Valerian Root vs Melatonin

It can be difficult in this high-stress world to find a way to wind down and relax at the end of the day.  Because of this difficulty, many people end up with poor sleep quality, stressed moods, and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed.

Luckily, there are some ways that you can take the bull by the horns and change how you relax after a hard day.  When it comes to natural relaxation and sleep aids there are two supplements that stand out among the rest: valerian root and melatonin.

Melatonin

For starters, melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone in all living plants and animals, although it serves a different purpose in each.

For mammals, melatonin is the hormone that, in combination with circadian rhythms, helps to regulate and normalize sleep patterns. Research has shown melatonin is beneficial not only with helping to regulate sleep but also to decrease anxiety, alleviate headaches, and more.

While melatonin is naturally produced in the human body, sometimes your melatonin levels become imbalanced so supplementating it can go a long way to improving sleep. Now let’s take a look at valerian root.

Valerian Root and High Stress

The root of the valerian plant has been supplemented for a very long time (we’re talking 16th century long time), and has served many different purposes over the years.

Today, valerian root is a common supplement for those who are looking to curb anxiety, reduce stress, and fight sleeplessness. While melatonin is a hormone found in the human body, valerian root certainly is not, therefore it works in a much different way.

Through binding with GABA (A) receptors via valerenic acid, the valerian root extract is able to exert most of its effects. While this may not mean much to you, it is important to note that valerian root is working in a synergistic manner with your brain and its constituents.

Most research involving valerian root has been focused on its ability to lower anxiety levels and it has shown that the extract does act as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety).

In addition, research involving sleep and and lack thereof has shown to be promising but ultimately inconclusive. Interestingly enough, the most profound and conclusive effect found to stem from supplementing valerian root is its ability to induce lucid dreaming, although this study involved a rather high dosage.

Sleep and relaxation supplements are not by any means in short supply, but when it comes to natural options that have been studied and proven to be effective, melatonin and valerian root really hit the nail on the head.

The facts are there now it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you. Remember always pay attention to the packaging of your supplement for dosage instructions and make sure you always listen to your body, because if you don’t who else will?

Melatonin and Valerian Root: Where to Find the Best Quality?

Valerian Root and Melatonin are fairly common supplements and can be found at many health-food or drug stores.  Therefore, the prices are standardized in the industry.  At most, you may pay a dollar or so more from store to store.

However, quality can vary greatly.  Many less-than-ethical companies will use low quality supplements in order to boost their profit margins.  Because of this quality difference, it is important to use a supplier that features third-party testing.  Third-party testing uses an unbiased tester to assure quality and purity of supplements.  Some sites use third-party testing on some supplements but not all of them.

Melatonin vs Valerian Sources:

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20347389
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18036082

 

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

Better Sleep with Melatonin

Sleep is a necessary function in keeping our bodies healthy.  Sleep deprivation can result in emotional and physical fatigue, as well as a breakdown in cognitive functions.  Our post-industrial society offers distractions and barriers that inhibit sleep.better sleep

The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School has found that in the short term, sleep deprivation can affect judgment, learning, emotions, and other cognitive functions.  In the long term, chronic deprivation can result in higher rates of “obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.”

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, found in people, plants, and animals.  Hormone levels fluctuate during the day, increasing or decreasing, depending on the environment.

Melatonin Benefits

Free radicals are unpaired groups of atoms that interact with certain molecules, such as our DNA or cell membranes.  These interactions can lead to poor cellular function, and even cellular destruction.  A powerful antioxidant, melatonin absorbs free radicals in the body, arresting these reactions and preventing molecular damage.[1]

One of the major benefits of melatonin is it is paramount in regulating the sleep cycle, making a proper balance of the hormone a critical component to an individual’s health. The absence of light causes an increase in melatonin production, which aids in sleep.  When light is introduced, melatonin production decreases. If the body is deprived of light during the day, or receives too much at night, levels of melatonin can deviate outside an optimal balance. This inconsistent and unnatural frequency of exposure may disrupt the sleep cycle.

Based on medical research, the University of Maryland Medical Center has found evidence that individuals who take melatonin supplements are able to fall to sleep more quickly.  Further, sufficient levels of melatonin help an individual to maintain sound sleep, through the night. Melatonin levels can decrease as one gets older.  Taking the supplement helps to establish a healthy and consistent sleep cycle over time. Hormone levels can also fluctuate seasonally and the introduction of supplements assists in adjusting to the seasonal changes.

