It’s been a long day and you’re dog tired. You’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep – but your brain has other ideas. No matter how hard you try to relax, all kinds of thoughts and niggling worries pop up to keep you awake for hours. Sound familiar?
Or perhaps you find that you tend to nod off quickly, then wake with your mind buzzing in the early hours of the morning, unable to get back to sleep.
Commonly known as being ‘tired but wired’, this kind of insomnia is linked with racing brain waves, a rapid heart rate, overheated body temperature and dysfunctional hormone rhythms – all of which disrupt night-time sleep patterns. And, if you suffer from it, you’re in good company. According to a 2016 survey, almost two thirds of people are unhappy with the amount of sleep they get each night.1
Luckily, there is now an all-natural alternative to addictive and side effect-ridden sleeping pills that works by nourishing and supporting natural sleep processes, instead of acting as a chemical cosh. Rest Well, from UK company Higher Nature, contains vitamin B3, 5-HTP, theanine and a blend of herbal extracts that includes hops, passion flower and valerian. These effective, natural ingredients come in a unique, handy spray that you can keep by your bedside.
Nourish your brain and boost calming chemicals to promote restful sleep
Vitamin B3, or niacin, could help you relax naturally and get to sleep more rapidly at night. Researchers at the University of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, found that people who consumed more niacin in their diets had a better quality of sleep.2 Several studies suggest that niacin’s ability to increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure, eliminate excess adrenaline and regulate hormones could lower the feelings of anxiety and stress that can cause insomnia.3
The amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP for short, is well known as a mood enhancer. In addition to relieving depression it can also aid relaxation, since it is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. By increasing serotonin levels, 5-HTP has positive effects on sleep, mood and anxiety.
Research shows that serotonin is vital for helping us to fall asleep and promoting deeper and more restful sleep, by regulating the production and activity of several hormones involved in sleep.4 The serotonin-boosting property of 5-HTP also helps to prevent the early morning wakefulness that often accompanies stress and anxiety.
The third active nutrient in Rest Well is theanine, an amino acid found mainly in tea leaves. Like 5-HTP, theanine is carried directly into the brain, where it boosts the production of another neurotransmitter, GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid), which brings on feelings of calmness and relaxation. Several clinical studies have shown theanine’s effectiveness in overcoming stress and anxiety and promoting restful sleep.5
In one trial in Japan, researchers gave young men theanine or a placebo and recorded their sleep patterns on wristwatch-like devices. Although theanine didn’t act like a sedative in making the subjects sleep longer, it did cause them to sleep more soundly. Those taking L-theanine felt they had slept longer than they actually did, with improvements in sleep quality, recovery from exhaustion and waking feeling refreshed.6
These traditional herbs work as well as drugs, but with far less side effects
In addition to niacin, 5-HTP and theanine, Rest Well benefits from a synergistic combination of nine herbal extracts that have been shown to aid natural, restorative sleep. These include valerian, passion flower and hops. Valerian root was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to promote sleep, and centuries of use testify to its effectiveness against insomnia and anxiety.
Scientific studies show valerian may stimulate the brain’s receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA, in a way that is similar to the action of benzodiazepine sleeping drugs. A review and meta-analysis of 18 placebo-controlled clinical trials has concluded that valerian is effective for the treatment of insomnia.7
Passion flower, or passiflora, is another herb with a long history of use against anxiety and sleeplessness. And, like valerian, it appears to act through the system of GABA receptors in the brain.8 Many clinical studies have demonstrated passiflora’s anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia effects.
In one trial, passiflora was tested against the standard benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug oxazepam, in patients with generalised anxiety disorder (anxiety without a specific cause). Both treatments worked equally well, but oxazepam impaired job performance significantly more than passiflora.9
A ‘hop pillow’ – a cotton bag containing dried hops placed near the face at night – is a traditional aid to good sleep. Hops release a chemical called dimethylvinyl carbinol, which has a powerfully sedative and relaxing effect. In fact, in the days before mechanisation, hop pickers often fell asleep on the job!
Valerian, passiflora and hops make a highly effective combination for treating insomnia. In one clinical trial, a combination of these three herbs was tested against the sleeping drug zolpidem. At the end of the two-week trial, both the drug and the herbal combination were effective in increasing sleep duration, but more participants in the zolpidem group continued to have significant insomnia and more experienced daytime drowsiness.10
In addition to valerian, passiflora and hops, Rest Well also contains extracts of chamomile, wild cherry, feverfew, ginkgo, lavender and skullcap, all of which contribute to a calm mind and a good night’s sleep.
What to take for best results
Higher Nature Rest Well is formulated as a mouth spray, for easy dosing and rapid absorption. The recommended dose is eight of the measured sprays, before bedtime or as needed during the night.
Although this vegetarian and vegan-friendly product is less likely to cause daytime drowsiness than most sleeping drugs, some people may experience this side effect; do not drive or operate machinery if affected.
Contraindications: Rest Well is not suitable if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking anti-depressant medication. You are advised to consult your doctor if under medical supervision or taking other prescribed medication.
Disclaimer: This article is part of the Agora Health's extensive research archive. The research and information contained in this article was accurate at the the time of publication but may have been updated since the date of publication. Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly The Journal of Natural Health Solutions issue in which this article appears.
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