Scientists from the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, University of Tsukuba, or WPI-IIIS, found that the antioxidant octacosanol may help keep both stress levels and sleep cycles in check.
The researchers, lead by Mahesh K. Kaushik and Yoshihiro Urade, found that octacosanol “fights against cellular stress.”
In the study, they used cage-change strategy, in which mice were placed into a clean cage to cause constant wake for more than one hour. They experienced mild stress and sleep disturbance. Their cages were changed more than once per week.
The researchers then administered octacosanol to the experimental group. The mice that were administered with octacosanol experienced a longer sleep duration and more sleep episodes, even though they were put under the same stresses.
Levels of corticosterone, a hormone in the cortex of the adrenal gland that monitors stress responses, were also greatly reduced in the experimental group, indicating a decrease in stress levels.
Together, this evidence showed that octacosanol alleviated stress and restored stress-affected sleep.
These results are profound for humans, since demanding jobs and fast-paced work environments trigger stress in people. The American Psychological Association reports that younger generations specifically are not sleeping well, primarily due to stress.
Sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects and is linked to a higher rate of accidents, cardiovascular diseases, depression, diabetes, memory loss and obesity.
Octacosanol is reassuring because of its positive impact on the central nervous system. The substance is extremely abundant in nature, as it is found in products such as beeswax, rice bran, sugarcane and wheat germ oil.
The antioxidant is found in many harmless foods, as opposed to other drugs used to induce sleep and it has no known side effects.
Additionally, octacosanol is being analyzed for medications that treat herpes, inflammatory skin diseases, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease as a method of improving strength, stamina and reaction speed. Thus, it can be reasonably assumed that it is healthy for humans to ingest.
It should be noted, however, that although one may now know the effects of octacosanol on the amelioration of stress-affected sleep, one should not assume beyond what is already confirmed. More studies need to be conducted to confirm the impact of octacosanol on humans.
As the research group noted, “almost nothing is known about its mechanism of action, its brain-blood-barrier penetrability or target brain region or neural types.”
While the researchers promise to consider these areas of research in further articles, the one thing readers can logically deduce based on the research is that octacosanol affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, a major neuroendocrine system that curbs reactions to stress.