Natural Sleep Supplements
The title of this article, Natural Sleep Supplements to Start the Day Off Right, may be seem oxymoronic given the fact that we typically end the day by sleeping – not start the day. But, a good night’s sleep is essential if you want to wake up well rested with more than enough energy to take on the day and make the most of it.
Before we get into sleep supplements to improve your sleep let’s review some statistics regarding sleep, healthy habits associated with lower rates of chronic disease, and medical conditions associated with poor sleep,
Next to eating healthy, sleeping well may be the best thing you can do for your health. Sleep is when the body repairs itself. It is also when the mind processes and files information and the day’s events for recall later. Seven hours of sleep is recommended. Up to 40% of the population in some states suffer from short sleep duration according to the CDC.
We typically hear that sleep problems are more prevalent in the elderly, but if you look at the CDC data in the above link you will see that short sleep duration is more prevalent in the 45 to 54 age group.
Health Behaviors to Avoid Chronic Disease
There are five health habits that will reduce your chances of getting a chronic disease.
- Getting 7 or more hours of sleep a night.
- Not smoking
- Regular exercise or physical activity
- No or no more than moderate alcohol consumption (no more than 2 drinks a day).
- Achieving a healthy weight
The Health Effects of Short Sleep Duration
Poor sleep takes a toll on our health. The following conditions are more common in those who get less than seven hours of sleep compared to those who get seven or more hours.
- Heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- COPD (lung disease)
- Chronic kidney disease
Inadequate or poor sleep should not be taken lightly.
Causes of Short Sleep Duration
There are several causes for inadequate sleep. The most common are:
- Inconsistent bedtime
- Use of technology late at night.
- Long work hours or performing shift work.
- Medical conditions.
- Medications (stimulants and antidepressants, but virtually any medication).
- Sleep apnea
Before you consider taking a sleep supplement or even a prescription sleep medicine be sure you are not a victim of an underlying medical condition or guilty of any of the lifestyle habits listed above.
Natural Sleep Supplements
Hopefully you now see the importance of sleeping well. But, what if you don’t – sleep well that is? Well, here are natural sleep supplements to help you end the night and start the day off right.
Melatonin is a hormone made in the pineal gland, a pea-size structure in the center of the brain. It is not just a hormone. Some call it the “master hormone” as it helps regulate our circadian rhythms part of which is our sleep-wake cycle. It is also an anti aging hormone that we have written about previously.
The neat thing about melatonin is it is readily available over the counter without a prescription.
Melatonin is a potent antioxidant and has been studied as an adjuvant treatment in cancers. It is also neuro-protective against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s patients have lower levels of melatonin and melatonin supplementation has been shown to decrease cognitive decline in patients.
How does melatonin work? Melatonin is released when it becomes dark outside and signals the body to prepare for sleep. Too much computer or video game use at night can limit melatonin production. Melatonin binds to receptors in the brain and reduces neural activity. Melatonin levels decrease in the presence of light. So when the sun comes up your body awakens.
Melatonin is typically sold in 1 mg and 3 mg capsules over the counter. Smaller doses like 0.5 mg can be found online. Our general recommendation is to start with 1 mg one hour before bed and every two or three nights increase the dose by 1 mg a night until you find the minimally effective dose for you. Don’t exceed 10 mg. Every patient is different. We have seen little old ladies need 5 mg and big younger men needing only 1 mg. It may make you feel sluggish in the morning. If it does the dose is too high. Either lower the dose or take the supplement two hours before bed so it has another hour to wear off. Some complain of nightmares. It can make dreams more vivid. I personally take 0.5 mg a night. That works well for me.
Magnesium is a smooth muscle relaxer and plays a role in muscle and nerve function. It has been used to treat restless leg syndrome and to treat abnormal heart rhythms. It reduces waking up in the middle of the night and relaxes the brain facilitating falling asleep. It increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which induces calmness. What’s the dose? Doses of 500 mg to 1,000 mg a day are use to help with sleep.
Valerian is a herb used to manage anxiety, depression, and menopausal symptoms. Studies (second meta-analysis) show that dose of 300 mg to 900 mg of valerian before bed improves sleep quality based on patient self reports. It was felt to be safe in short-term studies. If you have occasional difficulty with sleep valerian is a good option to try.
Tryptophan is an amino acid (building block of proteins). It gets converted into 5-HTP which gets converted into serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin the happy neurotransmitter which is the target of anti-depressant medications. Eating breakfast foods high in tryptophan has been shown to improve sleep by increasing melatonin production.
Tryptophan is found in high concentrations in eggs, cheese, chicken, turkey, and some fish. If you prefer a supplement the dose range is 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg thirty minutes before sleep.
Theanine is an amino acid that induces a state of calmness and usually very quickly typically within 20 minutes. It quiets the mind and improves sleep quality. It trigger the release GABA like magnesium does. It does not cause daytime drowsiness. It has been studied and found to be effective in the treatment of sleep in boys with ADHD. The dose for theanine is 250 mg to 400 mg a day.
Don’t overlook the benefits of exercise in your quest for better sleep. Exercises report better sleep than non-exercisers with those that exercise vigorously reporting the best sleep. Exercisers are less likely to have sleep apnea. If you do not exercise then at least not sit too much. People who sit less than 8 hours a day are more likely to report very good quality of sleep.