10 Sleep supplements and how they impact your sleep quality

Are you tired of tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep night after night? Many adults are affected by poor sleep quality, often turning to sleep supplements to help. In fact, 70 million Americans from chronic sleep disorders, according to the Sleep Foundation [1]. 

This growing trend raises a key question: which sleep supplements make a difference? 

Discover the most effective sleep aids, backed by science, that could help you sleep soundly and wake up feeling refreshed.

How can supplements help you achieve better sleep?

Getting adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal health, as our bodies undergo significant restorative processes during this time.

The sleep cycle is comprised of four stages, each contributing to mental and physical restoration:

  • Stages 1 and 2 are light sleep, preparing the body for deeper rest. 
  • Stage 3, known as deep sleep, is when tissue growth and repair occur. 
  • The final stage, REM sleep, is essential for cognitive functions like memory and learning.

Disruptions to the sleep cycle can arise from various causes, including stress, irregular schedules, diet, or environmental factors. 

Prolonged sleep disturbances often result in fatigue, mood swings, and a weakened immune system. 

This is where sleep supplements come into play. They can support the natural sleep mechanisms by addressing underlying issues like anxiety, nutrient deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances.

Supplements like magnesium help calm the nervous system and relieve stress and tension, promoting relaxation. 

Melatonin is a popular supplement for those with jet lag or irregular sleep patterns, as it helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. 

Herbal supplements like valerian root or passionflower soothe the mind and body, reducing anxiety and encouraging deep relaxation. L-theanine, found naturally in tea leaves, helps manage stress without inducing drowsiness.

Sleep supplements can be a practical approach to filling nutritional gaps and enhancing natural processes that promote restful sleep. For best results, it is crucial to choose a supplement tailored to your needs and lifestyle.

woman and puppy snuggled sleeping on sofa

10 Key supplements for better sleep quality

1. Melatonin

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It increases in the evening, indicating time to sleep. 

However, exposure to artificial light, erratic schedules, and jet lag can disrupt this cycle, leading to difficulties falling asleep.

Effectiveness

As a supplement, melatonin is often recommended for short-term use to help reset your internal clock. Research supports its benefits for managing specific sleep disorders:

  • Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD): Individuals with DSPD tend to fall asleep much later than intended and may benefit from melatonin to regulate their schedule.
  • Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder: Especially common in blind individuals, melatonin can aid in establishing a more consistent rhythm.
  • Jet lag and shift work: People with disrupted schedules can use melatonin to synchronize their circadian rhythm with new time zones or nontraditional work hours.

Dosage

Melatonin is usually considered safe when taken in proper doses. Recommendations typically range from 1 to 5 mg taken 30 minutes before bed [2]. 

Taking higher doses of medication doesn’t necessarily make it more effective. In fact, it can even cause morning grogginess. 

Before starting, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you have existing conditions or take medications that could interact with melatonin.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral crucial for many bodily functions, including nerve function, muscle relaxation, and stress management. 

It helps regulate neurotransmitters that promote relaxation, allowing your muscles to release tension and the nervous system to enter a more relaxed state. 

This calming effect makes magnesium particularly beneficial for those who experience stress or anxiety, two common culprits behind sleep disturbances. 

It also aids in the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter known for inducing relaxation and sleep.

Effectiveness

Many people unknowingly have low magnesium levels, which can significantly affect sleep quality. A deficiency often leads to symptoms like muscle cramps, irritability, and restlessness—all of which can disrupt your sleep cycle. 

Studies have shown that people with insufficient magnesium are more likely to suffer from insomnia and fragmented sleep [3]. 

By replenishing magnesium levels through diet or supplementation, it’s possible to reduce these disturbances and promote deeper, more restful sleep.

Dosage

Common magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. As a supplement, magnesium is available in various forms like magnesium citrate, glycinate, or oxide. Each type has its absorption rates and potential side effects. 

Taking between 320-420 mg of magnesium daily is generally recommended, ideally after consulting a healthcare provider [4]. 

Supplementing with magnesium can help ease muscle tension, improve relaxation, and enhance your overall sleep quality.

3. Valerian root

Derived from the Valeriana officinalis plant, the valerian root has a long history of use in traditional medicine [5], particularly for calming anxiety and promoting relaxation.

This herb is rich in valerenic acid and other compounds linked to reduced anxiety and improved sleep. It is often consumed as a tea, tincture, or supplement.

Effectiveness 

Clinical research supports the calming effects of valerian root, particularly in reducing sleep latency, which is the time it takes to fall asleep [6]. 

A systematic review published in The American Journal of Medicine analyzed multiple studies and found that valerian root may improve sleep latency, especially for individuals with mild insomnia or anxiety-related sleep difficulties [7]. 

