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Relishing Sleep

Relaxation & Sleep Relaxation & Sleep
Phase 2

Consumers turn to natural products for less worry and more shut-eye.

If one was to ask a random adult about one of his or her health concerns, one response might be, “Why can’t I get more sleep?” This is a fair question.

According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, this may not be ideal for some people—reports from the ASA indicate that about 35 percent of adults fall short of this amount on a given day. Combine that with the 50 to 70 million American adults who have some sort of sleep disorder (insomnia, sleep apnea, etc), and the facts begin to make sense.

Despite consumers’ struggles in this area, there are plenty of options to consider. Natural products that focus on relaxation and sleep field can leave customers’ minds at ease knowing that retailers and manufacturers are offering the most effective items.

Popular Ingredients & Trends

Popular ingredients in the category have been around awhile, but it is important to note that there are misconceptions with some of them. One involves valerian, which has been believed to have calming effects.

“Research has shown the most popular single herb for insomnia, valerian actually has no sedative effects,” said David Winston, RH (AHG), founder and president of Herbalist & Alchemist, Inc. (H&A) in New Jersey. “It does have anxiolytic and antispasmodic activity. In most RCTs [randomized controlled trails] of valerian as a single herb, it has been found to be ineffective. However, when combined with other herbs including hops, lemon balm [Melissa officinalis], California poppy [Eschscholzia californica] or passion flower [Passiflora], it is much more effective. There are two reasons for this. First, hops and California poppy are actual sedatives, while lemon balm and passionflower are highly effective nerviness (calming agents). Secondly, a relatively new area of research confirms what traditional medicine has known for millennia, that the intelligent combining of herbs into formulas can create enhanced activity known as synergy.”

Winston also noted that combining herbs does not signify that the end product will necessarily be more effective, as “with herbal synergy, 1 + 1 = 3 or 4 or 5. It is important to note that there is also antisynergy (antagonism) where 1 + 1 =1. Just combining herbs or nutrients together does not guarantee synergy, but looking at the traditional pairs or triplets of herbs used in TCM [traditional Chinese medicine], ayurveda, physiomedicalism, Tibetan medicine, unani-tibb, jamu or sidha is a very good way to determine whether a combination of herbs will be greater than the sum of its parts. This is the difference between efficacious formulas and those that will not provide the benefits the consumer is seeking.”

Melatonin is also a popular choice as an ingredient, and although a potential side effect can include tolerance build up, David Johnson, CEO of California-based Genexa pointed out that consumers continue to be fond of it as a result of its safety over alternative options.

“Many people still choose to use this ingredient in their sleep regimen because it’s a healthier, safer option than the alternative prescription medications currently available, which can cause dependency and other unhealthy reactions ….” he said. “The homeopathic remedy Passiflora incarnata is also gaining popularity due to its gentle ability to help with restless sleep and stress.”

Genexa’s Sleepology—a “non-habit-forming sleep aid” as Johnson described it, does include Passiflora incarnate, but not contain melatonin.

In terms of delivery methods, Kris Wear, owner of World of Nutrition in Idaho noticed that herbal tinctures along with liquid-filled capsules and sublinguals have stood out amongst the pack. Jeffrey Burke, ND, MH of Jeffrey Burke Media (Nevada) added that finding the perfect delivery and formulation is key to efficacy.

“I think that more tonic style formulations are trending but the delivery systems are really more of a hit and miss,” Burke said. “What I mean by that is with such a high level of compromised digestive systems in this country, and such a large portion of people using acid suppressive medications, we truly have to try a few formulations to see what absorbs and works for each individual. The great thing is there are awesome formulas to choose from.”

Indeed, having a variety of options is one of many factors that contribute to the upward market.

Market Status Younger adults are often the consumers who suffer from both stress and restless nights, which leaves potential for the future of this niche in the industry.

“Relaxation and sleep products are seeing an uptick in the market due to reports of increased stress and sleeplessness among adults, particularly among Millennials,” said Johnson.” According to a recent Mintel report,1 the majority of Americans struggle with sleep, which is creating a larger market for sleep aids.

