Insomnia and Natural Supplement Remedies

insomniaSleep is one of the body’s basic requirements. At some point in their lives, most people have gotten too little sleep and felt the effects the following day. But what happens when you miss sleep on a daily basis? If you’re someone that can never seem to get to sleep at night or can’t stay asleep for the requisite 7-9 hours, you may have insomnia. Insomnia and the resulting sleep deprivation are growing conditions in our modern society. The tricky thing about insomnia, however, is that it’s not a single problem. Each case of insomnia can have its own unique set of causes.

What Can Cause Insomnia?

Even though it can be caused by a number of factors, there are some common causes. They can be grouped into 3 general categories.

Psychological Causes: Stress, anxiety, depression or recent trauma can all keep your mind in a space that’s not conducive to sleep. These are often the most common causes. The mind can start racing at night when all the lights are off and there’s no stimuli fighting for our attention. 

Medical Causes: Many medical conditions can cause insomnia. These can include, but aren’t limited to respiratory problems like allergies and asthma, neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, or chronic pain from an injury. 

Environmental Causes: These are often the most preventable and include inconsistent sleep habits, late night computer or TV viewing or working “graveyard” shifts. Something as simple as having a poorly designed sleep environment can cause insomnia too. A room that’s too bright, noisy or uncomfortable can prevent you from fully settling. 

The Dangers of Sleep Drugs

sleep drug dangersBig pharmaceutical companies are constantly pushing ads for drugs like Ambien and Lunesta to help treat insomnia. Of couse, there are drawbacks to using drugs this strong. The nightmares people report from Ambien, the number one sleep aid, are very real. On the FDA’s Ambien medication guide the warning states: 

“After taking AMBIEN, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night. Reported activities include: driving a car (“sleep-driving”), making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex, sleep-walking”  

Clearly there’s a case to avoid strong sleep-inducing drugs. 

Treat Insomnia Naturally

So, how can you combat insomnia without worrying about waking up in a McDonald’s drive-thru? The process starts by analyzing your environment. Is your room dark and quiet? Is your bed comfortable? Make sure you’re not watching TV or using the computer too close to bed time. After you’ve addressed these issues, the next step is to look into some supplements to help you fall asleep faster and get natural, sustained, restful sleep.

Supplements to Treat Insomnia

  • L-theanine: This supplement has fantastic benefits for both day and night users. The same effects that help improve a calm state while awake and combat stress can also help ease the mind and body before bed. A placebo-controlled Japanese study showed a 70% improvement in a number of sleep quality factors after using l-theanine.  
  • Choline: Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that has significantly higher production during REM cycles. Inadequate levels of acetylcholine have been linked to sleep deprivation in multiple studies. Taking choline before bed can help ensure you’re getting the right amount of acetylcholine production during the night.

  • GABA: GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has been directly linked to insomnia. In general, it works by slowing down certain parts of the brain at the right time so when levels are low, the brain will keep working just as it was during the waking state and it’s harder to fall asleep and get the right amount of deep sleep required to fully recover.

  • Melatonin: Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced in the body, is nature’s sleep regulator. At night, undisturbed by outside light sources like TV, Computers, Phones, Lamps, etc the body raises melatonin production and you get sleepy. Obviously, this can become problematic in the modern world where people are glued to a screen all the time. Without natural light signals, the body doesn’t fully know when to “shut down” and technically thinks it’s still daytime.  Melatonin supplements before bed can help offset this and kickstart the sleep process.

Each of these supplements can be an effective weapon against insomnia. What’s even more important is that they can each be used safely and won’t leave you feeling hungover or groggy the next day. If a proper supplementation regime is combined with proper sleep habits, stress management, and nutrition and exercise, most common insomnia cases would likely be eliminated.

Sources

Offsetting the Adverse Effects of Common Nootropics

nootropic stacks
Nootropics can help with cognition and memory.

Thanks to your recent foray into nootropics, your memory is better than ever. You commit new information to memory with relative ease, recall old memories in a flash, and are able to work your way through even the densest academic material. Smart drugs are great for increasing cognitive functions in a variety of ways. Better yet, only rarely do smart drugs have toxic thresholds or the potential for harmful overdose. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely without undesirable side-effects.

It turns out that, with certain compounds, your boosted brainpower comes with a price. Whether it is blunted emotions or wired edginess, there’s a chance that your empowered cognition is costing you something. But fear not! With careful and intelligent supplementations, you can balance out negative effects with synergistic nootropics, allowing you to reduce or erase negative effects while keeping your benefits. Here’s a look at a few of the most common “social costs” of popular nootropics and how to counteract the negative effects.
Continue reading “Offsetting the Adverse Effects of Common Nootropics”

Modafinil Alternatives

What is Modafinil?

modafinil alternativesModafinil has received a lot of press recently. From Silicon Valley to college campuses, Modafinil is often regarded as a real-life version of the drug NZT-48 that Bradley Cooper’s character takes in the movie Limitless.

