Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances
by Vanita Dahia
Natural Treatment Approaches
About a third of the population complain of sleep disturbances either in the form of delayed onset of sleep or maintenance of sleep.
Sleep is necessary for restoration and recovery enabling physiological process is to repair the body. Sleep is also necessary for energy conservation, memory consolidation, thermoregulation and homeostasis.
Two main hormones required for induction and maintenance of sleep are melatonin and GABA. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland derived from the happy neurotransmitter called serotonin. GABA is another inhibitory neurotransmitters like serotonin responsible for inducing a deeper sleep.
Conditions that predispose insomnia may include:
- inflammation and pain
- liver toxicity as much of the detoxification process sees is performed during sleep
- gut function as labour digestive may impact upon sleep
- neuroendocrine function as specific nutrients cofactors for serotonin and melatonin synthesis
The value of specific amino acids have recently been studied and published in sleep studies.
Amino Acids in Sleep
L-Serine and L-Glycine are 2 amino acids showing much promise in insomnia. In a study done by Dr Takahashi and his team1, 3 g of L-Serine taken 30 minutes before bed
- improved sleep quality
- improved sleep latency
- reduced short wave sleep and rem sleep (sleep architecture)
The subjects revealed that were clear in their thinking the next day unlike pharmaceutical sleeping pills.
L ornithine ameliorates hypothalamic pituitary and adrenal activity, thereby acting as a sedative and anti-anxiety protein. In a double-blind controlled study2, 500 mg of L ornithine taken before bed time for eight weeks showed favorable effects on
- cortisol response ( less stress)
- improved sleep quality
- initiation and maintenance of sleep
- improved mood
- reduction in anger and hostility
- reduced fatigue derived from stress
L-Tryptophan is a precursor to 5-hydroxtryptophan (5-HTP) and the neurotransmitter serotonin. It therefore acts as an anti-depressant, anxiolytic, sedative and hypnotic.
L-Tryptophan and its metabolite, 5-hydroxy-tryptophan has been shown to:
- raise mood
- reduce depression and anxiety
- assist with eating disorders
- improve learning and memory
- assist with seasonal affective disorder
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- reduce sleep onset time
- assist with overcoming addiction
- insomnia and sleep difficulties due to role in melatonin synthesis
- improved a number of markers of sleep quality including time spent asleep, nocturnal activity, better mood and sleep fragmentation index
Herbs for Insomnia
Herbs in the form of liquid tinctures, teas or pills have long been used as sedatives in ancient cultures.
Notable herbs to assist in insomnia include:
Piper methysticum (Kava) traditionally used for mild anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.
24 studies were conducted on more than 2600 subjects by Bannai and team. Thestudies indicated that Kava was effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, anxiolytic, calming by enhanced ligand binding to GABA type A receptors.
Others herbs that may be useful are Californian Poppy, passion flower, and vervain.
Minerals such as Magnesium is necessary for connection with brain biochemistry and the fluidity of neuronal membranes. Magnesium is considered the main mineral needed for production of energy and an essential nerve and muscle food.
1.Ito Y, Takahashi S, Shen M, Yamaguchi K, Satoh M. Effects of L-serine ingestion on human sleep. Springerplus. 2014;3:456. doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-456.
2. Miyake M, Kirisako T, Kokubo T, et al. Randomised controlled trial of the effects of L-ornithine on stress markers and sleep quality in healthy workers.Nutrition Journal. 2014;13:53. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-53.