Sleep disruption is a major public health issue, and may increase the risk of mortality by ten-fold if you're sleeping less than 6 hours per night. What's more, sleep patterns on a macroscopic level have changed dramatically during to the COVID-19 pandemic because COVID symptoms can lead to psychological distress including anxiety.
Luckily, introducing Lion’s Mane mushroom — AKA Hericium erinaceus — to your regimen can help you mitigate stress and sleep chemistry for calm focus, relaxation, and better quality sleep.
Lion's Mane is a distinctive mushroom, both in its form and its effect on the brain. A celebrated nootropic, Lion's Mane is well known for its neuroprotective benefits and support with cognitive function. But its benefits are not unique to our waking life — taking lion’s mane before bed may improve your life by helping you wind down and get a better night's sleep.
Keep reading to learn more about why this nootropic is renowned for its ability to enhance sleep quality.
Understanding the severity of sleeplessness on our health.
As you prepare for your natural transition to sleep, your body activates the parasympathetic nervous system and subsequently turns off your fight or flight mode. Once the nervous system has disengaged the fight or flight brain function, your body and the mind are able to rest and give you a good night's sleep.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for modern humans to struggle with making this natural transition from alert and ready-to-react to a resting and restorative state where the brain can relax. Over 1/5 of North Americans suffer from chronic sleep issues, and even more of us know what it's like to spend hours in bed wondering why we can't sleep. Chronic sleep problems have become a modern epidemic. The CDC even has a team dedicated to understanding why so many people struggle to fall asleep.
Without quality sleep, we're destined to suffer from serious short-term and long-term consequences. Short-term consequences of sleep disruption include increased stress responsivity, somatic pain, reduced quality of life, emotional distress and mood disorders, and cognitive, memory, and performance deficits. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, and even heart attack. Sleep deprivation is also linked to a weakened immune system, depression, and obesity.
Why do I struggle to sleep?
Modern life, for most, simply gets in the way of sleep. We've become disconnected from our evolutionary biological sleep patterns. Our bodies' biological clock developed in sync with the rotation of the Earth, resulting in our circadian rhythms. When artificial light, e.g. the light bulb, was introduced, our bodies began paying the price.
A number of modern factors from everyday life, such as exposure to blue light, poor diet, excess body weight, and stress can disrupt your circadian processes and overextend your body's daytime state of arousal, making sleep occasionally difficult. This also impairs cognition, and over time can lead to brain atrophy (shrinkage). Our bodies need a good night's sleep to maintain, grow, and restore.
Furthermore, factors such as blue light negatively affect our neuroendocrine systems, which are responsible for our body's sleep controls and stress response. The HPA axis, responsible for your stress response, is one of many neuroendocrine systems that is disrupted by poor sleep. This system acts regulates your fight-or-flight response, circadian rhythm, and how your body adapts to stress. These interactions occur in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands, and adrenal glands. When the HPA axis’s natural balance is interrupted it can trigger increased cortisol, which can impact your mood, brain, hormones, skin, gut, and immunity.
Lion's Mane for stress and sleep.
Lion's Mane is an adaptogenic mushroom. One effective way to naturally support homeostasis is by consuming adaptogens. Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that balance overactive adrenals and help your body respond to stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overall well-being. Taking Lion’s Mane before bed may support your adrenals, mitigate stress chemistry, and upregulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), leading to better sleep and allowing your body to restore homeostatic functions.
In a 2019 study, eight weeks of oral H. erinaceus, or Lion's Mane, supplementation decreased depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. H. erinaceus supplementation also improved mood disorders of a depressive-anxious nature and the quality of the nocturnal rest. Patients were recruited only if they had a mood and/or sleep disorder and/or were binge eating as evaluated through self-assessment questionnaires.
