Sleep deprivation is dangerous. Among other things, lack of sleep is strongly associated with car accidents. If you are tired, your body will behave as if it’s coping with enormous stress. Even worse, people who don’t get enough ZZZs are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus –– whether it’s a cold or COVID-19. Plus, being constantly exhausted is not ideal for your relationships or your general well-being. So, instead of pouring another glass of wine, here are some natural supplements for sleep aid that can help you nod off.
Are more people having trouble sleeping? Pandemic-fueled anxiety about money, job losses, and the virus itself may be fueling more sleepless nights. Parents home with school-aged children 24/7 probably aren’t enjoying sounder sleep either. However, many newly remote workers freed from 9-to-5 tyranny are discovering improved sleep patterns. If you are more of a night owl, your lack of sleep may have been fueled by earlier start times. Left to your own devices, you may have found a productive sweet spot from 11 to 7. Today many people working from home are also discovering the enormous benefits of naps. Still, if you are having some shut-eye issues there are a number of proven natural sleep supplements.
Melatonin and Magnesium
One of the best-known and most studied of the natural sleep supplements, melatonin is a naturally-produced hormone. It naturally increases at night –– signaling your body that it’s time for slumber. That’s why it’s a great way of dealing with jet lag. A study of shift workers whose jobs have non-traditional schedules showed that melatonin helped them fall asleep faster and enjoy better quality sleep. Adults can safely take 0.5 mg-3 mg of melatonin each night before bed for as long as necessary. Studies where melatonin was combined with magnesium and vitamin B showed subjects slept even better. Magnesium can promote a sense of wellbeing and calm. Although found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, many people do not get enough magnesium in their diet. A recent study where participants took it as a supplement concluded that it has long-term benefits in treatment of sleep disorders, especially among women. When vitamin B complex was added to the mix in a different study, the results were even better.
Numerous vitamins are actually natural sleep aids. Many people in developed countries have substituted their health for convenience. We think first of a pill we can swallow to solve our problems when in many cases our issues are caused by a diet heavy in sugar, processed food, and additives. The B vitamins are helpful alone or in concert with magnesium and melatonin. Besides being vital for our immune system and mental function, vitamin B6 has been shown to help people remember their dreams, a sign of deeper and sounder sleep. Not having enough of the vitamin has been linked to depression along with sleep disorders. Your best source is in the food you eat since it’s possible to get very sick from too much B6 in supplements. Try some bananas, carrots, or spinach. You can also find B6 in milk, eggs, and cheese, among other sources. Vitamin B12 is found in animal protein –– again think dairy, eggs, lean meat, and fish. It works to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Although a lack of the vitamin has been linked to insomnia, its potential as a natural sleep supplement is not fully understood.
Besides its value for your immune system and bone health, Vitamin D may help you sleep. Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem. Although it can be found in fortified milk, eggs, and fish, your best source is the sun. Despite cautions about sun exposure, a few minutes of sunscreen-free rays in the late morning or early afternoon can make all the difference. Be careful and don’t overdo it! Other natural sleep aids include vitamin E, which is found in most nuts, seeds, spinach, and tomatoes; and vitamin C, which is mainly found in citrus fruits and broccoli. People who don’t get enough of these vitamins often battle not only insomnia but numerous health issues.
Just because a product is advertised as a natural supplement for sleep aid doesn’t mean it’s safe and effective. The popular sleep supplement valerian root remains unproven as most studies on its effectiveness have been inconclusive. It may also not be safe for long-term use. Although some studies suggest the South Pacific root kava can help with sleep, the supplement has been linked to liver damage. Although this may be related to issues with the manufacturer or distributor, kava has been banned in Canada and some European countries. One calming natural sleep aid is lavender oil. Studies of women, young adults, and seniors with dementia have all demonstrated its effectiveness. However, while smelling lavender before bed may improve sleep, taking it orally has produced a host of unpleasant side effects. No matter which natural supplement for sleep aid you choose, do your research. Buy high-quality products and start off with low doses. Most importantly, no matter what you take, avoiding anxiety-producing news and other stressful activities before bedtime will improve your rest and even your dreams.
- Sleep deficiency and motor vehicle crash risk in the general population: a prospective cohort study
- Diurnal rhythms in blood cell populations and the effect of acute sleep deprivation in healthy young men
- Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
- COVID Q&A: Insomnia
- Melatonin therapy in shift workers with difficulty falling asleep
- Magnesium intake and sleep disorder symptoms
- The effects of magnesium-melatonin-vitamin B complex supplementation in treatment of insomnia
- Effects of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) and a B Complex preparation on dreaming and sleep
- Lavender and the nervous system
John Bankston is a published author of over 150 nonfiction books for children and young adults including biographies of Jonas Salk, Gerhard Domak, and Frederick Banting.