'Rona Messing with your Sleep? Natural Supplements to Help.
Almost all of us have had a stretch of bad sleep at one time or another, and it is estimated that 10-30% of people have full-blown insomnia – even more with increasing age. Poor sleep causes daytime grogginess and trouble concentrating, and in the long-term can lead to things like cardiovascular disease and mental health problems. Sleeping pills can have frightening effects, so people are turning to natural sleep supplements to catch their ZZZs.
Do natural sleep supplements actually work? It’s highly individual and you may have to experiment to find what works for you, but people generally see a helpful effect with these teas and supplements.
7 natural sleep supplements that actually work.
Natural sleep supplements that people have found to be effective for mild sleep disturbances include:
- Lemon balm
Let's dive in to what each supplement may do to help you get better sleep right now.
Skullcap is an herb in the mint family that traditional healers have used for thousands of years to address sleeplessness. Research shows that skullcap has anxiety-inhibiting properties and could help with insomnia. People report a calming effect within minutes of taking it, and it is a popular addition to natural sleep supplement formulas.
You can take skullcap in extract or capsule form, and less commonly, as a tea. Even though skullcap is in the mint family, it does not taste minty -- its flavor is on the bitter side.
With its bright purple wiry petals, passionflower is probably the most visually striking of the herbs that promote sleep. Passionflower is a well-known remedy for anxiety. In one study, researchers found that it was as effective as oxazepam, a prescription anxiety medication, with fewer side effects related to impaired job performance. Another study showed that passionflower effectively calmed patients before surgery. Research shows its calming effect is useful for sleep, and taken as a tea, it benefits sleep in adults who have mild sleep fluctuations.
You can take passionflower as a tea, in capsules, or as an extract.
Magnesium is involved in hundreds of processes in the body, and because of modern farming practices and soil depletion of minerals, most people are deficient. Magnesium before bed can calm stress from inflammation and regulate melatonin production, which can help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep through the night. Studies show that supplementing with magnesium can help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply throughout the night. It does this by lowering stress and regulating melatonin.
Supplements vary as far as how bioavailable they are – meaning, how well your body absorbs them. You can absorb quite a bit of magnesium through the skin, so a calming epsom salt bath before bed may help you get your ZZZs.
Melatonin has several functions in the body that have nothing to do with sleep. It is anti-inflammatory, helps keep blood pressure level, and more. Melatonin is known as the “sleep hormone” and is the hormone that your body releases in response to darkness.
A lot of people supplement with melatonin to help with sleep. It doesn’t come with the risk of psychoactive effects like prescription sleeping pills do, and side effects are minimal. Some people report daytime grogginess from melatonin, aka the “melatonin hangover,” but that’s likely from taking too high a dose.
Melatonin is fairly popular, so you can find melatonin capsules in virtually any store that sells supplements and over-the-counter medicines.
Glycine is an amino acid that isn’t as abundant in most meat protein sources but is one of the main components of collagen protein. Research shows that glycine helped people fall asleep faster, slip into deep sleep quickly, and also helped them feel more wakeful the next day. In a small study, glycine was found to improve participants’ sleep and help them feel more refreshed the next day.
If you take magnesium glycinate, you get a highly absorbable form of magnesium bound to glycine, which could tackle sleep issues from both angles.
Lemon balm relieves anxiety and insomnia and in one study, 95% of participants found relief for their anxiety, insomnia, or both. Lemon balm has been studied in post-menopausal women with sleep disorders, with some success. Results are highly individual, so see what works for you.
You can find lemon balm teas, extracts, and in capsules as part of sleep or relaxation formulas. These are available in most health food stores and natural grocers.
Valerian root has a long history of use as a sedative in nearly every traditional healing discipline across the globe, and of all of the natural sleep supplements, it probably has the most noticeable effect.
There are a few cons, though. For some people, there’s a fine line between taking enough to fall asleep, and over-depressing your system, which can slow your heart rate too much. The body reacts by giving your system a small jolt of adrenaline in the middle of the night, which will wake you up and keep you awake until your body decides that you’re in homeostasis.
Another con is that it tastes like dirty socks, so teas and tinctures can be unappealing unless they are expertly formulated alongside pleasant-tasting herbs.
If you choose to use valerian, it’s best to use a blended formula from a trusted brand, and follow package directions carefully.
There are lots of things that affect your sleep – your diet, your sleep environment, how active you are during the day – to name a few. One of the best things you can do to pinpoint sleep troubles is to track your sleep and after a while, see if you can spot any patterns. In the meantime, supplements can help.