In a randomized controlled trial, H. erinaceus has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression after four weeks in healthy female human participants. These participants consumed H. erinaceus cookies containing 0.5 grams of the powdered fruiting body from the mushroom four times a day at any time of the day. Researchers saw improvements as a result of H. erinaceus with the use of two scales: the Indefinite Complaints Index (ICI), an anxiety measure and a common scale used to measure the clinical effects of treatments, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), a scale used to measure symptoms of depression by a self-report method.
While the latter study only uses 0.5 grams of the powdered fruiting body per cookie, our Brain Stack microdose formula uses a patented extraction made from certified organic Lion's Mane fruiting bodies, standardized to >25% 1,3 and 1,6 beta-glucans. Plant powders dried and ground parts of the plant. They contain beneficial elements but also a considerable portion of inactive compounds. Our plant extracts are standardized concentrates of bioactives made through modern extraction technologies. This ensures you get a clinical-strength dose every time.
Lion's Mane for depression and sleep.
Depression and sleep issues have a bidirectional relationship. This means that poor sleep can contribute to the development of depression and that having depression makes a person more likely to develop sleep issues. This complex relationship can make it challenging to know which came first, sleep issues or depression.
Sleep issues associated with depression include insomnia, hypersomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea. Insomnia is the most common and is estimated to occur in about 75% of adult patients with depression. Many people with depression may go back and forth between insomnia and hypersomnia during a single period of depression.
Sleep issues may contribute to the development of depression through changes in the function of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Sleep disruptions can affect the body’s stress system, disrupting circadian rhythms, and increasing vulnerability for depression.
Pre-clinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that H. erinaceus significantly ameliorates depressive disorder through monoaminergic modulation, neurogenic/neurotrophic, and anti-inflammatory pathways, indicating the potential role of H. erinaceus as complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of depression. Nevertheless, the current research on antidepressant effects by H. erinaceus is relatively still at an early stage, and the specific mechanisms underlying the antidepressant-like activities require further investigation.
Lion's Mane mushrooms and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
An additional benefit of Lion’s Mane mushroom for cognitive and nervous system is its notable ability to support mood. Sleep and mood are closely linked. Without enough sleep, you're more likely to feel irritable. Lion's mane mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to clear brain fog and boost one's mood.
Occasional restlessness may disrupt our bodies' natural transition to a good night's sleep. And the result is a cyclical problem of agitation leading to occasional restlessness and the central nervous system being unable to reach optimal REM sleep.
Lion's Mane and nerve growth factors (NGF).
If you look closely at Lion's Mane mushrooms, you'd find two notable types of therapeutic compounds: Hericenones and Erinacines. These bioactive compounds are unique to Lion's Mane mushrooms and are largely responsible for Lion's Mane's neuroprotective and nootropic properties.
What's the deal with Nerve Growth Factor?
Hericenones and Erinacines can induce NGF synthesis in nerve cells. NGF is a protein that helps neurons survive, resist damage, and repair themselves. Healthy nerve cells have a wide array of potential health benefits, including improved brain function during wakeful hours and sweeter dreams when the circadian rhythm kicks in.
If Lion's Mane clears brain fog, will it keep me awake?
Although Lion’s Mane is known to support mental clarity and focus, it doesn’t have any reported effects on wakefulness. Rather than being a stimulant that alters brain chemistry to mask fatigue, Lion's Mane has been shown to work with and enhance natural biological processes to improve brain health and our adaptability to stress.
What are the health benefits of improved sleep quality?
Continued sleep disruption impairs your body's ability to remain in homeostasis, and can lead to chronic inflammation and degenerative disease of both the body and mind.
When sleep falls into place, you'll notice a transformational difference in your overall health. Proper sleep helps:
- regulate mood and emotions
- improve memory, concentration, processing, alertness, and mental stamina
- support recovery and a healthy immune response
- prevent stress, depression, and sleep-related weight gain
- improve cardiovascular health and metabolism
So, if stress, depression, or poor sleep are your bane, we highly recommend adding Lion's Mane to your regimen.