By Timothy Prentiss Staff Writer
Kirkman Group, Inc.
With the new year, like with every new year, there have surely been millions of resolutions made to exercise more, be more active, join a gym (or actually go to the gym you joined last year), etc. And while it’s hard to overestimate the role physical activity plays in our health, it can be easy to underestimate the importance of inactivity. Put simply: you cannot be healthy if you are not getting enough sleep.
Overall about 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived.1 While certain demographic groups (single mothers and high school students, for example) are especially prone to having difficulty getting enough sleep, even those without overburdened schedules may be sleep deprived for the simple reason that when they put their heads down on their pillows…they just can’t seem to fall asleep.
You may have a sleep problem without even knowing it. The Mayo Clinic claims a sleep disorder is present when someone requires thirty minutes or more to fall asleep or sleeps six hours or less three or more time in a week.2 Even if your sleep difficulties are only occasional or on the mild end of the spectrum, it is still a cause for concern, and it is likely causing you to have a lot less energy than you could have.
But, before you start popping sleeping pills, there might be a more natural approach that could help.
Melatonin occurs naturally in the body and regulates our internal clocks. It’s production increases after nightfall, leading to a relaxed stateconducive to sleep.
It is possible for this natural cycle to be thrown off, however. Some people simply have low levels of melatonin. Others expose themselves to too much light too close to bedtime, interfering with release of melatonin. (This is why a common bit of advice given to those who have trouble falling asleep is to turn off all their electronic, light-emanating screens—television, computer, smartphone—at least an hour before bedtime.)
While melatonin acts on the brain’s ability to relax, magnesium can be said to have a similar effect on the body, specifically on our skeletal muscles. Studies have found that a lack of magnesium can lead to muscle cramps,3 tics and restless leg syndrome.4 All the twitching, kicking, tossing and turning that result can guarantee a poor night’s sleep. Clinical studies have shown magnesium supplementation can lead to increases in sleeping time.5
But, like melatonin, magnesium also has an effect on the brain, though indirectly. With magnesium levels too low, the body tends to have an overabundance of cortisol.6 Cortisol (the “stress hormone”) is produced by the adrenal gland as part of the fight-or-flight response. It promotes heightened alertness during dangerous or stressful situations. For obvious reasons, heightened alertness is not going to be very conducive to sleep. Long-term overabundance of cortisol in the brain can lead to damage to the hippocampus.7
Neurotransmitters all fall into one of two classes—inhibitory or excitatory. In simple terms, excitatory neurotransmitters turn neurons on, while inhibitory neurotransmitters turn neurons off. If there is not enough GABA in the brain, too many neurons can be left in the “on” state, and relaxation and sleep become difficult or even impossible.
So if you find yourself even occasionally tossing and turning or staring at your ceiling for a half-an-hour before you find sleep, you might want to talk to your doctor about trying one of the above supplements offered by Kirkman®.
Have a restful 2016.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Insufficient sleep is a public health problem, Accessed from: http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
2. Mayo Clinic, Diseases and conditions: insomnia, Accessed from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/basics/symptoms/con-200242933. Dilbey, D.L., Prabhakaran, V.M. Muscle cramps and magnesium deficiency: case reports Can Fam Physician. 1996 Jul; 42: 1348–1351. Accessed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2146789/ 4. Bartel, Sharon, Zallek, Sarah, Intravenous magnesium sulfate may relieve restless legs syndrome in pregnancy, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2006, 187-188 http://www.aasmnet.org/jcsm/Articles/020213.pdf
5.Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B., The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/238536356. Murck, H. Magnesium and affective disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Dec;5(6):375-89. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12509067
7. Lupien, Sonia, de Leon, Mony, de Santi, Susan, Convit, Antonio, Tarshish, Chaim, Nair, N.P.V., Thakur, Mira, McEwen, Bruce, Hauger, Richard, Meaney, Michael, Cortisol levels during human aging predict hippocampal atrophy and memory deficits, Nature Neuroscience, 1, 69 – 73 (1998) doi:10.1038/271