Melatonin has other benefits beyond helping to maintain a restful sleep cycle. There is evidence that melatonin may decrease deterioration in the cognitive ability of Alzheimer’s patients, possibly by defending brain cells from “beta-amyloid,” a toxic protein.[2] The hormone has also demonstrated the ability to fight various types of cancer and counteract the harmful effects of chemotherapy. Scientific trials have provided evidence that melatonin supplements increase the life span of individuals suffering from cancer.[3] Melatonin has also proven to be an effective treatment for migraines.[4]

Sources

[1] Reiter RJ, Tan DX, Leon J, Kilic U, Kilic E. When melatonin gets on your nerves: its beneficial actions in experimental models of stroke. Exp Biol Med (Maywood.). 2005 Feb;230(2):104-17.

[2] Cardinali DP, Furio AM, Reyes MP. Clinical perspectives for the use of melatonin as a chronobiotic and cytoprotective agent. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1057:327-36.

[3] Lissoni P, Barni S, Mandala M, et al. Decreased toxicity and increased efficacy of cancer chemotherapy using the pineal hormone melatonin in metastatic solid tumour patients with poor clinical status. Eur J Cancer. 1999 Nov;35(12):1688-92.

[4] Peres MF, Zukerman E, da Cunha TF, Moreira FR, Cipolla-Neto J. Melatonin, 3 mg, is effective for migraine prevention. Neurology. 2004 Aug 24;63(4):757.

5-HTP, Melatonin, and Valerian Root

Relax with 5htp and MelatoninRelaxation is key to leading a fulfilling life.  However, between work, school, and family life, it can often be difficult to find the time to do so.

Even if you do find time, winding down from a stressful day can be difficult when tomorrow’s worries are on your mind.  Luckily, there are many supplements that can aid in relaxation.  While they each work on their own, many times a combination of supplements will do you amazing things.

Synergy

Sometimes, it can be greatly beneficial to stack supplements to achieve a greater and more desirable effect than the sum of its parts. This is known as a synergistic effect.

Oftentimes, one will hear that two particular supplements or nootropics will have synergistic effects. A common example of these phenomena is a racetam paired with choline. Individually, they are powerful nootropics, but when paired together they complement each other very nicely.

5-HTP for Vivid Dreams

A great relaxation stack that synergizes well is pairing 5-HTP, valerian root, and melatonin. These supplements work great on their own, but oftentimes people will find the effects to not be strong enough. 5-HTP is known to be a precursor to serotonin, which is a vasoconstrictor that stimulates muscle relaxation which regulates the brain in learning, mood, and sleep.[1]

Taken alone, 5-HTP gives a sensation of relaxation and has reportedly been known to increase the vivid nature of dreams which suggests an increase in recall memory.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is another great addition to the relaxation stack because it is known to reduce anxiety and is also known to be possibly mildly sedating. [2][3]

It is usually brewed in tea, but can be taken as a general supplement as well. Similarly to 5-HTP’s effects, people have reported valerian to be responsible for more vivid dreams.

Melatonin

Finally, melatonin is a great addition to any relaxation stack. Most people only take melatonin before bed (as it is the chemical in the brain responsible for being “tired”), but can also be taken during the day for general relaxation.

As the safest of the three compounds in the relaxation stack, melatonin can be taken daily without any worry of side effects. In addition, it is also anecdotally reported that “less is more”. This means that melatonin seems to be more effective when taken in smaller doses (<5mg). It is greatly attributed to decreasing insomnia, adrenaline (hence the relaxation), and blood pressure among other great health benefits.[4]

For those days when you just need to relax and those nights when you can’t fall asleep, consider stacking 5-HTP, melatonin, and Valerian.

How to Assure that you Buy High-Quality Supplements

I know that it can be a crap-shoot when picking a supplement supplier.  With the prevalence of brick and mortar stores and online stores, it can be confusing and frustrating trying to find the best deal.

While finding the lowest price for a particular supplement may be tempting, it can often lead to purchasing a lower-quality supplement.  Some shady manufacturers will use low-quality supplements in order to increase profit margins.

It is your best bet to stick with a supplier who uses third-party testing to assure supplement quality.

Sources

[1]: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248.php

[2]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20042323

[3]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18160026

[4]: http://examine.com/supplements/Melatonin/

Supplements for Sleeplessness

On paper, the idea of being an insomniac could be appealing. Think about all the things you could get done if you didn’t sleep! In reality, sleeplessness is actually one of the worst feelings. If you’ve ever experienced it then you know all too well  it can make you suffer because you DO want to sleep. You just can’t. So you float around in sleep purgatory – too tired to do anything productive and too awake to sail off into dreamland. The impact of that missed sleep is huge. Even if you do manage to lightly doze off for a bit, there’s no refreshment in the morning and you feel useless the next daysupplements for sleeplessnesswithout copious amounts of caffeine. The body doesn’t respond well to missed sleep over time either.  The underlying reasons for sleeplessness can vary, but if you examine your situation you may find there are some natural supplements that can help you. Three popular supplements for aiding sleep are melatonin, 5-htp and GABA.

