Supplements for a Serene Mood & Restful Sleep

Are your customers having trouble getting enough ZZZs? We asked industry insiders to share study-backed ingredients shown to promote relaxation and improve overall sleep quality

woman sleeping in bed

$119B

projected size of the sleep aid market by 2030

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the emerging monkeypox health crisis, rising inflation, climate change, global uncertainty, political unrest…There’s plenty of worrisome issues going on in the world to keep people up at night—and that’s before accounting for all the normal life stressors that come with juggling work, family, and other personal matters. It’s no wonder sleep issues are at an all-time high. In one recent survey, 86% of Americans reported having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least once per week—and 46% of consumers said that lack of sleep had disrupted their life within the past month.

“Over the past few years, many people have faced an increased number of stressors that impact their daily lives and lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety,” notes Michael Lelah, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, NutriScience Innovations, LLC. “As people try to cope with this new level of stress, their minds are often left racing more than ever before. This not only distracts people from living stress-free lives, but it also has an impact on sleep duration and the qualitay of sleep people are getting. People are not just concerned with the amount of sleep that they get, but more so with obtaining high-quality, restorative sleep. New research indicates the importance of restorative sleep—waking up refreshed, restored, and ready to take on the day’s challenges.”

Lifestyle factors can also play a role in sleep issues, adds Audrey Ross, ND, MH, head educator, Country Life Vitamins. “Medications, caffeine intake, alcohol intake, lack of exercise or even eating late at night can contribute to troubles. Think about your favorite TV show you watch at night or how much time you spend scrolling through your phone. This excessive blue light exposure from electronic devices can affect our sleep as well.”

Lack of sleep can set up a dangerous cycle that contributes to stress and other health problems, cautions Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, Senior Director of Research & Development/National Educator, Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation. “Stress and sleep are unavoidably linked, and unfortunately, the impact of each can be cyclical in nature to the other. For instance, significant stress in an individual’s personal or work life causes the brain to send signals to the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in large quantities. These hormones will engage the flight or fight response in the body, putting the brain and body on full alert, contributing to sleep deprivation. On the other hand, poor quality sleep due to chronic health conditions, like heartburn, respiratory issues, such as sleep apnea, or even thyroid disease, may elevate stress levels beyond what is appropriate. This is because, without quality sleep, the brain cannot recollect itself, causing mental tasks, worries, and other cognitive stressors to carry over to the next day.”

To combat frustrating sleep issues, an increasing number of consumers are reaching for sleep aids. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s annual Sleep Prioritization survey found that 64% of Americans use some type of substance occasionally or regularly to help them fall asleep or stay asleep. Top options include:

27%: melatonin

23%: prescription medications

20%: CBD and cannabis

Widespread sleep issues have sent demand for natural sleep aid supplements soaring. According to Allied Market Research, the sleep aid market is expected to reach $119 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 6.9%.

Natural health retailers are in a prime position to capitalize on this booming growth by stocking quality sleep aid supplements and educating their customers on the ingredients that can help them get more quality zzz’s without the harmful side effects and additive qualities of prescription medications. “Sleep—or lack of sleep—is a condition that consumers can feel and one that impacts their daily lives,” notes Sarah Kunzer, Marketing Manager, NutriScience Innovations, LLC. “On the quest for rest, many consumers look for high-quality products with scientifically substantiated ingredients that can deliver noticeable results. Additionally, consumers often want a quick fix, desperate to get a good night’s sleep. They can often be discouraged by products and ingredients that take a long time to work, if they do not feel like they are benefiting from it, or if they cannot feel the effects at all.”

Kunzer notes that pointing customers towards ingredients that are experiential (such as calming L-Theanine or ashwagandha) where consumers can feel the effects within a shorter period of time, can lead to better user satisfaction and more repeat purchases. Read on for a deeper look at the ingredients that can help your customers get a more restorative night’s sleep.

