Outside of diet and training, there’s some other important aspects to consider if you’re looking to build muscle, lose fat, etc. That is, your body’s ability to handle stress (I’m using a very broad definition here), gut health, and sleep quality and quantity to name a few. Let’s discuss the latter.
Much of the body’s repair processes occur while you sleep, especially during the deeper, slow-wave stages. This, for example, is when the pituitary secretes growth hormone and when the brain produces neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Poor quality or interrupted sleep ties in with abnormal cortisol – this is a common issue I see often. In fact, I’m in the middle of writing a post that’ll introduce chrononutrition – a somewhat newer area of research that’s quickly gaining traction (this is actually what my laboratory is currently investigating). If you like this, be sure to check the site for updates on that. But I digress…
So how does the body regulate sleep? It’s a three-step process that, by learning, you can have influence over. As daylight comes to an end, photoreceptors in the eyes send a signal to a sort of “biological clock” in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN works with other parts of the brain to release serotonin and GABA – relaxation-promoting neurotransmitters. Much of this serotonin is converted into melatonin.
There’s a lot of ways to optimize this process. Many medications seek to increase the rate of release of GABA, which may work but doesn’t address potentially low GABA stores. If cortisol is abnormal, chances are GABA stores are low. So, how do we improve sleep quality through lifestyle and nutritional means?
Let’s Get The Melatonin Discussion Out Of The Way First
When discussing sleep, I often get asked about melatonin supplementation. In fact, it’s often the first thing that gets brought up (I wonder why?). Personally, I’m not a fan for it’s sleep-promoting properties. As an antioxidant though, it has uniquely powerful properties. Melatonin differs from other antioxidants in that it doesn’t get “recycled” – that is, it doesn’t undergo a repeated cycle of reduction and oxidation. This “redox cycling” may allow for an antioxidants to actually act as pro-oxidants, lessening its effectiveness. Moreover, because of melatonin’s physical and chemical properties, it has the ability to cross virtually all the membranes and barriers of tissues and cells (Reiter, 2009). This leads to easy and wide distribution of its antioxidant benefits. The problem is the dosing….
Doses as low as 0.1-0.3 mg have been shown to affect sleep onset and maintenance qualities while slight higher doses 0.5mg have shown to affect the phase-shifting actions of endogenous melatonin (Costello, 2014). But to reap it’s antioxidant benefits, doses of 3-10 mg are often needed. So we’re faced with a dilemma – melatonin has powerful antioxidant properties that could significantly reduce oxidative damage at doses that would make most feel lethargic, greatly surpassing the dose needed for sleep-promotion (for which I think there are better alternatives).
Let’s Discuss Something A Bit More Unknown
A potential sleep aid that isn’t too commonly discussed in casein decapeptide. Casein peptides in general have a host of supposed health benefits for which some, I feel, have been greatly exaggerated. There’s many (rather bold) claims that casein peptides improve immune function, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and even prevent cancer. Most of these claims do not have enough evidence to substantiate them.
Casein decapeptide has enough research (which I’ll list in the comments) backing its HPA-axis rebalancing properties to give it a try. In part 1, I briefly discussed how cortisol is often the culprit behind poor sleep quality. Chronic stress leads to a constant release of corticotrophin releasing-hormone (CRH) form the hypothalamus. The continual release of CRH desensitizes the hypothalamic and pituitary to cortisol, essentially blunting negative feedback. While a lot of health implications can result, we’ll stay strictly in the context of sleep.
This is detrimental process is gradual. In fact, most people don’t even realize it. It’s funny how you won’t realize how bad you feel until you are out of that state, looking back. Casein decapeptide decreases the CRH and cortisol production and increases the hypothalamus’ sensitivity to cortisol. Side effects appear to be nonexistent.
This, coupled with L-theanine (another great supplement for cortisol regulation) makes for an much better sleep aid than melatonin IF the root cause is abnormal cortisol.
If this sounds like something that might benefit you, you can pick up Sereniten by Douglas Laboratories at the PhD Muscle Fullscript’s supplement storefront.
Costello, R. B., Lentino, C. V., Boyd, C. C., O’Connell, M. L., Crawford, C. C., Sprengel, M. L., & Deuster, P. A. (2014). The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutrition Journal, 13, 106. http://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-106
Guesdon, B., Messaoudi, M., Lefranc-Millot, C., Fromentin, G., Tomé, D., & Even, P. C. (2006). A tryptic hydrolysate from bovine milk αS1-casein improves sleep in rats subjected to chronic mild stress. Peptides,27(6), 1476-1482. doi:10.1016/j.peptides.2005.10.001
Messaoudi, M., Lefranc–Millot, C., Desor, D., Demagny, B., & Bourdon, L. (2004). Effects of a tryptic hydrolysate from bovine milk αS1–casein on hemodynamic responses in healthy human volunteers facing successive mental and physical stress situations. European Journal of Nutrition,44(2), 128-132. doi:10.1007/s00394-004-0534-7
Miclo, L., Perrin, E., Driou, A., Papadopoulos, V., Boujrad, N., Vanderesse, R., . . . Gaillard, J. (2001). Characterization of α-casozepine, a tryptic peptide from bovine αs1-casein with benzodiazepine-like activity. The FASEB Journal,15(10), 1780-1782. doi:10.1096/fj.00-0685fje
Kim, J. H., Desor, D., Kim, Y. T., Yoon, W. J., Kim, K. S., Jun, J. S., . . . Shim, I. (2006). Efficacy of αs1-casein hydrolysate on stress-related symptoms in women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,61(4), 536-541. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602553
Reiter R.J., Paredes S.D., Manchester L.C., Tan D.X. (2009). Reducing oxidative/nitrosative stress: a newly-discovered genre for melatonin.Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol 2009; 44:175–200.