“There seems to be an increasing need, especially for sleep products,” Wear noted. “More and more people seem to get more stressed, move less and don’t eat a good diet, which leads to poor-quality sleep.”

Suggestions for Retailers

Regardless of the type of product, being able to effectively market items starts with a knowledgeable staff. Every customer will have different preferences compared to the next person, so knowing the ins and outs of the products will make the retailer-customer interaction that much more effective.

“Staff education is key to guiding customers toward the products that will give people the benefits they are looking for,” said Winston, “because there is no ‘one size fits all’ with the most effective herbal approaches. It’s important to help the customer to identify what’s interfering with their ability to relax and sleep, to guide them to what will be most helpful. Our formulas address different states—for example, if it’s stress that is the problem, we have several different stress formulas: if their brain won’t turn off, we have Tension Relief to support a calm mind, Daily Adapt is an adaptogenic blend promotes energy and balances stress for those who are exhausted and stressed out at the same time, or Calm Adapt if they just need help relaxing from stress.”

In fact, once a month, Winston holds an “Herbal Salon” web seminar, which is an interactive teleconference for retailers and practitioners selling the company’s products. H&A uses that feedback as a way to see how its herbals product sales can continue to improve.

From a presentation perspective, it is also vital to keep these items visible.

“Make sure you have sleep and relaxation sections and end caps,” Burke recommended. “Why? Because many suffering in silence have no idea, or [are] not informed that there are alternatives available to them. We have somehow went from the problem of sleep and relaxation directly to prescriptions or doing nothing at all, mostly because we had no idea there were other stops on the train.”

Research in the Field

When it comes to monitoring sleep, there’s been a surplus of studies that demonstrate magnesium’s effectiveness as a supplement.

Texas-based Natural Vitality created Natural Calm Calmful Sleep, which the company website describes as a “nutrient-rich sleep formula” containing magnesium glycinate. This manufacturer works hand-in-hand with Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Advisory Board Member with the Nutritional Magnesium Association who said that when it comes to studies on magnesium, the research does not always get relayed to consumers.

“I find it frustrating that magnesium sleep research is repeated over and over and doctors don’t get the message to report this to their patients,” Dean stressed. “If they do recommend magnesium, they reference magnesium oxide, which may partially work but it usually causes an extreme laxative effect and the patient discontinues the treatment.

“How does magnesium help us sleep? Twitchy, restless, tense muscles keep you from falling into a deep sleep. Tight muscles make you hyper alert and irritable and any noise or even an active dream will wake you up. Magnesium relaxes tight, twitchy muscles so you can reach a deeper level of sleep.”

Dean also noted that relaxation is not a topic that can be quantified as research per se; instead, a person would need to refer to anxiety and depression studies.

She referenced a study featuring nearly 500 depressed people, which determined that a majority of the sufferers were deficient of magnesium. The study’s authors recommended to clinicians that they consider using magnesium therapy as a way to treat chronic depression.2

According to Burke, when it comes to considering sleep studies on the retail store level, studies ought to represent the concerns posed by customers, including:

A. I cannot fall asleep
B. I cannot stay asleep
C. I cannot get into a deep sleep
D. If I have used prescriptions in the past, can the natural alternative still work for me?

What people may not be aware of is the close-knit relationship between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands. The signals that are transmitted through these pathways cannot only impact sleep, but depression and anxiety among others.

“We are especially interested in research showing [has] HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) axis depletion can contribute to impaired sleep quality, as well as increased systemic and neuro-inflammation, which contributes to depression, anxiety, brain fog, fibromyalgia, CFIDS (chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome), thyroid dysfunction and blood sugar dysregulation,” Winston said. “In addition, TCM studies which look at underlying patterns causing sleep issues can help to understand why many protocols fail. For instance, on the simplest level, there is ‘excess insomnia’ and ‘deficiency insomnia,’ and each pattern is treated differently in TCM. The herbs and supplements that are effective for excess insomnia (hops, California poppy, valerian) offer no benefits for people suffering from deficiency insomnia. This reinforces the need for herbal products to be skillfully formulated, and their applications clearly conveyed.”