Natural Sleep Assists

Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years to help reduce everyday stress,” says John Quilter, Global VP ProActive Health Portfolio at Kerry. “It’s also one of the best-studied adaptogens, and has been shown to influence neurological activity and, in animal stress models, to possess antidepressant and neuroprotective effects.”

Research shows that the stress-buffering effects of this adaptogen can have a positive effect on sleep duration and quality. In one randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, participants who took an ashwagandha extract daily over six weeks reported a 72% increase in sleep quality, while those in the placebo group only noted a 29% improvement.

Kerry offers a blend of both the leaves and roots of ashwagandha in the ingredient Sensoril. “Sensoril is extracted using a specialized, water-based extraction process and is standardized to three key bioactives—withanolide glycosides, oligosaccharides, and withaferin A, with a patented composition,” says Quilter. “Sensoril can help the body better adapt to everyday stress and in turn help support cognitive function, mood and sleep quality.”

Nutriscience also offers a patented ashwagandha extract branded as Shoden that can be added to tablets, powders, and other functional food formulations.

Holy Basil (Tulsi): “Because stress is such a critical component of sleep quality and duration, ingredients that help the body manage the biochemical reactions of stress are highly relevant to healthy sleep,” explains Abey Thomas, Head of Marketing, Natural Remedies. “Holy Basil/Tulsi is commonly used in Ayurveda as an adaptogen that is helpful for adapting to mental and physical stress, which creates the opportunity for a better night’s sleep.”

Thomas notes that Tulsi is well studied, with 24 clinical trials. She points to a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study (pending publication) that gave 100 healthy participants who reported stress and poor sleep 250 mg Natural Remedy’s Tulsi extract Holixer daily for eight weeks.  Those in the Holixer group showed significantly greater improvements in stress and cortisol levels as well as sleep scores, compared to those in the placebo group. Holixer is a new ingredient offering that can be used in pills, gummies, mixable powders, and shots.

Functional Mushrooms: Adaptogenic mushrooms such as lion’s mane and reishi can help buffer against the harmful effects of stress and positively influence sleep, says Nirmal Nair, Founder and CEO, Sempera Organics. “Lion’s mane is an adaptogen that may have a positive influence on biological response to stress. Research has shown that rodents administered lion’s mane extract exhibited changes in neurotransmitter activity, specifically dopamine, serotonin, and reducing levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, which rise in response to stress. Lion’s mane was also shown to protect brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)—low levels of which have been identified in people with insomnia. A study on 77 overweight and obese individuals with insomnia found that supplementing with Lion’s mane improved sleep and mood, by increasing circulating pro-BDNF levels, the precursor to BDNF.”

Reishi is also well-studied for its effect on sleep. “Reishi extract was shown to significantly reduce sleep latency, increase sleeping time, non-REM sleep time, and light sleep time in rodent subjects,” adds Nair. “Another study showed that reishi extract significantly increased total sleep time and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep time without influencing slow-wave or REM sleep in subjects.”

L-Theanine: This amino acid (derived from green tea leaves) helps promote the activity of calming brain waves, while dialing down stress activity. “L-theanine promotes the same brain wave patterns that are experienced while meditating. This can help you relax prior to sleep, which studies have shown this results in better quality sleep,” asserts Derek Timm, Ph.D., Technical Sales Director, Taiyo International.

L-theanine can be especially effective for combating jet lag, notes Timm. “One of the tricks I use when traveling is consuming a Suntheanine l-theanine supplement plus melatonin supplement about an hour before bed,” he says. “This will help tell my body it’s time to relax and go to bed. These work together help prepare you for sleep and help you sleep better. This should help reset your sleep pattern to whatever time zone you are in so that you can better enjoy your travels without being too sleepy.” Nutriscience’s L-theanine extract Suntheanine is an odorless, tasteless ingredient that is easily incorporated into capsules, gummies, chewable tablets, and more.

Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in over 200 physiological functions in the body, including relaxing muscles, regulating blood sugar levels, and supporting hormone production. Deficiencies in these minerals have been shown to contribute to sleep issues by disrupting nerve signaling and reducing levels of sleep-promoting hormones like melatonin. But supplementing with the mineral can help. One study found that older adults with insomnia who supplemented with 500 mg of magnesium daily over eight weeks showed marked improvements: The patients fell asleep faster and slept longer, showed reduced early morning awakenings, and experienced increased levels of melatonin and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Magnesium has calming effects on the muscles that can help promote better sleep, explains Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., MPH, FACP, FACSM, a member of the Scientific Advisory Team for Solaray. “Magnesium glycinate is a gentle form of magnesium that is bound to the amino acid glycine, which is shown to help support deep, restful sleep. You could take a magnesium glycinate supplement with dinner. Taking a bath infused with magnesium chloride flakes is also a wonderful way to relax the muscles before bed—look for Zechstein sources, which are pure and quickly absorbed.”

Melatonin: “Melatonin is the most popular supplement for sleep support. It is naturally secreted by the body to get us to yawn and fall asleep,” says Dr. Peeke. “But as we age, we produce less melatonin so supplementing with this compound might be necessary for many.” She suggests looking for a melatonin supplement with time-release technology (such Solaray Extended Release Melatonin w/ Glycine), which releases a steady stream of melatonin throughout the night to help you stay asleep.

Every person’s body is different, so it can take some experimentation to find the right dosage of melatonin for your sleep cycle, adds Sugarek-MacDonald. “Melatonin has been extensively studied for sleep disorders, especially for those individuals who suffer from a disruption in circadian rhythm, like people flying over multiple time zones, which often causes jet lag, people who work the night shift, individuals with dementia, and those affected by sleep disorders relating to blindness.” For optimal flexibility, Bluebonnet’s EarthSweet Chewables Melatonin Tablets come in three dosages: 1, 3, and 5 mg—each sweetened with a proprietary mix of fruit powders and sugar cane crystals in a base of delicious raspberry flavor.

Tart Cherry: “One natural source of melatonin is tart cherry juice,” says Dr. Peeke. “A tart cherry juice concentrate is a pleasant and wise approach to also aid in lowering uric acid and inflammation to assist in joint or muscle recovery.”

3 Trending Delivery Formats

Pill fatigue is an issue, points out Sugarek-MacDonald. “Because of this, gummies are a show stopper in popular dietary supplement delivery systems, even for the sleep category.”

However, the tide is turning on gummies to some extent, as people grow more concerned about sugar intake or other filler ingredients. That’s why liquid and chewable formulas are growing increasingly popular in the marketplace. “Like gummies, liquid and chewable formulas offer flavor, greater ease of administration, increased compliance, and, most importantly, enhanced digestibility compared to capsules or caplets,” says Sugarek-MacDonald. “The absorption rate is much faster with a liquid or chewable formula. Capsules and caplets typically take between 30 to 45 minutes to break down—the disintegration/dissolution time set by the U.S. Pharmacopeia—whereas chewables and liquids are assimilated much faster.”

Beverages, such as nighttime teas or meal replacement drinks, are also trending in this category, adds Quilter. “The market for meal replacement and nutritional beverages with cognitive support grew at a global CAGR of 21% between 2018 and 2021.”

Beyond Supps: Healthy Habits for Deep Sleep

Creating a soothing bedtime routine can go a long way toward fostering better sleep. “So many of our evening-time habits influence the timing and quality, and, therefore, the impact that our sleep has on our daily recovery,” muses Nair. “The most critical habits involve exposure to light, stimulants, and food consumption.”

