By Dr. Tariq of the Nishtar Medical University in Pakistan
Do you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night? After a hectic day, do you toss around in bed with a preoccupied, heavy head?
Finding the best supplements for better sleep can be frustrating with hundreds of ads and products on the internet.
Does our diet have a role in our sleep? What are the most proven natural sleep aids that have been revealed by scientific research? Read on to learn more about the best minerals, herbs, and vitamins for improving sleep at night.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), sleep problems are pretty common; in fact, about one-third of Americans do not get a good sleep. Sleep is as essential for a person as food is for a healthy life. A good amount of sleep is required for our brains to function properly.
Every day, good quality sleep enhances learning, memory, problem-solving, and creativity.
What’s more, lack of proper sleep is associated with anxiety, daytime drowsiness, and increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.1
Several supplements on the market contain natural sleep aids with herbs, vitamins, and minerals, but how do these supplements work, and which ones may be the best for an individual?2,3
The best thing to do is to try a small amount of each one of them separately and note the results in a journal. And then compare the results of each one as to which ones were the most beneficial.
HERBS THAT HELP YOU SLEEP
Here are some of the most well-known herbs for relaxation and better sleep.
Chamomile is a herb that has been used for centuries to reduce anxiety, soothe your nerves, and help with sleep. It is normally used as tea or in capsules, as are most of the herbs for sleep.4,5
Passionflower contains flavonoids which are a group of natural chemicals found in many herbs and fruits, possessing anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) properties. These act to reduce pain, calm the mind and help with sleep if added with other herbs like lemon balm.6
Hops flowers contain a variety of compounds which remedy restlessness, nervousness and sleep difficulties. Pillows filled with these are also used for sleep.7
Ashwagandha root extract is a natural compound that induces sleep, improves sleep quality, and soothes the nerves to relieve stress. It can help a person sleep better throughout the night.8
Kava helps some people with sleep disorders. Kava leaves are dried and used in capsules or tablets. It helps to reduce anxiety and provide a calmer, less stressed state of mind.9
MINERALS FOR SLEEP
Many minerals affect the state of health of our bodies and their various systems. A few minerals stand out as bright stars in the sky for their ability to induce good sleep.
Difficulty in sleeping throughout the night is the first symptom of magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is the essential nutrient for better sleep. It helps the body prepare melatonin, a sleep hormone made in the brain that directly aids good sleep.12
Magnesium also relieves muscle tension and mental stress by helping to produce amino acids, for example, GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid – a signaling molecule in the brain).13
Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, avocado, bananas and yogurt.
Calcium is among the essential nutrients that significantly impact sleep by affecting REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep – a phase of sleep when your brain is more active and your eyes move faster). Decreased calcium levels affect sleep cycles and lead to difficulty getting deeper and longer sleep.14
Calcium is found in dairy products such as almonds, cheese, yogurt, leafy greens and sardines. By taking the correct amount of calcium, the sleep cycles of our body can be corrected.
Calcium should be taken in balance with magnesium in a two to one ratio, with twice as much calcium as magnesium.
BEST VITAMINS FOR SLEEP
Sometimes vitamin deficiency can be a cause of sleep deprivation. If one or more of these are deficient in the diet, a good night’s sleep can become more difficult to obtain.
Many experts say that vitamin D deficiency is associated with sleep disorders and if your blood levels of Vitamin D fall to a low level, it can lead to sleep disorders and restless leg syndrome. A person can get vitamin D from sunlight, eggs, salmon, and mushrooms. Supplements can also be used.15
Vitamin E is perfect for hair, nails, and skin, but it is also an important nutrient that has a vital role in improving sleep at night. There is a close relationship between memory impairment and sleep deprivation.
Vitamin E has regenerating and oxygenating effects in the brain that can help prevent sleep deprivation-induced memory impairment.16 Vitamin E is found in almonds, leafy greens, sunflower seeds, avocados, and olive oil.
People with low levels of vitamin C may have problems with falling asleep and staying asleep at night.17 If vitamin C is used along with Vitamin E, it may help reduce the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Citrus fruit is a rich source of vitamin C, as well as kale, kiwi, red peppers and stawberries.18
Vitamin B-6 plays a vital role in immunity and recalling dreams. It is also essential for the production of melatonin, which is necessary for deep sleep. Hence a vitamin B-6 deficiency may lead to sleep disorders.