As society continues to move forward, more and more recurring themes (such as diet) are being discovered. This can help formulators pinpoint a product’s effectiveness more accurately, so that customers can purchases items that further suit their needs.

“Research now points to more factors that contribute to sleeplessness and difficulty falling asleep than ever before,” concluded Johnson. “Researchers are looking at how one’s environment, increased stress, and even the presence of electronics can contribute to difficulty with sleep and relaxation. We know that healthy sleep is a major contributor to overall well-being, but other health habits, such as diet and exercise, similarly contribute to sleep health.” VR


1 Mintel. (2017) OTC Sleep Aids, US, March 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017 from Mintel Reports database.

2 Cox RH, Shealy CN, Cady RK, Veehoff D, Burnetti Awell M, Houston R, “Significant magnesium deficiency in depression.” J Neurol Orthop Med Surg, vol 17, pp. 7–9, 1996.


Bruxism and Sleep

There are various factors that are indirectly related to sleep, including dental issues. Vitamin Retailer spoke with William Balanoff, DDS, MS, FICD, creator of the Ora-GUARD, which can help fight bruxism.

NS: What exactly is bruxism? How common is it among the U.S. population? Is there a specific demographic that is more prone to suffering from it?

WB: Bruxism is the unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth. It is quite common—in fact, in the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the adult population grind their teeth. Bruxism is a disorder that does not discriminate; it affects men and women, young and old, across all races and socio-economic levels.

NS: What are the symptoms?

WB: Primary symptoms of bruxism are prematurely worn-down tooth enamel, chipped, broken teeth, micro cracks, loose fillings, as well as headaches and jaw pain. However, up to 90 percent of sufferers also experience secondary symptoms which include disturbed sleep, neck and facial pain, pain behind the eyes, vertigo, hearing problems and laryngitis.

NS: What are some natural solutions to bruxism?

WB: Although some people grind their teeth due to a misaligned bite, the recommended treatment is the use of a dental grind guard to address symptoms of bruxism. For most adults, the trigger is stress—natural solutions that treat the root cause include relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, as well as diet modification; the removal of caffeine and sugar from daily consumption can make a tremendous difference. Acupuncture is also a more natural alternative.

NS: Why is Ora-GUARD effective in combating bruxism? How does it work?

WB: Ora-GUARD is a drug-free alternative and unlike any other dental grind guard currently available on the market today. It combines a soft, medical grade fit material to cushion the jaws during clenching, while the patented bite plate wedge design protects teeth from the damaging effects of grinding. Ora-GUARD’s patented bite plate wedge design is specially constructed to slide the lower jaw down and forward, releasing tension on the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) muscle while preventing tooth damage.

NS: Why do you believe this product is important for retailers to sell in their stores?

WB: Having Ora-GUARD available at retailers provides bruxism sufferers access to an effective and economical treatment that provides relief and does not affect the body permanently since it’s non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical. Typical treatment options for bruxism include orthodontics to cap the teeth, braces to change the bite or a custom-made mouth guard from your dentist. These are permanent and very costly solutions to a problem that for most of us is temporary. In fact, 50 percent of the people who grind their teeth today won’t be doing so in a year from now if it is being caused by a stressful event that passes.

NS: Anything else you would like to add?

WB: The amount of damage that can be done within a brief period of teeth grinding can be quite significant. The most important thing is to protect the teeth and TMJ joint from damage—wearing a dental grind guard is the best solution.

For More Information:
Genexa, www.genexahealth.com
Herbalist & Alchemist, Inc., www.herbalist-alchemist.com
Jeffrey Burke, ND, MH, www.drjeffreyburke.com
Natural Vitality, www.naturalvitality.com
William Balanoff, DDS, MS, FICD, www.ora-guard.com

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