More Products to Soothethe Soul

In the January 2021 issue, School Nutrition took a close look at products backed by scientific evidence that could soothe anxiety and other mental qualms in “7 Products to Soothe Your Soul,” by Dylan Roche. Here are three more products that may also help ease your mind:

Epsom Salt

While transdermal magnesium supplementation isn’t fully proven, many health experts point to the benefits of using magnesium Epsom salt in a warm bath as a way of relieving pain, stress, anxiety and depression. “I often suggest Epsom salt baths as a way to get some magnesium in before bed as it can be very relaxing and help with sleep by soothing you,” says psychologist Dr. Robin Hornstein of Pennsylvania-based Hornstein Platt & Associates (www.hptherapy.com).

The Cleveland Clinic supports the notion that the magnesium in Epsom salt can relieve pain and relax muscles, ultimately benefitting your mental health—when the muscles around your skull relax, for example, it relieves headaches and migraines. To enjoy an Epsom salt bath, simply add 300 grams to a bathtub filled with hot water.

Even if you don’t have Epsom salt, a soak in a warm bath could bring relief. That’s because warm water will release endorphins and loosen those muscles your body has been contracting because of stress. In fact, a 2018 study published by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that subjects who enjoyed a full immersion in hot water every day reported lower levels of stress and higher levels of happiness.

Blue Light Glasses

Did you know too much light at night can be bad for your slumber habits? Specifically, it’s blue light that’s the worst for you. According to Harvard Medical School, blue wavelengths of light are good for boosting your attention and mood, which is great during the daytime. Unfortunately, this means they can keep you wired late at night.

Blue light wavelengths commonly come from the light you’re looking straight into late at night: your smartphone, your tablet, your computer, even your TV. The wavelengths disrupt your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which could lead to inefficient sleep. Ultimately, chronic tiredness leads to feelings of anxiety or depression.

This is why more and more people are turning to blue light glasses, which can shield your eyes from exposure to these sleep-disrupting wavelengths. A 2015 study published in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research found that people who protect themselves from blue light within two hours of bedtime have significantly higher overnight melatonin secretion and were more efficient sleepers.

A study out of Indiana University took a hard look at the benefits of blue light glasses in fall 2020, as more and more people found themselves enjoying additional screen time and throwing their sleep cycles out of sync during pandemic-related lockdowns. The study found that filtering out blue light helps night owls avoid the discord created between their externally controlled work time and their body’s internal clock, allowing them to get proper sleep when they eventually turn in for the night—and getting more sleep means better mental health.

While blue light glasses can be helpful, Harvard Medical School notes that reducing screen time during evening hours—if possible—is a better solution. The American Academy of Ophthalmology agrees that special eyewear isn’t necessary. During those times when you must be plugged in late at night, set your devices to night mode, which emits fewer blue wavelengths.

Hot Tea

For some individuals, the best solution for calming their anxiety might be the simplest—by relaxing with a steaming cup of hot tea. After all, people have been sipping tea to help themselves relax for hundreds of years, but there’s actually science behind this practice. As it turns out, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate found in tea—specifically, green tea—makes people feel calmer. Furthermore, tea can reduce your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol.

However, some teas, including green tea, also contain caffeine, which makes you more alert and, when consumed in excess, can cause restlessness and difficulty sleeping. Additionally, caffeine can block the absorption of the anine, an antioxidant with anti-stress effects found in tea.

Your best bet is to opt for that green tea, which has lower levels of caffeine compared with black tea, or to sip herbal tea, which has no caffeine at all. A 2017 study published in the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that subjects who drank low-caffeine tea reported lower stress levels compared with subjects who drank a placebo tea.

 Herbal tea, while not made from tea leaves (and therefore not technically “tea,”) is made with herbs steeped in hot water. It’s free from caffeine and has long been hailed for its relaxing effects. Chamomile tea is maybe the best-known option for its soothing effects, but peppermint tea, lavender tea and valerian root tea are all good at instilling a sense of calmness.

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