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Better Sleep for Shorter Days
Submitted by Vital Nutrients

During the winter and early spring, reduced exposure to light during the day can actually interfere with proper melatonin secretion and exacerbate insomnia. An estimated 64 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year, reporting difficulty falling asleep, waking too early, and general sluggishness. Chronic sleep deprivation due to insomnia can lead to a deterioration of cognitive alertness and ability to function in the daytime, and may be associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress reaction, pain, sleep apnea, and hormonal changes.

Sleep hygiene may help people with insomnia to improve the amount and quality of their sleep. When the days are shorter, this may include a regimen of light exposure in the early morning hours (before 10 am), whether by going outside, sitting by a window or using a light box for about 30 minutes to help stimulate melatonin production and set up a healthy circadian rhythm. It is also helpful to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, limit caffeine to the morning, and avoid eating, vigorous exercise and exposure to bright overhead lighting or computer screens in the few hours before bedtime. In addition, certain herbal and nutritional supplements, along with a physiological dose of melatonin (0.25 mg in the hour before bedtime) may help promote relaxation of mind and body.

Vital Nutrients Sleep Aide contains a synergistic combination of the below botanicals and nutrients to help calm the central nervous system and support restful, refreshing sleep at a dosage of 1-2 capsules, 15-30 minutes before bedtime.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a popular herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia with a long history of use in North America. Two studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating anxiety, and in one it was found to be as effective as benzodiazepine medications. Unlike benzodiazepines, however, regular use of passionflower extract does not appear to lead to dependence.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a medicinal plant in the mint family with mild sedative properties. Lemon balm has traditionally been used for its calming effects on both the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. In research studies, lemon balm has improved self-rated mood, increased calmness, and improved cognitive functioning in healthy people under ordinary circumstances and while performing stress-inducing tasks.


Hops (Humulus lupulus) is most familiar for its use in flavoring beer. Its most common medicinal use as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety has been supported by animal and in vitro studies. Studies suggest that hops extract quiets the central nervous system by increasing GABA activity and activating melatonin receptors.

California Poppy (Eschscholtzia californicum) is a flowering plant in the poppy family, known for its sedative effects and used historically for insomnia, nervous tension and sensitivity to weather changes. Its ability to influence the metabolism of several neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine and serotonin, has been documented.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a flowering perennial plant well known for its ability to ease nervousness and promote sleep. Studies suggest that valerian terpenoids and flavonoids may exert anxiolytic and sedative properties by affecting GABA and GABA receptors. Some studies comparing valerian extract to benzodiazepines have found them to be similarly effective.


L-theanine (N-ethyl-L-glutamine) is an amino acid present in green tea. In human studies, L-theanine supplementation increased alpha brainwave activity, indicating a more relaxed state. It also reduced physiologic signs of stress in people given stress-inducing tasks in the laboratory.

Lavender Essential Oil (Lavendula angustafolia) is a perennial flowering shrub with a distinctive fragrance widely believed to ease tension and enhance relaxation. Aromatherapy with lavender oil has had relaxing to sedating effects in a number of studies. Inhaling lavender oil during sleep increased deep, slow-wave sleep, decreased rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, and increased reported sense of vigor upon morning waking in one study, and a preliminary study found that aromatherapy with lavender oil improved sleep in people with insomnia.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin release is strongly affected by light and darkness, with levels normally dropping during daylight hours and rising at night to induce drowsiness and lower body temperature. Melatonin levels are low in people with insomnia, and supplemental melatonin has been found to be an effective treatment for insomnia in controlled trials. Melatonin may also help shift the sleep phase and improve sleep in shift workers and people with jet lag. In addition, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant.


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