Natural Sleep Aids: Discover the Best Sleep Supplements in 2023

Your health and well-being are profoundly intertwined with the quality of your sleep. While you rest, your body undertakes crucial functions such as cell repair, memory consolidation, and hormone regulation, thereby supporting overall health. A lack of sleep, however, can lead to impaired focus, lowered immunity, and even serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes over time.

Sleep problems, including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome, are unfortunately common. They not only rob you of restful sleep but can also exacerbate other health issues. For instance, chronic insomnia may contribute to anxiety and depression, while sleep apnea, characterized by repeated breathing interruptions, raises the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Fortunately, natural sleep supplements provide a potentially effective solution to sleep problems. They offer a less intrusive alternative to prescription medications, with typically fewer side effects. 

Melatonin, for example, can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, while magnesium and valerian root are known to promote relaxation. By prioritizing sleep and exploring natural remedies for sleep problems, you’re taking a significant step toward enhancing your overall health and well-being.

Best Natural Sleep Aids of 2023

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body in response to darkness, playing a vital role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. The hormone’s levels rise in the evening to promote sleep and drop in the morning to facilitate wakefulness.

Supplementing with melatonin can have several benefits, particularly for those struggling with sleep disorders. It can help manage conditions like insomnia [1] and jet lag by adjusting the body’s internal clock. For shift workers or those with irregular sleep schedules, melatonin can be particularly beneficial.

As for dosage, it’s generally recommended to start low, typically around 0.5 to 1 mg, and adjust as needed. However, the right dosage can vary greatly depending on the individual and the sleep issue being addressed, so it’s best to start low and increase if needed. Side effects are generally mild but can include headaches, dizziness, and daytime sleepiness.

Magnesium

Magnesium plays a crucial role in sleep regulation. As an essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, it supports numerous functions including nervous system regulation and muscle relaxation. 

Magnesium also influences the sleep-wake cycle by interacting with the neurotransmitter systems that control sleep [2], notably by aiding the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm. Furthermore, it has a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation, which is vital for a good night’s sleep.

The recommended dosage varies but typically falls between 200-400 mg per day for adults. Overdosing on magnesium supplements can lead to side effects such as diarrhea and abdominal cramping.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is a natural sleep aid that has been used traditionally for its sedative and anti-anxiety effects. The exact mechanisms are not fully understood, but researchers believe valerian root increases the levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which has a calming effect on the brain, thereby aiding sleep.

The benefits of valerian root supplements are many. They can also help reduce anxiety and improve the overall quality of sleep, especially during and after menopause [3]. 

The recommended dosage of valerian root for sleep is typically between 300 to 600 milligrams, taken 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. While it’s generally considered safe for most people, potential side effects can include headache, stomach upset, and daytime drowsiness. 

L-Theanine

L-theanine, an amino acid predominantly found in green and black tea leaves, plays a key role in promoting relaxation without sedation, especially under stressful scenarios [4]. It achieves this by boosting certain brain chemicals, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, and dopamine, which collectively help to reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing feelings of calm and contentment. L-theanine also lessens the excitatory effects of caffeine, further supporting relaxation.

It’s generally suggested to take 100-200mg of L-theanine per day, typically before bedtime. L-theanine is considered safe for most people with few reported side effects, but in rare instances, it might cause headaches or upset stomach. 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, a revered herb in Ayurvedic medicine, can play a significant role in supporting your sleep process by mitigating stress and anxiety. It’s an adaptogen, meaning it helps your body manage stress more effectively. Ashwagandha is known to reduce cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone. By doing so, it can alleviate feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation, thereby making it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The recommended dose is 300-500mg of high-concentration Ashwagandha extract per day. Potential side effects may include headaches, and stomach upset. 

Glycine

Glycine, an amino acid, plays a pivotal role in sleep regulation. It functions as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, where it contributes to the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythms – the internal “clock” that governs sleep-wake cycles. By decreasing your core body temperature, glycine signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. It also interacts with another neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is implicated in mood regulation and sleep quality [5].

The recommended dosage of glycine for sleep-related issues is around 3 grams taken shortly before bed. Generally considered safe for most people, glycine supplements can cause minor side effects in some individuals, including nausea, stomach upset, or soft stools. 

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in the sleep process. It serves as a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, and melatonin, a hormone that manages your body’s sleep-wake cycle. 

Supplementing with tryptophan can be beneficial if you have trouble sleeping, particularly for those struggling with insomnia. By enhancing serotonin and melatonin production, tryptophan supplements can help regulate sleep patterns, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality [6]. Typical dosages range from 500mg to 2000mg per day, taken an hour before bed. Potential side effects, while typically mild, can include nausea, headache, and dry mouth. 

