An ingredient found in beeswax and wheat germ oil may reduce stress and induce a sound slumber, according to scientists.
The chemical – found in a variety of plants including sugar cane and rice bran – was found to decrease levels of a major stress hormone in mice.
Experts say the compound, called octacosanol – which is used as a supplement for lowering cholesterol – could now be used as a new therapy for stress-induced insomnia.
They also say it is safe for humans because it is a food-based compound.
A study has found the chemical octacosanol – found in beeswax and wheat germ oil – may help decrease levels of stress hormones and induce natural sleep (stock photo)
Many studies have shown that poor sleep is linked to a host of health problems including increased risk of obesity, depression, heart attacks and strokes.
Insomnia is thought to affect around one in every three people, and is particularly common in elderly people.
UNDER 6 HOURS SLEEP A NIGHT IS AS BAD AS BINGE DRINKING
Regularly getting less than six hours sleep a night could cause the same long-term damage as alcohol abuse, according to a worrying recent study.
Research suggests that being awake for 18 hours results in the same cognitive impairment people get from being drunk.
This is so severe that driving while sleep deprived could be as dangerous as driving when drunk, researchers found.
Researchers from Quebec-based digital health company Medisys found people who regularly got less than six hours of sleep a night could suffer terrible cumulative health effects they may be oblivious to.
Although the odd night sleeping just six hours or less will not have a significant effect, frequently not sleeping enough is very dangerous, researchers found.
‘Sleep plays an important role in regulating the hormones that influence hunger (ghrelin, cortisol, and leptin) that’s why sleep deprivation increases appetite and leads to overeating and weight gain’, neuroscientist Dr Adrian Owen at Western University, who also works with Medisys, told Digital Journal.
A team from the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at the University of Tsukuba in Japan investigated the effect of octacosanol on sleep regulation in mildly stressed mice.
After giving the rodents the compound orally, they found it reduced the level of corticosterone in their blood, which is a marker for stress.
These mice then had ‘normal’ sleep patterns, which was previously disturbed.
They claim the sleep induced by octacosanol was similar to natural sleep and physiological in nature.
However, the authors note, in their paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, that the chemical does not affect sleep in ‘normal’, that is unstressed animals.
Octacosanol is the main ingredient in policosanol supplements. Several studies have found that policosanol significantly lowers total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), so called ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Research suggests that it is a potent antioxidant and effective in treating cramping muscle pains from poor circulation.
The authors of the new study suggest because octacosanol is natural it should have no side-effects, but say further research should be carried out to test its effectiveness on insomnia brought on by stress in humans.
‘Future studies include the identification of target brain area of octacosanol, its BBB [blood brain barrier] permeability, and the mechanism via which octacosanol lowers stress,’ said lead author Dr Mahesh Kaushik.