Its compounds are believed to interact with GABA receptors in the brain, producing a mild sedative effect.

Though more rigorous, large-scale studies are needed to solidify its efficacy, current evidence points to valerian root as a gentle and natural option for those seeking improved sleep onset. 

Consult your doctor to confirm the right dosage and ensure it won’t interact with other medications or conditions.

valerian root

4. Chamomile

For centuries, chamomile has been a popular herb in teas and supplements. It is known for its calming properties and is used in herbal medicine.

Chamomile tea is one of the most popular ways to consume this herb, while concentrated extracts are available in capsule or tincture form. 

These products harness the plant’s active compounds, primarily apigenin, which is believed to contribute to its relaxing effects.

Effectiveness

Several studies suggest that chamomile may help alleviate mild anxiety and improve relaxation. 

One study published in Phytomedicine indicated that chamomile extract was significantly more effective than a placebo in reducing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms [8]. 

This effect is attributed to apigenin’s binding to certain brain receptors, promoting a mild sedative effect.

Chamomile can be an effective and gentle option for those struggling with mild anxiety and sleep issues. 

A warm cup of chamomile tea before bed or a supplement taken as directed can be a soothing ritual, encouraging a calm state conducive to falling asleep.

5. L-theanine

L-Theanine, an amino acid primarily found in green tea, has become a popular supplement due to its potential to promote relaxation.

Its unique structure allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier and interact directly with the brain’s neurotransmitters, influencing mood and mental clarity.

Effectiveness

One of L-Theanine’s standout features is its ability to foster relaxation without causing drowsiness. Research indicates that it stimulates alpha brain waves, which are associated with a calm yet alert state of mind [9]. 

This effect makes L-theanine especially beneficial for those seeking to reduce stress and anxiety without impairing focus or productivity. 

Dosage

A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that individuals who consumed 200 mg of L-theanine exhibited improved attention and reduced reaction time under stress compared to a placebo group [10].

6. GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)

GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in reducing neuron excitability. It acts as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, balancing brain activity by blocking nerve impulses and promoting a calming effect. As a result, GABA helps to regulate emotions, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.

Effectiveness

Several studies suggest that GABA supplementation may support relaxation and reduce stress. 

A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience demonstrated that participants who took GABA supplements reported lower stress levels and improved sleep quality compared to a control group [11].

The results align with GABA’s known ability to lower neuron excitability and foster relaxation.

Other studies indicate that GABA can help relieve anxiety symptoms and increase alpha brain waves, which are linked to a relaxed and focused state [12].

Although the brain produces GABA naturally, supplementing with it or consuming GABA-rich foods like fermented products and certain teas can provide an additional calming boost.

7. 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)

Griffonia simplicifolia seeds contain 5-HTP, a precursor to serotonin and melatonin that can influence mood and sleep.

By increasing the production of both serotonin and melatonin, 5-HTP may help enhance your mood and promote better sleep.

Effectiveness

Research has shown that 5-HTP supplementation can positively affect sleep and mood regulation [13]. A study demonstrated that participants taking 5-HTP experienced shorter times to fall asleep and improved overall sleep quality due to elevated melatonin levels. 

Meanwhile, higher serotonin levels can help manage depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which often contribute to sleep disturbances.

By promoting a balanced mood during the day and aiding in the natural production of melatonin at night, 5-HTP offers a twofold approach to achieving restful sleep. 

However, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting this supplement, particularly if you’re already on medications affecting serotonin levels, such as antidepressants. 

8. Passionflower

Passionflower, known scientifically as Passiflora incarnata, has a rich history of use in herbal medicine, especially for managing anxiety and insomnia. 

Traditionally brewed as a tea, the plant is native to the Americas and known to promote restful sleep by calming the mind. Its calming effects are believed to be due to the presence of flavonoids and alkaloids.

Effectiveness

Modern studies indicate that passionflower can positively influence sleep quality by reducing anxiety levels. 

A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that passionflower supplementation reduced anxiety symptoms and improved sleep in adults [14]. 

These effects may result from the herb’s ability to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. 

As a key inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA calms the nervous system and reduces excitability, which can help prepare the mind for sleep.

By decreasing anxiety and encouraging relaxation, passionflower can naturally ease your transition into restful sleep. 

Whether taken as a tea or supplement, it’s generally well-tolerated, but it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider if you’re on sedatives or medications that affect the central nervous system. 

9. Lavender

Lavender is well-known for its calming scent and is frequently used in aromatherapy and supplements to induce relaxation.

The Lavandula plant’s flowers are distilled to create essential oils that can be inhaled, diffused, or applied topically.

Supplements made from lavender are also available in capsule or tincture form, offering an alternative way to consume its active compounds.