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm has been used since ancient times for its potential calming and sedative properties. As a sleep aid, it’s often used in conjunction with other herbs like valerian, hops, and chamomile, which together work synergistically to help you relax and prepare for sleep.

The most common dosage is around 300-500mg of lemon balm extract, usually taken before bed for sleep support. Some people may experience mild nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain as occasional side effects. 

Tips For Choosing The Right Sleep Supplement

Consult With A Healthcare Professional 

It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, including sleep supplements. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your sleep concerns in the context of your overall health, considering factors like age, gender, lifestyle, and existing medical conditions. They may also guide you on the correct dosage and timing, providing personalized advice that you couldn’t get from general sources.

Start With A Low Dosage 

When beginning a new sleep supplement, it’s recommended to start with a lower dosage than what’s considered average. This approach helps you gauge your body’s initial response and allows any potential side effects to present themselves in a milder form. Should you experience any negative responses, it’s essential to stop using the supplement immediately and reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance.

Consider Potential Interactions

Various substances can interact, leading to diminished effectiveness or even harmful consequences. Therefore, it’s vital to be aware of the potential interactions between sleep supplements and anything else you’re ingesting. 

Opt for Reputable Brands

Unfortunately, the supplement industry isn’t always strictly regulated, which can lead to varying product quality. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose reputable brands when selecting sleep supplements. Look for companies that are transparent about their ingredients, sourcing, and manufacturing processes. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep Supplements

Are Sleep Supplements Safe?

Most sleep supplements are generally safe for short-term use when taken as directed. However, safety can vary significantly based on the specific supplement, the dosage, your personal health status, and whether you’re taking other medications or supplements. Always choose reputable brands, and consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement to minimize negative side effects.

How Long Do Sleep Supplements Take To Work?

The time it takes for a sleep supplement to start working can depend on the specific supplement and the individual. Some supplements, like Melatonin, can start to work within an hour, while others, like Valerian Root, may need to be taken consistently for a few weeks before you see results. As everyone’s body reacts differently, some may experience quicker results than others.

Can I Take Sleep Supplements While Pregnant Or Breastfeeding?

Pregnancy and breastfeeding can impact the safety and effectiveness of many substances, including sleep supplements. Some sleep aids are considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but others may not be. Because of these variations, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider before taking any sleep supplements while pregnant or breastfeeding and not take the risk without professional advice.

Are Sleep Supplements Habit-Forming Or Addictive?

Most natural sleep remedies are not considered habit-forming or addictive. However, dependency can still occur, especially if these supplements are used as a crutch for sleep without addressing underlying issues. Long-term use of some supplements can lead to tolerance, meaning you might need higher doses for the same effect. 

What Is The Best Time To Take Sleep Supplements?

The optimal time to take sleep supplements often depends on the type of supplement and its specific effects, although the majority are taken shortly before sleep. For instance, Melatonin supplements are usually taken around 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. On the other hand, some supplements like Magnesium may be taken earlier in the day. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, prioritizing quality sleep is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. Sleep problems can have significant negative effects on both physical and mental health, making it essential to find effective solutions. Sleep supplements can help with a range of maladies, including insomnia, anxiety, and even jet lag. They are considerably safer than prescription sleep aids and are not particularly habit-forming. For these reasons, it makes sense to explore if there are certain natural sleep aids that are suitable before jumping to potent prescription pills.

References:

[1] Lemoine, P., Nir, T., Laudon, M., & Zisapel, N. (2007). Prolonged-release melatonin improves sleep quality and morning alertness in insomnia patients aged 55 years and older and has no withdrawal effects. Journal of sleep research, 16(4), 372–380. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2007.00613.x

[2] Held, K., Antonijevic, I. A., Künzel, H., Uhr, M., Wetter, T. C., Golly, I. C., Steiger, A., & Murck, H. (2002). Oral Mg(2+) supplementation reverses age-related neuroendocrine and sleep EEG changes in humans. Pharmacopsychiatry, 35(4), 135–143. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2002-33195

[3] Taavoni, S., Ekbatani, N., Kashaniyan, M., & Haghani, H. (2011). Effect of valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 18(9), 951–955. https://doi.org/10.1097/gme.0b013e31820e9acf

[4] Hidese, S., Ogawa, S., Ota, M., Ishida, I., Yasukawa, Z., Ozeki, M., & Kunugi, H. (2019). Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(10), 2362. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102362

[5] INAGAWA, K., HIRAOKA, T., KOHDA, T., YAMADERA, W. and TAKAHASHI, M. (2006), Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4: 75-77. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x

[6] Sutanto, C. N., Loh, W. W., & Kim, J. E. (2022). The impact of tryptophan supplementation on sleep quality: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. Nutrition reviews, 80(2), 306–316. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuab027

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.