age. Feeling good is the benefit and supplements, they believe, can make that happen.”

Mr. Majeed agreed that consumers who are unable to sleep or are suffering from stress/anxiety are turning to supplements that may help restore equilibrium by improving mood, sleep and regulating stress levels. “High demand for products that improve sleep and alleviate stress and anxiety has resulted in many new products on the market, including a booming demand for adaptogens to restore balance. Prescription pills may have side effects that may impact quality of life or be addictive. Some of them leave people feeling groggy in the morning. Hence, natural products like ashwagandha extract, tulsi extract, licorice extract, and Cissus quandrangularis extract are leading the market owing to their affinity to relieve stress, improve mood health, and restore optimal sleep.”

Mitch Skop, senior director of new product development, Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., Kearny, NJ, noted that many consumers are anxious about the state of the world, while also trying to manage personal and professional issues, and trying to accomplish more tasks in less time.

“Within this scope, many people try to boost their energy levels by consuming energy drinks, followed by either OTC or prescription sleeping pills to help them wind down at night. This is a not-so-merry-go-round.” Consequently, enjoying a consistently positive mood becomes challenging.

Natural Solutions
The U.S. sleep aid market is expected to grow to $44 billion by 2020, according to data from Persistence Market Research. A survey commissioned by the Cherry Marketing Institute and conducted online by Harris Poll in January 2017 among more than 2,000 adults suggested that Americans may be open to alternate sleep solutions. An overwhelming 83% of Americans would prefer to improve their sleep through diet rather than using over-the-counter sleep aids.

Montmorency tart cherry juice has been studied for its ability to help improve sleep quality and duration, according to CMI, as they are a good food source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. “Melatonin plays a big role in the sleep equation,” said Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert. “Without it, our bodies aren’t triggered to regulate the sleep cycle and therefore, we can’t get the rest we need.”

A growing body of research suggests Montmorency tart cherry juice may help with sleep-related concerns, such as improving sleep efficiency, reducing the severity of insomnia and sleep disturbances, and increasing sleep time.

While melatonin is the market-leading sleep supplement, sales of this popular hormone have slowed, according to Natreon’s Mr. Lind. “There is a growing body of evidence linking stress to sleeplessness. As a result, adaptagenic ingredients such as ashwagandha that have been clinically studied for stress and sleeplessness are emerging in this market segment. Natreon’s Sensoril, supported by 11 clinical studies, has been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, and sleeplessness.”

Scientific research on dietary ingredients has progressed significantly in recent years, he added. “The industry has gone from marketing supplements purely based on traditional use to animal model studies to small-scale pilot studies to the current ‘gold standard’ randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. One such relevant study is ‘A Standardized Withania somnifera extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans,’ (JANA, Vol. II, No.1, 208, 50-56). This study showed Natreon’s Sensoril was effective in reducing stress, fatigue, and sleeplessness.”

Ashwaganda is an herb well recognized for its potential as potent adaptogen, rendering multiple benefits by helping to improve the fighting capacity (adaptability) of the body against all kinds of stress, said Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. Ashwaganda extract, also known as Indian Ginseng, is a powdered extract from the roots of Withania somnifera plant.

“It is very well recognized in Ayurveda for varied medicinal uses. It is considered to rejuvenate the body on a cellular level and helps to increase stamina, endurance, and improve overall health and longevity. Various studies have also demonstrated useful effects of ashwagandha on anxiety, stress and insomnia.”

For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, 64 participants with a history of chronic stress were randomly assigned to receive either a capsule of ashwagandha (300 mg) or placebo twice daily for 60 days. At the end of the study, a significant reduction in scores on all the stress-assessment scales and serum cortisol level was observed in the active group (Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 2012).

According to a study recently published in the journal Phytomedicine (December, 2016), 1,500 mg of chamomile extract per day produced a clinical reduction in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms over eight weeks, with a response rate comparable to those observed for conventional drugs, and a favorable adverse-event profile.

Pharmachem’s Mr. Skop said Lactium, a milk protein hydrolysate contains a bioactive peptide with relaxing properties that regulate stress naturally. Lactium has been the subject of several research studies demonstrating its ability to improve symptoms of stress and also improve sleep duration. A study published in the Journal of International Medical Research, also indicated Target 1—a formula featuring Lactium (milk casein)—helped significantly decrease symptoms of “burnout syndrome,” intensified stress symptoms and attendant sleep disorders.

A study published in Behavioural Brain Research has shown that Lactium is capable of facilitating and promoting sleep, with no or minimal sedative properties. “The study authors found that Lactium induces sleep promotion as shown by an augmented pentobarbital-induced sleep in mice and an increased slow (delta) EEG wave in rats. This sleep-promoting effect is probably mediated through the GABAergic neurotransmitter system,” Mr. Skop said.

Overall, research has demonstrated that natural actives, as a therapeutic group, can help induce quality sleep and ease anxiety and stress, said Mr. Majeed. Tulsi extract, obtained from the dried leaves of Ocimum sanctum, is commonly known as Indian Holy Basil. “It is revered as a sacred plant in Ayurveda and is classified as ‘rasayana’, which means ‘lengthening of lifespan.’ It is an essential ingredient in numerous classical Ayurvedic formulations.”

In a study published in Nepal Medical College Journal (2008), researchers found O. sanctum significantly attenuated stress and depression associated with GAD. The study included 35 subjects who were given a fixed dose regimen (500 mg/capsule, twice daily).

Licorice extract is obtained from the dried roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra. It is described as an adrenal agent and adrenocorticotropic in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1983). “The mechanism of action is thought to be that licorice may support the adrenal cortex, which participates in the stress response through production of glucocorticoids during prolonged stress, and support recuperation after a particularly exhausting phase.”

Sabinsa’s ActiCissus is obtained from the aerial parts of the plant Cissus quadrangularis and is standardized for a minimum of 10% ketosterones. The extract is reported to be an effective cortisol reducer. The anti-glucocorticoid properties of Cissus play a key role in preservation of muscle tissue during times of physical and emotional stress, Mr. Majeed noted.