by Mike Arnold
Along with training and diet, sleep is one of the foundational pillars on which any successful bodybuilding program rests. Slack in this area just a little bit, and progress will be compromised. This is not surprising, as sleep is the time during which the body recovers from the previous day’s stress and reenergizes for the day to come, but what is surprising is the level of inattention it usually receives. With such a profound influence on the body’s ability to recover and grow, the uninitiated might assume that bodybuilders routinely place special emphasis on this aspect of their program. However, this is rarely the case. Unlike training and nutrition, in which most of us agonize over every little detail, sleep is generally given short shrift, with little attention paid to quantity and even less given to quality.
Perhaps it’s the poorly understood nature of sleep that causes many to place it so far down on the priority list. After all, we don’t consciously do anything while we sleep. Hell, we don’t even remember most of it, let alone perceive the body’s internal workings. For most of us, it’s simply a time to unwind and temporarily forget about the stresses and responsibilities of daily life and if we’re lucky, dream about lying on the beach surrounded by desirable women of our choice. While we might not play an active role in this daily downtime, it is no less important to our bodybuilding progress than what we do during our waking hours. Knowing this, taking steps to ensure that it proceeds uninterrupted is just common sense.
Still, excuses for inadequate sleep abound. Irregular schedules, mental/emotional stress, drug use, excessive obligations, and even clinical insomnia are all cited as valid reasons for failing to get enough sleep, but even if one is able to clock the recommended 8 hours per night, it is no guarantee that they are taking full advantage of their nightly slumber. In order to receive maximum benefit, we must not only get enough sleep, but we must get quality sleep.
There are a few things we can do to improve sleep quality, such as sleeping at night, getting on a regular sleeping schedule, and eliminating stimulating activities/ drugs close to bedtime, but even then, much of our success will depend in the body’s ability to self-regulate its sleep cycles, as the sleep cycle is directly responsible for determining the quality of our sleep.
Each sleep cycle is comprised of 4 different stages, or phases of sleep, known as Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3/4m and R.E.M sleep. After all 4 stages have been completed, the cycle will repeat itself. Failing to go through this cycles enough times, or to spend sufficient time in each stage, will have a barrage of detrimental effects on the body, including reduced growth hormone, IGF-1, and testosterone levels, increased cortisol production, impaired immune response, reduced insulin sensitivity, elevated blood pressure, cognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular decay, and of course, a reduced rate of cellular repair. Even then, we are still just scratching the surface.
The bottom line is that if you want to make progress at the fastest possible rate, you can’t half-ass it in the sleep department and expect to make your best gains. Understanding the importance of a sound night’s rest, IronMag labs sought to formulate the ultimate sleep product; a supplement designed to not only help you fall and stay asleep, but to improve sleep quality by balancing your sleep cycle. Unlike similar products, which often contain only one or two compounds of questionable effectiveness, Dream N’ Grow is a powerhouse formula designed to enhance the sleep experience through a multiple pathways. Containing eight clinically validated compounds, Dream N’ Grow is the most complete and potent sleep product on the market.
One of the most interesting (and effective) compounds in this product is Mitragyna Speciosa, otherwise known as kratom. If you haven’t yet heard of this stuff, chances are you will soon, as it has made waves all around the world as an opiate alternative. Did I just say an opiate alternative? Yes I did, but unlike traditional opiates, kratom provides all of the benefits without the harsh side effects typically associated with this class of drugs. That sounds cool enough, but what exactly is Kratom?
Like many other psychoactive plants, kratom grows naturally in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region where it has been in use by natives for thousands of years. While traditional opiates are usually comprised of a single active compound, which is responsible for providing all of its effects, kratom is a complex drug-plant, containing dozens of active alkaloids. Of these, scientists believe that kratom’s effects are derived from 3 primary alkaloids, with 7-hydroxymitragynine bearing the greatest similarity to traditional opiates. However, kratom’s alkaloids differ from morphine-based compounds in terms of molecular structure, preventing them from fully attaching to opiate receptors.
