Poor sleep affects all aspects of life and health. You’ve likely noticed how even one night of poor sleep affects your mood, energy, and hunger the following day. When poor sleep becomes chronic, the days can feel impossible to get through.
Sleep is critical for learning, memory, metabolic health, healthy aging, hormone balance, and overall health. When you’re snoozing, it may not look like you’re doing much, but that’s when your body detoxifies, rebuilds, and repairs. It’s also a crucial time for hormones, like melatonin and growth hormone, to do their job.
When sleep is optimal, it’s easy to fall asleep, fall back asleep if you wake up in the night, and wake up feeling rested, refreshed, and able to function optimally during the day. And getting seven to nine hours per night is the sweet spot for sleep timing.
The bad news is that over 35% of American adults don’t get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Access to technology, overwork, and stress are just a few reasons that make it hard to prioritize sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we are at increased risk for:
- Insulin resistance
- Increased appetite and calorie intake
- Decreased cognition
- Increased risk for cardiometabolic disease
It’s no wonder that so many of us are looking for ways to improve sleep. If you want to know how to get better sleep, keep reading to learn more about the best sleep supplements.
How to Sleep Better? Balance Your Hormones
If you’re looking for how to sleep better or get better sleep, your hormones may be worth investigating. Both the hormones that are responsible for menstrual cycles and healthy pregnancies, along with an appropriate stress response can influence your quality of sleep.
Progesterone for Better Sleep
Progesterone rises after ovulation and stays up through the end of the luteal phase. But when progesterone levels fail to reach their ideal levels, sleep problems can show up. In fact, difficulty falling and staying asleep can be a sign of low progesterone. That’s because progesterone metabolites support the brain’s use of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps us get our best sleep. Keep reading because I’m going to share supplements that can support your natural GABA.
While we want to address the cause of low progesterone in our cyclical years, there’s no denying the progesterone drop that happens in perimenopause and menopause. It may be necessary to supplement with progesterone during this phase of life (of course, talk with your provider). But the supplements listed below may also help you get better sleep by supporting your body’s GABA levels.
Cortisol Sleep Problems
The way it is supposed to work is that cortisol declines in the night while melatonin rises. But in some cases, stress hormones from the adrenal glands stay up and melatonin stays down in the evening hours. This is why dark rooms, avoiding screens, and chilling out before bed is so important.
Taking supportive supplements to aid your body in the natural cortisol decline can also help promote restful and restorative sleep. We’ll talk more about those soon.
Let’s look at natural supplements to improve sleep. Consider these options while putting other sleep support in place, like establishing a bedtime routine, getting to bed earlier, and limiting stress and screens before bed.
Sleep supplements provide gentle alternatives to stronger sleep interventions , which may cause side effects and dependency.
Be sure to work with your provider to determine which options are the best fit for you.
The top 10 sleep supplements (that do not contain melatonin) include:
- Lemon balm
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
Now, let’s discuss each natural sleep aid on the list.
Ashwagandha for Sleep
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb often used for adrenal and thyroid support. It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine and comes with many benefits, including the potential to reduce stress, feelings of anxiousness, and symptoms related to depression.
Ashwagandha is in the nightshade family, like tomatoes and peppers, but the root of the plant is used for its medicinal properties. Ashwagandha can be taken in a capsule or you can add the powdered root to smoothies or teas. The name “ashwagandha” translates to “smell of horse,” so it may be easier to swallow an ashwagandha capsule than to sip on a tea.
As an adaptogen, one of the main ashwagandha benefits is its ability to help us adapt and build resilience to stress. Stress can be a root cause of poor sleep.
But does ashwagandha help you sleep? The answer seems to be yes!
Many studies have looked at using ashwagandha for sleep, supporting that supplemental ashwagandha helps improve sleep quality and reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. One study showed that sleep quality improved by 72% after only six weeks.
