In modern medicine, we often look at cognitive issues being caused by age, neurotransmitter issues, free radical damage, and even circulatory problems. What often gets overlooked are other underlying risks such as sleep and stress. When we look at stress, sleep, and cognition, we can see they are interconnected.
- Stress decreases cognitive function, learning, and memory.[i]
- Stress is a contributing factor to sleep disorders[ii]
- Lack of quality sleep leads to stress[iii]
- A person may have trouble with cognitive function, not realizing that it is worry (stress) or sleep problems causing them not to remember something.
- When we have trouble focusing or concentrating, we often feel stressed.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, stress and poor sleep can impact most aspects of our lives, including cardiovascular health[iv], immune health[v], gastrointestinal problems[vi], hormone issues[vii], weight control[viii], elevated blood sugar[ix], pain[x], not to mention our relationships, difficulties at work, home, school, and many other areas.
Who is impacted? Inside the Numbers
In short, we all are impacted by stress and other mental wellness struggles. Looking at the numbers regarding stress, we can see that stress is a significant concern. Throw in the past several years of dealing with the pandemic, and we have opened Pandora’s box for a potential mental wellness meltdown. Check out these staggering numbers:
- In 2017, 44 percent of Americans surveyed frequently experienced stress in their daily lives.[xi]
- 54% of 18 to 29 year old frequently experience stress[xii]
- 49% of women frequently experience stress[xiii]
- In 2019, about one-third of people globally reported feeling stressed, worried, and/or angry[xiv]
- 10% of people were affected by anxiety in North America, Western Europe, and Australia/New Zealand[xv]
- Nearly 80 percent of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives.[xvi]
- Nearly 1 in 5 adults say their mental health is worse than last year. (2020 vs. 2019)[xvii]
- World Health Organization claims the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.[xviii]
- Gen-Z adults report the highest stress levels (6.1 out of 10), millennials 5.6 of 10, Gen X 5.2, Boomers 4.0, and 3.3 out of 10 for those over 75 years.[xix]
While stress is the elephant in the room, cognitive and sleep issues also impact millions of people and are significant for mental wellness concerns.
- Adults who were short sleepers (less than 7 hours of sleep per 24-hour period) were more likely to report being obese, physically inactive, and current smokers compared to people who got enough sleep (7 or more hours per 24-hour period)[xx]
- Adults who were short sleepers (less than 7 hours per 24-hour period) were more likely to report ten chronic health conditions compared to those who got enough sleep (7 or more hours per 24-hour period)
- Adolescents need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.[xxi] But, more than two-thirds of U.S. high school students report getting less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights (see Table 4)[xxii]
- 50-70 million Americans have a sleeping disorder[xxiii]
We are seeing how stress and sleep play a huge role in our everyday lives and that they are interconnected to cognitive problems such as poor concentration, focus, and memory. So let’s take a look at some solutions to all three areas.
Natural Ingredients for Stress
Affron®- If you have been paying attention to my blogs on mental wellness, affron® is one of my favorite ingredients for stress (and sleep). Affron® has eight clinical studies proving its effectiveness, absorption, and safety. Four of the studies completed (one in children 12-16 years old) showed improvements in mood, occasional stress, and tension.
CALMalumaTM– CALMalumaTM may be a new supplement for most of us and yet has a significant impact on having people feel an overwhelming feeling of calm. One study showed that it helped with the reduction of stress and frustration and had an effect on the stress hormone cortisol.
Zembrin®- This amazing botanical has a deep history of use by indigenous people from Southern Africa. Like the other botanicals listed here, Zembrin® also has clinical proof that it works great for stress. Studies have shown us that it works quickly in the brain’s stress center (within two hours), and it helps to improve stress, mood, sleep, and cognition.
These three were chosen over other ingredients due to their clinical proof and the fact that they do not cause drowsiness. There are other ingredients for stress, but most of them cause drowsiness, which may impede your cognitive abilities and function.
Natural Ingredients for Sleep
Zylaria- Research with Zylaria has shown it impacts the natural production of GABA, also known as the calming and sleep neurotransmitter.
Levagen®+ – Levagen® was covered in a previous blog discussing its multiple proven health benefits. Today, it is included because research has shown that taking Levagen® decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, improves sleep quality, and improves the time it takes to get awake each morning. This benefit may also be attributed to its ability to help those with pain (an underlying cause of sleep problems).
Affron®- As mentioned above, affron® works great for stress, but three additional studies showed that affron® improved sleeplessness scores, restorative sleep, feeling more energized/awake after sleep, and overall sleep quality.
Natural Ingredients for Cognition
While the focus (pun intended) of this blog is on the underlying links between stress and sleep with cognition problems, it would be faulty not to include a few suggestions for direct effects on cognition.
COGNIGRAPE- We all know of the powerful benefits of grapes, such as cardiovascular and skin health. Still, new research with COGNIGRAPE has proven to improve cognitive functions such as attention, language, and immediate and delayed memory.
