August 25, 2021 written by OPTIMIZED Team
When we sleep well, we remember things more. Our workouts are better, creativity peaks, and our heart rate is healthier. We often hear people say that they can function well on four or so hours of sleep. Still, the research is clear: even if you feel “fine” on less than 7 – 9 hours of sleep, your memory will suffer, inflammation will rear its devastating head, and the necessary regeneration of your muscles and brain cells is simply not happening.
Sleep deprivation directly impacts your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which directly impacts a process called neurogenesis (the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain) to the extent that you are effectively suffering from brain damage if you don’t sleep enough.
What Makes Sleep So Magical?
Throughout the day, we are consciously and subconsciously exposed to external stimuli. We see, touch, taste and hear old and new things, memorise facts, learn to perform new tasks and experience mundane to exciting events. At the end of the day, all those various new experiences and information need to be integrated into the supercomputer that is your brain with the collective of previous experiences and data already stored over a lifetime.
The filing and storing happen while you sleep. If you don’t sleep, that data is cluttering up space in your brain, which means, just like your computer or phone, you run out of space for new memories.
This then affects your central nervous system, which is responsible for regulating your immune response, your cortisol levels and also your appetite and blood sugar levels. There is no lack of studies showing how much worse people eat the day after a stormy night’s sleep!
Without sleep, you have the perfect storm of inflammation, out-of-whack hormones and dysregulated blood sugar levels. So, while you think you feel OK and you’re carrying on as usual, you are not at your best, and no amount of caffeine or other stimulants can reverse even one stormy night of sleep.
But What if Sleep is a Luxury?
I get it: kids, stressful jobs, night shift jobs, physical or emotional pain. There are not enough hours in the day to get things done. I don’t think anyone reading this is a stranger to the fact that sleep sometimes feels more like a luxury than a necessity.
I could write for days, as so many people do, on the best ways to improve your sleep. There are many factors to consider, like how to regulate your circadian rhythm, acknowledging that we have different chronotypes (some people are genetically early birds and others night owls, and you have to work within this context) and the realities of your life (work, family, stress) etc.
Ayurvedic medicine prescribes three fundamental lifestyle changes that can drastically improve sleep quality and work for many people:
Go to bed at the same time each night as far as possible
Do light exercise (walking, yoga) before breakfast
Don’t eat a large meal before going to bed (aim for lunch to be your largest meal)
However, in a world where sleep is viewed as a luxury and where people brag about how little sleep they can get by (or think they can), we have three key triggers to pull for improved sleep: diet, exercise and supplementation. This product review focuses on the latter, namely supplementation!
Read More: To Supplement or Not to Supplement
Why Supplements Can Be a Game Changer for Sleep
There are plenty of sleep supplements on the market. Research convincingly shows that there are compounds that are very effective at improving the time that it takes to fall asleep (latency), stay asleep and increase deep or REM sleep (both being very important to reap the full benefits of sleep).
Perhaps a good point of departure is to discuss melatonin, known as the sleep hormone. The pineal gland secretes this hormone, produces a soothing effect, and is crucial to falling and staying asleep. While you can supplement with melatonin, there are natural ways of increasing melatonin levels. One such way is to increase tryptophan levels.
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in high concentrations in protein (think eggs, meat, almonds, pumpkin seeds). It is a necessary ingredient for your body to make serotonin, a chemical messenger which is responsible for producing healthy sleeping patterns and boosting your mood. It is also a necessary ingredient for making melatonin.
Tryptophan can enter your brain directly through the brain’s protective shield called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Once inside the brain, it is converted into 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), which is required to produce serotonin and a precursor (necessary ingredient) of melatonin.
Finally, a good sleep supplement should be able to increase what are known as Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) levels. GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in your brain. It blocks or inhibits specific brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system, essential for sleep because it produces a calming effect and promotes relaxation.
Enter…PrimeSelf’s Natural Sleep – Deep Sleep and Restoration Support.
The above insights into melatonin, tryptophan and serotonin and their role in quality sleep are relevant because they underpin the formulation of this product.