Melatonin Benefits for Sleeplessness

Melatonin is the body’s regulating signal for sleep. It’s a hormone released based on circadian rhythms. So without any outside interference, melatonin levels would start to increase within the body as the sun went down and decrease in the morning when your body sensed the light of the sun. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that clearly in today’s always-on society. Light from TVs, computers and smartphones all confuse this primal reaction and disrupt the natural release of melatonin and the onset of a natural sleep cycle. Supplementing with melatonin will help restore some balance and get you back on natures clock. Taking as little as .3mg 30 minutes before bed can turn you into Rip Van Winkle.

5-HTP Benefits for Sleeplessness

Even if your body does decide to shut down for the day, your brain may not always be cooperative. It’s funny how lying down to go to sleep can prompt your brain to remind you of all the little things you need to remember or may have forgotten. The amino acid 5-HTP is a precursor to l-tryptophan (the infamous “sleepy chemical” in turkey) and serotonin, two naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that help relaxation. 5-HTP converts very efficiently, restoring balance to your brain and helping your mind slow down. Providing relief from sleeplessness is a core benefit of 5-HTP.

L-theanine Benefits for Sleeplessness

L-theanine is an amino acid occurring naturally in many teas and has been unknowingly used to achieve a calm zen-like state by monks for thousands of years. Lately, research has been piling up that shows the psychological and physiological benefits of theanine supplement in the areas of relaxation and calming. L-theanine changes your brain waves and helps you achieve an alpha state, which is the state of wakeful relaxation. Reaching an alpha state before bed helps you relax and provides a smooth transition to sleep.

If sleeplessness is a problem for you and you can’t seem to count enough sheep every night, consider one of the supplements above. These safe, natural products will leave you feeling well-rested in the morning.

Melatonin Supplementation for Healthy, Natural Sleep

For hundreds of years our bodies used light as a signal if we should be awake or asleep. When the sun came up, it was time to be awake and when the sun went down the world was dark and it was time to sleep. Fast forward to modern times, things have changed a lot. The wide availability of electricity and electronic devices makes us masters of our own sleep schedule. When the sun goes down, most people start watching TV or use some other electronic device. These devicesrestful sleep can stay on all night long, completely throwing the body’s natural light signals out of the equation. When dependent upon natural light, however, the body develops a circadian rhythm with the sun. In this natural process, signals are sent throughout the body to wake up when the sun rises and at night, when the sun goes down, signals are sent to the body that it’s time to go to sleep. The main regulating signal the body uses for sleep is a hormone called melatonin[1].

Melatonin levels can vary throughout the day, but spike in the evening when darkness occurs[2]. Unfortunately, melatonin production is inhibited by blue light, the light given off by TVs, computers, phones and other electronic screens. This means as long as you’re in front of a TV or computer screen, you’re inhibiting melatonin production and, ultimately, sleep. Melatonin levels can also be disturbed in shift workers since working at night and sleeping during the day sends conflicting messages to the body. Essential functions are impaired when the body doesn’t get enough sleep. Aside from leaving you feeling tired and groggy, a sleep deficit impairs your cognitive function, keeps your organs and brain from resting and healing and prevents the proper production of important hormones.

Whether it’s nighttime work, jet lag or just a long evening in front of the computer, the demands of the modern day don’t always respect the natural order of life – that’s when melatonin supplementation should be explored. Melatonin is available in supplement form and helps balance out the natural hormones in the body to promote quality sleep. Imagine falling asleep when you wanted to and staying asleep all night long, that’s the primary benefit of melatonin supplementation! Clinical studies have shown that melatonin supplementation reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increases the hours slept and boosts daytime alertness. Melatonin supplements work by providing a shortcut in the sleep process and sending the signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.

Additional melatonin benfits include [2][3]:

  • Treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Prevent cluster headaches
  • Treat sleep problems associated with menopause
  • Fight breast and prostate cancer
  • Reduced fibromyalgia symptoms

Melatonin Dosage

Melatonin should only be taken at night, the only exception being shift workers who need to sleep during the day. The body naturally produces about .3mg of melatonin each day, so you should start low. Begin with .3mg an hour before bed and increase slowly each day until you find your sleep improving (1mg-3mg one hour before bedtime is normally an effective dose). To maximize the effect of melatonin, try to limit exposure to artificial light from TV and computers before bed.

Sleep deprivation will wreak havoc on your quality of life and make you miserable. If you suffer from poor sleep, definitely give melatonin a try. Consistent, quality sleep can be life-chaning.

 Resources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin

[2] http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/melatonin-000315.htm

[4] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/melatonin/a/melatonin.htm

[4] http://www.talkaboutsleep.com/circadian-rhythm-disorders/circadian-rhythm-sleep-disorders/10-how-to-use-melatonin-correctly.htm