Bacopa- I listed bacopa here more generically because there are several patented extracts of bacopa on the market, all with solid science for cognitive health. Studies with bacopa show improvement in speed of visual information processing, learning rate, memory consolidation, retention of new information, and improvements in working memory.
HydroCurc® + Ferrous Sulfate- For this one, we are going “outside the box” concerning cognition and brain health. In a recent blog, I discussed how the combination of these two supplements was recently studied and showed that they significantly increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is naturally produced by the body and plays a critical role in several areas of your nervous system and brain health. You can look at BDNF like it is a fertilizer for your brain. BDNF helps the brain develop new connections, repair failing brain cells, and protect healthy brain cells from becoming damaged. In addition, when your BDNF levels are high, it is easier to learn new things.
nooLVL- nooLVL is a non-stimulant cognitive health ingredient that enhances performance, fights mental fatigue, and keeps your brain sharp. Multiple clinical studies show that the ingredient boosts focus, concentration, and memory.
If you are reading this and curious about what you should do next, consider combining several of the above ingredients for each of these three areas. An example would be combining affron® with Levagen®+ and COGNIGRAPE. Or, if stress is your primary issue, combine affron® with Zembrin® and CALMalumaTM. In addition, if your main struggle is sleep, combining Levagen®+ with Zylaria and affron® would be awesome. Don’t get alarmed with taking these suggestions. Each of the ingredients selected above was done with the intent of you being able to combine them. However, if you are seeking to focus (pun intended) on just your cognitive health, then the perfect mix would be to take nooLVL with HydroCurc® + ferrous sulfate and COGNIGRAPE. These ingredients will help you concentrate and focus and significantly benefit your overall brain health.
[i] Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCL J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 [ii] Han KS, Kim L, Shim I. Stress and sleep disorder. Exp Neurobiol. 2012;21(4):141-150. doi:10.5607/en.2012.21.4.141 [iii] American Psychological Association website, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep, Stress, and Sleep, Created 2012, accessed April 8, 2022 [iv] Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCL J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 [v] Dhabhar FS. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014;58(2-3):193‐210. doi:10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0 [vi] Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCL J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 [vii] Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCL J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 [viii] van der Valk ES, Savas M, van Rossum EFC. Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?. Curr Obes Rep. 2018;7(2):193-203. doi:10.1007/s13679-018-0306-y [ix] Wong H, Singh J, Go RM, Ahluwalia N, Guerrero-Go MA. The Effects of Mental Stress on Non-insulin-dependent Diabetes: Determining the Relationship Between Catecholamine and Adrenergic Signals from Stress, Anxiety, and Depression on the Physiological Changes in the Pancreatic Hormone Secretion. Cureus. 2019;11(8):e5474. Published 2019 Aug 24. doi:10.7759/cureus.5474 [x] Ahmad AH, Zakaria R. Pain in Times of Stress. Malays J Med Sci. 2015;22(Spec Issue):52-61. [xi] GALLUP website, https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx?g_source=ALL_GALLUP_HEADLINES&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles , Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by stress, December 20, 2017, accessed April 7, 2022 [xii] GALLUP website, https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx?g_source=ALL_GALLUP_HEADLINES&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles , Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by stress, December 20, 2017, accessed April 7, 2022 [xiii] GALLUP website, https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx?g_source=ALL_GALLUP_HEADLINES&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles , Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by stress, December 20, 2017, accessed April 7, 2022 [xiv] GALLUP website, https://news.gallup.com/poll/249098/americans-stress-worry-anger-intensified-2018.aspx?g_source=link_NEWSV9&g_medium=LEAD&g_campaign=item_&g_content=Americans%27%2520Stress%2c%2520Worry%2520and%2520Anger%2520Intensified%2520in%25202018, Americans’ Stress, Worry and Anger Intensified in 2018, April 25, 2019, accessed April 7, 2022 [xv] Medical News Today website, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248155#1, Depression is a global problem, July 23, 2012, accessed October 12, 2020 [xvi] American Psychological Association website, https://www.apa.org/images/sia-2020-covid-stress_tcm7-279798.jpg , COVID-19 Is a Significant Stressor for Most Americans, [xvii] American Psychological Association website, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/sia-mental-health-crisis.pdf, Stress in AmericaTM 2020 A National Mental Health Crisis, (Poll completed between August 4 and August 26, 2020), accessed April 7, 2022 [xviii] WHO Website, https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide, COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide, March 2, 2022, accessed April 7, 2022 [xix] American Psychological Association website, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/sia-mental-health-crisis.pdf, Stress in AmericaTM 2020 A National Mental Health Crisis, (Poll completed between August 4 and August 26, 2020), accessed April 7, 2022 [xx] CDC Website “Data and Statistics Sleep” https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html,May 2, 2017 Accessed July 9, 2019 [xxi] Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D’Ambrosio C, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(6):785–786. [xxii] Wheaton AG, Olsen EO, Miller GF, Croft JB. Sleep duration and injury-related risk behaviors among high school students — United States, 2007–2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65:337–341. [xxiii] American Sleep Association Website “Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics” https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/ Accessed April 29, 2020