In part 1 of this article I discussed Magnesium and two classes of herbs that support healthy stress levels and sleep. In this part, I will touch on additional nutrients that can be helpful.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in response to darkness. It is the “sleep hormone,” having the opposite action of cortisol. It is made in the body from serotonin. Thus, it may be in short supply for those with low serotonin due to conditions like depression.
Melatonin production begins to decrease after age 50, so people above this age may benefit from taking it. While it is not typical for those under 50 to be deficient in melatonin, blue light from screens, when used at night, may decrease its normal production. To maximize melatonin production, devices should be turned off 2 hours before bedtime, and your room should be as dark as possible when you go to sleep.
Even though many pediatricians recommend melatonin for sleep, it is not my first go-to for kids. Making sure that children have adequate Vitamin D, Omega-3, and Magnesium levels is key. Encouraging good sleep habits and taking multivitamins can also resolve sleep problems.
Melatonin is effective in doses as low as 0.5 mg, but the typical range is 0.5-3 mg. Higher doses should be recommended by a practitioner. Melatonin also has antioxidant effects, and when higher doses are used, it is often for this effect.
Cannabinoids like CBD
Hemp extracts high in CBD can also be used to manage sleep and stress. Cannabinoids act on the endocannabinoid system in the body. This system has many receptors throughout the body, particularly in the nervous and immune systems.
Normally, our body makes its own cannabinoids. However, in situations of high stress, poor diet, too much alcohol, or illness, our own internal production can become insufficient. This causes imbalances in the body, including aggravated stress and poor sleep.
CBD acts on receptors in the nervous system to produce its calming effect. This is why so many people find it to be helpful with sleep and stress management. It can be found in capsules, liquid oils, gummies, chocolates, beverages, and other forms.
We recommend using products made by companies with good manufacturing standards and that have certificates of analysis available on their websites. This way you will know that you are getting the CBD content you are paying for.
We also prefer full- or broad-spectrum hemp extracts because they contain CBD and other cannabinoids. A combination of cannabinoids has a synergistic effect that isolates of CBD do not.
Cannabinoids sourced from hemp contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana. By law, hemp extracts being sold over the counter must contain less than .3% THC. So, at less than 1% concentration, you will NOT get a psychoactive effect from hemp extracts.
5-HTP, l-Theanine, and GABA
You may have heard of using 5-HTP for sleep.
5-HTP is helpful when serotonin is low, or dopamine is high. Low serotonin or high dopamine can have an agitating effect on the brain, disrupting sleep. Serotonin may be low in those with depression and dopamine may be high in those that take ADD or ADHD medication.
5-HTP should not be used with other medications without consulting your doctor. It may have an additive effect with your medication, which may cause problems. It is a direct precursor to serotonin and thus can have a calming effect on the mind and body and assist in melatonin production.
GABA is a calming neurotransmitter. GABA may be helpful if you have a known genetic variant in the GAD enzymes, or if your brain feels constantly over-stimulated.
L-theanine is an amino acid derivative that reduces stress and anxiety, improves focus and learning, and improves sleep quality. It can increase levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitters. It is great for daytime use as it doesn’t have strong sedative qualities.
As you can see, there are many natural ways to improve sleep and stress levels! If you are looking for natural alternatives to medications offered for sleep, stress, or anxiety, talk to our staff about your health situation and see which option may be right for you.
If you need help with more chronic sleep issues, you can contact me for an appointment – firstname.lastname@example.org