Energetic drinks are, without a question, one of the hottest topics in the food industry right now. However, in a time where a considerable fraction of the population shows stress symptoms, energy drinks might not be the answer your customer is looking for.
A relaxation drink is defined as a non-alcoholic beverage that contains calming ingredients. These drinks are growing in popularity and rely on the use of nutrients and herbs to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Sleeping drinks are also a growing trend in consumption, relying on slightly different natural components to induce the consumer a sensation of sleepiness and promoting a longer and more relaxed sleeping. Both types of drinks act by regulating a complex hormonal response in the consumer.
Stress, anxiety and sleep
Stress and anxiety are two major factors affecting the population. Stress is a condition arising from external physical or mental overload. It can make a person feel embattled, nervous, anxious or otherwise less capable of full and normal response to environmental demands.
Anxiety is a generalized mood of fear, worry and or uneasiness. It can be stimulated from environment factors, or result from bad habits or social situations. In developed countries, anxiety disorder rates range from 13.6% to 28.8% of the population.  The growing
urbanization, lack of exercise and stressful quotidian are bringing stress and anxiety to historical levels. Anxiety and stress may lead to insomnia, depression or even suicide.
Sleep plays a vital role in brain function and systemic physiology across many body systems. Problems with sleep are widely prevalent and include deficits in quantity and quality of sleep; sleep problems that impact the continuity of sleep are collectively referred to as sleep
disruptions. Disruption of sleep is widespread.
A 2014 survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reported that 35% of American adults rated their sleep quality as “poor” or “only fair”.
Trouble falling asleep at least one night per week was reported by 45% of respondents. In addition, 53% of respondents had trouble staying asleep on at least one night of the previous week, and 23% of respondents had trouble staying asleep on five or more nights. 
The hormonal regulation and possible ingredients for relaxation and improved sleep
Adaptogens are herbs that improve an individual’s ability to cope with stress and anxiety. These herbs normalize the physiological process of the body and help the body adapt to changes in times of increased stress, normally by reducing the serum cortisol levels, the stress hormone. A recent study discovered that Ashwagandha root extract safely improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and improves self-assessed quality of life by substantially lowering cortisol levels.  Other herbs, such as linden, hops or chamomille are also considered to be adaptogens in this regard. Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Studies in preclinical models have shown anticonvulsant and central
nervous system (CNS) depressant effects respectively. Clinical trials are notable for their absence, although 10 cardiac patients are reported to have immediately fallen into a deep sleep lasting for 90 minutes after drinking chamomile tea. 
According to American researchers , there are different types of anxiety that could be mild or sever depending on the level of the disorders. Using drugs is a common but harsh way to treat anxiety disorders. More natural treatments including amino acid, minerals, and fatty acids
ingestion can reduce anxiety and induce relaxation. Further, herbs and botanical medicine, such as St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), Ginkgo biloba, Kava Kava, which have different roles to reduce many psychiatric disorders, also reduce anxiety.
In this regard, anxiety may be managed without the harsh side effects of pharmaceuticals using nutritional and botanical treatment as well as life-style changes.
Vitamins C, D, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and the green tea amino acid L-theanine are dietary supplements known to increase the production of dopamine. Japanese researchers have found that the ingestion of 50 to 200mg of theanine promotes the generation of α-wavesin the brain some minutes after being ingested. α-waves have been studied as a relaxation index state in humans . Theanine also lowers body temperature and blood pressure, two important factors in the relaxation process absent from drowsiness.
Drugs that alter serotonin levels are used in treating depression, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) prevent the breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters (including serotonin), increasing concentrations of the
neurotransmitter in the brain and promoting a sensation of relaxation and happiness. MAOI’s may be synthesized or natural. Herbs, spices and nutrients can inhibit MAO enzymes without the unpleasant side effects of antidepressants, examples being the nutmeg extract, the
passionflower, curcumin or black pepper extract. 
The sleep-wake cycle and its modulation
Both dopamine and serotonin play a non straightforward role in mammals’sleep-wake cycle and wakefulness/relaxation sensations. Dopamine can inhibit norepinephrine, causing the subject to feel more alert. Serotonin is involved in wakefulness, sleep onset, and preventing REM sleep.
Serotonin is required to produce melatonin, a hormone that plays a major role in sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain is connected to the time of day, increasing when it’s dark and decreasing when it’s light. Melatonin production declines with age.
Consumers use melatonin for sleep disorders, such as insomnia and jet lag. Unlike with many sleep medications, it does not promote dependency, habituation or experience a hangover effect. It is available as an ingredient for food and drink fortification. Melatonin can be used to treat delayed sleep phase and circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind and provide some insomnia relief. Valerian root extract is also a major sleep promoter, safely administered in food and pill forms.
Further, supplementation with the amino acid L-tryptophan and its precursor, 5-HTP, and the B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium, and omega-3 fats increases serotonin production. Tryptophan may increase agreeableness, decrease quarrelsomeness and improve mood. Although purified tryptophan increases brain serotonin, foods containing tryptophan do not. This is because tryptophan is transported into the brain by a transport system that is active towards all the large neutral amino acids and tryptophan is the least abundant amino acid in protein. α-Lactalbumin, a minor constituent of milk, is one protein that contains relatively more tryptophan than most proteins, and milk brands are taking advantage of this situation to incorrectly claim that milk promotes a better sleep through tryptophan ingestion.
Gamma-aminobutryric acid (GABA) is a major chemical signalling molecule in the process of relaxation/sleepiness and is becoming a trendy ingredient in the food industry. A randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled crossover-designed study was conducted to evaluate the effect of GABA on sleep. Sleep was evaluated by electroencephalography (EEG) after oral GABA administration. GABA significantly shortened sleep latency and increased the total non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep time. Questionnaires showed that subjects receiving GABA realized its effects on sleep.  Dietary GABA supplement in clinical studies relieves anxiety and increases alpha brain waves, which are associated with relaxation.
The bottom line
The sensation of relaxation and sleeping promotion are interconnected. However, some ingredients, whether natural or synthetic, may be more adequate for a specific application, and regulatory laws may soon be imposed in incipient markets. In a further piece we will explore how regulatory laws may be applied to this sector and the market size for this type of innovative drinks.
CFER Labs is your partner in food and drinks R&D. Obtain your free of charge workplan by clicking here.
 E. Alramadhan, M. S. Hanna, M. S. Hanna, T. G. Goldstein, S. M. Avila, and B. S. Weeks, “Dietary and botanical anxiolytics,” Med. Sci. Monit., vol. 18, no. 4, p. RA40-RA48, 2012.
 G. Medic, M. Wille, and M. E. H. Hemels, “Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption,” Nat. Sci. Sleep, vol. 9, pp. 151–161, 2017.
 and S. A. K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, “A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults,” Indian J.
Psychol. Med., vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 255–262, 2012.
 J. M. Hodgson and K. D. Croft, Tea flavonoids and cardiovascular health, vol. 31, no. 6. 2010.
 D. C. Chu, T. Okubo, Y. Nagato, and H. Yokogoshi, “L-theanine – A unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans,” Trends Food Sci. Technol., vol. 10, no. 6–7, pp. 199–204, 1999.
 R. Article, “Available online through www.jpronline.info Natural Monoamine oxidase inhibitors : A Review,” vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 482–485, 2010.
 A. Y. Y. P. M. Kim, “Effect of oral γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration on sleep and its absorption in humans,” Food Sci. Biotechnol., vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 547–551, 2016.