Get it Any Way You Can — 5 Herbs and Vitamins to Help You Sleep Better
A good night’s sleep is one of the best things we can do for our health. Research shows that getting quality sleep every night can boost your physical and mental health and help you function well and safely during the day. But as we age, it can be harder to achieve those soundless nights of sleep we used to have.
From stress to hormonal imbalances to medication side effects, there are a number of reasons why you may experience insomnia. Herbal remedies and vitamins are two things that could possibly improve some symptoms of your sleep problems. These are just five popular herbs and vitamins that have been touted as good natural sleep aids.
Melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland in your brain secretes in the evening. The production of it can be blocked by light or an irregular sleep schedule. If you’re worried that you aren’t naturally producing enough melatonin, taking melatonin supplements could potentially help your body experience the positive effects of natural melatonin production.
Studies show that melatonin can help with certain sleep disorders — namely jet lag or a delayed sleep phase disorder. Melatonin can also contribute to reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, though the results are inconclusive as to whether melatonin is as helpful for clinical insomnia in adults.
Melatonin typically comes in 3- and 5-milligram amounts. If you want to try out melatonin, you may want to start with the lower dose.
Magnesium is a mineral everyone needs for regulating bodily functions like muscle maintenance and heart health, yet the average person’s diet provides less than the daily recommended amount of magnesium. Potential side effects of magnesium deficiency include nausea and cramps, which could make sleeping difficult.
In 2012, a double-blind clinical trial studied the effect of magnesium supplementation on insomnia in forty-six older adult subjects. The study concluded that a magnesium supplement was linked with an improvement in some elements of insomnia, such as sleep time and efficiency.
If you suspect you’re not getting enough magnesium, consider eating more magnesium-rich foods, like spinach and legumes, or taking a supplement.
Passionflower is a type of plant that may help assuage the effects of anxiety and insomnia. As an herbal supplement, passionflower can be consumed in several forms, including infusions, teas, tinctures, and liquid extracts.
While passionflower hasn’t been studied extensively, some of its noted calming effects may be the result of increased levels of gamma aminobutyric acid in the brain. This chemical can reduce some brain cell activity, thereby helping you relax. While there are not many known adverse side effects beyond mild sleepiness and dizziness, more studies are needed to better determine the effects of passionflower as a treatment for insomnia.
If you want to try passionflower for yourself, you may start by consuming it as a tea a few hours before going to bed.
Chamomile is a plant that has been used in many cultures for centuries as a mild sedative and cure for sleeplessness. The herb is believed to contain a flavonoid, apigenin, which attaches to the brain’s benzodiazepine receptors and promotes a relaxing effect. Chamomile is safe but may trigger a reaction if you’re allergic to ragweed pollen.
One small 2011 study showed that participants given chamomile supplements experienced less fatigue and fewer night time awakenings than those given a placebo. While more research is needed to definitively link chamomile to improved sleep, this preliminary study is encouraging.
Chamomile is most frequently consumed as a tea, and you can drink between one and four cups per day.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a hormone the body produces in response to sunlight exposure and through foods like fish and egg yolks. Having enough vitamin D in the body is essential for maintaining mental and physical health, including strong bones. People deficient in vitamin D may be more likely to experience mood disorders, depression, and poor sleep.
Studies investigating the link between vitamin D deficiency and sleeplessness are promising. A 2015 study of men age sixty-eight or older showed that those with lower levels of vitamin D were more likely to experience fewer hours of sleep as compared to those with higher levels of vitamin D.
If you don’t think you’re getting enough vitamin D, consider taking a supplement, spending at least ten minutes a day in the sun, or eating more foods with high levels of vitamin D.
A poor night’s sleep can ruin your entire day. A natural herb or vitamin supplement may help you achieve better rest. But remember, while vitamins and herbs can help, they won’t make a difference if you aren’t sleeping in the right environment. According to Kelsey Down, a sleep and wellness expert at Sleepys.com, “a dark room and the right mattress are essential for waking up ready to meet the day. Along with trying out supplements, consider upgrading your mattress or using blackout curtains for better, more restful sleep.”