Quality, consistent deep sleep- what could be better? There’s just something about the mental clarity, vitality, resilience to stress, control of cravings and more that you experience after getting some (usually much needed) rest. These days it’s safe to say that many of us need a little more support in this area, and often find ourselves blindly looking in the supplement aisle for solutions. If you’re overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone. Let’s go through all of the popular sleep supplements to see what might be best for you.
This is by far the most notorious one, yet the one I admittedly recommend the least. First of all, it is important to note that melatonin is naturally produced in the body and nothing beats really supporting your natural melatonin production- which can be done by adjusting and getting intentional about light exposure throughout the day, looking deeper into blood sugar balance and gut health, and adding in specific nutrients to support melatonin production and actual food sources of melatonin. So- needless to say a lot can be done before supplementing it. Melatonin supplementation is generally not meant to be used nightly, as it can lead to brain fog, grogginess throughout the day, and downregulation of your natural production of melatonin. If there is a time and place for this supplement- it’s in the “adjustments”, such as adjusting to a new time zone or adjusting to shift working. If you are currently taking it nightly and have been for a while, you’re not alone, but you may want to work with a provider to gradually decrease dosing while working on natural ways to support your melatonin production.
Magnesium is not always marketed for sleep (more because of the breadth of what it actually does for the body), but it can certainly support deeper forms of sleep. Magnesium can support calming neurotransmitter activity, which in turn can help you wind down. Magnesium can also support muscle relaxation, which is helpful if your sleep is often hindered by muscle cramping. There are different forms of magnesium that can be beneficial, but magnesium glycinate is the form I commonly recommend for sleep and anxiety.
GABA is the main neurotransmitter that magnesium can support activity of for sleep, and you can take it in supplement form. All in all, it can help inhibit activity of the central nervous system, providing more of a feeling of calm and leading to deeper sleep. This is more of a direct intervention than just taking magnesium, and often my recommendation if you’ve suffered from sleep issues for a while. Oftentimes, I find people get into deeper stages of sleep with this (usually they find they start remembering dreams more). This sometimes is found in a blend with magnesium and other nutrients or adaptogens.
This supports the production of serotonin, the most famous neurotransmitter, which can support sleep and be converted to melatonin. This I commonly recommend during the winter months, especially for those with sleep related issues due to Seasonal Affective Disorder. This also is often found in blends.
You know the balanced and calm feeling after drinking matcha tea? That’s the L. Theanine. Unlike matcha which does have caffeine, some sleep supplements contain just L. Theanine to help with a calming feeling before bed and support sleep.
Reishi or Ashwagandha
These are common adaptogens used to support the stress response, so I did want to group them together. Effectiveness with these can be individualized, but for many they really do help. For reishi, personally I like the Four Sigmatic Calm Cacao Mix to help wind down.
Putting It All Together
For almost everyone, I like to start with the magnesium glycinate supplementation and adding in food and lifestyle changes to support natural serotonin and melatonin levels. As always, I emphasize working with a practitioner, potentially lab testing, and looking into the full picture of your goals, physiology, medical history, and lifestyle to determine what is right for you.
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