However, like the drug in Limitless, modafinil comes with its own set of drawbacks. Luckily, there are a few natural alternatives to modafinil that could give you the mental boost you need without the nasty side-effects.
Continue reading “Modafinil Alternatives”

Need Stress Relief? Try Theanine and Rhodiola

Do you use coffee to propel your day? If so, there’s also a good chance that you’re under a lot of stress. Did you know that, despite providing caffeine for energy, coffee boosts levels of stress hormones in your body?

These hormones can make you feel more strained than you did before and leave you feeling wired and worn out after you wrap up the day. Thankfully, just because you’re under stress doesn’t mean you have to drop your coffee.

In fact, you can still get all the benefits of caffeine and a dose of relaxation as well by adding either L-theanine supplement or rhodiola rosea powder into your daily routine.

L-theanine and rhodiola rosea can take you to the next level by giving you a boost in focus and energy while smoothing over stress and helping you relax.
Continue reading “Need Stress Relief? Try Theanine and Rhodiola”

Theanine and Inositol Combo for Anxiety

Everyone has experienced feelings of anxiety from time to time in their lives. For some it can be a crippling disorder that prevents us from living a happy and meaningful life, inducing panic attacks and intense bouts of worrying and fear. For others it may only be a fleeting feeling of tenseness or being on edge that won’t seem to go away no matter what you do. If you think you have tried it all I urge you to read on and discover the anxiety curbing effects that the combination of theanine and inositol can produce.

What is Theanine?worry-free supplements

Theanine is an amino acid that is commonly found in tea and to be more specific it can be found in high amounts in green tea. It is also available as an oral dietary supplement. It is commonly used as a nootropic in combination with caffeine as it produces a synergistic effect. In a number of double blind placebo controlled studies research has shown that supplementing theanine can have a direct influence on brain activity, reducing stress and relaxing the mind without causing drowsiness. In other studies, theanine benefits include improved memory and cognitive function as well as (ding ding!) reducing anxiety. To top it all off there are little to no side-effects that have been discovered from the result of supplementing theanine; even at the highest doses recorded. Therefore we can conclude the use of theanine is a viable option as a standalone anti-anxiety supplement, but we aren’t stopping there.

Inositol for Anxiety

So, what is inositol? Inositol is a chemical compound that is found in many foods; in particular fruit, especially cantaloupe and oranges. Inositol is created in your body when the phytic acid that is found naturally in foods such as seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grains interact with the bacteria in your digestive system. With its own mountain of research behind it inositol has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of disorders that may stem from high levels of anxiety including panic attacks and mood disorders. In one double blind placebo controlled study researchers looked at subjects with lower than normal levels of inositol and administered doses accordingly, the results concluded that inositol supplementation was synonymous with lowered levels of depression and ultimately anxiety. Through the combination of these two supplements we can see the potential for a lowered overall state of anxiety.

Theanine and Inositol Dosage for Anxiety

As with all supplements it is important to find the correct dosage and to implement the supplement safely into your routine. Dosage amounts for theanine should be based on personal response but as always refer to your packaging for more information, a safe bet would to be stay under the 1000mg mark. As for inositol dosage, research has shown that 18g per day is safe but when combining with other supplements dosage should always be based off your personal response, as always refer to your products label for more information.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7726322
  2. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, et al. l-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2006 Aug 21
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7416064

Taking Melatonin Plus L-Theanine for Sleep

-Yawn-

The work week can be exhausting.  Add on some school and family obligations and you may as well kiss a relaxing evening goodbye.

Not only is it difficult to get enough sleep, but finding time to adequately relax before sleep is next to impossible.  This impossibility can lead to poor sleep-quality, which can lead to increasing levels of stress and exhaustion.  L-Theanine and Melatonin show promise in securing you a solid night’s sleep.

L-Theanine for Sleep

L-Theanine, also known as just theanine, is a non essential amino acid and glutamic acid analog that is usually found in many different types of tea. It is similar in structure to glutamine which is one of the most abundant amino acids in the human body.

Theanine was originally extracted from green tea leaves and has been commonly researched for its potential sedative properties and ability to have a calming effect. Theanine is an analog of glutamate which is a critical neurotransmitter that has been implicated in improving memory and learning processes.

