Sleep Health Articles

8 Best Supplements For Sleep

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get to sleep.

Many people experience the nights spent lying awake, tossing and turning due to stress, nervousness or simply because we’re just not tired. In these situations, utilizing a natural sleep aid could be the difference between getting a good night’s rest, and staying up for hours only to wake up sluggish. Here are the eight best natural supplements to help get you to sleep naturally:

L-tryptophan is an amino acid that constitutes both protein and serotonin synthesis, which are crucial part to maintaining a calm, relaxed mood. When we consume large amounts of L-tryptophan, serotonin synthesis begins and feelings of serenity and calmness tend to come over us.

Taking a tryptophan supplement is a successful sleep remedy because it promotes a relaxed, sleepy feeling without limiting cognitive performances. [1] Tryptophan has also displayed sleep improvements for those suffering with sleep apnea, [2] and may be beneficial to those with insomnia or those who have difficultly sleeping due to anxiety or stress.

5-hydroxytryptophan is a chemical that the body converts from L-tryptophan. After this conversion takes place, it is converted again to serotonin, which plays a part in regulating mood, energy levels and more. One study found that individuals taking 5-HTP fell asleep faster and slept better overall than those who took a placebo. The researchers in this particular study warn that 5-HTP may take several weeks before having a successful effect. [3]

Utilizing 5-HTP before bed may not only help you fall asleep more quickly, but it may also help you sleep better throughout the night. Some users find that 5-HTP helps calm anxiety and stress too, making it easier to fall asleep.

Melatonin is a hormone naturally made by the body and released into the blood when the sun begins to go down. The melatonin hormone signals the brain that it’s time for sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and have a longer, higher quality sleep. The melatonin hormone is greatly regulated by light, time, and the body’s natural biological clock, and the hormone cycle can be disturbed if there are changes or disturbances in the sleep pattern or lifestyle. Luckily, this important hormone can be reinforced through melatonin supplements.

Taking melatonin pills before bed helps signal the brain and internal clock that the body is ready for rest. Natural melatonin supplements are an effective way to fall asleep fast into a quality sleep.

Native to Europe and Asia, Valerian is a perennial plant belonging to the Valerianaceae family. Valerian has been historically used to sooth anxiety, relieve stress, and today it is used to promote relaxation and sleep. The exact compounds that give valerian its sleep-inducing qualities are not known, however, researchers suspect valerian benefits sleep by increasing gamma aminobutyric acid, which has a sedative effect. [4]

Valerian benefits those who need help calming down prior to going to sleep. The herb for sleep comes in pill, oil, and cream form, and is a natural, safe way to promote a restful night’s sleep.

Magnesium is a mineral vital for many bodily functions, including regulating the body’s Circadian Rhythm, otherwise know as the body’s internal clock. Magnesium may also help improve circulation and may relieve muscle cramps and symptoms of restless legs. One study discovered that supplementing with magnesium relieved insomnia symptoms in participants. [5] Another study found that magnesium supplements improved older adults’ sleep efficiency, time and morning awakening. [6]

Taking magnesium supplements prior to going to bed may help improved sleep quality and efficiency by lessening cramping and promoting relaxation throughout the entire body.

GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that minimizes excessive brain activity. [7] Typically, our bodies create enough of this amino acid, however, as we get older, partake in a poor diet, or become ill, GABA may lessen and result in mood and sleep problems.

A study conducted at UCLA School of Medicine evaluated 18 participants who had sleep disorders that were given GABA or a placebo. The researchers found that the participants who took GABA supplements fell asleep more than 10 minutes faster and slept nearly two hours longer than before, while those who took the placebo had nearly no change in their sleep habits. [8]

GABA supplements may help individuals to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for a longer period of time, while supporting a calm frame of mind.

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone made by the adrenal gland. This hormone is converted into other hormones that regulate mood, cogitative functions and more. As we age, DHEA naturally declines within our bodies and our sleep quality may suffer because of it.

DHEA supplements may help promote an all-around better sleep and sleeping routine, especially in middle-aged and older users.

Native to the mountains of the Mediterranean, lavender is widely coveted for its unique, pleasing scent and medicinal, relaxing properties. Traditionally, lavender was used to help calm and put individuals to sleep; even in folklore, lavender was placed in pillows to help people sleep better.

Studies have found that the aromatic flower promotes a calm mood and better sleep. In one study, researchers found that young individuals had a higher quality sleep after being exposed to lavender. [9]

Lavender comes in many different forms. Many enjoy using lavender essential oil in a diffuser in the bedroom to promote a calm, tranquil space. Others place fresh lavender flowers on the night table. However you choose to utilize lavender, it’s bound to help you have a better sleep.

1. Schneider-Helmert D, Spinweber CL. Evaluation of tryptophan for treatment of insomnia: A review. Psychopharmacol (Ber) 1986;89:1–7.

2. Schmidt HS. Tryptophan in the treatment of impaired respiration in sleep. Bull Eur Physiopathol Respir. 1983;19:625–9.

3. Center, U. o. (2011, April 4). 5-Hydroxytryptophan. Retrieved March 12, 2015, from University of Maryland Medical Center

4. Bos R, Woerdenbag HJ, van Putten FMS, Hendriks H, Scheffer JJC: Seasonal variation of the essential oil, valerenic acid and derivatives, and valepotriates in Valeriana officinalis roots and rhizomes, and the selection of plants suitable for phytomedicines. Planta Medica 64:143-147, 1998.

5. Hornyak M, Voderholzer U, Hohagen F, et al. Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study. Sleep. 1998 Aug 1;21(5):501-5.

6. B Abbasi, M. K. (2012, December). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. US National Library of Medicine , 1161-9.

7. Vanta, B. (2013, August 16). Do Gaba Supplements Improve Sleep, Panic & Anxiety? Retrieved March 12, 2015, from Live Strong

8. Shell W, Bullias D, Charuvastra E, May LA, Silver DS. A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of an Amino Acid Preparation on Timing and Quality of Sleep. Am J Ther. 2009 May 4.

9. N Goel, H. K. (2005). An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. US National Library of Medicine , 889-904.