Sleep is as crucial to our well-being as food, water, and air. It’s a restorative process that allows our body and mind to recover and rejuvenate. However, in today’s fast-paced world, quality sleep often eludes many of us, leading to a plethora of health issues, from impaired cognitive function to weakened immunity. Fortunately, certain dietary supplements can support better sleep.
Remember, while supplements can be beneficial, they should never replace good sleep hygiene habits. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain, and its production is influenced by light exposure. During the day, when light exposure is high, melatonin production is low, keeping you alert and awake. As the day turns to night and light exposure decreases, melatonin production increases, making you feel drowsy and promoting sleep.
Melatonin supplements are widely available over-the-counter in many countries and are commonly used to treat various sleep disorders, such as insomnia or jet lag. They’re typically considered safe for short-term use, but as with any supplement, potential side effects can occur, including headache, dizziness, and nausea.
It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, including melatonin. The dosage can vary depending on the individual and the specific sleep issue being addressed. Factors such as age, lifestyle, and overall health can also influence how effectively melatonin supplements work.
Besides its role in sleep regulation, research is ongoing into other potential health benefits of melatonin, such as its role in eye health, its potential to ease tinnitus symptoms, and its antioxidant properties.e
Magnesium is a critical mineral involved in numerous bodily functions, including sleep regulation. It plays a role in maintaining healthy levels of neurotransmitters, which send signals throughout the nervous system and to the brain, and other hormones that help regulate sleep.
Here’s how magnesium can influence your sleep:
- Promotes Relaxation: Magnesium contributes to the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system responsible for promoting calm and relaxation in the body.
- Regulates Melatonin: Magnesium helps regulate the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Proper melatonin production helps signal your body when it’s time to sleep and wake up.
- Binds to GABA Receptors: Magnesium also binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting down nerve activity. It is the same neurotransmitter used by sleep drugs like Ambien.
- Reduces Inflammation: Magnesium is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in the body can lead to issues like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Some research even suggests that inflammation may cause sleep disorders. Therefore, by reducing inflammation, magnesium might help promote healthier sleep patterns.
- Stress Reduction: Chronic stress is another common cause of sleep issues. Magnesium plays a significant role in the function of the nervous system, helping to prevent overstimulation and promoting relaxation, which can aid in stress reduction. Less stress can lead to better sleep.
- Muscle Relaxation: Magnesium is involved in nerve transmission and muscle contraction. It helps manage the mechanics of muscle relaxation in the ‘rest and digest’ phase of body functioning, which can help prepare your body for sleep.
While magnesium supplements can be beneficial for sleep, it’s also worth noting that a deficiency in this mineral could lead to sleep problems. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include fatigue, mental confusion, irritability, weakness, heart disturbances, problems in nerve conduction and muscle contraction, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, insomnia, and a predisposition to stress.
Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new supplement regimen, as they can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs. If you’re interested in increasing your magnesium levels naturally, consider incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diet, such as legumes, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some types of fish.
- Valerian Root:
Valerian root is a herb native to Europe and parts of Asia, although it’s now also grown in North America. It’s derived from the root of the valerian plant (Valeriana officinalis) and has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties, particularly for its sedative and anxiety-reducing effects.
When it comes to sleep, valerian root is most commonly used for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Here’s how it may benefit your sleep:
- Reduces Sleep Latency: Valerian root is believed to help you fall asleep more quickly, reducing the amount of time it takes to slip into sleep, also known as sleep latency.
- Improves Sleep Quality: Some studies suggest that valerian root can improve the quality of sleep, making you less likely to wake up during the night and helping you feel more refreshed in the morning.
- Relieves Anxiety and Stress: Valerian root has been used to alleviate anxiety, a common cause of insomnia. It’s believed to work by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and calms anxiety. The valerenic acid and valerenol compounds in valerian root act as anti-anxiety agents, making it an effective natural sleep aid.
- Non-Habit Forming: Unlike many prescription sleep aids, valerian root is not known to be habit-forming or create dependency, making it an appealing option for those looking for a more natural approach to improve their sleep.
Despite its potential benefits, it’s essential to note that more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of valerian root for sleep disorders. While generally considered safe for most adults when taken short-term, it can cause side effects such as headache, dizziness, stomach problems, and even paradoxical reactions like restlessness or insomnia in some people.
Valerian root can also interact with certain medications, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement regimen. This is especially crucial for pregnant or nursing women, children, and individuals with liver or kidney disease.
L-Theanine is an amino acid predominantly found in tea leaves, especially green tea, and some types of mushrooms. Unlike some other sleep aids, L-Theanine doesn’t act as a sedative but promotes relaxation and better sleep through a series of other effects.
Here’s how L-Theanine can potentially improve your sleep:
- Promotes Relaxation: L-Theanine is known to promote relaxation without causing drowsiness. It boosts levels of certain calming brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. These neurotransmitters regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, energy, and sleep, among other things.
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety: L-Theanine can help lower anxiety and stress, both of which can interfere with sleep. It does this by blocking excitatory stimuli at the brain’s receptors and promoting production of calming neurotransmitters.
- Improves Sleep Quality: By encouraging relaxation, L-Theanine can help people fall asleep more quickly and easily. Some research also suggests that L-Theanine may improve the quality of sleep—not by acting as a sedative, but by lowering anxiety and promoting relaxation.
- Enhances Alpha Brain Waves: L-Theanine is thought to increase alpha brain wave activity, which plays a role in helping you feel awake yet relaxed. This state of mind is associated with creativity and focus, which is why some people find L-Theanine helpful for improving concentration during the day, in addition to its benefits for sleep.
L-Theanine is generally considered safe, but as with any supplement, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning a new regimen. Different people may also have different reactions to L-Theanine, so it’s important to monitor your own response.
Chamomile is a herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. It has been consumed for centuries as a natural remedy for several health conditions. When it comes to sleep, chamomile is often used for its calming properties to aid in promoting better sleep. Here’s a closer look at how chamomile can potentially improve your sleep:
- Promotes Relaxation and Sleepiness: Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may help promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia, or chronic inability to sleep.
- Reduces Anxiety: Chamomile has been shown to help with anxiety reduction. As anxiety can often lead to sleep problems, chamomile’s calming properties can therefore indirectly improve sleep.
- Safe for Long-term Use: Chamomile is generally considered safe for long-term use, and it is non-habit forming. This is a significant advantage over some other sleep aids, which can lead to dependence.
- Eases Insomnia: Studies have shown that people who take chamomile supplements have reported less waking up during the night and a better quality of sleep compared to those who did not take chamomile.
Chamomile is typically consumed in tea form, but it’s also available in capsule form and as an essential oil. It’s generally considered safe for most people, though some may experience allergic reactions. It can also interact with certain medications, so it’s always wise to consult with a healthcare provider before adding chamomile to your supplement routine.
While the hustle and bustle of modern life can often interfere with our sleep patterns, there are natural remedies available that can help. The supplements listed above can play a crucial role in helping you achieve a more restful slumber. However, supplements should be used in conjunction with good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and electronic devices before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment. With the right strategies and resources, a good night’s sleep is well within your reach! Sweet dreams!
Veronica is dedicated and experienced nutritionist and certified health coach who specializes in functional medicine, She's a published author, nutritional instructor, WBFF professional figure athlete, and both the brains and beauty behind all that Makeover Nutrition offers.
Veronica is also the President & CEO of a BC based health and wellness association; Pacific Alliance of Body Care.