· By Michael Heffernan
Help for Insomnia and Sleep Disturbance
The first thing to say is that we are sorry you are having trouble sleeping and we hope this article will help.
The benefits of good sleep are critical for health whereas disturbed sleep can affect many aspects of health including greater risk of accidents, poor memory, and in the longer term risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s as well as metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling or remaining asleep with consequent daytime impairment, and it is estimated that 10% of people have chronic insomnia disorder (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia). If we think of students studying for exams and trying to put in a cramming all-nighter before exams, mothers with new-borns, or older adults who wake throughout the night the ability to function during the day can be seriously disturbed, and this has been shown in human trials of sleep deprivation resulting in memory loss and poor cognitive ability.
The mechanism for the harm to short-term and long-term memory and cognitive ability has been demonstrated to be due to “oxidative stress” damage to the body, or, in other words, free radicals damage the brain due to a lack of antioxidant protection (1). The free radicals develop from normal physiological processes, and we have a balance of antioxidant capacity in the body that keeps this in check. However, this can be overwhelming in times of stress and damage our brains both in the short-term and in aged conditions is hypothesized to lead to neurodegenerative diseases (2).
How can we protect ourselves and our brains from the damage of oxidative stress?
One area of great interest is the use of natural dietary ingredients such as green tea, and in particular, one of the main polyphenols epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) as this has significant anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, stopping “oxidative stress”. Further, these polyphenols have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and have neuroprotective effects against long-term diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.(3)
I suffer from insomnia or sleep disturbance so should I consume green tea to help protect my health?
From animal studies, it appears that taking green tea just an hour before a sleep disturbance and memory testing did not help memory retention. However, long-term use (8 weeks) before sleep deprivation and a memory challenge did help with memory retention and oxidative stress prevention. Further studies have demonstrated that green tea is memory protective but not memory enhancing and normal sleep will provide an equal benefit.
What are the lessons from this?
- If you can get good quality natural sleep that is brilliant, particularly when trying to learn and retain new information eg before exams.
- If you can’t get good quality sleep then drinking green tea can help, but this needs to be over some weeks to get the benefits.
It should also be highlighted that all green teas are not the same and many contain caffeine! Natural green tea contains many fantastic components including amino acids such as arginine and theanine that are beneficial in decreasing stress. Polyphenols (EGCG) are particularly associated with decreasing the risks of cancer and free radical damage. However, they can also contain caffeine which has been shown to reduce the quality of sleep so choosing the appropriate green tea is important.
Dr Heffs Remarkable Mints contain natural ingredients and are caffeine-free and sugar-free. One of the main ingredients is green tea extract that is decaffeinated as this helps to protect the collagen that make up your teeth and is also antibacterial. Since Dr Heff’s Remarkable Mints contain de-caffeinated green tea you will get the benefits but will not harm your sleep even if you need to use a mint in the night to help with dry mouth or to help sooth a cough.
They are ideal for people that suffer from dry mouth as they help to stimulate saliva and the mint leaves the mouth feeling fresh and clean. They are scientifically tested by international dental schools, recommended by dentists and endorsed by Toothfriendly International.
Treatments for Insomnia include education to avoid certain factors that can increase insomnia such as stimulants like caffeine and correct underlying disorders like reflux gastroesophageal disorder (GERD). Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered the preferred approach for chronic insomnia to help manage anxiety and stress, which are often associated with this sleeping disorder. It is also possible to consider sleep medications to help with sleep, and these are highlighted here.
We hope you have found this helpful and wish a good night's rest.
Dr. Heff's are available here.
Dr. Mike Heffernan
- Atrooz, F., Salim, S., 2020. Sleep deprivation, oxidative stress and inflammation. Adv. Protein Chem. Struct. Biol. 119.
- Singh, A., et al., 2019. Oxidative stress: a key modulator in neurodegenerative diseases. Molecules.
- Grabska-Kobylecka, I., et al., 2020. The presence of caffeic acid in cerebrospinal fluid: evidence that dietary polyphenols can cross the blood-brain barrier in humans. Nutrients 12.