“Starting with the basics, the Sleep Foundation recommends choosing quality bedding, avoiding light disruption and cultivating peace and quiet. Meanwhile, the CDC has issued what they call Tips for Better Sleep and it includes keeping a consistent bedtime routine, making your bedroom comfortable without electronic devices, avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed and getting some exercise during the day,” adds Dr. Ross. Other helpful strategies include:

Ditch the devices before bed: “One easy way to help improve your sleep is by cutting down on your screen time for at least an hour before bed,” notes Dr. Timm. “Blue light that is emitted from television, tablets or cell phones impairs the body’s natural ability to release melatonin. Instead, I recommend people adopt a relaxing habit before bed such as reading a book or journaling.”
Find a way to relax: “Meditation before sleep activates the parasympathetic arm of the nervous system allowing you to get to sleep and stay asleep more effectively,” says Dr. Peeke. Nair also advises using meditation or another mindfulness practice to unwind before bed. “Mindfulness practices are fantastically hypnagogic. Try an app like Headspace or develop a mindfulness practice during which you successively focus on breathing and bodily sensations when you are lying in bed. The practice of Yoga Nidra (the yoga of sleep) can be totally relaxing and effortless method to drift off into a state of restful sleep.”
Keep it dark: Be sure to turn off all the lights in your bedroom, close your window blinds and cover lights such as the digital clock on your nightstand,” says Dr. Peeke. “Any light in your room can affect your ability to obtain sufficient sleep.” In fact, researchers at Northwestern University found that even moderate exposure to ambient light impairs sleep, can harm cardiovascular function and increases insulin resistance in the morning. And higher levels of light exposure was correlated with increased rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in older men and women ages 63 to 84.
Turn down the temp: “Make certain your room temperature is cool,” says Dr. Peeke. “The ideal ambient temperature for sleep is in the 65-68 F degree range.”

More to Know on Sleep and Stress

For a deeper dive into this trending category, join us at the Naturally Informed virtual event Stress and Mental Wellness: Mastering the Market, taking place September 20-22. During this three-day event, we will explore the latest research on cognitive boosters and mood modifiers targeting areas like the endocannabinoid system and the gut-brain axis. World-class experts will be sharing their valuable insights, at no charge, so you and your entire team can benefit from free educational and training sessions on consumer trends, and strategies for developing and positioning products. You’ll also learn the most current information on regulatory issues and communicating with consumers on packaging, in social media, and in store, as well as winning strategies for merchandising products on the shelf.

Scan the code or visit naturallyinformed.net/naturally-informed-stress-mental-wellness/ to register for the event at no cost. WF

Pointing customers to ingredients that are experiential, so they feel the effects within a shorter period of time, can lead to better user satisfaction and repeat buys.

Complaints About a Melatonin ‘Hangover’?

These Botanical Formulas Can Help

Not everyone tolerates melatonin supplements well. “Some medications can increase melatonin levels and taking them in conjunction with melatonin could result in melatonin overload,” says Jana Parsons, National Account Manager, Boiron USA. Other people complain that melatonin supplements leave them feeling groggy, nauseous, or headachy when they wake up. That’s why some brands offer homeopathic sleep formulas that are
melatonin-free.

For instance, Boiron’s SleepCalm features four plant-based active ingredients (hyoscyamus niger, nux moschata, passionflower, and stramonium) that “target different symptoms of a variety of sleep disorders including restless sleep, intermittent awakening, or difficulty falling asleep due to nervousness, worries, or exhaustion,” notes Parsons. For parents looking for a natural way to help their children fall asleep, Boiron also offers SleepCalm Kids, a plant-based liquid formula that is well-tolerated.

Other botanical ingredients that support healthy sleep without melatonin include valerian root, chamomile, and lavender, adds Sugarek MacDonald. She notes that Bluebonnet Nutrition’s Targeted Choice Sleep Support Vegetable Capsule provides a complementary blend of valerian root extract, free-form L-theanine from green tea extract, 5-HTP from Griffonia seed extract, tart cherry fruit extract, passionflower whole herb extract, and chamomile to help support a deep eight-hour sleep with none of the hangover symptoms the next morning.