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The Best Natural Sleep Remedies -
Supplements and their Side Effects

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Quality rest is critical to our well-being and mental health. When we fail to get our basic needs met—with sleep being high on the list— we risk compromising other aspects of our health that allow us to function at a high level. Further, not getting enough rest puts us at a higher risk for serious side effects like heart disease, obesity, depression, and other life-altering conditions.


Inadequate rest can also lead to a weakened immune system, brain fog, low concentration, and a shorter life expectancy. Sleeping pills like Ambien may be helpful but come with side effects and could be costly; a natural sleep remedy might be all you need.

Section 1

Melatonin

Section 2

Magnesium

Section 3

Glycine

Section 4

Herbs

Section 5

Other Sleep Aids Worth Consideration

Section 6

Possible Negative Side Effects

Section 7

Are Sleep Aids Safe For Children?

Section 8

When to Seek Professional Guidance

Section 1

Melatonin

Section 2

Magnesium

Section 3

Glycine

Section 4

Herbs

Section 5

Other Sleep Aids Worth Consideration

Section 6

Possible Negative Side Effects

Section 7

Are Sleep Aids Safe For Children?

Section 8

When to Seek Professional Guidance

Section 1

Melatonin

Different Bottles of Melatonin on the Shelf

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland[1] in our brains, a process that helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The hormone enables us to wind down and feel sleepy when it's time for bed, producing more when night comes and less when day breaks.

 

Melatonin supplements are a popular sleep aid as they can help you fall asleep and are particularly great for treating jet lag. The hormone is helpful for these circumstances, given that it leaves minimal drowsy side effects, with many people experiencing none at all.

 

Those who have trouble drifting off at night could find relief in melatonin, as studies[2] show that the hormone helps reduce sleep latency, the time a person needs to fall asleep. Further, the substance seems to be safe for adults to use for temporary and prolonged periods, though keep in mind studies on long term use are limited.

How Much Should I Take?

Melatonin pills or chewable tablets range in dosage anywhere from one to 10 milligrams. Starting small is wise as drowsiness is a side effect, especially in higher doses. I take melatonin on occasion when I need a good night's sleep. For reference, I weigh about 140 lbs, and 2.5 milligrams of melatonin is plenty to induce sleepiness without drowsy side effects. In the case of melatonin, less is more and some adults will find that 1mg or less is enough to do the job.

 

Learn More: Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

Section 2

Magnesium

Magnesium is a common nutrient found in many foods we eat. However, some of us don't get as much as we need from our diets. The mineral is essential for human bodies to function as our cells and organs use it to perform[3].

 

Magnesium also regulates melatonin, and melatonin is a critical component in maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The mineral can also help your body and brain relax because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming our bodies. The Magnesium binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors, which soothes nerve activity, helping us to unwind, and prepare for sleep.

 

Check Out Our Guide: Top Rated Magnesium for Sleep

Illustration of a Sleeping Pill Addicted Woman

How Much Should I Take?

Recommendations regarding dosage levels vary from anywhere between 225 milligrams and 420 milligrams. As with melatonin, it's best to start small and work up conservatively while observing its effects.

Need help? Check out our comparison for magnesium and melatonin.

Section 3

Glycine

Glycine is a naturally occurring nutrient found in many high-protein foods like eggs, fish, dairy, meat, and legumes. The element is essential to human functions like digestion, DNA and RNA production, blood sugar regulation, body temperature control, serotonin creation, and immunity[4]. What's unique about Glycine is that it can excite our brain and nervous system, as well as quiet them.

 

Glycine is often able to aid individuals in sleep because it helps lower body temperature and increases serotonin levels, both of which are conducive to sleep. Your body's temperature affects sleep-wake cycles, and a study has recently observed glycines' ability to help people fall asleep more quickly as well as spend more time in REM sleep. The REM stage is crucial because it exercises[5] the area of the brain responsible for learning and holding memories.

Illustration of a Man Yawning and Going to Sleep

Glycine also increases serotonin levels, and serotonin is needed to create melatonin, which, as discussed above, helps us sleep. Increased levels of serotonin have been shown to mitigate symptoms of insomnia and improve the quality of rest.

How Much Should I Take?

A dose of Glycine between three and five grams should be effective to induce drowsiness. Healthy adults typically tolerate Glycine well. However, some uncommon side effects include nausea and soft stools, so best to start small and gradually increase if necessary.

Section 4

Herbs

Valerian Root

Native to Asia and Europe, this root is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, and symptoms of menopause. Studies on the substance remain inconsistent. However, its wide usage and personal testimonies surrounding the herb may be worth considering.

 

According to a few studies, menopausal and postmenopausal women noticed their quality of rest improving with regular doses of valerian[6] root. Other studies observed improvement in sleep as well. However, measurements on these results are subjective as the results relied only on participant perception[7] and are therefore unable to be quantified.

Illustration of a Woman Sleeping on Her Side

Ginkgo Biloba

For centuries Ginkgo Biloba has been used to improve memory and concentration. This substance can also enhance relaxation, which might explain its usage in treating sleep issues.

 

Conclusive research on this herb has yet to be recorded; however, a small study observing consumption of about 240 milligrams of Ginkgo Biloba was shown to enhance relaxation, reduce stress, and aid in sleep[8].

