There’s nothing better than to stretch in bed after a hard day’s work and blissfully drift away to a world of dreams and refreshing sleep. Unfortunately, some of us are derived from that pleasure and instead we sit on our beds with wide-open eyes and thoughts spinning faster than the room’s electric fan.
To sleep like a baby without having it ruined by insomnia or nightmares is what we tired people long for. Good thing there are supplements that can help promote better sleep while providing other health benefits on the side. Check out this list to find out what kind of supplement you need to get some proper shut-eye:
A hormone that is responsible for the maintenance of your circadian rhythm. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland at night through the conversion of serotonin when you are in a dark environment, as exposure to light can be disruptive to this process. Aside from its benefits for sleep, melatonin is also found to have potent antioxidant properties that help protect the body against free-radical damage. A study published in May 2013 at the journal PLoS One revealed the efficacy of melatonin supplements in decreasing latency of sleep onset and enhancing sleep quality and length of people with primary sleep disorders. People whose circadian rhythms are upset due to jet lag or night shift work can also use melatonin supplements to fall asleep faster, and the same holds true for those with low levels of the hormone due to aging or certain health disorders.
This herb has been used for medicinal purposes since the days of ancient Greeks and Romans. Valerian remedies gastorinestinal problems, heart palpitations, headaches, and anxiety, but it is most well-known for treating insomnia. Multiple studies show that the herb works well in helping people fall asleep faster while minimizing the chance of waking up in the dead of night, however its effects may not work for everybody and may have varying times before kicking in. The supplement is best taken two hours before going to sleep, or thrice distributed throughout the day with the final dose before hitting the sack. Never use valerian when doing activities where alertness is required such as driving or operating machinery. Aside from the usual capsule, valerian is also available in tincture and powdered forms. Watch out for its very potent odor which is described by some as akin to old socks or spoiled cheese.
In Germany chamomile is described as alles zutraut, or in English “capable of anything”, because of the many health problems it can remedy. Chamomile contains several bioactive phytochemicals that are believed to be responsible for its therapeutic properties like enhancing the immune system, reducing inflammation, relieving anxiety and symptoms of depression, treating stomach ache and flatulence, and inducing sedation for calm and better sleep. Drinking a warm cup of chamomile tea before going to bed not only ensures a good night’s rest but also delivers its other impressive medical benefits to the body as well. Another way to make use of chamomile for better sleep is by placing the herb under a pillow so its soothing aroma can help lull you into sleep.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in teas prepared from the leaves of the shrub Camellia sinensis. Green, black, yellow, and oolong are among the teas that make use of the said leaves. It does not directly induce sleep; instead it helps the body relax and improves quality of sleep by increasing the activity of alpha waves in the brain. These waves are present during rapid eye movement sleep and when a person is in deep mental relaxation. The more active the alpha waves are, the better the sleep quality will be. L-Theanine also enhances the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain, causing thoughts to slow down and helping the mind ease into calmness. L-Theanine supplements are available if you do not love drinking tea.
The amino acid tryptophan is obtained from dietary sources like eggs, red meat, cheese, and chickpeas. Once acquired, the body then converts tryptophan into 5-hydroxytrytophan (or 5-HTP). Once 5-HTP goes through the blood-brain barrier it is then converted to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates behavior and mood. Melatonin is also derived through the conversion of serotonin at night thanks to the pineal gland, hence increasing the levels of serotonin leads to better sleep quality. Low levels of serotonin are associated with insomnia, fatigue, and depression. Aside from eating food rich in tryptophan, taking 5-HTP supplements can help boost serotonin levels ready for melatonin conversion at night.
An herb whose calming properties have been used since the Middle Ages for relaxing the mind and body, remedying indigestion, and enhancing the healing of wounds. Lemon balm also increases the efficacy of other sleep-promoting herbs when used in conjunction with them, although extra care should be taken when using the herb with another that has sedative effects or excessive sedation may occur. Clinical trials revealed lemon balm’s powerful stress-relieving capabilities that can help a person fall asleep easily without having to endure racing thoughts and worries. Its most common form is dried leaf which has to be steeped into tea. Other forms that do not need such preparation (tea bags, capsules, tinctures) are available as well.
Stress can lead to difficulties in falling asleep or waking up at 3 in the morning and unable to get back on board the dreamland express again. In times of anxiety, the adrenal glands release the stress hormone called cortisol which is actually beneficial for the body. However, when cortisol is over produced, a slew of health problems can occur including having disrupted sleep. Holy basil is an herb that is prominent (and sacred) in India due to its adaptogenic properties, or an effective tool against the stresses of everyday life. Regularly taking supplementations of holy basil can effectively lower cortisol levels, thus freeing you from the burdens of stress and allowing a more refreshing and uninterrupted sleep.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogen hailing from India that is used to promote better sleep and relaxation while cutting off stress. It also has anti-microbial and antioxidant properties that offer protection from harmful toxins that trigger serious medical conditions. Its name is derived from Sanskrit ashva (horse) and gandha (smell), not that you will start to smell like Mister Ed when you take it but instead it refers to the strength comparable to equines that it gives to the body. Just like holy basil, ashwagandha reduces cortisol levels to minimize stress while lowering blood sugar and blood pressure levels to further bring down anxiety. As a nootropic, ashwagandha can also enhance cognitive functions and memory formation. Taking a supplement before going to sleep can help calm down an anxious brain and usher in a more relaxing sleep.
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This article is written based on research and for informational purposes only. Never substitute the actual advice of medical experts for this. Always seek first the opinion of a professional regarding the supplements mentioned above in order to determine the right dosage and to avoid possible complications that may arise upon use.
Have you tried any of these supplements? Do you have other supplements that work in enhancing sleep? Let us know in the comments.