A meta-analysis of five trials suggests that in addition to sleep improvement in general and specifically for those with insomnia, ashwagandha also improved mental alertness in the morning and reduced anxiety.
So, if you are tired and wired or can’t get going in the morning, ashwagandha might be a good fit. Note that it isn’t for use in pregnancy or with certain autoimmune conditions like lupus.
The ashwagandha dosage for sleep is 100-200mg of standardized extract containing 5% withanolides.
You’ll find Ashwagandha in our Adrenal Calm formula, which is designed to take at night to promote restful and restorative sleep.
Magnesium for Sleep
Magnesium is an essential mineral that has a calming effect on the body. Magnesium benefits include muscle relaxation and relaxing the nervous system.
Most of us aren’t getting enough magnesium in our diets to meet our daily needs. In fact, over 52% of Americans aren’t eating enough magnesium. Those who eat enough rich sources of magnesium, like leafy greens, legumes, and avocados, may be getting less than they think due to depleted soil from modern farming practices.
Nearly 50% of older adults have insomnia. Could part of the reason be a lack of magnesium? As we get older, we are more likely to have a lower intake of essential nutrients and a more challenging time absorbing them.
We know that low magnesium status could contribute to poor sleep, and studies show that replenishing magnesium using magnesium supplements may improve sleep.
When choosing a magnesium supplement for sleep, I prefer magnesium glycinate for better absorption and bioavailability. Start with 100-200mg and increase to reach the desired effect.
If you find yourself making extra bathroom trips, check the label of your supplement. Loose stools is a known side effect of magnesium citrate, which is why I prefer the glycinate form.
Taurine for Sleep
Taurine is an amino acid found in protein-rich foods. One of my favorite taurine benefits is that it in some cases acts like a calming neurotransmitter, although its receptor has yet to be identified.
Taurine is similar in structure to glycine and GABA, with GABA being the body’s primary inhibitory or calming neurotransmitter. Taurine may interact with GABA receptors to inhibit the excitement of neurons, producing a calming effect. Taurine is also involved with melatonin metabolism. These mechanisms may help explain why taurine is an effective sleep supplement for some people.
Supplemental doses of taurine start around 300mg and go as high as 3 grams.
Lemon Balm for Sleep
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an aromatic herb in the mint family that is considered a nervine because it calms and rejuvenates the nervous system. You’ll see lemon balm used in herbal teas, herbal formulas, and supplements.
Lemon balm benefits include supporting digestion, easing anxiety, and promoting sleep. As a sleep aid, lemon balm (and its active constituent rosmarinic acid) acts on the GABA system in the body to improve sleep quality.
Lemon balm is a gentle option. Try lemon balm for sleep as an herbal tea enjoyed before bed or as a supplement. Look for lemon balm with a standardized 3% extract of rosmarinic acid. The starting dose is 100mg.
Valerian Root for Sleep
Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is another nervine herb, although it is stronger than lemon balm and is more of a sedative. It’s the root of the plant used to make medicine.
Valerian is most well-known for its sleep benefits and is commonly used throughout the globe. It interacts with the GABA receptor, like many of the supplements on this list, to help calm the nervous system response. Valerian has been shown to reduce time it takes to fall asleep and improve subjective measures of sleep quality.
When choosing valerian root for sleep issues, choosing a standardized product is important. Some of the active constituents in valerian are unstable and quality may vary among herbal products. A starting dose is 100mg standardized to contain 0.8% valerenic acid.
L-Theanine for Sleep
L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea. It’s known to have a calming effect and offsets the stimulating effects of caffeine in green tea, which is why some people prefer it over coffee.
L-theanine benefits include easing stress, calming anxiousness, and improving mental focus. It can also be used as a supplement to support sleep. L-theanine on its own or in combination with other sleep support such as GABA may improve sleep quality.