Theanine stimulates the GABA receptor and it is also a fat soluble nootropic. Since theanine is an analog of glutamine it has been proven to be effective for both physical stress and mental stress.

Find the correct Melatonin plus theanine dosage for quality sleep

Additionally, there have been multiple studies that show theanine is anxiolytic, which can potentially be attributed to raising dopamine levels.

In addition to helping theanine users improve their scores on tests and improve their memory, theanine can also lower blood pressure and boost health.

Reports have shown that theanine can help assist the body in improving the efficiency of the immune system by increasing antibacterial proteins and increasing the amount of fighting gamma delta T-cells.

There was one study that showed that theanine can promote memory improvement and health in cases that were related to repeated cerebral ischemia in rats.The study also showed that theanine has neuroprotective qualities and helped to promote neuronal cell health.

L-Theanine Dosage

The standard Theanine dosage is between 200mg and 400mg per day (taken in two 200mg doses throughout the day).

What About Melatonin?

Melatonin is made by the pineal gland and is a natural hormone. The pineal gland is very small and around the size of a pea, it is located in the center of the brain. The pineal gland helps to regulate sleeping cycles on 24 hour cycles which helps tell the body when it is tired and needs sleep.

Melatonin is suppressed by light and stimulated by darkness and this is the reason we usually want to sleep at night but stay awake during the day. Melatonin controls the circadian rhythm in the body which makes us feel tired and lets us know when it is time to get some rest. When there is a change in our schedule, melatonin can be disrupted and thrown off very easily. Jetlag also disrupts our normal melatonin cycles.

Melatonin supplements are available for people who would like to fix their sleeping schedule and get back on track the natural way. Some benefits of melatonin in addition to its sleep inducing properties include alleviating anxiety and depression.Melatonin affects the serotonin levels in the body which lowers the effects of depression, sadness and anxiety.

Additional studies on melatonin effects have shown that there is less of it in people who have cellular irregularities, heart problems, and joint pain. Combining theanine and melatonin can be very effective and many people have reported positive effects but taking them in combination are usually not necessary. However if you take one and it is not as effective, adding the other can sometimes work wonders.

Where to Buy Quality Melatonin and L-Theanine for Sleep

I’m sure that you’ve seen tea labeled as featuring Melatonin with L-Theanine on the shelves of your local supermarket, but what quality L-Theanine and Melatonin are you purchasing?  Many companies use shady practices in order to use lower-quality supplements.

There are a few decent companies who put their products to the test via a third-party to ensure quality. Don’t risk your health for a dirt cheap price tag. Find a store that has reasonable prices as well as third party testing.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11083131
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9243626

Cycling Your Sleep Supplements

There are many people who find themselves having to cycle their sleep supplements because they discover that they are slowly building up a tolerance to their current sleeping supplement. This results in them having to increase the dosage which also means that they end up having to purchase more of that supplement in order to accommodate for them using it up quicker from the higher dosages. Unfortunately this also means dishing out more money so what most people do is switch between sleeping supplements. However, you should also cycle off of sleeping supplements so that your body does not become dependent upon them and your melatonin production does not get negatively effected. Not cycling off of sleeping supplements can affect your body’s natural production of melatonin if the sleep supplement you are taking contains melatonin.

Popular Sleep Supplementscycling sleep supplements

The most common sleeping supplements that people will cycle between are theanine and melatonin, GABA and valerian or phenibut and x-dream. Theanine is an amino acid that can be found in green tea. It has a variety of health benefits and is considered to be an antagonist to caffeine and other elements that can stimulate the brain and central nervous system. It is said that theanine has a calming effect that helps the mind focus and in some cases become sedated. It is very helpful for stress and anxiety because it provides the stimulation of GABA which is what creates a feeling of calmness and well being. Melatonin on the other hand is a hormone that is naturally made by the pineal gland which is a small pea sized gland that is located in the center of the brain. Melatonin is stimulated by light and darkness which is what regulates the sleep cycle.

When light is present melatonin tells the body to stay awake but when darkness comes melatonin helps the body to get to sleep. Melatonin supplements are readily available and in addition to helping you sleep can also alleviate low moods and anxiety. GABA is another amino acid and is the second most prevalent neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA has an effect that can help to calm overly active nerve impulses. This can make a person feel more relaxed and give them a sense of well being  Without this neurotransmitter a person would never be relaxed and constantly be on edge and always anxious. No matter which sleeping supplements you are taking it is important that even if you do not cycle between them that you cycle off of them.