Due to this partial attachment, the alkaloids within kratom are defined as partial opiate agonists, but make no mistake about it, these alkaloids are still potent stimulators of the opiate receptor. In fact, when compared on a mg per mg basis, 7-hydroxymitragynine was shown to be 17X more potent than morphine in terms of analgesic potency, but keep in mind that kratom is the sum total of all of its alkaloids, each of which have their own unique effects on the body. Many of these even have distinct health benefits.
With such a close similarity to traditional opiates, some of you may be wondering about kratom’s addiction potential, but don’t worry. While heavy, extended use of isolated kratom alkaloids have been shown to result in dependence, real-world experience has shown that when kratom is consumed in its entirety (all of its natural alkaloids present), physical dependence is greatly reduced in comparison to traditional opiates and rarely occurs to any serious degree.
Anyone who has ever gotten a script for Vicodin or Percocet from their doctor knows all too well the powerful effect that these drugs can have on sleep. When under the influence of opiates, most people could fall asleep twisted up like a pretzel and still get the most comfortable sleep of their lives. In addition to physical relaxation, mental/emotional stress and anxiety tends to just melt away, leaving the user in a serene, tranquil state perfect for drifting off into a long, deep sleep. Dream N’ Grow contains a concentrated kratom extract, allowing the user to achieve superior results with a smaller serving size.
The next ingredient on the list, GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid), is a glutamate derived amino acid with neurotransmitter activity. Responsible for regulating brain activity, GABA reduces excitation by reducing the rate of neuron firing. This has a calming, anti-anxiolytic effect, allowing the individual to reach and maintain a sleep state more easily.
Minimizing the occurrence of waking events is a significant factor in determining sleep quality. When we fall asleep, the body moves through the four stages of sleep in order, beginning with Stage 1 and working its way up to Stage 4 before starting over again. In the event of a wake-up, the sleep cycle is disrupted, causing the bodybuilder to start over again from Stage 1 after re-entering sleep. In short, the body is incapable of resuming its previous place in the sleep cycle after being awoken. The message here is simple—more broken sleep cycles results in fewer completed sleep cycles, and this doesn’t bode well for sleep quality.
Many drugs known for their sedating, anti-anxiolytic effects, such as alcohol, marijuana, and tranquilizers, work by increasing levels of GABA in the brain, while benzodiazepines, such as valium and xanax, work directly on the GABA receptors. Either way, all of these drugs achieve their affects via interaction with GABA. Knowing this, why even bother using these drugs when pure GABA is readily available? In short, GABA has trouble passing the blood-brain barrier, making it less potent than many pharmaceutical preparations, but this is probably a good thing, as these drugs are often so strong that they leave the user with a hang-over effect the following morning.
Next up is magnesium. Playing a supporting role, magnesium is essential for GABA activity, as well as enhancing the sensitivity of GABA on nerve receptors. Clinically, magnesium has been shown to increase overall sleep time and reduce bouts of wakefulness, while its muscle relaxant effect helps prime the body for sleep. Involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions, it has been estimated that more than 50% of Americans are deficient in this key mineral, making supplementation/diet manipulation a good idea for the majority.
Dream N’ Grow also includes melatonin, another classic standby. Sleep regulation is governed by many different factors, one of which is exposure to day light. Light influences the release of many different chemicals and hormones within the body, preparing us to either wake up or go to sleep. Melatonin is one such hormone and is produced by the pineal gland; a tiny pea-sized gland located in the center of the brain. Our biology is set up so that when the sun’s rays (or in most cases, the houselights) begin to darken, the pineal gland is stimulated to release melatonin, the job of which is to make us feel sleepy.
The body continues producing melatonin in response to darkness all night long, helping us stay asleep. Melatonin release is also affected by our circadian rhythms, which is why it is frequently used as a means of normalizing new sleep schedules in cases of jet lag. However, any deviation from our normal sleep schedule can cause a disruption in the release of this sleep hormone.
