Eight Natural Sleep Supplements Backed By Hard Science

Sixty million Americans are prescribed sleep medication to help either with occasional sleep problems or with chronic, long term lack of sleep. The value of sleep is now considered to be as important as proper nutrition, maybe even more so. Without 7-8 hours of restorative sleep, our memory, decision making skills, creativity, and learning all begin to deteriorate. 

As part of retooling your own sleep hygiene regimen, which includes using a mattress that promotes restorative and restful, deep sleep, these natural compounds can supplement your program.

These medications can also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Our skin ages faster, and our organ systems can not take the time to do daily maintenance by filtering toxins and oxygenating tissues.

Many of us have likely taken prescription drugs for sleep, but if you are hesitant about taking them, or do not tolerate them well, did you know that there are naturally derived substances that are backed with solid science that can help you doze off just as effectively? 

The fact is, many substances found in nature use the same mechanisms that pharmaceuticals do to calm the brain, reroute hormones, and alter the brain chemistry just enough to get you to fall asleep, without having addictive qualities. Some substances actually benefit the body and can improve other systems in addition to helping with sleep.

Most importantly, the substances we’re talking about today are completely safe, have no side effects, and can be used in combination with one another, in fact there are sleep formulations made with multiple combinations of these natural substances and botanicals.

Before using any supplements, however, have a discussion with your healthcare provider to make sure that there are no potential interactions with medications you may are taking.

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the pineal gland of the brain. Primarily stimulated by the natural diurnal cycles of night and day, the pineal gland increases melatonin output as bed time naturally approaches. 

If you disrupt the cycle, such as when traveling internationally, working shift work, or otherwise tinkering with the natural ebb and flow of this system, your sleep can quickly be thrown out of whack. 

Called the hormone of darkness, not only is it produced by the body for sleep induction and available as a supplement for sleep, Melatonin has also ben careful researched and is used to treat a variety of illnesses, including having some efficacy in fighting the Ebola virus.

It has been shown to offer anti-viral characteristics, , an anti-inflammatory agent, and has antioxidant characteristics, too. 

Melatonin can improve overall sleep quality in individuals who suffer with sleep disorders and have no luck with prescription drugs, or decide the side effects outweigh the potential benefit. 

Melatonin reduces the time needed to fall asleep, and actually can lengthen the time we spend asleep, a strong benefit. It is generally considered to be perfectly safe, and ongoing research is attempting to unravel how effective it is even after long periods of use.

Magnesium is a mineral that is part of many pathways in the human body and is essential for life. Important for cardiac health and brain function, it is known to calm and quiet the brain, and has an anxiety reducing effect, which helps to prepare the body for deep, restorative sleep.

Magnesium’s anxiolytic effect may be largely due to the fact that it is involved in the production of melatonin, and it increases the levels of a substance called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) a substance that calms the brain and reduces tension and stress. Many anxiolytic drugs and pain reducing substances involve the pathways where GABA is present. Low levels of magnesium in the blood are linked to difficulty with sleep and insomnia, according to many studies.

Taking magnesium supplements has been shown in double blind studies to benefit test subjects by improving the quality of their sleep. These same studies also showed that magnesium supplements increased the levels of melatonin and renin, two hormones that regulate sleep patterns.

Lavender is a plant that produces small purple flowers that, when dried, has a variety of uses. Rather than acting as a hormone or naturally occurring mineral in metabolic pathways, lavender’s soothing fragrance has been shown to enhance onset of sleep. Studies have suggested that merely by smelling lavender oils for 30 minutes prior to sleep can greatly improve sleep quality. Generally, lavender has been shown to me more effective in mild cases, and with younger persons and female subjects.

Passion Flower (Tea Form) Passion flower, a botanical known as Passiflora incarnata, or maypop, has been a favorite herbal treatment for insomnia for generations. Since it has calming and sedative effects, the tea variety is popular for sleep tonic use just before bedtime.

There are several varieties, but the species associated with improving sleep are native to the North American continent, however subspecies grow  in Australia, Europe, and Asia.

Passionflower has been used to treat anxiety and has sedative effects, as well. In the USA, the FDA does not allow it to be labelled as an over the counter sedative, but it is commonly purchased as a nutritional supplement. The aerial parts of the plants flower as well as the roots, can be used either in tea form, or in powdered variations.

Valerian is an herb native to Asia and Europe, but is grown in the USA and China as well. Originally used to make perfumes, its root has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. It has been used as a treatment for anxiety and depression.

It has a strong, oily smell, and its extracts have been found to slow down the breakdown of GABA, which increases a sense of calmness and tranquility in users. This is exactly the same mechanism that Valium and Xanax use to reduce anxiety.

Studies have shown that isobaric acid, derived from Valerian, can prevent involuntary muscle movements, and has the same metabolic mechanism that valproic acid provides, used to treat epilepsy. Several studies have shown that Valerian can improve stress responses by controlling levels of serotonin in the brain.

Glycine is an amino acid and a neurotransmitter that is an essential part of the nervous system. Studies clearly demonstrate that glycine can improve sleep in a number of ways.

It increases sleep efficiency, and allows you to experience deeper sleep, where restorative benefits lie. Glycine reduces body temperature slightly, which signals the body that it is time to sleep. This increases blood flow to the body’s extremities. Increase your sleep efficiency.

Since it is a building block of melatonin, it helps by adjusting these levels more favorably in the brain. Glycine also increases serotonin levels as well. People who have used glycine often report feeling livelier and fresher upon awakening the following morning, and have more “clear-headedness”.

Glycine can be purchased in pill form or as a powder supplement to add with various foods. One of the tricks to help it work more effectively, is to take it immediately before lying down in bed, according to some studies.

Tryptophan is an amino acid, often associated with that drowsy feeling we get after eating Thanksgiving turkey. It has been reported that doses as low as 1 gram per day of Tryptophan may help improve sleep. It can also help with sleep induction, making you fall asleep much faster.

Ginkgo biloba is a natural herb that promotes relaxation and reduces stress. I have used it before but prefer melatonin, as I noticed that Gingko herb can have a “marijuana like high” associated with its use. If you use cannabis for sleep, however, Gingko may be a a productive supplement for sleep use. Check with your doctor, of course.