One study showed that an L-theanine and GABA mixture reduced the time it took to fall asleep, increased sleep length, and improved both REM and non-REM sleep. Another study showed that l-theanine supplementation improved sleep and other stress-related symptoms and cognitive function. Effective dosages start around 100 to 200mg.
Passionflower for Sleep
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is another nervine herb that may support sleep by acting on GABA receptors and soothing the nervous system. Passionflower has been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep duration.
In one study, passionflower tea was given before bed, showing subjective sleep benefits according to participants’ sleep journals.
Additional passionflower benefits include calming feelings of anxiousness, which can make sleep more challenging. Compared to an anxiety medication, passionflower helped manage symptoms without impairing job performance.
Many women turn to passionflower for sleep support during pregnancy, as it is generally considered safe to use during the fertility journey, pregnancy, and postpartum. In this case, tea or a tincture is most often used.
The passionflower dosage for sleep in supplemental form is 100mg standardized to contain 3.5% flavonoids.
Phosphatidylserine for Sleep
So far, we’ve discussed herbs, amino acids, and the mineral magnesium. Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid, one of the molecules found in cell membranes, important for cellular health and communication.
It is possible that phosphatidylserine benefits sleep also, particularly for those with sleep difficulties related to stress and elevated cortisol levels in the evening. Ideally, we want cortisol to be low at night to promote sleep, and phosphatidylserine supplementation may help to dampen the cortisol response.
If you have PMS and have a hard time sleeping prior to your period, phosphatidylserine for sleep support might be worth a try. Women taking phosphatidylserine for three cycles showed a reduction in PMS symptoms compared to placebo.
Vitamin B6 for Sleep
Now, let’s explore a couple of sleep vitamins. Vitamin B6, and its active form pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), are involved in protein metabolism, including the reactions that synthesize neurotransmitters. PLP is needed to produce serotonin, which converts to melatonin, supporting sleep.
Vitamin B6 may also affect hormone balance, mood, brain health, and immunity.
In one study where participants took vitamin B6 for sleep, they reported enhanced dreaming and recall of dreams.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is 1.3mg of vitamin B6 daily, although much higher dosages are used in supplemental form. A vitamin B6 dosage for sleep starts around 5mg and goes up to 240mg.. Because it’s water soluble, excess will be excreted via the urine, but in some people, toxicity can occur. To avoid this, do not supplement with more than 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily and talk to your provider.
Vitamin B12 for Sleep
Another vital vitamin for sleep is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for fertility, pregnancy, energy, brain health, and more. And deficiency is common in vegetarians and the elderly.
Vitamin B12 and sleep also have a relationship as the vitamin impacts neurotransmitters and the circadian rhythm. One study found that students with better B12 status scored higher on a sleep quality scale and were less likely to use sleep medication.
Another recent study found no relationship between vitamin B12 and sleep over two weeks. However, this study used the cyanocobalmin form of B12 instead of the active (and preferred) methylcobalamin form.
The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms for adults, and like the other B vitamins, you’ll see higher dosages in supplements. For example, Adrenal Calm contains 2000 mcg.
All-In-One Supplement for Better Sleep
If you follow me on social media, then you know Adrenal Calm is my BFF when I travel and well, every night. I love this supplement for its calming and relaxing benefits. It’s designed to support the HPA-axis and adrenal glands as well as promote healthy sleep. It contains many of the sleep herbs and nutrients I’ve covered here.
Adrenal Calm contains:
- Vitamin C
- B vitamins – including vitamin B6 and B12
- Lemon balm
This formula is my go-to when I need a chill pill. It’s especially helpful during high stress, when I want to secure a good night’s sleep, and to help me wake with enough energy to keep up with my kids. The synergistic blend of adaptogenic and nervine herbs, along with vitamins, amino acids, and phosphatidylserine is deeply nourishing, relaxing, and calming.
If you’ve been wondering how to sleep better and have been doing all the things right when it comes to the bedtime routine, give Adrenal Calm a try. It’s formulated to take 3 caps about an hour before bed.