Effectiveness

Studies have shown that lavender can significantly reduce anxiety and foster relaxation. Research published in Phytomedicine demonstrated that individuals who took a daily oral lavender supplement experienced noticeable anxiety relief comparable to traditional anxiolytic medications [15]. 

The inhaled lavender essential oil has also been linked to reduced cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, creating a calming effect that enhances sleep quality.

When used as part of a nightly wind-down routine, lavender can be a potent natural tool for easing into sleep. Whether inhaled or taken as a supplement, it provides a gentle way to reduce anxiety without the risk of sedatives or pharmaceuticals.

10. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb with a long history in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, prized for its ability to help the body adapt to stress. 

It is believed to reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone that often leads to anxiety, restlessness, and poor sleep quality. This adaptogen balances the body’s stress response, promoting relaxation and overall well-being.

Effectiveness

Research has shown that ashwagandha may significantly improve relaxation and sleep quality. 

In a study, participants taking ashwagandha extract experienced reduced anxiety levels and improved sleep onset, duration, and quality [16]. 

The study highlighted that the herb’s active compounds, known as withanolides, have calming effects that can improve the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep [16].

Incorporating ashwagandha into a daily routine may ease anxiety and improve sleep, especially for those facing high-stress levels. 

Ashwagandha is available in powder, capsule, and tincture forms, but it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider to determine the right dosage and rule out interactions with medications or conditions.

Comparing 10 key sleep supplements: Functions, uses, and dosage

SupplementMain functionIdeal forDose rangeSide effects
MelatoninRegulates sleep-wake cycleJet lag, delayed sleep phase disorder0.5-5 mgGrogginess, dizziness
MagnesiumRelaxes muscles, reduces stressRestlessness, muscle cramps200-400 mgDiarrhea, nausea
Valerian rootCalming agent, reduces anxietySleep latency, mild insomnia300-600 mgHeadaches, stomach upset
ChamomilePromotes relaxationMild anxiety, occasional sleeplessness400-1600 mgAllergic reactions (rare)
L-theanineInduces relaxation, alertnessAnxiety, stress100-200 mgNausea, irritability
GABANeurotransmitter, calms neuronsStress, anxiety, insomnia250-750 mgDigestive upset, headache
5-HTPSerotonin precursorMood disorders, insomnia50-300 mgNausea, diarrhea
PassionflowerCalms nervous systemAnxiety-related insomnia400-500 mgDrowsiness, dizziness
LavenderReduces anxiety, stressMild insomnia, stress80-160 mg (oral)Stomach upset, headache
AshwagandhaAdaptogen, lowers cortisolAnxiety, chronic stress300-500 mgNausea, diarrhea
This table provides a comprehensive comparison of the main functions, ideal treatments, dosage ranges, and potential side effects of ten popular sleep supplements. Reviewing this information can help you determine which supplement may best address your specific sleep needs, keeping in mind that you should consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

Closing thoughts

Sleep supplements offer numerous potential benefits, such as reduced anxiety, improved relaxation, and better regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. 

Whether you’re struggling with jet lag, high stress, or occasional insomnia, these natural options can complement your journey toward restful sleep. 

However, supplements alone may not fully address sleep issues. A holistic approach, including a healthy lifestyle, proper sleep hygiene, and stress management, will provide the most effective results. 

Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to ensure safety and compatibility with your health needs. Sleep well and prioritize your well-being.

FAQs

What supplement is best for sleep?

The best supplement for sleep depends on your specific needs: melatonin aids jet lag, magnesium promotes muscle relaxation, and valerian root may help with anxiety-related sleep latency. Consult your doctor for personalized advice.

Can I take melatonin every night?

Melatonin is generally safe for short-term use but may cause dependency or reduced effectiveness over time. Consult a healthcare provider to determine a suitable dosage and long-term strategy.

How to get deep sleep without medicine?

To achieve deep sleep naturally, establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a calming bedtime routine, and limit caffeine. Optimize your sleep environment by reducing noise, blocking light, and keeping it cool.

Which pills are best for sleep?

The best sleep pills depend on individual needs: melatonin aids in regulating the sleep cycle, while magnesium promotes relaxation. Always consult a healthcare provider before choosing a supplement.

[1] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/effects-of-sleep-deprivation
[2] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6910806/
[4] https://examine.com/supplements/magnesium/#dosage-information
[5] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/
[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/valerian
[7] https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(06)00275-0/abstract
[8] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S094471131630188X?via%3Dihub
[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18296328/
[10] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464611000351
[11] https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/neuroscience/articles/10.3389/fnins.2020.00923/full
[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16971751/
[13] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0261561424000104
[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7387951/
[15] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711319303411
[16] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Ashwagandha-HealthProfessional/ 

Photograph: gstockstudio/Envato
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