A good night’s sleep eludes many of us. There are plenty of reasons you may be struggling to fall or stay asleep. Whether it is stress, medical issues, or a busy household, the result is the same – you wake up already feeling exhausted.
Many of us turn to prescription sleeping pills to save our sleep, but the truth is – they lose their effectiveness over time and may become addictive. Over-the-counter medications may not be the best option to help you sleep either. Some medications contain diphenhydramine which seems harmless but may have strong effects on the body. These drugs may decrease brain function, making it difficult to stay alert throughout the day. Luckily, there are natural remedies that may help improve your sleep. With so many natural supplements on the market today, we help break down the best ingredients for sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone found in our bodies. Approximately, two hours before you are ready for bed, your melatonin levels rise to prepare you for sleep. As you age, melatonin levels decrease, and consequently, the frequency of sleep disorders increases. Supplementing with a sleep aid that includes melatonin will help combat the negative effects of low melatonin levels. The recommended dosage is 0.5 mg to 5 mg per day, taken one hour before bed.
Melatonin is suggested to anyone who suffers from bouts of insomnia, frequent travelers, and shift workers. Melatonin will not put you to sleep. Instead, it will trigger your natural biological clock to help you fall asleep quicker.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea. The recommended dose is 100 mg to 400 mg per day, taken one hour before bed. L-theanine promotes relaxation and aids in sleep by elevating levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine in the brain. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters and work to regulate mood and contribute to sleep.
L-theanine also triggers the production of alpha brain waves that are associated with a state of “wakeful relaxation.” This means you feel relaxed and focused. Alpha brain waves are also present during REM sleep which is the deepest stage of sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep plays a key role in dreaming, memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development.
The WHO has reported approximately 280 million people suffer from depression worldwide. L-theanine can pass the blood-brain barrier, increasing the efficiency once consumed and allowing it to reduce levels of chemicals in the brain linked to stress and anxiety. A recent study found that people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and on antidepressants reported having greater sleep satisfaction after taking L-theanine daily for 8-weeks.
GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid)
GABA is an amino acid and neurotransmitter naturally produced in the brain. GABA works by blocking certain nerve signals in the brain to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress. As we age, we produce less GABA. Using supplements may help boost the production of GABA and assist in calming the nervous system, leading to reduced anxiety, better sleep, and less stress.
A typical dosage is 100 to 200 mg per day, but higher dosages can be safely taken. Ultimately, GABA helps a person fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Insomniacs and those with disturbed sleep patterns will benefit the most from GABA supplements.
Valerian root usage dates to ancient Rome and Greece to treat migraines, tiredness, stomach cramps, and insomnia. Today, people reach for valerian root to improve insomnia, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, depression, and headaches.
Ashwagandha has a deep-rooted history in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian medical system. While ashwagandha needs to be studied more, people believe it helps insomnia, cognitive function and reduces anxiety.
Ashwagandha may also help you fall asleep faster, have better sleep, and spend more time asleep.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) extract is considered a calming herb to help reduce stress levels. Once, lemon balm was believed to be a “cure-all”, but its primary use now is to help depression, anxiety, insomnia, and indigestion.
A recent study aimed to determine the effects of lemon-balm supplementation on depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disturbances in patients with chronic stable angina. After the 8 week study, the group receiving the lemon balm had a significant reduction in scores of depression, anxiety, stress, and total sleep disturbance, compared with the group not ingesting lemon balm.
Lemon balm is also high in flavonoids, which can have an antioxidant effect. The antioxidants in lemon balm are known to have the potential to protect against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defenses are damaged. It is also believed that lemon balm has antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-histaminic, and antiviral properties.
Natural sleep supplements are an excellent alternative to prescription sleeping aids. If you have questions concerning the use of a sleep supplement you should consult with a medical professional.