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Common food-based item may reduce stress and improve sleep, study finds

Have you ever found it difficult to sleep on account of stress? If so, you would be glad to know that the solution may lie in naturally occurring products rather than pills. Octacosanol , commonly found in sugarcane, wheat germ oil and beeswax may be all you need to reduce stress and improve sleep, a  new study has revealed.

The study was published by researchers from a Japanese institute in the Journal, Scientific reports.

According to the research team led by Drs Mahesh K. Kaushik and Yoshihiro Urade of the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba, the naturally occurring substance,  octacosanol reduces stress and restores stress-affected sleep back to normal.

They arrived at  this conclusion based on recent experiments in mice.  According to the scientists, when octacosanol was administered to mildly stressed mice, it reduced the level of corticosteroids (commonly elevated in stress) and improved sleep too.  This suggests that the substance may be useful in the treatment of stress and  insomnia.

Clearly,  further studies are needed in humans to establish these  claims. Nevertheless,  the presence of the substance in foods we already eat suggest they may safe for human consumption.

Why is this information important?

Stress is inevitable and it is invariably linked to difficulty in sleeping.  The ever changing demands of our jobs, school, family and other activities puts people under constant pressure.  Stress causes people to toss and turn in bed because the minds remain active instead of shutting down at night. This leaves them unrefreshed and feeling lazy in the morning. Sadly, just as stress disrupts sleep, poor sleep increases stress. This has been described as a vicious cycle, which is quite common according to some surveys.

In view of these, many resort to prescription  pills such as diazepam and opiates to stay calm and sleep well. Unfortunately, these medications have side effects and  are addictive, causing more physical and mental health problems later. Therefore, there is a need to find safer alternatives to such  medications and research into food based compounds is a huge step.

Octacosaol is commonly found in the following substances:

Wheat germ oil

Bees wax

Sugarcane

Alfalfa

Ginkgo biloba

The richest source of octaconosol is wheat germ oil which is also a very rich source of proteins, fiber, good fats and minerals such as  magnesium, zinc, thiamine, folic acid, potassium, and phosphorus. It is also high in vitamin E which has good anti-oxidant properties. Several claims about the effect of wheat germ oil has been made.  These includes reducing tumours, parkinsonism symptoms, cholesterol a improve athletic performance. However, most of these claims  are based on studies  in rats and chicken embryo.

Beeswax is  produced naturally by honey bees in bee hives. Although, edible, it is best known for its skin and hair benefits. Beeswax is also used for lowering cholesterol, pain relief, reducing swelling and managing hiccups, diarrhea and ulcers. Some of these uses have not been established by researchers.

In addition to food based products, you may need to explore other ways of managing stress and sleep such as music, relaxation techniques and consulting health experts. Knowing the signs of stress and dealing with it helps us to lead healthier, happier lives!

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