Failing to cycle off of sleeping supplements can result in addiction which can lead to plethora of new problems that are both physical and mental. Usually sleeping supplements are used to help regulate your sleep schedule if it was out of whack for one reason or another, such as jetlag. So you will not want to stay on them for long anyway especially since sometimes they can result in you being overly tired the next day which can be dangerous if you have a long drive ahead or you work in a job where you have to operate machinery. It is generally recommended that you cycle off of sleeping supplements every four to six weeks.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18032103
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7419665
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19766184

Relaxation Supplements: Top 5 for Sleep and Relaxation

Getting enough sleep and rest are two very important links in the chain when it comes to fitness, and too often their importance is overlooked. Some people may have trouble getting to sleep at night while others may suffer from poor time management. Simply put, recovery is just as important as nutrition or training when it comes to being the best you can be. While getting as much natural rest as possible should be your goal, sometimes you need a little push in the right direction. I’ve broken down the top 5 supplements to aid in sleep and relaxation to help you get the best recovery possible and supercharge your next workout.relaxation supplements

  1. Melatonin Benefits

    • Melatonin is a hormone secreted in the brain that regulates sleep. In two separate studies long term supplementation of melatonin has shown to decrease insomnia and regulate sleep in both older adults as well as youth. The supplementation of melatonin has not shown any side effects or symptoms of withdrawal.
    • Melatonin Dosage: Start with 500mcg (0.5mg) and work up to 3-5g, stick with lower dose if effects are strong and proceed from there.
  2. L-Theanine Benefits

    • L-Theanine is an interesting supplement that has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and reduce mental and physical stress. In one study supplementation of L-theanine was shown to reduce the subject’s heart rate and salivary immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) responses to a stress related task in comparison to a placebo control group.
    • Theanine Dosage: Start with 100mg and work your way up to 200mg according to results and personal preference.
  3. Valerian Root benefits

    • Valerian root or valeriana officinalis is an herb that is commonly found in green tea. While supplementing this herb will not put you to sleep, instead relaxation and ease of mind are more inclined to ensue. Although this herb has been used throughout history only recently have we started to understand how it works. Animal research has shown that the main benefits of valerian supplementation come from the way in which the valarenic acid in the herb interacts with the GABA receptor, binding to it and ultimately reducing anxiety levels significantly.
    • Valerian Dosage: Take 400-900 mg within two hours of going to bed.
  4. ZMA for Sleep

    • ZMA is a patented formula that contains zinc aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B-6 (which is typically pyridoxine).While ZMA is one of the least researched supplements in my top 5, there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that suggests the formula is effective at both inducing sleep and raising testosterone levels. Magnesium has been linked to effectively inducing sleep in individuals who are deficient in the mineral according to a German study done in the 90s.
    • ZMA Dosage: Take supplement before going to bed at least two hours after your last meal. Do not take with calcium as this can block the absorption of zinc.
  5. L-Tryptophan benefits

    • Tryptophan is an essential amino acid in the human diet and is part of the 22 standard amino acids. The supplementation of tryptophan has been shown to increase sleepiness and decrease sleep latency (how long it takes for you to fall asleep) after a dose of 1 gram or more.  Contrary to popular belief, turkey does not contain a more significant amount of tryptophan than other meats and should not be seen as a source for supplementation.
    • Tryptophan Dosage: Start with 1g and work your way up to 5-15g depending on personal preference.

Sources

Melatonin:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18036082

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21340475

L-Theanine:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16930802

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17272967

Valerian:

http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(06)00275-0/abstract

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20347389

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17517355

ZMA:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9703590

L-Tryptophan:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6764927

L-Theanine and GABA for Sleep

Taking theanine and gaba for sleep is beneficial for everyone, even your cat!

Insomnia is a fairly large but common problem. The amount of input our brains are forced to deal with on a daily basis is far beyond that of 50 years ago.

Now, with mobile phones, constant internet connections, social media notifications and DVRs with hundreds of channels, it’s hard for many people to properly disconnect enough to get a good night’s sleep.

The importance of good sleep cannot be understated. Sleep deficiency has been linked to problems ranging from heart health to weight issues. It can also have a very negative impact on your mood and cognitive performance.

So how are we to deal with this sleep problem? A natural approach to improving sleep quality is to get enough exercise, eat a healthy diet, and reduce the sources of stress in the environment.

Even if all those pieces are in place, it can still feel like not enough so additional help may be needed. Natural supplements are a great way to help you get to sleep. Two popular supplements with synergistic properties that help with relaxation and sleep quality is the l-theanine and GABA combination.

