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Developments of sleep-improving functional foods

(Promotion of Basic Research Activities for Innovative Bioscience by Bio-oriented technology Research Advanced Institution: 2009-2011)

Sleep gives our body a rest and allows it to prepare for the next day. In psychological points of view, it stated that our learning processes are largely inactivated during sleep, this gives the brain a chance to reorganize and store more efficiently the information gathered during the day. Japanese people are increasingly suffering from sleep deprivation which has pronounced negative effects on performance, accident risk, as well as on health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. However, there seems at present to be no way to eliminate most of the negative effects of insomnia on human physiology and cognition, Therefore, the developments of the products which are safe and effective to treat insomnia are demanded. In our previous project, Promotion of Basic Research Activities for Innovative Bioscience by Bio-oriented technology Research Advanced Institution: 2009-2011, we found 12 natural plants that improve sleep effectively in animal models, and 4 prevent daytime excessive sleepiness. In the present newly granted project, we attempted to identify component which induces sleep and to clarify its action mechanism. Crocin and honokiol, which are the components responsible for the sleep-promoting activity of Saffron and Japanese bigleaf magnolia, respectively, significantly increased non-rapid eye movement sleep in mice. When crocin given to histamine H1R KO mice, the sleep-promoting effects attenuated, suggesting that histaminergic system in involved in crocin-induced sleep. On the other hand, pretreatment with the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist flumazenil completely abolished the somnogenic effects of honokiol, indicating that honokiol-induced sleep is related to GABAA receptor. These findings may make a contribution to the production of health foods and pharmaceuticals that will improve the quality of our sleep and thus that of our lives.

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