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Sleep Promoting Supplements & Products

Studies consistently show that less than half the U.S. population gets enough sleep per night, and even those that state they get 7 to 9 hours regularly don’t always get quality sleep. Lack of quantity and/or quality when it comes to sleep makes many of us more prone to disease, chronic health conditions, mood disorders, and other not fun things.

I can’t advocate that people take prescription drugs for sleep. Even some over the counter stuff is a bad idea, and both prescription and over the counter stuff can be addictive. You often need more and more to get sleep. In reality, you need to address the issues that keep you from getting enough quality sleep. However, there are some things you can take (and do) to promote more and better sleep.

MAGNESIUM – Magnesium helps many people sleep better. It is involved in over 300 processes in the body, so supplementation will help something, even if not your sleep. Some of the ways it can help people sleep is by calming the mind or preventing/easing Restless Leg Syndrome or supporting the adrenals. Here is what I recommend: Source Naturals Magnesium Serene (it tastes good!). If you have never used a magnesium citrate formula, start with 400 mg dose. Any dose above that can cause loose bowels (not urgent diarrhea, just loose bowels), however, some people do well with higher doses. Some experts believe that a chelated form of magnesium is better absorbed by the body. Source Naturals Magnesium Bis-Glycinate would then also make a good choice. *Although you’d have to take four tablets to get a good dosage.

CHAMOMILE – This herb is an age old remedy for relaxation and sleep. You can drink a nice, warm chamomile tea before bed. I like Yogi Tea Bedtime Tea which includes chamomile and other herbs that have been shown to help promote sleep. Yogi has several formulas to promote sleep and relaxation. You can also take a chamomile supplement like this one from Nature’s Way (which is also promoted to help the GI tract). And if you are into essential oils, you can additionally use a chamomile essential oil from Aura Cacia (or others). This can be used in a massage oil at bedtime or in a bath soak for relaxing before bed or in a pillow spray.

LAVENDER – This is another herb often associated with promoting sleep. In the case of lavender, it is primarily the scent/oil that is used. Just like chamomile, lavender essential oil can be used in a pillow spray, bath blend, or in massage oil. You can get lavender in the Pillow Potion essential oil blend from Aura Cacia. Lavender can be used in a tea at night, like the Honey Lavender Stress Reflief tea from Yogi. *Be sure when buying items scented with lavender that actual lavender essential oil is used, rather than a man-made scent.

VALERIAN – Another herb for relaxation and taming restlessness, particularly at night. Valerian is an ingredient in the Yogi Bedtime tea (I love this tea!). You can also take a valerian root supplement like this one from Nature’s Way. *I would recommend only taking 400-500mg per day about one hour before bed. It can take up to 3 weeks for a noticeable difference. Do not use for more than 3 months. Take 30 days off. Nature’s Way also has a Silent Night supplement containing valerian.

LEMON BALM – This herb has a reputation for easing insomnia and anxiety. It has been used for ages as a tea (like this one from Traditional Medicinals). New Chapter makes a product called Lemon Balm Force, which I thought they used to promote for insomnia, but now they list it for “a healthy mood, calm and well-being by supporting alertness and focus”. I will assume it is still good for insomnia.

COCONUT OIL/MCT OIL – One to two tablespoons can be taken 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime to prevent waking during the night. This strategy is most useful for people who get hypoglycemic at night, people who are very active during the day, and for people who are restricting their calories. See my food buying guide for recommendations on buying coconut oil. I hear wonderful things about MCT oil in general, although I personally have not tried it because of cost. I know with MCT oil it is important to get a high-quality one, and my understanding is that the NuMedica MCT is a good product.

BIOACTIVE MILK PEPTIDES – You know the old wisdom of warm milk before bed to help you sleep? It’s actually the bioactive milk peptides that help promote sleep. So, rather than drink milk (unless it’s raw and grass-fed), you can supplement with peptides from Life Extension. You could also use colostrum (which I talk about under digestive supplements) which will contain some bioactive milk peptides. Colostrum supplements are typically from cow or goat milk. I am using Jarrow Formulas colostrum because they claim that their colostrum is from cows free of antibiotics and growth hormones and are (at least partially) pastured. And I can afford their product.

MELATONIN – This is the hormone in your body that puts you to sleep at night. For various reasons, you might not produce enough or you might not be producing it at the right time. I do hesitate to recommend melatonin supplementation because, even though it is a natural substance, when you supplement with hormones, you risk suppressing your body’s ability to produce the hormone itself. It is better to do the things that encourage your body’s production of melatonin at the right time (circadian rhythm). Having said that, occasional use of melatonin in low doses can be right for some people. As low as 150 mcg can be enough, but most melatonin supplements are much higher dose than this. Life Extension makes one of the lowest doses available in a quality product.

TRYPTOPHAN – An amino acid required for protein synthesis. It helps enhance sleep and relaxation. It is the building block for serotonin and melatonin. Tryptohan can be supplemented in the form of 5HTP, which has been shown to be the most effective supplement to boost serotonin. (This will be covered under brain supplements – I don’t want to make recommendations here). Food sources are elk, wild-caught salmon, raw almonds, canned light tuna, turkey, chicken, raw cheddar and parmesan cheese, grass-fed beef, and raw cacao. *Lactose intolerant people tend to be deficient in tryptophan.

GELATIN – Gelatin has been shown to improve sleep quality. A great source of gelatin is homemade bone broth using pastured or grass-fed animal bones. You can also use a gelatin supplement such as Great Lakes (they use grass-fed cows).

HERBAL SLEEP BLEND – This an herbal sleep aid worth considering: Herbs, etc. Deep Sleep.

***Promoting production of your neurotransmitters – GABA, Dopamine, Acetylcholine, and Serotonin will also help you achieve better sleep. I will discuss under brain supplements how to improve these neurotransmitters.