Supplements and Vitamins to Take For Improved Sleep
Hitting the gym is important, but just as important is a good nights sleep. Getting the right amount of good sleep gives the body time to recover and repair after those tough workouts. Lack of sleep is linked to an elevated risk of depression, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, faster aging, diabetes, and obesity. Fighting a chronic lack of sleep is also a never-ending cycle because the more exhausted you become, the harder it is for you to fall asleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, you need to check for sleep apnea or vitamin deficiencies and seek assistance from a medical professional to help with any hormonal imbalances. If those are not the reason you can’t sleep soundly, here is a list of natural and over the counter sleep remedy supplements you can add to your nightly routine for truly regenerative and restorative rest.
This sunshine vitamin is thought to affect sleep quantity and quality and according to research, a deficiency in vitamin D has been connected to less sleep and more disrupted sleep. You can get vitamin D from fortified foods, egg yolks, and fish.
This antioxidant is beneficial for fighting restless leg syndrome making it easier to fall asleep. It has also been shown to help alleviate night sweats and hot flushes for menopausal women, improving their sleep quality.
Despite its importance, magnesium is still one of the leading deficiencies in the United States. Studies have shown that low magnesium levels contribute to behavioral and psychological changes such as anxiety, aggression, and stress. This element is most known for helping to promote strong bones, a healthy immune system, steady heart rhythm, and normal nerve and muscle function. Magnesium is also beneficial for controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining normal blood pressure.
When it comes to sleep, magnesium is an important and essential mineral for many reactions in the body - including neurotransmitter synthesis. That may be why a deficiency prevents sound sleep, and supplementation may help you get a good night’s sleep: too little magnesium in your body obstructs nerve cell communication resulting in excitability of the cells making you overly nervous and stressed. That is why magnesium is shown to improve the quality of sleep and reduce chances of waking up in the middle of the night. Finding the right dosage is important, and a good starting point is 200 mg before bedtime. Watch for grogginess, irritability, and gastrointestinal distress the next morning. If you experience these, cut back your dosage.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen root used in Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for more than 2,500 years. It has been studied for its thyroid regulating, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. This ancient Ayurvedic root helps support normal hormone activity, and seems best suited as a treatment for the stress of modern life which may be why it has been shown to aid in a getting better night's sleep. It takes an extremely high dose of Ashwagandha for any toxic effect, but dosages of 300-500 milligrams 1-2 times per day seem to work best for most individuals.
This is an amino acid derivative that is found in green tea and has long been used to encourage GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, in the brain. GABA stimulates the main calming neurotransmitters in the brain, decreasing anxiety and encouraging relaxation but your body has a hard time absorbing supplements with synthesized GABA. This is why Theanine is recommended as the body can absorb it easily and use it to elevate GABA levels ultimately. The benefits of theanine are a good reason to add green tea to your diet, replacing the sugary drinks with this natural tonic. A cups a day is all you need to reap the rewards of improved sleep.
This compound is a derivative of the amino acid L-Tryptophan and in supplemental form can help reduce appetite and enhance mood, as well as aiding in a good nights sleep. That's because it is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, and higher serotonin levels improve sleep quality. It works better than L-tryptophan because it can cross the blood-brain barrier easier. 5-HTP should not be taken if you are on any sort of antidepressant medications.
Valerian, also known as valerian root, is a herb that you have probably heard of: that's no surprise because it comes highly recommended by sleep experts as it reduces the amount of time taken to fall asleep. Studies have also shown that it support sleep quality and reduces fatigue the next day. Valerian root appears to possess sedative properties and it can increase GABA levels in the brain, promoting tranquility. Valerian is most commonly used as an herbal tea supplement that you can drink an hour or two before bed, but can be found in capsule forms. A good supplemental dose is 450 milligrams taken one hour before bedtime. Since it is known to cause drowsiness don't combine it with other natural sleep aids, or take it before driving or other activities. If you feel a sleep hangover the next day cut back on your dosage.
Melatonin AKA the "darkness hormone" controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle, your internal clock. These cycles are called circadian rhythms, and can influence hormone levels and metabolism. Your body naturally produces melatonin as the sun goes down, but modern life and schedules throw off a persons sleep cycles. Melatonin supplements can help with restore the process and when used with light therapy, the hormone has be shown to reduce nighttime restlessness in elderly patients with dementia. As part of a bedtime routine, try setting any house lights low two hours before bedtime to create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere for sleep. Avoid bright lights like cell phones as they can stimulate brain activity, making it hard to sleep. It is very helpful against jet lag, and is a favorite with business travelers.
When starting to supplement with melatonin, start with the lowest possible dose to avoid any grogginess the next day. It's also important to cycle this supplement because many experts believe your body's natural production may decrease while taking it. Also, cycle off of it every 2-3 months to avoid this negative feedback loop.
The Bottom Line
If you struggle with sleep, make sure to create a relaxing bedtime routine to assist these supplements in helping you find a better, more restful rhythm. You already understand the importance of sleep. You know you require a certain amount of sleep for your muscles to recover and repair. Sleep is a time when your body and mind are both at rest, and poor-quality sleep sabotages your health, performance, and productivity.Although research into sleep aids is ongoing, and some in the scientific community disagree over exact dosage and efficacy, these supplements are all safe and effective and widely accepted as natural sleep aids. Start supplementing with some of the above items to increase the quality of not only your sleep, but your life.
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness.
She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.