SLEEP is derived from natural, pure, Montmorency tart cherries, one of the few natural sources of melatonin, responsible for the regulation of sleep.
Montmorency Tart Cherries contain melatonin that is slightly more than is normally found in human blood and unlike synthetic melatonin, Montmorency Tart Cherries will not interact with medications. Too much melatonin not only disturbs sleep but also causes headaches, nausea, dizziness or irritability. Synthetic melatonin can be hundreds of times more than what the body requires to sleep. The natural melatonin found in Tart Cherries is unique in its profile and is free of undersirable side effects or interaction concerns.
Montmorency Tart Cherries are one of nature's miracles, a rich source of antioxidants, that are beneficial for our health. They are free radical scavengers with one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance) index of all known fruits. The ORAC value is a measure for the levels of antioxidants in a food product.
Montmorency Tart Cherries and Melatonin
Montmorency tart cherries are a naturally high source of melatonin. Dr. Russel Reiter, head of the research team at the University of Texas, has been studying melatonin for more than 30 years. Dr. Reiter stated, “Tart cherries, specifically the Montmorency variety, contain an extremely significant quantity of melatonin, enough to produce positive results in the body”. Although melatonin is available as a supplement, Dr. Reiter and other health experts extol the benefits of consuming melatonin through food consumption.
Melatonin has been shown to assist in restoring natural sleep patterns, but there is evidence that the dose of melatonin in many standard supplements is too high, and should not exceed 0.1mg to 0.5mg. The body typically secretes between 5 and 25 micrograms (mcg) of melatonin nightly – therefore 2 milligrams (mg) of melatonin is 80 times greater than what the body needs. In high doses, tolerance can occur as the melatonin receptors become less responsive. Tart cherries contain 13.5 nanograms (ng) of melatonin per gram of cherries, slightly more than is normally found in human blood.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland (the size of a pea), located between the two hemispheres of the brain. Melatonin helps regulate natural sleep patterns and biorhythms, but is also distributed throughout the body. The pineal gland doesn't just produce melatonin, but is the richest area of serotonin production in the brain.
Serotonin converts to melatonin and works to regulate the function of all organs of the Endocrine System including the Pituitary Gland, the Thyroid and Parathyroid glands, the Thymus, Pancreas and the Ovaries and Testes. Every endocrine organ and gland secrete their hormones to the blood, where the pituitary gland stimulates the secretion of these hormones, then the pineal gland regulates the amount of melatonin to counteract the level of hormones that are too high. If melatonin drops too low, the pineal gland will convert available serotonin to melatonin to assist with REM sleep.
Melatonin works in balance with Cortisol, a hormone excreted by the adrenal gland that is involved in proper glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, insulin release, the inflammatory and immune response, and is the body's 'fight or flight' response to stress. Both Cortisol and Melatonin are involved in our circadian rhythms and regulate the sleep and waking states. In the morning, Cortisol levels are highest while Melatonin is low, and as darkness falls, the highpoint of Melatonin production occurs while Cortisol levels are at their lowest levels.
However, as we age, the production of Melatonin decreases and shifts to later hours while the production of Cortisol increases and peaks earlier. This can cause shorter sleep durations.
How Medications Affect Melatonin
Many medications alter melatonin production. SSRIs, sleeping pills, benzodiazepines, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, anti-inflammatory medications, many cardiovascular medications, steroids, aspirin and ibuprofen all suppress or deplete melatonin secretion. This disruption in the Melatonin/Cortisol balance often results in interrupted sleep patterns.
Melatonin also controls the timing and release of the female reproductive hormones, and helps determine when menstruation cycles start and when menopause begins. Melatonin also stimulates cells called osteoblasts that promote bone growth. Depleted levels of Melatonin may contribute to the development of osteoporosis, increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy and heart disease.
SSRIs, Benzodiazepines and Sleeping pills initially increase melatonin production, but the rebound effect is actually reduced levels and less production. Additionally, SSRIs allow too much serotonin to accumulate in the pineal gland thereby forcing it to over-produce melatonin from the excess serotonin during the day. This excess production also increases the levels of melatonin in the eyes, and could correlate to visual/eye problems. This may help to explain the light sensitivity, spots and blurred vision that many antidepressant and benzodiazepine users report. SSRIs then deplete and interfere with the normal absorption of melatonin throughout the body, which can also lead to hormonal issues.
Continued use of Benzodiazepines and Sleeping Pills interfere with the natural Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep stages where dreaming occurs. But SSRIs can also interrupt the normal REM stages and can cause vivid and troubling dreams that carry into the conscious state. During the night, we shift from the predominant non-rapid eye movement (NREM) dreamless sleep to short segments of REM where dreams occur. Both NREM and REM sleep cycles are necessary to have restorative effects. But sleep medications and benzodiazepines dramatically reduce the length of time we spend in the dream stage and instead keep us in a light dreamless sleep.
Natural sleep doesn't just support physical health, but has a profound effect on our brain as it organizes and archives memories, and is essential to the creative process.
Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Tart Cherries are also an important source of phytonutrients, which was derived from the Greek word "phyton" for "plant". It means a "nutrient from a plant" that promotes good health.
Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigment that provides the deep, rich color to tart cherries and belong to a group of compounds called flavonoids. Epidemiological evidence suggest that the higher the amount of flavonoids in the diet, the lower the risk for heart disease. And among the flavonoids found in plant foods, anthocyanins possess the greatest antioxidant power.
Free radicals are created by environmental toxins, drugs, alcohol, or as the by-product of digestion. They steal electrons from the molecules in our healthy cells and in turn create weak and unhealthy cells. Therefore, neutralizing free radicals is essential to good health. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture an electron they require to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule and steal its electron. When the attacked molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical, beginning a chain reaction that can result in the disruption of a living cell. Some free radicals are formed during normal metabolism and at other times, the body’s immune system creates free radicals to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Normally, the body is equipped to handle free radicals, but if the production becomes excessive, damage to the cells can occur.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by surrendering one of their own electrons, ending the reaction. But the antioxidant nutrients don’t become free radicals by donating an electron because they are stable in either form. Instead they act as scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage and disease.
The use of oxygen in the body produces free radicals. However, the brain is particularly susceptible to free radicals, since it accounts for approximately 20% of the oxygen consumption of the body but is only 2% of the body weight. Therefore the brain needs ample supplies of antioxidants to remain healthy.
Tart cherries have strong antioxidant activity and are naturally high in vitamin A, C, B6, E, folic acid, thiamin, beta carotene, fiber, phosphorous, potassium, iron and magnesium, and have virtually no fat or sodium. But the surprising quality of tart cherries came from Dr. Russel Reiter, a preeminent scientist and the Dean of Melatonin Research at the University of Texas, when he discovered Montmorency cherry concentrate contained significant amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is soluble both in fat and water and can enter some cells that vitamins cannot. For example, vitamin E is soluble in the lipid (fat) part of the cell only and vitamin C in the water part. But melatonin is soluble in both. For this reason Dr. Reiter says, eating cherries with high melatonin concentrations will increase the antioxidant capacity in the body. He also extols the benefits of consuming natural melatonin through foods to obtain the beneficial antioxidant compounds.
Researchers at Brunswick Labs discovered that tart cherries contain a class of compounds called super oxide dismutase (SOD) that acts as potent scavengers of dangerous free radicals. Very few natural foods contain SOD and the human body is often lacking in them.
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