Best supplements for sleep and stress According to Experts: Getting a good amount of sleep is incredibly important to your health.
What’s more, insufficient sleep has been associated with higher risks of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (5).
Despite this, sleep quality and quantity are at an all-time low, and more and more people are sleeping poorly (6).
Remember that good sleep often starts with good sleep practices and habits. But for some, this is not enough.
If you need a little more help getting a good night’s sleep, consider trying the following Top 10 best supplements for sleep and stress.
Best supplements for sleep and stress
Sleep, great sleep. We can all use more. And yet… another scroll through your favorite social media app, book episode, podcast episode, late-night talk show. No more! If you’re dealing with distractions at night because you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, know that help is on the way.
As it turns out, various natural supplements can help you have a better night in dreamland. Below, registered dietitians weigh in on their best choices. As always, talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement. Keep reading and for more on healthy eating, don’t miss the Best supplements for joint pain and arthritis
Let’s start with the most widely known sleep supplement: melatonin. “You can’t talk about sleep without producing melatonin. It is produced from melatonin [the ‘sleep hormone’] and the amino acid l-tryptophan. The pineal gland secretes melatonin at dusk and levels continue to rise until mid-morning. Moderate stress or exercise increases your ability to secrete melatonin, but cyclically tides are often disrupted in people with poor or inconsistent sleep patterns,” says Paul Kriegler, Registered Dietitian with Lifespan.
“Melatonin secretion decreases with age, which may be part of making older adults sleep-deprived,” he continues and notes that melatonin supplementation with older adults can be beneficial when traveling between time zones or adjusting to a new sleep schedule. It is also worth mentioning: “In addition to supporting sleep, melatonin has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels, normal inflammatory levels, and can support restful sleep, especially in those with neurodegenerative diseases, depression, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, headaches, and insomnia.”
Talk about a miraculous mineral for sleep. “Magnesium is involved in more than 300 reactions in the body and is thought to regulate the body’s internal clock and keep the circadian rhythm stable. Magnesium also helps regulate how excited the central nervous system is and has been linked to reduced feelings of stress and anxiety,” explains the Registered Dietitian for AlgaeCal. RD, Megan Wong. “Magnesium can also help relax muscles, magnesium deficiency possibly contributing to Restless Legs Syndrome, a common cause of sleep disturbance.”
Sharing Wong’s excitement about magnesium as a sleep aid, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, CT, explains: It’s also about the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. This is especially true for older adults,” says Gorin, who personally likes to recommend magnesium threonate, a type of magnesium, for brain health benefits, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. FYI: In the study above, as Wong noted Magnesium supplements were linked to significantly increased sleep duration, melatonin levels, and improvements in subjective measures of insomnia.
3. Valerian root
Valerian is an herb native to Asia and Europe. The root is often used as a natural treatment for anxiety, depression, and menopausal symptoms.
Valerian root is also one of the most widely used sleep-promoting herbal supplements in the United States and Europe (7).
However, study results remain inconsistent.
According to randomized controlled trials, menopausal and postmenopausal women found that their sleep quality and sleep disturbance symptoms improved after taking valerian (9).
Two previous literature reviews also reported that 300-900mg of valerian taken just before bed can improve self-rated sleep quality (10).
However, all improvements observed in these trials and studies are subjective. They relied on participants’ perceptions of sleep quality rather than objective measurements taken during sleep, such as brain waves or heart rate.
Other studies have concluded that the positive effects of valerian are negligible at best. For example, it may lead to a small improvement in sleep latency (11).
Regardless, short-term valerian root intake appears to be safe for adults with minor, rare side effects (12).
Despite the lack of objective measurements behind valerian, adults may consider testing it for themselves.
However, safety for long-term use and in special populations such as pregnant or breastfeeding women remains unclear.
Valerian root is a popular supplement that can improve sleep quality and sleep disorder symptoms, at least in some people. More studies are needed on the safety of long-term use.
“All aboard!” say. To this adaptogenic herb for a better ZZZ night. “Ashwagandha can fight stress and anxiety and be an effective sleep aid,” said Eat This, Not That! Medical Specialist Board members Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, aka The Nutrition Twins, authors of The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure and co-founder of NutritionTwins.com and the 21-Day Body Reboot partners refer to this 2019 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.
“The leaves of the plant contain trimethylene glycol, which has been found to induce sleepiness. Ashwagandha improves sleep quality and helps people sleep longer, and maybe particularly beneficial for people suffering from insomnia.”
The lavender plant can be found on almost all continents. When dried it produces purple flowers with a variety of household uses.
Also, the soothing scent of lavender is believed to improve sleep.
In fact, several studies show that sniffing lavender oil shortly before sleep may be enough to improve sleep quality. This effect appears to be particularly strong in those with mild insomnia, particularly in women and young individuals (13).
A small study in older people with dementia reports that lavender aromatherapy is effective in improving sleep disorder symptoms. Total sleep time increased. Fewer people also woke up too early (3 o’clock) and could not sleep themselves again (14).
Another study gave 221 people with anxiety disorders either 80 mg of lavender oil supplements per day or a placebo.
