We all know how a bad night’s sleep can impact our performance and mood the following day. When this becomes a recurring pattern, our mental health can begin to be significantly affected.
“Unfortunately, our current lifestyle practices are not conducive to good sleep,” says Lopresti, managing director at Clinical Research Australia and a registered Clinical Psychologist with 25 years of clinical experience. He is also the founder of Personalised Integrative Therapy, a holistic treatment for depression and anxiety.
“For example, we are increasingly exposed to excessive light at night-time. Many of us are also stressed about work, health, finances, and family issues, which can all exacerbate sleep problems. Eating a diet comprising refined sugars and artificial ingredients will also hurt our sleep.”
Science behind natural solutions
Growing awareness of mental health issues – especially since the Covid-19 pandemic – has seen growing interest in targeted supplements. A key challenge, however, has been the fact that pharmaceutical ingredients specifically targeting these health issues have been shown to be only moderately effective.
“Most medications are also associated with several side effects, including weight gain, drowsiness, sexual disturbances, and digestive problems,” explains Lopresti. “People are therefore looking for effective and safe options to improve their sleep and enhance their mental wellbeing.”
Emerging research has shown how many natural ingredients can help improve mood and promote sound sleep, and are associated with fewer adverse reactions. Popular ingredients to support mood include saffron, ashwagandha, probiotics, St John’s wort, magnesium, and curcumin, just to name a few.
Exciting options include saffron, magnesium, glycine, and tart cherry juice
Common sleep-promoting supplements include valerian and melatonin. “However, the research on these ingredients is mixed,” says Lopresti. “Some exciting options include saffron, magnesium, glycine, tart cherry juice, chamomile, and holy basil.”
In addition, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the gut-brain connection. Scientists now know that there is a bi-directional relationship between the gut and the brain, and new research has demonstrated the positive mood-enhancing effects of ingredients that target gut function, such as pre- and probiotics.
“Inflammation can also affect both mental and physical health,” continues Dr Lopresti. “In this respect, anti-inflammatory ingredients have shown promise in supporting good mental and cognitive health.”
Importance of clinical evidence
In his presentation at Vitafoods, Lopresti will underline the importance of caution when it comes to using herbal ingredients, especially generic ingredients with no research supporting their efficacy and safety.
“Formulators should choose standardised extracts with good evidence supporting their effectiveness,” he says. “In addition to this, it is crucial for companies formulating products with several ingredients to ensure that the ingredients are stable when combined and have synergistic actions.”
Lopresti notes that most products on the market base their claims on research on single ingredients. For natural supplements to be increasingly accepted by consumers and health professionals, final products should undergo clinical trials to support their safety and efficacy.
“Just because a study shows an ingredient works when used in isolation, it does not necessarily mean combining several ingredients makes it even more effective,” he says.
Reserve your place!
Dr Lopresti will be speaking at the Vitafoods Conference 2023, under Cognitive and Emotional Health Theme. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about cutting edge science and innovation in the field of natural ingredients, sleep, and emotional wellbeing.