There is no doubt that a lack of good quality sleep can have a huge impact on your day, and your life. From brain fog and poor memory, to feeling physically drained or achy, to feeling unusually emotional or unable to cope (or all of the above!). Poor sleep is simply no good for your wellbeing, and if you suffer chronically, it can become life limiting.
There are many reasons why you may be suffering with poor sleep or insomnia, from noisy neighbours or jet lag, to chronic stress or some conditions and illnesses.
Having gone through periods of severe stress that caused bouts of agonising insomnia, or periods where I could sleep for over 10 hours and still wake up feeling tired, I have absolute empathy if you are struggling. However, I have also found ways to overcome this. I want to share them with you now!
So, what can you do to try and ensure that you sleep soundly and wake up feeling bright and are ready to face the day ahead?
There are lots of ways you can help yourself and these are covered in part 2 of our sleep blog – ‘The 9 Best Lifestyle Tweaks To Help You Sleep Better’.
However, having successfully used supplements to really kick start my good sleep journey, this article focuses purely on the top 6 sleep helping supplements. Is it time to give these a try and kick start your own sleep recovery?
Available in supplement form as either a liquid or a tablet, this is actually your own body’s ‘sleep hormone’. Melatonin is responsible for helping your body know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up – it regulates your circadian rhythm.
It is most commonly used for jet lag (so great if regular travel disrupts your sleep patterns), and to help shift workers adjust their sleep/wake cycles. It is also used to counteract insomnia.
Usually, it is recommended to take it as a liquid, or in tablets that dissolve in your mouth, to promote the best absorption. Find out more about how Melatonin supplements can help, the best doses and advice, from the National Sleep Foundation (USA).
This is the compound that is found in Green Tea. As a supplement it is without the caffeine of the tea, and therefore has a calming effect on your brain. L-Theanine aids relaxation and sleep by contributing to a number of changes within your brain.
It helps to regulate levels of Serotonin (which helps make Melatonin), Dopamine, GABA and other neurotransmitters (responsible for chemically managing things like sleep, your emotions, mood, concentration and other cognitive functions).
L-Theanine is thought to increase relaxation and aid sleep by regulating your calming brain chemicals. It is also thought that at the same time, it reduces the levels of the brain chemicals closely linked to stress and anxiety.
5-HTP is a compound made naturally by your body from tryptophan. Tryptophan it is an essential amino acid that you absorb from food. It is thought that 5-HTP levels decline as we age, and that poor diet may contribute to lower levels.
As a supplement, 5-HTP is produced from the seeds of the Griffonia Simplicfolia plant (native to West Africa). 5-HTP is the immediate precursor for your body to make Serotonin (which in turn makes Melatonin). Therefore, ensuring good regulation of your Serotonin levels is crucial for good quality sleep and well adjusted ‘sleep clock’.
As well as sleep, serotonin also plays a key role in regulating your emotions, mood, sleep, concentration and other cognitive functions. Due to it’s serotonin boosting qualities, 5-HTP may also help manage mood, stress, anxiety, cognitive function or the symptoms of depression.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for your body, and it’s quite easy to have low magnesium levels without realising. Your body cannot make magnesium and so it must always come from outside sources, ie, your diet or supplements.
Studies have shown that magnesium helps you to both fall asleep, and to improve the quality of your sleep. As a supplement it can be taken in powder, capsule or tablet form and is often combined with other herbs believed to soothe and calm.
Magnesium is essential for your health and every cell and organ needs it to be able to function properly. It helps sleep on a chemical level by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which makes sure you get calm and relaxed for sleep.
Firstly, magnesium helps regulate your neurotransmitters, like serotonin which aids melatonin regulation – and we already know just how important that is for sleep. Secondly, it is also believed to bind to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors, helping to quieten nerve activity and prepare your body for sleep.
Valerian is a plant that has been used by herbalists to promote sound sleep for a very long time. In fact, the University of Maryland Medical Centre states that “Valerian has been use to ease insomnia, anxiety and nervous restlessness since the second century AD”.
It is yet to be shown 100% how it works, but it is very highly regarded for it’s positive contribution to better sleep and stress reduction. It is not just known for helping you get to sleep, but also for encouraging good quality sleep including good amounts of REM sleep and helping the body to fully relax and restore itself.
Some studies have shown that there is a link between valerian and GABA, and that it may work in a similar way as magnesium, by binding to GABA receptors to bring calm to the nervous system.
Valerian is available in many forms including liquid drops, tablet or capsules, and even tea. There is something for everyone.
Ashwagandha is a plant used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It is used for to help promote and support mind-body balance and health. Ashwagandha is also known in Latin as Withania Somnifera, which translates as ‘sleep inducer’.
It is adaptogenic, which means that it helps your body to regulate and manage your response to stress. It supports healthy sleep by helping your body to balance any overproduction of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) which can be largely responsible for disturbed sleep. Cortisol would normally naturally decrease as night falls, but stress can cause levels to remain high.
There are many ‘adaptogens’, however, Ashwagandha has emerged as one of the most powerful, helping to manage your adrenal system, a relieve you of stress related exhaustion.
Just a reminder… please check with your GP or healthcare professional before use, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or contemplating supplement use for anyone under 18. Likewise, if you have a chronic illness or condition. Of course I fully advocate the proper use of supplements, but some are powerful enough to affect things like thyroid function or blood sugar. So, please refer carefully to the instructions, directions and doses supplied (especially as some require ‘optimal’ levels rather than just increased levels in your system).
I recommend starting gently, try one supplement at a time to test if it works for you. Give each one time for your body to adjust and for it to have an effect (I would say a minimum of 2-3 weeks, although often this is much quicker). And remember to keep going! If the first one isn’t what your body is looking for, then the next one might just do the trick.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO...
We have more great content for you!
Make sure you look out for Part 2 of this blog. This will outline the Top 9 Lifestyle Tweaks To Help You Sleep Better and start feeling more like you again.
Once you combine those with the supplement that works best for you, you will be well on your way!
Just click this link to go straight there: SLEEP: Part 2.
We offer high quality, high strength Ashwagandha KSM66 here at Birch & Wilde - just click one of the following links:
Birch & Wilde Website - Ashwagandha Calm & Clarity
Birch & Wilde on Amazon (Prime available)
SHARE YOUR STORIES...
Have you had success with any of the above?
Do you have your own recommendations for supplements that might help others get a better nights sleep?
Please comment below with your success stories and recommendations – it’s so inspiring to hear how you have ‘Empowered Your Wellbeing’ by improving your sleep.