The Best Supplements for Sleep: Your Ultimate Guide

Quality sleep is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for maintaining optimal health and well-being. Unfortunately, many of us are not getting the rest we need in our fast-paced, stress-filled world. Many individuals have found success with sleep supplements under the umbrella of complementary and integrative health. The best supplements for sleep can be a game-changer, potentially helping to enhance the quality of your slumber, thus improving your overall health.

This guide will delve into the science behind these natural sleep remedies, shedding light on how they work and which could be the most effective for improved sleep quality. We’ll explore the world of sleep-promoting dietary supplements and how they can help you achieve restful sleep.

Why Some People Struggle with Sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in our health and wellness. During these crucial hours of rest, our bodies rejuvenate, repairing cells, restoring energy, and releasing important hormones. But the consequences can be more serious when sleep is elusive or interrupted than feeling groggy the next day.

Poor sleep or insomnia can lead to a variety of issues. One of the first things to take a hit is skill acquisition. Without enough sleep, our ability to learn new skills, whether mastering a new language or perfecting a tennis serve, gets compromised. Concentration, too, takes a nosedive, making it harder to stay focused on the tasks at hand. [1]

Health-wise, inadequate sleep can increase inflammation in the body, leading to a higher risk of injury, and even low-level pain can worsen your mood and induce fatigue. [2] It can also disrupt insulin signaling, impairing glucose metabolism, increasing fatigue, and raising the risk of diabetes. [3]

Furthermore, poor sleep can impair cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart disease. [4] Even muscle gain gets affected due to decreased testosterone production and increased fatigue from lack of sleep, making workouts less effective and recovery slower. [5]

There could be numerous reasons behind sleep disturbances, ranging from lifestyle factors like stress and irregular sleep schedules to medical conditions like sleep apnea or chronic pain. Understanding these causes is the first step towards finding solutions and improving sleep quality for better health and well-being.

The Best Research-Backed Natural Sleep Aids

Melatonin

Melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles, can be taken as a supplement to help adjust the body’s internal clock. It can shift sleep patterns and help with falling asleep faster. Some studies indicate that melatonin supplements may also increase overall sleep duration, although results are mixed. [6]

Magnesium

The available evidence on the effectiveness of magnesium supplements for those having trouble sleeping is limited. However, low magnesium levels can disrupt normal brain activity and negatively impact sleep. It is suggested that magnesium’s ability to interact with the NMDA and GABA systems may play a role in regulating sleep. [7]

Valerian Root

Valerian root is a popular natural sleep aid to treat insomnia. While studies on its effectiveness have yielded varied results, participants taking valerian asked about their sleep quality were 37% more likely to report improvements than those taking a placebo. [8][9]

L-Theanine

Theanine, an amino acid in green tea, helps regulate neurotransmission, reducing stress and increasing relaxation. This may be beneficial for sleep disorders, as stress often impairs sleep. However, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of theanine in improving sleep quality. Three randomized trials have been conducted, indicating a modest overall benefit to sleep. [10] [11] [12]

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is primarily recognized for its ability to reduce anxiety, and there is growing evidence that it may also have benefits for improving sleep. The specific way ashwagandha works as a sleep aid is not fully understood yet, but research in mice has indicated that it might promote sleep by influencing the GABA receptor. Additionally, another study proposed that tri-ethylene glycol could be responsible for ashwagandha’s sleep-inducing properties. [13] [14]

Lavender

Lavender can help reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and calm the mind. It may also improve the quality of sleep and help with insomnia. Although more information is needed to understand how it works, research suggests oral supplementation using a specific lavender extract called Silexan™ can alleviate anxiety and improve sleep quality and duration, especially in people with anxiety. [15] [16]

Glycine

Glycine, a neurotransmitter, can improve sleep by interacting with NMDA receptors, causing vasodilation and decreased body temperature. A study involving 11 healthy participants found that taking 3 grams of glycine before bedtime improved sleep. Participants reported higher satisfaction with their sleep, less difficulty falling asleep, and more time spent asleep. However, the study’s subjective questionnaire may have been influenced by selective reporting. While other studies have shown reduced fatigue in participants, more research is needed to confirm these findings. [17] [18]

Tryptophan

Tryptophan, a key player in the production of serotonin and melatonin, which regulate the sleep-wake cycle, has been explored as a potential treatment for better sleep. However, findings from various studies have yielded conflicting results. Still, supplementing with L-tryptophan may help improve sleep quality, particularly in insomnia patients.

Lemon Balm

According to a study, lemon balm has been found to decrease insomnia significantly. However, this effect may be due to its ability to reduce anxiety. [19]

Chamomile

Chamomile boasts abundant terpenes and flavonoids, making it a popular remedy for anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation, and insomnia.

5-HTP

5-HTP, a byproduct of tryptophan and a precursor to serotonin, has been found to regulate sleep effectively. A study involving participants with sleep disorders observed that a combination of 5-HTP, GABA, and other ingredients led to a shorter time to fall asleep and enhanced overall sleep duration and quality. [20]

CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most plentiful cannabinoid found in cannabis after THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. This compound frequently addresses pain, anxiety [21], depression [22], and sleep disorders.

How to Use Sleep Supplements

When using certain natural sleep aids, it’s important to take them at the right time. Usually, 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime is ideal, but it depends on the supplement taken. Start with a low dosage and adjust as needed under healthcare guidance. Be aware of potential side effects, such as headaches or dizziness, and consult a professional if you take other prescription sleep aids or medications. Everyone’s response to supplements can vary, so monitor your reaction and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Supplements

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding natural sleep supplements.

Q: How long does it take for sleep supplements to work?

A: The onset of effects can vary depending on the type of supplement and individual factors, but generally, most sleep supplements are designed to work within 30 minutes to an hour.

Q: Are sleep supplements addictive?

A: Most over-the-counter sleep supplements aren’t considered physically addictive. However, psychological dependence can develop with any substance regularly used to promote sleep.

Q: Can I use natural sleep aids while pregnant or breastfeeding?

A: Always consult a healthcare provider before using supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Some may be unsafe, or their effects on the baby are unknown.

Q: Can sleep supplements interact with other medications?

A: Yes, sleep supplements can interact with certain medications. It’s crucial to discuss with a healthcare professional all the medicines and supplements you’re taking to avoid potential interactions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, sleep is crucial for health and well-being, and supplements can help those with sleep issues. However, their effectiveness varies individually and should not replace good sleep habits. Before trying any sleep supplement, always consult a healthcare provider. They can guide you on dosage, side effects, and interactions with other medications to ensure a safe and effective approach to better sleep.

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[8] Fernández-San-Martín MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, Sancho-Gómez P, Calbó-Caldentey C, Flores-Mateo G. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Med. 2010 Jun;11(6):505-11. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2009.12.009. Epub 2010 Mar 26. PMID: 20347389.

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[14] Kaushik MK, Kaul SC, Wadhwa R, Yanagisawa M, Urade Y. Triethylene glycol, an active component of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) leaves, is responsible for sleep induction. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 16;12(2):e0172508. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172508. PMID: 28207892; PMCID: PMC5313221.

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[19] Cases J, Ibarra A, Feuillère N, Roller M, Sukkar SG. Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Med J Nutrition Metab. 2011 Dec;4(3):211-218. doi: 10.1007/s12349-010-0045-4. Epub 2010 Dec 17. PMID: 22207903; PMCID: PMC3230760.

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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.