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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Treatment for Insomnia That’s Not a Drug, Says Study

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Do you toss and turn for hours before falling asleep? Or go to bed early but still wake up tired? Or keep waking up during the night?

Then you’re among the more than 20% of people in the U.S. who suffer from a sleeping disorder like insomnia and your doctor is probably prescribing sleeping pills to help you doze through the night.

A recent study pointed out that saffron extract could be a natural and safe nutritional strategy to improve sleep duration and quality.

Saffron, dried stigmas of the plant Crocus sativus L. used in traditional medicine, and its compounds, safranal, crocins, and crocetin have been largely studied for their effects on depression and anxiety in humans.

Additionally, saffron seems to induce beneficial effects on sleep duration and quality, as evidenced by previous reports using different approaches and protocols. Some studies used a whole saffron extract, others tested the effects of its active compound crocetin.

With this background, the present study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of a standardized saffron extract on sleep quality using both questionnaires and actimeters.

For the study design, Sixty-six subjects were randomized and supplemented with a placebo (maltodextrin) or a saffron extract (15.5 mg per day) for 6 weeks.

Actigraphy was used to collect objective data related to sleep quality at baseline, at the middle, and at the end of the intervention. Sleep quality was also assessed by completion of the LSEQ and PSQI questionnaires and quality of life by completion of the SF-36 questionnaire.

Results highlighted the following facts.

  • Six weeks of saffron supplementation led to an increased time in bed assessed by actigraphy, An improved ease of getting to sleep evaluated by the LSEQ questionnaire and to an improved sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, and global scores evaluated by the PSQI questionnaire, whereas those parameters were not modified by the placebo.
  • 6-week saffron extract supplementation reduced pain feeling, improved physical global score, and reduced emotional limitation, assessed by the SF-36 questionnaire.
  • Of note, the saffron baseline values of physical functioning, bodily pain, and general health were slightly lower than the placebo baseline values,
  • Saffron supplementation was safe, as no differences in mild and moderate adverse events were reported between both groups.

The mechanisms of action of saffron extract on sleep quality and sleep duration is not totally known. Looking at the effects of the active compounds of saffron, safranal was found to activate the sleep-promoting neurons from the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO) and inhibit the wakefulness-promoting neurons from the tuberomammillary nuclei (TMN) in vitro

the research team quoted.

Observing the results the team concluded that:

The present study provides additional evidence that a saffron extract could be an interesting natural and safe nutritional strategy to improve sleep duration and quality of sleep on population presented mild to moderate chronic primary sleep disorder

Image Credit: iStock

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