- Sleep is critical for health, but many people don’t get enough sleep or suffer from poor sleep quality.
- Luckily, we have many supplements to help with sleep, naturally and effectively.
- Supplements can be used individually or in a combination formula like Adrenal Calm.
- Be sure to work with your doctor when choosing sleep support supplements, especially if you take medication, have a medical condition, are pregnant, or nursing.
Here’s to a good night’s sleep, tonight and every night!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and statistics. 2022.
- Donga E, van Dijk M, van Dijk JG, et al.. A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects.. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010. 95(6). 2963-2968.
- Spaeth AM, Dinges DF, Goel N. Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake, and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults. Sleep.. 2013. 36(7). 981-990.
- Alhola P, Polo-Kantola P.. Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance.. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2007. 3(5). 553-567.
- Grandner MA, Alfonso-Miller P, Fernandez-Mendoza J, Shetty S, Shenoy S, Combs D.. Sleep: important considerations for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Curr Opin Cardiol.. 2016. 31(5). 551-565..
- Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012. 34(3). 255-262..
- Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, Debnath K, Ambegaokar D.. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study.. Cureus. 2019. 11(9). e5797..
- Deshpande A, Irani N, Balkrishnan R, Benny IR.. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults.. Sleep Med.. 2020. 72. 28-36..
- Cheah KL, Norhayati MN, Husniati Yaacob L, Abdul Rahman R.. Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis.. PLoS One.. 2021. 16(9). e0257843.
- Linus Pauling Institute.. Micronutrient inadequacies in the US population: An overview.. 2022.
- Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci.. 2012. 17(12). 1161-1169..
- Nielsen FH, Johnson LK, Zeng H.. Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep.. Magnes Res.. 2010. 23(4). 158-168.
- Ripps H, Shen W. Review: taurine: a "very essential" amino acid.. Mol Vis. 2012. 18. 2673-2686.
- Dzirkale Z, Pupure J, Rumaks J, et al.. Comparative study of taurine and tauropyrone: GABA receptor binding, mitochondrial processes and behaviour.. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2011. 63(2). 230-237.
- Bruni O, Ferini-Strambi L, Giacomoni E, Pellegrino P.. Herbal Remedies and Their Possible Effect on the GABAergic System and Sleep. Nutrients. 2021. 13(2). 530..
- Shinjyo N, Waddell G, Green J.. Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Evid Based Integr Med.. 2020. 25. 2515690X20967323.
- Kim S, Jo K, Hong KB, Han SH, Suh HJ.. GABA and l-theanine mixture decreases sleep latency and improves NREM sleep. Pharm Biol.. 2019. 57(1). 65-73.
- Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, et al.. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients.. 2019. 11(10). 2362.
- Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, Shayeganpour A, Rashidi H, Khani M.. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001. 26(5). 363-367.
- Ngan A, Conduit R.. A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality. Phytother Res. 2011. 25(8). 1153-1159.
- Hellhammer J, Fries E, Buss C, et al.. Effects of soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress.. 2004. 7(2). 119-126.
- Schmidt K, Weber N, Steiner M, et al.. A lecithin phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) reduces symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Clin Nutr ESPEN.. 2018. 24. 22-30.
- Linus Pauling Institute.. Vitamin B6. 2022.
- Aspy DJ, Madden NA, Delfabbro P. Effects of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) and a B Complex Preparation on Dreaming and Sleep. Percept Mot Skills.. 2018. 125(3). 451-462.
- Al-Musharaf S, Alabdulaaly A, Bin Mujalli H, et al. Sleep Quality Is Associated with Vitamin B12 Status in Female Arab Students.. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021. 18(9). 4548.
- Channer-Wallen T, Dawson P, Thomas-Brown PG, Gossell-Williams M. Lack of association between serum vitamin B12 and nocturnal sleep parameters following cyanocobalamin supplementation in healthy adults. Heliyon. 2022. 8(2). e08831.