Sleep deprivation has reached epidemic status in the United States, with a shocking one-third of adults getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night and 4 percent routinely using prescription sleep aids to induce slumber.1-3 Insufficient sleep exponentially increases your patients’ risk of long-term health complications. Natural sleep therapies are a time-tested strategy for easing your patients into deep, restorative slumber without the harmful effects of prescription sleep aids.
The Science of Sleep
Sleep, long considered an enigma by the scientific community, has only recently come to be fully appreciated for its powerful health effects. Sleep impacts health in a myriad of ways:
- Regulates appetite, cognition, and mood4,5
- Optimizes immune function6
- Melatonin detoxifies free radicals7
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, causes serious health problems, including:
- Increased insulin resistance8
- Heightened pain and stress responsivity9,10
- Impaired immune function11
- Cognitive dysfunction12
- Overweight and obesity13
- Mental health disorders14
The Dangers of Sleep Medications
Sleep medications are big business, with sales totaling $1.4 billion in the United States in 2017.15 Despite their popularity, sleep drugs are not without side effects, including daytime drowsiness, reduced sleep quality, dependence, and dangerous sleepwalking behaviors.16 Natural sleep therapies are an excellent alternative to medications that not only induce sleep, but also improve its quality.
Nutraceuticals for Sleep
A balance between glutamate, the body’s primary excitatory neurotransmitter, and GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, must be achieved for sleep to occur. Naturally-sourced GABA balances excitatory and inhibitory brain activity, reducing sleep latency.17,18 GABA also increase non-REM sleep, which comprises 80% of total sleep time for adults and is crucial for cognitive and metabolic health.19,20
Scutellaria lateriflora (skullcap), a botanical long used in herbal medicine for relieving tension and supporting relaxation, also balances GABA and glutamate.21 It is an excellent standalone sleep aid but also synergizes well with other sleep-promoting nutraceuticals such as GABA, passionflower, chamomile, and CBD.
The beautiful purple and white flowers of Passiflora incarnata, the passionflower vine, increase GABA activity and non-REM sleep, leading to deeper more restorative sleep.22,23 Passionflower also regulates the activities of circadian genes, normalizing the body’s sleep-wake cycle.24
Chamomile has a long history of folk use for relaxation and sleep. The calming, sleep-inducing properties of chamomile are attributed to its high content of apigenin, a flavonoid that binds benzodiazepine receptors in the brain and has anti-anxiolytic effects.25-27
The endocannabinoid system is intimately involved in the maintenance and promotion of sleep.28 High-dose CBD has been found to prolong sleep duration, while THC reduces sleep latency.29,30 A combination of CBD with residual THC may be the ideal option for patients requiring a stronger natural sleep aid.
Quality Sleep is Essential to Health
Quality sleep is essential for your patients’ health and should be a top priority in clinical practice. Natural sleep therapies that promote rest, relaxation, and restorative sleep are powerful allies for improving sleep quality and the long-term health of your patients.
Liposomal Formulations: The Ideal Delivery System for Sleep-Enhancing Nutraceuticals
The uptake and absorption of nutrients and herbs varies widely and can be limited by breakdown in the digestive tract.31 Liposomal delivery systems protect molecules from breakdown and enhance uptake, making them ideal for rapidly delivering sleep-promoting nutraceuticals to your patients’ cells.