In addition to normalizing our circadian rhythms, melatonin supplementation can also help us stay asleep in the face of irregular sleep schedules and unwanted light exposure by maintaining elevated melatonin levels throughout the night. While the band-aid approach certainly isn’t ideal, it is definitely better than nothing. Furthermore, melatonin production diminishes with age, making it more and more difficult to archive a good night’s rest as the years go by, regardless of how regular one’s sleep schedule may be.
Phellodendron, while lacking name recognition in the states, is a well known herb in traditional Chinese medicine. This herb contains a couple dozen different active constituents, but we will concern ourselves with just a few of these. While most of you will recognize the following as a metformin substitute, berberine can also be used to improve sleep quality through blood sugar regulation.
We’ve all heard the saying “don’t eat before you sleep”. While his might not be the best advice for a growing bodybuilder, the recommendation does have scientific backing, at least from a health standpoint. This is because elevated nighttime blood sugar has a multitude of negative effects on the body, one of which is diminished sleep quality; a fact that many diabetics can attest to. Berberine helps overcome this by increasing insulin sensitivity, thereby allowing the body to more easily remove glucose from the bloodstream as we sleep. Elevated blood sugar levels also impair growth hormone release; a negative side effect according to any bodybuilder. As a side benefit, berberine has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immune enhancing properties.
Phellodendron also contains palmatine, which possesses sedative effects. This protoberberine alkaloid exerts its actions through multiple mechanisms. Decreased dopamine levels, increased 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine) concentrations, and the enhancement of 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) induced hypomotility all work together to promote a calming effect.
When combined with 5-HTP (also included in Dream N’ Grow) this effect is further enhanced. 5-HTP is the immediate nutrient precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which converts directly into serotonin in the brain. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it has the opposite effect of excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and noradrenalin, placing the user in a relaxed, but emotionally uplifted state. With positive affects on mood and the ability to slow brain activity, it is a perfect addition to any sleep formula. Not surprisingly, 5-HTP is often used as a remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and mood enhancement.
5-HTP is very similar to the category of anti-depressant drugs known as S.S.R.I’s, as both produce their effects by increasing serotonin availability in the brain, but they do so through 2 different mechanisms. Whereas S.S.R.I’s work primarily by helping the brain reuse serotonin which is already present, 5-HTP helps manufacture more serotonin through biological synthesis. In some studies 5-HTP was shown to work as well as prescription anti-depressants for alleviating depression, but without any of the serious side effects that frequently plague this category of script drugs.
With the above combination of compounds providing such a potent sleep enhancing effect, IML decided to balance out this product with mucuna pruiens; a rich source of the dopamine precursor, L-dopa. With dopamine having stimulating effects, one might wonder why mucuna pruiens was chosen to be part of this all-star cast. The reason for its inclusion was simple—it drastically increases growth hormone production. First, it is important to realize that the sedating and mood enhancing effects of this formula is so potent, that the addition of L-dopa does not diminish its sleep inducing effects. Second, with growth hormone playing such an important role in a bodybuilder’s program, optimizing production just seemed like common sense.
Lastly, we have L-theanine. Categorized as a mild stress reducer, this amino acid was added as a finishing touch. It promotes a relaxed mental state without sedation, placing the mind and body at ease in preparation for sleep. Some researchers have concluded that L-theanine’s anti-stress effects are generated by inhibiting the excitation of cortical neurons.
These days, the world is full of people who struggle to get a good night’s rest. Whether this is due to uncontrollable factors, such as work and family obligations, or some type of physical/emotional ailment, the end result is the same—diminished health and vitality leading to a decreased training response. If this is you, Dream N’ Grow will impart substantial benefit not only in terms of recovery and growth, but will affect virtually every aspect of the mind and body, as both are dependent on sleep for optimal functioning.