L-Theanine and GABA as Sleep Aids

L-theanine, also simply known as theanine, is an amino acid naturally found in green tea. It has effective daytime use as a supplement to help with cognition and concentration. The main function of l-theanine is to inhibit certain neurotransmitters to reduce anxiety and increase dopamine levels.

The anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of theanine translate well into nighttime use as well. Simply being more calm and less high-strung in the evening can help you get to sleep faster.

A study was performed in Japan on 22 men, about half were daytime workers and the other half were students. The group was given a placebo before sleep for six days and then l-theanine after that. When the study concluded, 70% of the participants reported more sleep efficiency, better mood before sleep, and less nightmares.This is all without the morning drowsiness that can accompany other sleep aids. [1]

For coffee drinkers, an animal study showed that l-theanine can help counteract caffeine-induced sleep disturbance. [2] Theanine was also shown to improve sleep quality in boys with attention issues. [3]

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it serves to slow down certain parts of the central nervous system and helps regulate nervous system excitability [4]. In addition to being a critical factor in maintaining ideal cognitive well being, GABA deficiencies have been linked to sleep problems.

Studies show that insomnia is caused by low GABA levels. [5] When there is not enough GABA present in the brain, the areas that GABA slows down keep on going and the activity doesn’t decrease as it normally would when the body winds down. GABA has been shown to positively impact deep sleep, the most important type of sleep we need. So even if you can fall asleep, a GABA deficiency may reduce the amount of deep sleep your body gets. [5]

L-Theanine and GABA have different, yet very complementary mechanisms of action when it comes to sleep. The addition of either one or both of these to your nightly routine could help you get to sleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake more rested than before.

GABA and L-Theanine Sleep Supplements Online

When looking for a supplier for GABA, L-theanine and other supplements, there are a few important points to keep in mind.  Firstly, the website should be upfront about the ingredients included in the supplements, such as whether or not it is pure Theanine or Theanine with other additives.

Secondly, the price should be competitive with the rest of the suppliers in the market.  If the price is significantly higher or significantly lower, there may be something else at play.

Finally, figure out if the supplier uses third-party testing to verify the quality and purity of the product.  This third-party testing is a huge indicator of honesty and quality from the supplier. One supplier that I frequently use is Powder City. They meet all of the above criteria and have been good to me in the past.

Sources

  1. www.ismh.org
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22285321
  3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22214254
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-Aminobutyric_acid
  5. www.webmd.com

Relieve Stress and Improve Cognition With L-Theanine

Everybody experiences days where stress levels hit their peak. It is in times like these that everyone should have access to L-theanine, which is an amino acid that can take the anxiety and stress away from a hard day.

What exactly is L-Theanine?

A precise description would say that L-Theanine (also known as just Theanine) is an amino acid and a glutamic acid analog commonly found in green tea, and is widely used as a way to relieve both mental and physical stress [1]. A more simple answer would be that L-Theanine is used around the world (whether it be through drinks such as green tea or food such as chocolate) to help people feel relaxed, yet perked up [2].

How does L-Theanine work?

L-Theanine works by crossing the blood-brain barrier, and then increases the brain’s dopamine and alpha wave levels [3], which makes the user feel calm and at ease. On top of that, Theanine does not take long to kick in, with most users feeling better within moments of the theanine being digested [4].

What else should I know about L-Theanine Benefits?

It Helps With Short-term Memory

Studies have shown that L-Theanine is also capable of improving a user’s short term memory, and can have a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness or arousal [5]. This evidence was obtained through tests which compared human electroencephalograph (EEGs) levels, which in the end showed that L-Theanine had a direct effect on brain wave levels.

It Can Increase Attention Span Levels

When tested, L-Theanine showed that at realistic dietary levels it could manage to improve alpha levels, which are known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention span levels.

Boost Mood levels and reduce anxiety

In a manner similar to caffeine [6], theanine can boost the mood of its user, and can do so without providing the excess of energy that caffeine provides.

No harmful psychological or physical effects [7]

In several tests, L-Theanine proved to have no adverse side effects on the brain of its test subjects. In fact, in some test subjects, the usage of L-Theanine proved to have neuroprotective properties, which actually helped slow the damage of afflictions such as spine and brain damage [8].

Tests and consumers from around the world have testified to the positive results of L-Theanine. With its ability to stimulate the mind while simultaneously relaxing the mind, it’s no wonder Theanine so popular.


Resources

[1]   http://link.springer.com

[3]    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328

[4]    http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2009.1374

[5]    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328

[7]    http://www.sciencedirect.com

[8]    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.2261/abstract;jsessionid=7FFE89F035E50EF433894CB0E66FD099.d01t03