Top Five Supplements for Sleep
With everything on your to do list, a full night’s sleep might seem optional. Or maybe there are times when you can’t sleep or can’t get back to sleep. Regardless of the reason why you’re not getting enough shut eye, you’re not alone. Approximately 37% of adults in the United States sleep six or less hours every night. Less than two-thirds receive the 7 to 9 hours per night adults need to feel their best. If you’re exhausted, chances are good it’s because you’re not getting enough sleep.
How Much Sleep Do you Need
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the answer to that question varies depending upon how old you are. People 65 years and older can get by on seven to eight hours per night. Adults 18 to 64 years old need seven to nine hours. In many cases, people are getting the recommended amount of sleep, but their sleep isn’t deep enough to feel refreshed in the morning. The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index™ found that 20% of Americans complained that they did not feel refreshed upon awakening on any given day of the past week, even after slumbering for about 7 ½ hours.(1) In addition, 35% of Americans reported “poor” or “only fair” sleep quality.(1)
In some cases, there’s no obvious reason for the loss of sleep. In other cases a condition called obstructive sleep apnea may be the culprit. Ask your doctor if you should get tested for this potentially serious problem.
The Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health risks. Not only does the chance of having a car accident increase, you’re also more susceptible to a number of health concerns. Here are some of the health areas linked to getting the recommended amount of sleep:
- Weight Management – Getting more sleep leads to a reduced desire to eat sugar, fats, and carbohydrates.(2) There’s also a significant link between short sleep duration and the likelihood of being obese.(3)
- Cardiovascular Health – Getting enough sleep is important for a healthy heart. Restful sleep maintains the lining of blood vessels known as the endothelium.(4) In heart patients, short sleep duration is associated with a greater likelihood of being readmitted to the hospital again six months after discharge.(5) Getting enough sleep also supports healthy blood pressure levels.(6)
- Bone Health – Sleeping seven or more hours per night is associated with a healthier bone mineral density in women.(7)
- Immunity – Short sleep duration can affect respiratory health.(8) Furthermore, not getting enough sleep leads to shortened telomeres in immune cells.(9) Telomeres are the protective “caps” on the ends of chromosomes. With aging, these telomere caps weaken and the chromosomes shorten. In a study of 87 obese men and women, worse scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) correlated with significantly shorter telomeres in immune cells, specifically CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells.
- Memory – Researchers have found that even mild partial sleep deprivation (only one hour less than optimal) can lead to reduced working memory.(10) Remembering phone numbers or directions, writing an essay, or remembering the rules of a new game are examples of working memory.
- Women’s Health – In one study, women who sleep less than six hours per night had a greater likelihood of having abnormal menstrual cycles, either too short or too long.(11)
- Mood – Getting enough sleep is a natural mood booster. Sleep supports a healthy inflammatory response, which is necessary for a good mood and a sense of well-being.(12)
- Smooth Skin – Sleep loss raises cortisol levels. When exposed to high levels of this stress hormone, collagen in skin can break apart.(13) This leads to wrinkles.
Best Supplements for Sleep
A number of dietary supplements can support sleep quality and duration. Here are some of the most effective and well-researched
Melatonin for Sleep
Melatonin is produced naturally in the body after exposure to darkness. It’s the battery that powers our circadian clock. However, modern humans are exposed to large amounts of light at night that reduce natural melatonin production. Numerous studies have shown supplementation with melatonin can compensate for this melatonin deficiency and support healthy sleep. This sleep supplement can normalize circadian rhythm so that people who have a hard time falling asleep at night and awakening in the morning can receive more rest.(14)
Valerian Root for Sleep
Studies show this botanical supplement supports refreshing sleep. In one study, compared to a placebo, valerian root for four weeks promoted healthy sleep quality in postmenopausal women.(15) In a double-blind, randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled study, valerian was found to have a calming effect in 15 healthy participants, as evidenced by its ability to reduce cortical excitability.(16)
Other Herbal Supplements for Sleep
Valerian is especially effective as a sleep supplement when combined with other botanicals, specifically lemon balm, hops, and passion flower. In a study of 100 women aged 50-60 years, a combination of valerian and lemon balm led to improvements on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).(17)
In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, the 20 participants who received a combination of valerian and hops slept better than the 22 subjects who received the placebo.(18) All the subjects had been identified as poor sleepers through a sleep questionnaire. Time spent in sleep and time spent in deeper sleep was significantly greater in the valerian/hops group. Sleep quality was measured using an EEG.
Combining valerian and hops with passionflower proved to also support healthy sleep in another randomized, controlled trial.(19) In 39 participants, the herbal supplement for sleep led to an increased amount of sleep and fewer nocturnal awakenings.
The Calming Effects of L-Theanine
Research shows that people sleep better after consuming supplements containing this relaxing component of green tea.(20,21) L-theanine promotes the production of relaxing alpha brain waves, which has a calming effect.
Magnesium for Sleep
Magnesium supplementation may eliminate age-related sleep changes. In a placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover study of 12 elderly subjects, magnesium led to an increase in slow wave sleep, as measured by a sleep EEG.(22) Cortisol levels also significantly declined in the first half of the night. In addition, research has shown magnesium may support healthy sleep in people with restless legs.(23)
Natural Supplements for Sleep
Vital Nutrients combines valerian, hops, lemon balm, and passionflower with melatonin and L-theanine in a sleep formula designed to support a good night’s rest. This formula also contains lavender and California poppy,(24) two other botanicals known for their soothing effects. Several forms of magnesium including Magnesium Citrate and Magnesium Oxide, Malate, and Glycinate are available to further contribute to healthy sleep. Melatonin, Valerian Root, and L-theanine are also sold as stand-alone products.