Sleep for Vitality and Vigor

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Sleep for Vitality and Vigor

Sleep is an essential practice for health and the lack of sleep has adverse effects on normal well-being. By promoting healthy sleep patterns through lifestyle practices and dietary supplementation, one is able to increase vitality, normalize stress and refresh our body’s ability to cope with the rigors of daily life.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Prostate Health: Nutritional Support for Healthy Function

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Volatile Oils to Support Healthy Sleep

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Volatile Oils to Support Healthy Sleep

In a placebo-controlled experiment published recently in Chronobiology International, exposure of adult men and women to the scent of lavender volatile oils at bedtime significantly increased sleep duration, the percentage of sleep spent in deep sleep and subjects’ self-reported morning vigor.8 In contrast, the results of another placebo-controlled experiment published recently in Biological Psychology indicate that exposure to the scent of peppermint volatile oils increases alertness and inhibits sleep.9 Together, these research findings suggest that the scent of some relaxing volatile oils can help normalize sleep patterns while simultaneously pleasing the senses.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Sleep for Vitality and Vigor

References:
8. Goel N, Kim H, Lao RP. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int 2005;22:889-904.
9. Goel N, Lao RP. Sleep changes vary by odor perception in young adults. Biol Psychol 2006;71:341-349.

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Green Tea for Relaxation

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Green Tea for Relaxation

The amino acid L-theanine is unique to tea leaves and is primarily obtained in the diet by drinking green tea. Studies in rats and humans have demonstrated that the consumption of L-theanine increases the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and increases brain alpha-wave activity, a sign of relaxation and increasing calmness. Research suggests that the consumption of 200 mg of L-theanine about one hour before bedtime can help one relax, which may enhance the ability to sleep.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Volatile Oils to Support Healthy Sleep

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Valerian – A Relaxing Herb

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Valerian – A Relaxing Herb

Extracts of the roots of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) contain volatile oils that, according to the German Commission E, can support normalization of “restlessness and nervous disturbance of sleep.” In human studies, 450 mg to 1200 mg of oral valerian root extract in the evening have shortened the time to fall asleep, improved the quality of sleep and decreased daytime drowsiness for adults with difficulty sleeping. The results of a study published recently in Molecular Brain Research show that compounds in valerian root extract stimulate the sleep-inducing areas of the brain and enhance normal sleep.7 The amount of extract consumed is important; more than 400 mg was required to improve sleep quality. Timing also is important; valerian too close to bedtime may not allow enough time for absorption before sleep is attempted.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Green Tea for Relaxation

References:
7. Dietz BM, Mahady GB, Pauli GF, Farnsworth NR. Valerian extract and valerenic acid are partial agonists of the 5-HT5a receptor in vitro. Mol Brain Res 2005;138:191-197.

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L-Tryptophan as a Natural Sleep Promoter

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
L-Tryptophan as a Natural Sleep Promoter

Modern nutritional mythology holds that eating turkey meat will make you sleepy because it is a rich source of the amino acid, L-tryptophan. The validity of this legend is under debate by nutritionists. However, because melatonin is made from L-tryptophan in the pineal gland, it makes sense that L-tryptophan could contribute to increasing melatonin secretion and thus help relieve occasional sleeplessness.

This possibility was tested in a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.6 These researchers discovered that dietary supplementation with a single “dose” of 2 g (2000 mg) of L-tryptophan in the evening reduced sleepiness the next morning and improved the ability to concentrate in healthy adults.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Valerian – A Relaxing Herb

References:
6. Markus CR, Jonkman LM, Lammers JH, Deutz NE, Messer MH, Rigtering N. Evening intake of a-lactalbumin increases plasma tryptophan availability and improves morning alertness and brain measures of attention. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1026-1033

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Free Radical Theory of Aging

Free Radical Theory of Aging

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Free Radical Theory of Aging

According to the free radical theory of aging, the normal oxidative reactions of metabolism that occur in all cells generate free radical electrons which can damage DNA, proteins and cell membranes, resulting in “aging” on the cellular level. Over time, as the number of individual cells that are experiencing “aging” increases, the entire body begins to show signs of the accumulation of damaged cells and proteins – “aging” in its more common sense.

It has long been known that melatonin is a scavenger of free radical electrons, as many studies have confirmed the ability of melatonin to protect DNA and membrane lipids from oxidative damage. Inside cells, melatonin stimulates the synthesis of glutathione (another antioxidant) while inhibiting the activity of oxidizing enzymes such as nitric oxide synthetase and lipoxygenase. A beneficial consequence of melatonin’s antioxidant actions is increased stability of membranes both inside and surrounding cells.

Melatonin doesn’t just help the body remove free radical electrons after they are formed – it also increases the efficiency of the metabolic reactions that produce free radical electrons, preventing the generation of free radicals in the first place. Melatonin may be even better at this than either vitamin C or vitamin E and in recent research published in the Journal of Neural Transmission melatonin was called “the premier molecule to protect cells from oxidative stress.”4 In short, melatonin lowers oxidative stress levels by slowing free radical production, stimulating the body’s natural antioxidant defense systems and itself capturing and deactivating free radicals.

Melatonin continues to promote antioxidant effects on the body even after it has been used up. When melatonin captures and deactivates a free radical electron, the melatonin molecule becomes changed into “secondary metabolites” that are as effective as the original melatonin molecule in capturing and deactivating free radical electrons – packing each individual melatonin molecule with plenty of excess capacity for protection against oxidative stress.

