A good night’s sleep is something we all need, and yet, we can’t always prioritize it the way we should. Whether you have anxiety, insomnia, sleep apnea, chronic pain, young children, or maybe just a tendency to overuse electronics too close to bedtime, there are a variety of reasons why our sleep might suffer.
Sleep hygiene, just like personal hygiene, requires our regular attention. Creating a routine that allows you to get the proper amount of sleep for your age range is a crucial component in warding off heart disease, stroke, cancer, anxiety and depression, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But if you already have your basic routine down pat and are looking for additional ways to improve your sleep quality, consider adding some of the following supplements to your sleep strategy.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the human brain that regulates our biological clocks. Most people don’t use a melatonin supplement every day, but it is considered safe to do so (it’s non-habit forming). However, it’s more often used sporadically to help people fall asleep naturally. Perhaps you’re jet-lagged, or you know you always have insomnia the night before a big event, you can take melatonin in tablet or dropper form to help ease you to sleep. The liquid form of melatonin in a dropper can work more quickly compared to a tablet. But beware not to take too much, or if you know you won’t get enough sleep because melatonin can cause a hangover-like effect in the morning that may take a few hours to subside. Also, it’s important to note that melatonin will shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and reduce the number of awakenings, but it may not always improve actual sleep quality.
Commonly found in tea leaves (green and black) and in pill form, this relaxation-promoting amino acid has been found to ease anxiety and reduce heart rate without causing sleepiness. It’s no wonder that tea is the second-most commonly consumed beverage (water is number one) when you consider that aside from its relaxation properties, it can also be used to boost learning function (when combined with caffeine), improve immune function and vasculature, and suppress cancer. Tea drinkers seem to have a leg up in their rivalry with coffee drinkers!
Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, can be used as a sleep aid. By now you’ve probably heard quite a lot of buzz about CBD, and for good reason, because it can help ease anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, among many other things. Although research on cannabinoids as they relate to sleep is still in its infancy, preliminary research has shown that CBD may improve insomnia due to its interaction with serotonin. CBD oil in dropper form can be taken under the tongue, or you can add it into a smoothie or to juice.
Magnesium is a mineral that has effects on various processes throughout the body that promote sleep. Among its many benefits related to our bones, brain, and heart, magnesium also helps with sleep because it activates the parasympatetic nervous system responsible for calming us down. Interestingly, magnesium also interacts with the melatonin in our brains, which we know controls our circadian rhythm. If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider finding out if you have a magnesium deficiency, it could be a contributing factor in your sleep quality.
Gamma immunobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, which means it functions as a messenger. When it attaches to a protein known as a GABA receptor, it results in a calming effect. You can get GABA through some foods, such as kimchi, tempeh, and miso; however, it’s also available in supplement form. A known stress reducer, GABA can help those who suffer from insomnia because of its effect on stress and anxiety. However, some conflicting research shows that GABA, when taken in supplement form, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so we don’t want to generalize the findings too much. Perhaps it’s better, for now, to check out your local Korean restaurant and order some kimchi!