Natural sleep-aids with the B vitamins should contain the whole spectrum such as B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, and B-12, etc., to avoid any imbalances. They work better together to reduce stress and create melatonin. 19,20
Vitamin B-12 is important for brain and red blood cell functioning. It also helps by regulating sleep-wake cycles and REM sleep.21
THE BOTTOM LINE
Getting a good amount of sleep is vital for good health. Several herbs, minerals, and vitamins can be effective in helping a person fall asleep better and stay asleep longer. They can be found at health food stores and at nutritionist and chiropractic offices.
Some other good sleep tips would be to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, keep the bedroom cool and dark while sleeping, and use a comfortable mattress, In addition, do some daily exercise that you enjoy such as walking, get outside for some sunlight during the day, and wear earplugs and an eye mask while sleeping.
This natural health news is shared by Nutrition Breakthroughs, maker of the original calcium and magnesium based sleep aid Sleep Minerals II, and Joints and More, a natural supplement for joint relief, less aches and pains, and more energy.
- Saksvik-Lehouillier, I. et al. Mild to moderate partial sleep deprivation is associated with increased impulsivity and decreased positive affect in young adults. Sleep 43, (2020).
- Binks, H., Vincent, G. E., Gupta, C., Irwin, C. & Khalesi, S. Effects of Diet on Sleep: A Narrative Review. Nutrients 2020, Vol. 12, Page 936 12, 936 (2020).
- Ji, X., Grandner, M. A. & Liu, J. The relationship between micronutrient status and sleep patterns: a systematic review. Public Health Nutrition 20, 687–701 (2017).
- Rafii, F., Ameri, F., Haghani, H. & Ghobadi, A. The effect of aromatherapy massage with lavender and chamomile oil on anxiety and sleep quality of patients with burns. Burns 46, 164–171 (2020).
- Chang, S. M. & Chen, C. H. Effects of an intervention with drinking chamomile tea on sleep quality and depression in sleep disturbed postnatal women: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Advanced Nursing 72, 306–315 (2016).
- Lee, J., Jung, H. Y., Lee, S. I., Choi, J. H. & Kim, S. G. Effects of Passiflora incarnata Linnaeus on polysomnographic sleep parameters in subjects with insomnia disorder: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study. International clinical psychopharmacology 35, 29–35 (2020).
- Benkherouf, A. Y., Eerola, K., Soini, S. L. & Uusi-Oukari, M. Humulone Modulation of GABAA Receptors and Its Role in Hops Sleep-Promoting Activity. Frontiers in Neuroscience 14, 1100 (2020).
- Cheah, K. L., Norhayati, M. N., Yaacob, L. H. & Rahman, R. A. Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE 16, e0257843 (2021).
- Bruni, O., Ferini-Strambi, L., Giacomoni, E. & Pellegrino, P. Herbal Remedies and Their Possible Effect on the GABAergic System and Sleep. Nutrients 2021, Vol. 13, Page 530 13, 530 (2021).
- Abbasi, B. et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences 17, 1161 (2012).
- Cao, Y. et al. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients 2018, Vol. 10, Page 1354 10, 1354 (2018).
- Grandner, M. A., Jackson, N., Gerstner, J. R. & Knutson, K. L. Sleep symptoms associated with intake of specific dietary nutrients. Journal of Sleep Research 23, 22–34 (2014).
- Romano, F. et al. Vitamin D and Sleep Regulation: Is there a Role for Vitamin D? Current Pharmaceutical Design 26, 2492–2496 (2020).
- Alzoubi, K. H., Khabour, O. F., Rashid, B. A., Damaj, I. M. & Salah, H. A. The neuroprotective effect of vitamin E on chronic sleep deprivation-induced memory impairment: The role of oxidative stress. Behavioural Brain Research 226, 205–210 (2012).
- Otocka-Kmiecik, A. & Krol, A. The Role of Vitamin C in Two Distinct Physiological States: Physical Activity and Sleep. Nutrients 2020, Vol. 12, Page 3908 12, 3908 (2020).
- Grebe, M. et al. Antioxidant Vitamin C Improves Endothelial Function in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.200508-1223OC 173, 897–901 (2012).
- Aspy, D. J., Madden, N. A. & Delfabbro, P. Effects of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) and a B Complex Preparation on Dreaming and Sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills 125, 451–462 (2018).
- Mayer, G., Kröger, M. & Meier-Ewert, K. Effects of vitamin B12 on performance and circadian rhythm in normal subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology 15, 456–464 (1996).