This week’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column explores the connection between sleep deprivation and being overweight. It’s clear that the two are linked, but science has yet to establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
Even if science never proves that being tired contributes to weight or obesity, there are many good reasons to get a good night’s sleep. People tend to have more auto accidents when sleep-deprived, for one thing.
But lots of people have trouble falling or staying asleep. (According to the CDC, between 50 million and 70 million people in the United States have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.) Of course, there are over-the-counter and prescription sleep aides, but many of us prefer not to go that route. Sadly, while cutting back on certain foods and beverages may, as I wrote last summer, promote better sleep, no food or drink has been proven to help people fall or stay asleep. Alcohol seems as though it should help. But while a nightcap or two might help you drop off to sleep, the sleep you get is of substandard quality, and you end up waking up without having got the restorative rest you need.
So my ears perked up when I received a sample of a drink called NeuroSleep a few months ago. NeuroSleep’s bottle front announces “ZZZzzz... in every bottle.” The back says the drink “provides restful sleep, relieves muscle cramps, supports relaxation, promotes feeling of well being, supports healthy mental function,” and explains that the tasty contents will help set your body up for a sound night’s sleep.
NeuroSleep (and the other titles — including one called NeuroGasm — in the new product line, coming soon to a Walgreens or CVS near you) is marketed as a “nutritional supplement” and is thus not allowed to make substantial health claims without drawing the FDA’s ire. Its main sleep-related ingredient is melatonin, a hormone that plays a lead role in regulating the body’s sleep cycle. Does melatonin ingested via a drink such as NeuroSleep perform the same function as the melatonin our bodies produce naturally?
Chris Noonan, who serves as the scientific and regulatory affairs adviser for the Neuro line, points to a meta-analysis of research that finds supplemental melatonin plays a very limited role in improving sleep. But he doesn’t think all the evidence is in yet. “I’m a dietary supplement skeptic,” he says. “There’s not a lot of really good [scientific] support out there.” By which he means that not enough research into supplemental melatonin has yet been done.
In any case, NeuroSleep doesn’t promise to put you to sleep but rather to set you up for a restful night’s snooze once you get there.
Are you one of those millions of people who find sleep elusive? Have you found a food, beverage or strategy that helps you sleep better?