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How to sleep: The natural supplement shown to promote sleep and alleviate anxiety
Sleep fortifies the body in numerous ways, from strengthening your immune system to increasing your sex drive. The benefits are not purely physical either – sleep improves mental wellbeing. These palpable benefits are academic if you are struggling to switch off, however.
Sleep deprivation may seem like an insurmountable obstacle but research suggests making modest adjustments to your diet can remedy it.
These adjustments often come in the form of supplements, some of which have been proven to restore the sleep-cycle.
One of the more promising is magnolia bark, an extract that is derived from the branches and stems of the houpo magnolia tree.
It is believed that the polyphenols in magnolia bark — honokiol and magnolol — are responsible for inducing and improving sleep.
Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that have been shown to greatly benefit the human body.
A study in mice found a magnolol dose of 2.3–0.9 mg per pound (5–25 mg per kg) of body weight significantly decreased sleep latency, or the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
The same study observed that the same dose increased REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep.
REM sleep is one of the four stages that the brain goes through during the sleep cycle.
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According to Cleveland Clinic, it is marked by a number of physiological changes that include muscle relaxation, eye movement, faster respiration, and increased brain activity.
Additionally, the magnolol appeared to increase the number of times the mice woke up during sleep but decreased the length of time they were awake.
Magnolia bark’s effects on sleep appear to be closely connected to the activity of the GABA(A) receptors in the central nervous system.
This makes sense, as it’s known that GABA(A) receptor activity is closely associated with sleep.
Furthermore, magnolia bark extract has been shown to alleviate anxiety, which often contributes to sleep loss and vice versa.
A study in 40 women ages 20–50 found that taking 250 mg of magnolia and phellodendron bark extract three times a day resulted in greater relief of short-term and temporary anxiety than taking a placebo.
Other tips to improve sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a handful of studies suggest that exercise significantly improves the sleep of people with chronic insomnia.
“The only study that looked at the effects of a single exercise session found that a bout of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., walking) reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep of people with chronic insomnia compared to a night in which they did not exercise,” says the NSF.
A simple but often overlooked tip is to keep regular sleeping hours.
“This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine,” explains the NHS.
Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night.
“By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule,” says the NHS.