Simply put: When you're not getting enough sleep, your body isn't happy — and it's going to let you know. Lack of sleep (or quality sleep at least) can result in ailments like heart disease and diabetes, not to mention the residual exhaustion can make you short-tempered, irritable, and unable to focus. And those are just a few possibilities. Thankfully, more and more at-home remedies are becoming available and many of them are even expert-approved. As for, specifically, the best natural sleep supplements, you've actually got some great options to choose from if you've been suffering from restlessness for far too long. It's worth mentioning that, in some cases, your sleep deprivation may be serious enough that you should consult a doctor. But, if you're looking for a solution to some mild sleeping issues, a natural supplement might be more beneficial than you think. You've probably heard the buzz about natural remedies like melatonin, CBD, or even adaptogens to fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer, but there are also a few you may not have even heard of yet. So how do you know where to start? That's where sleep experts can help. As a naturopathic doctor and medical advisor for Advanced Orthomolecular Research, Dr. Paul Hrkal is invested in the topic, and has seen firsthand how some of these natural supplements can help. And, in addition to the benefits they offer individually, some can be used in combination for a super-powered sleep booster — as this the case with AOR's blend of melatonin, L-theanine, 5-HTP, GABA, lemon balm, passionflower and valerian root.
For the full breakdown, as well as product recommendations, see Dr. Hrkal's suggestions ahead.
"Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle," says Dr. Hrkal. "Levels start to increase after 6 p.m. and peak before midnight but exposure to light such LED screens (i.e. smartphones and laptops) or artificial lights in the evening reduces production. There is a large body of research showing the effectiveness and safety of melatonin in people of all ages. Melatonin is particularly effective for people with trouble falling asleep rather than waking at night."
"Magnesium is a mineral with calming properties that also can be used as a sleep aid for people with tense muscles, chronic pain, and restless legs," the doctor explains. "It can help relax tight muscles and over-excited nerves which may improve sleep. Magnesium glycinate is a specific form that packs a double benefit since it also contains the amino acid glycine which has additional anxiety calming effects."
According to Dr. Hrkal, GABA — the body’s main calming neurotransmitter — can be used to treat both stress and sleeping issues. "Some people find this helpful for staying asleep if they wake at night," he explains. "Interestingly, scientists have now found that our microbiome responds to GABA further supporting the importance of the gut-brain connection."
This traditional Ayurvedic herb has a long history of treating insomnia in addition to a slew of other issues. "Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogenic herb which helps the body deal with stress," says Dr. Hrkal. "Studies show that it can help lower and balance the hormone cortisol which is common cause of sleep difficulties in people with excess levels of stress."
The root of the flowering valerian plant promotes relaxation. In addition to finding it readily available as a supplement or tea on its own, it's also been shown to work well with GABA, as is the case in AOR's Ortho-Sleep blend.
A calming herb in the mint family which has been used since the Middle Ages to treat also issues like indigestion, reduced appetite, and cold sores, as well as promoting better sleep, is an additional ingredient in the aforementioned Ortho-Sleep, as well as this skin-benefitting powder by The Beauty Chef.