The ingredients in this product are:
Valerian Root Extract
Let's dig a little deeper into each ingredient and how it supports sleep health:
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps to convert tryptophan into serotonin, which we now know is essential for good sleep. It is a water-soluble vitamin, and because our bodies can’t produce vitamin B6, we must get it from food or supplementation. In a fascinating 2018 study, it was shown that supplementation with vitamin B6 even increased the ability of participants to remember their dreams.
There is good evidence showing that vitamin B6 aids sleep and affects our dreams. A lack of vitamin B6 has been linked to insomnia and depression. Because vitamin B6 aids the production of serotonin and melatonin, it is an essential vitamin for ensuing restful sleep and relaxation.
Valerian root became popular in WW2 for sleep and relaxation but has been used for centuries as an anti-anxiety and sleeping herb because it can increase GABA levels naturally (which for sleep is more effective than directly supplementing with GABA). It works even better when you combine it with Passionflower.
Valerian root sounds like Valium – it also has soothing and anti-anxiolytic properties, but it doesn’t knock you out in the groggy, "where-am-I-kind-of-way". This is a beautiful, natural extract which has helped many people with restless leg syndrome and insomnia.
Another natural product which can boost levels of GABA in your brain, passionflower is especially useful for when you wake up at 3 a.m. with a racing mind and want to go back to sleep. There’s good evidence that Passionflower can assist with situational anxiety (like having to make a speech or walking into a job interview) as well as several social phobias or panic disorders.
Passionflower is, again, a natural way to achieve the same effects as something like Valium or diazepam without feeling knocked out and without any of the adverse side effects to your liver or addiction that are typically associated with pharmaceutical sleeping pills. Passionflower is very effective at settling you down, so it is best not to take it during the day unless it is pre-nap!
This sounds a bit complex, but magnesium helps to convert 5-HT into N-acetyl-5-hydroxytryptamine, a precursor to melatonin. The most absorbable forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate, glycinate, taurate and aspartate(the bioavailability of magnesium is a big deal because so many supplements contain cheap types that your body can do absolutely nothing with).
My personal favourite, especially before bedtime, happens to be magnesium glycinate, which is what is included (300mg) in this product. Magnesium has ample research to support its popularity as a supplement for sleep.
L-Theanine is another amino acid which is commonly found in green tea leaves. It has a powerful ability to reduce stress and increase relaxation without causing drowsiness (especially when combined with caffeine, which is why green tea is an excellent compound).
It only takes about 30 minutes for L-Theanine to cross the blood-brain barrier and act directly on the central nervous system to stimulate mental relaxation without compromising alertness. It reduces sympathetic nervous system activity (fight-or-flight response), improves relaxation after stress, lowers blood pressure and, significantly, reduces cortisol levels and anxiety.
My Review of PRIMESELF Natural Sleep – Deep Sleep and Restoration Support
First of all, the packaging and colours are outstanding. I love that it is an entirely natural product. People are rightly hesitant to take pharmaceutical sleeping tablets, and we all know someone who is struggling to quit taking them.
As you can see from the ingredients in this product, it works to support melatonin production as well as increase GABA levels, which promotes both relaxation and sleep, and the ingredients are, based on research, as powerful as the pharmaceutical alternatives.
So, in theory, this is a cleverly compounded supplement to aid QUALITY sleep. In practice, I use an Oura Ring to quantify my sleep meticulously. Some self-experimentation was in order! I used this supplement for three weeks and compared my sleep data to three weeks without supplementation. Other variables like diet, exercise, sleep times, alcohol consumption, monthly cycle and sleeping conditions were kept as consistent as possible. The results were awe-inspiring!
I had a 15% average increase in deep sleep times and an
8% average increase in REM sleep times
My sleep latency (i.e., the time it takes to fall asleep) also dropped.
I wasn’t groggy in the morning when waking up, either.
The part I liked the most was that I scored much higher on my “restlessness” scores.
I typically toss and turn a fair amount, and this seemed to be much reduced with supplementation, which I think results in deeper, more restorative sleep.
Data aside, I sleep better and feel more energised after taking this supplement. I’m so impressed that it is entirely natural, and I feel so relaxed in the 30 minutes before going to bed (without losing alertness), which is incredible!
It is a product that I will continue to use over the long term!!