Supplements for Sleep
Consistent lack of sleep can be maddening! For many people who have trouble sleeping, just the idea of lying down at night introduces feelings of worry and dread of insomnia. While lifestyle factors play a big role in getting enough sleep, there are also natural herbs and nutrients that can help. Topping the list of sound sleep supplements are melatonin, L-theanine and lemon balm.*
Proven Supplements for Sleep Support
Consistent lack of sleep can be maddening! For many people who have trouble sleeping, just the idea of lying down at night introduces feelings of worry and dread of insomnia. Lack of sleep has officially reached epidemic proportions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that one in three adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep. What makes this issue even more critical is that sleep is so important to overall health. It’s undisputed that lack of sleep increases risk of many illnesses including heart disease and diabetes. Lack of sleep is also linked to obesity, depression and anxiety. Not to mention, the increase in incidence of addiction to sleep meds.
While lifestyle factors play a big role in getting enough sleep, there are also natural herbs and nutrients that can help. Topping the list of sound sleep supplements are melatonin, L-theanine and lemon balm.*
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Its main job is to support the sleep-wake cycle. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, melatonin supplements may help some people who struggle with sleep including those with jet lag or sleep issues associated with shift work. They also report that melatonin may help people who go to bed but can’t fall asleep until hours later.* Melatonin has certainly become a “go-to” sleep supplement for many integrative healthcare providers.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves. It helps support relaxation and is ideal for people who are looking for quality sleep.* This natural substance has the unique ability to support the increase of alpha brain waves that stimulate a relaxed feeling and decrease beta brain waves which stimulate an excited state. The authors of a 2015 review paper published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition state, “Unlike conventional sleep inducers, L-theanine is not a sedative but promotes good quality sleep through anxiolysis.”*
Similar to L-theanine, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) helps to support relaxation.* This lemon-scented herb from the mint family has been used by herbalists for centuries for its calming effects.* A 2015 randomized placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology demonstrated that lemon balm can help support people who experience heart palpitations.*
Oftentimes, these natural ingredients are combined in one supplement because they can work synergistically to support sound sleep. All three of these substances are considered safe and effective. According to Lisa Murray RDN, Medical Educator at Emerson Ecologics:
“One mistake people often make is taking these supplements only close to bedtime. Patients may complain that the supplements don’t work, but they may not be allowing enough time. And, everyone is unique in the dosing that works best for them. I recommend patients see how they respond to taking supplements right after dinner, and again before bed, in order to understand how these natural substances promote relaxation for them and watch for physical signals that it’s time for bed. The patient’s responsibility is to pay attention to their body’s signals, like yawning, or nodding off while watching TV. We all get stuck in our beloved routines, and when we ignore our body’s sleep signals, we send the message back to “stay up”. It surprises a lot of patients, when they are used to staying up late, that they are able to fall asleep easier and sleep better and longer if they pay attention and follow their sleep signals. Sometimes that means going to bed two or more hours earlier than they normally do. Supplements can be really helpful and effective, if we don’t ignore and override their effects!”
Practicing good “sleep hygiene” includes following the same calming routines before bed, going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning, allowing for at least 8 hours of sleep. This helps re-train the body to a healthy sleep cycle and it takes persistence. In addition to this lifestyle advice, practitioners may confidently recommend one or more of these three ingredients for patients who are struggling to get the sleep they need.*
Alijaniha F, Naseri M, Afsharypuor S, et al. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2015;164:378-84.
Cases J, Ibarra A, Fruillere N, et al. Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2011;4(3):211-218.
Rao TP, Ozeki M, Juneja LR. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2015;34(5):436-47.
Turkozu D, Sanlier N. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2017;57(8):1681-1687.
Xie Z, Chen F, Li WA, et al. Journal Neurological Research. 2017;39(6).