At the end of the 10-week study, both groups experienced improvements in sleep quality and duration. However, the lavender group experienced 14-24% more effects without any reported unpleasant side effects (15).
Although lavender aromatherapy is considered safe, taking lavender by mouth has been associated with nausea and stomach pain in some cases. Essential oils are for aromatherapy purposes and cannot be taken orally (16).
It’s also worth noting that only a limited number of studies can be found on the effects of lavender supplements on sleep. Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Lavender aromatherapy can help improve sleep. More studies on lavender supplements are needed to evaluate their effectiveness and safety.
“GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. It acts as a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger in the brain. GABA’s role as a neurotransmitter is to block or block certain signals to reduce nervous system activity, tranquilizing has an effect,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
“Supplementing with GABA is definitely an option for someone who has trouble falling asleep, especially those who have reason to believe they have significantly low levels. GABA can lead to extreme drowsiness as it has a calming effect,” he continues. Therefore, it should be taken before going to bed when there is no need to drive.
Passiflora incarnata, or maypop, is a popular herbal remedy for insomnia.
Passionflower strains associated with sleep improvements are native to North America. It is also currently grown in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Passionflower’s sleep-promoting effects have been proven in animal studies. However, its effects in humans appear to depend on the form consumed (17).
One study in humans compared the effects of passionflower tea with those of placebo tea made from parsley leaves (18).
Participants drank each tea approximately 1 hour before going to bed, taking a break between two teas for 1 week. Each tea bag was allowed to steep for 10 minutes, and the researchers took objective measures of sleep quality.
At the end of the 3-week study, objective measures showed that participants did not experience improvement in sleep.
However, when asked to subjectively rate their sleep quality, they scored approximately 5% higher after a week of passionfruit tea than after a week of parsley tea (19).
In a recent study of people with insomnia, those who used passionflower extract over a 2-week period saw significant improvements in certain sleep parameters, compared with a placebo group (20).
These parameters were:
- Total sleep time
- Sleep efficiency or percentage of time spent asleep in bed rather than lying awake
- Time to wake up after sleep begins
On the other hand, a 1998 study compared the effects of a 1.2-gram passionflower supplement, traditional sleeping pills, and a placebo. Researchers found no difference between passionflower supplements and placebo (21).
More research is needed, but it’s worth noting that passion fruit intake is generally safe in adults. For now, it seems that passionflower may provide more benefits when consumed as a tea or extract rather than a supplement.
Passionflower tea or extract may help slightly improve sleep quality in some people. However, the evidence is mixed and some studies have found no effect. Therefore, more studies are needed.
Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a sleep-promoting supplement that has earned the seal of approval from Kylie Ivanir, MS, RD, who runs her own private practice called Within Nutrition. “CBD, one of the main cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate many processes in the body.
“Research shows that CBD can have a calming effect that can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality. Also, if chronic pain is disrupting sleep, CBD has been shown to help alleviate pain and thus sleep. It directly promotes sleep, managing sleep-wake cycles in the brain. receptors,” he adds, pointing to this scientific review of cannabis, cannabinoids, and sleep.
Exactly how this works is unknown, but glycine is thought to work in part by lowering body temperature at bedtime, signaling it’s time to sleep (22).
In a 2006 study, insomniac participants consumed 3 grams of glycine or a placebo just before bed.
Those in the glycine group reported feeling less tired the next morning. They also said that their vitality, enthusiasm, and clear-headedness were higher the next morning (23).
A 2007 study also investigated the effects of glycine in participants experiencing poor sleep. The researchers took measurements of their brain waves, heart rate, and breathing while they slept.
Participants who took 3 grams of glycine before bed showed improved objective measures of sleep quality compared to the placebo group. Glycine supplements also helped participants fall asleep faster (24).
According to a small study, glycine also improves daytime performance in people who are temporarily sleep deprived.
Participants’ sleep was restricted for 3 consecutive nights. They took either 3 grams of glycine or 3 grams of placebo each night before bed. The glycine group reported greater reductions in fatigue and daytime sleepiness (25).
You can buy glycine in pill form or as a powder that can be diluted in water. Getting 0.8 grams/kg of body weight per day seems safe, but more studies are needed. Many sleep study participants only gained 3 grams per day (26).
You can increase your glycine intake by eating nutrient-rich foods, including:
- Animal products such as bone broth, meat, eggs, poultry, and fish
- Fruits such as bananas and kiwis
Consuming glycine right before bed can help you fall asleep faster and improve the overall quality of your sleep.
10. Lemon Balm
Studies show that lemon balm can reduce anxiety and improve sleep disorders. We are all ears. (And hang it on the kettle to brew a few bags of lemon balm tea.)
As The Nutrition Twins shared in one of their newsletters, “This soothing herb reduces stress and lowers stress and cortisol. It can reduce depression and is great for insomnia.” They recommend brewing or supplementing with two or three bags of lemon balm tea. Another idea: “Add some liquid [lemon balm] extract to the water and even take it in the middle of the night if you’re tossing and turning.”
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