Additionally, melatonin is a strong supporter of a healthy and effective immune system. This simple compound is produced by the cells of the immune system and enhances cell-to-cell communication to ensure that challenges to the immune system are met quickly and efficiently.

Thus, in addition to restoring youthful sleep, melatonin can benefit our bodies as a strong antioxidant and immune system stimulant, supporting healthy aging in numerous ways.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Does Eating Sugar Make You Sleepy or Alert?

References:
4. Sofic E, Rimpapa Z, Kundurovic Z, Sapcanin A, Tahirovic I, Rustembegovic A, Cao G. Antioxidant capacity of the neurohormone melatonin. J Neural Transm 2005;112:349-358.

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Melatonin Secretion with Age

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Melatonin Secretion with Age

Like so many other bodily functions, melatonin secretion at night typically declines during middle age. In fact, older men and women who secrete the least melatonin overnight tend to have the most difficulty falling asleep. In addition, older men and women tend to become sleepier earlier in the evening and to awaken earlier in the morning, without changes in the cyclic timing of melatonin secretion – almost as if their brains have learned to anticipate the switching on and off of daylight.

A little manipulation of your melatonin cycle can go a long way toward restoring a more youthful sleep pattern. A number of gold standard, “randomized placebo-controlled” human clinical trials have shown that the consumption of small amounts of melatonin (0.3 mg to 5 mg) about one hour before bedtime can shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep, can increase the actual amount of time you sleep while also increasing the relative percentage of the time you spend in bed at night during which you are asleep, and reduce “morning after” daytime sleepiness.

The results of a study published recently in the Journal of Physiology demonstrate that even “normal” sleepers can enjoy an increased quality of sleep and awaken more refreshed following the consumption of 1.5 mg of melatonin before bedtime.3 In fact, many folks find that 1 mg of melatonin about a half hour before going to bed does the trick just fine.

Melatonin enhances normal sleep and may improve occasional sleeplessness. This nutrient also has other potentially beneficial effects in the human body. The latest research findings suggest that melatonin can extend maximum lifespan in mice by up to 15% – an effect called “geroprotection.” How does melatonin do this?

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Free Radical Theory of Aging

References:
3. Rajaratnam SM, Middleton B, Stone BM, Arendt J, Dijk DJ. Melatonin advances the circadian timing of EEG sleep and directly facilitates sleep without altering its duration in extended sleep opportunities in humans. J Physiol 2004;561:339-351.

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Your Third Eye, Melatonin and Sleep

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Your Third Eye, Melatonin and Sleep

The pineal gland (the historical “third eye”), once thought to possess magical, supernatural or psychic powers, is now known to control daily body rhythms (“chronobiology”) in conjunction with light/dark information supplied by the eyes. The major output of the pineal gland is melatonin, a compound made from L-tryptophan and named for its ability to “trick” skin melanocytes (the cells that normally darken upon exposure to sunlight) into lightening their color as if they had never been exposed to light.

Although melatonin has critical functions in the regulation of many circadian (day/night) and seasonal cycles in human physiology and neurobiology, it is best known (and most studied) for its roles in the control of the sleep/wake cycle.

Pineal secretion of melatonin is linked to the absence of daylight – bright light triggers the transmission of electrical signals from the retina along a special nerve to the brain’s central circadian pacemaker area in the hypothalamus. Because these signals suppress brain secretion of the hormone (norepinephrine) that activates melatonin secretion, lack of bright light (dim light or darkness) allows norepinephrine release by the hypothalamus; in turn, melatonin secretion is activated (in response to lack of light).

In most people, melatonin secretion begins about 2 to 4 hours after sunset and ends about 1 to 3 hours after dawn. The amount of melatonin secreted overnight depends on the length of time the retina remains unstimulated by light.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Melatonin Secretion with Age

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Sleep and Cardiovascular Function

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Sleep and Cardiovascular Function

There’s an even more serious danger lurking under the bed – according to the results of recently published research, routinely getting only 5 hours or less of quality sleep at night is known to double your risk of developing (or exacerbating) high blood pressure.1 Even worse – failing to get at least 7 hours of sleep significantly increases your chances of suffering a heart attack!2 While these studies highlight problems associated with chronic sleep issues, the occasional inability to fall asleep can also be of concern.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Melatonin and Sleep

References:
1. Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, Buijs RM, Kreier F, Pickering TG, Rundle AG, Zammit GK, Malaspina D. Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypertension. Analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hypertension 2006;47:833-839.
2. Ayas NT, White DP, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Speizer FE, Malhotra A, Hu FB. A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women. Arch Intern Med 2003;163:205-209.

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Sleep Vital to Health and Healing

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Sleep – Vital to Health and Healing

Sleep is something we often take for granted. Many of us rarely give it a second thought. However, adequate sleep is crucial to human functionality. Besides providing down-time for the body to heal, it relieves stress and helps the body rejuvenate from the rigors and challenges of our daily lives. Beyond rejuvenating the body, sleep is also necessary for rejuvenating the mind – a tonic for our physical and mental wellness.

With age, our sleep quality normally tends to decline. In fact, a common complaint voiced by many older people is the declining duration of sleep as they reach and live through middle-age. It is well-documented that over the age of 50, added to the shortage of time caused by the demands of family, job, travel, shopping and other obligations, men and women experience a naturally-reduced ability to fall asleep, the sleep they get is shallower and of shorter duration, and they are awakened more easily. Lack of sufficient quality sleep will impair mental focus and decrease the quality of life.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Sleep and Cardiovascular Function

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