Lavender

illustration of a person smelling lavender oil

Lavender can be found in various places and has many household uses, but its calming scent is often great for inducing sleep. In some studies, smelling lavender shortly before laying down to bed was shown to improve the quality of rest.

Notably, those with mild insomnia or less serious sleep troubles showed promise in improving rest quality through the use of lavender[9] as a sleep remedy.

 

View Our Guide: Best Natural Sleep Aids

Section 5

Other Sleep Aids Worth Consideration

Illustration of a Bottles of Essential Oils for Sleep

CBD

Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib of , neuroscientist and sleep specialist, explained to us the positive effects CBD has around rest, and says that “current research has demonstrated that CBD oil is a promising treatment for many sleep problems. CBD reduces stress and anxiety associated with some types of insomnia. Individuals who take CBD before bedtime also experience deeper, more refreshing sleep with fewer awakenings. Scientists believe CBD works by reducing blood cortisol levels, which reduces stress and has a [sedative] effect.”

 

Get More Info: Top Rated CBD Oils

Kava

Kava is a root found on islands in the South Pacific and has been used as medicine for centuries in various ceremonies. The root has a relaxing effect and has been shown to produce brain wave patterns similar to sedative and calming medication like Valium. The plant can also be used to relax the muscles to help with sleep[10].

 

Kava's relaxing qualities are often helpful to ease anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. It can even be beneficial to treat stress-related symptoms like muscle spasms, pain, and tension. However, those who decide to take Kava should avoid using it when drinking alcohol.

L-theanine

L-theanine is found in mushrooms and black and green tea, and it's known for a variety of valuable qualities like concentration, stress relief, immunity, and blood pressure management. Further, it's known for promoting calm without drowsiness.

 

As L-theanine is known for alleviating symptoms of stress and anxiety, it can be great to manage insomnia. Those who have insomnia often struggle with constantly ruminating thoughts while lying in bed, and L-theanine could be a perfect natural sleep remedy[11].

Illustration of a Man Sleeping with a Cup of Green Tea on the Night Stand

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid found in proteins; it's vital for consumption because the substance converts into 5-HTP, which is then used to produce melatonin[12] and serotonin— both of which are necessary for quality slumber.

 

Research has documented the positive effects tryptophan has on sleep and mood; these hormones directly affect serotonin and melatonin production, both of which aid in rest.

Section 6

Possible Negative Side Effects

Illustration of a Woman Sitting on a Toilet

Most of the hormones and herbs recommended in this article are mild in nature and typically don't cause extreme side effects. However, it's critical to keep in mind that each individual is unique and may react differently than someone else; therefore, these should be taken with caution and possibly under the direction of a physician.

 

A few side effects that are uncommon but possible include the following:

Section 7

Are Sleep Aids Safe For Children?

Illustration of a Baby Who Woke up In the Middle of the Night

Some sleep aids work well for children, and others are not recommended, so it's critical to exercise caution and consult a professional when managing a child's rest. While there isn't extensive research on melatonin and its effect on children, most short-term studies have shown few if no side effects and generally appear to help kids get to sleep faster and snooze for longer durations.

 

Children with ADHD often find more difficulty around bedtime compared to others. Regardless, we recommend consulting your pediatrician before providing a sleep aid to your child— natural or not.

Section 8

When to Seek Professional Guidance

Illustration of A Tired Man at the Doctors Office

When your sleep issues have become a source of anxiety or disrupt your everyday life, it may be time to see a professional. A person specialized in the field of sleep could help you find a treatment that works with your body. Each person is different, and these remedies may or may not work with your genetic makeup, but everyone deserves to get quality rest.

[1] Jie Liu, et al., “Melatonin Effects on Hard Tissues: Bone and Tooth”, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI), 10 May 2013.


[2] Eduardo Ferracioli-Oda, et al., “Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders”, PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 17 May 2013.


[3] Jeroen H F de Baaij, Joost G J Hoenderop, René J M Bindels, “Magnesium in Man: Implications for Health and Disease”, Physiological Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine


[4] Nobuhiro Kawai, et al., “The Sleep-Promoting and Hypothermic Effects of Glycine Are Mediated by NMDA Receptors in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus”, Neuropsychopharmacology : Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Nature Publishing Group, May 2015.


[5] “3 Things You Should Know About REM Sleep”, Sleep Study, Sleep Clinic | Valley Sleep Center | Arizona, 18 Feb. 2020.


[6] S. Taavoni, N. Nazem Ekbatani, H. Haghani, “Valerian/Lemon Balm Use for Sleep Disorders during Menopause”, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Sept. 2013.


[7] Michael J. Sateia, et al., “Clinical Practice Guideline for the Pharmacologic Treatment of Chronic Insomnia in Adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline”, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 15 Feb. 2017.


[8] “The Effect of Li 1370, Extract of Ginkgo Biloba, on REM Sleep in Humans”, Pharmacopsychiatry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2001.


[9] Angela Smith Lillehei, et al., “Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 1 July 2015.


[10] “Kava”, Michigan Medicine, 23 Sept. 2020.


[11] Michael S. Ritsner, MD, PhD, et al., “L-Theanine Relieves Positive, Activation, and Anxiety Symptoms in Patients With Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder: An 8-Week, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, 2-Center Study”, The Journal of clinical Psychiatry


[12] Mehar Naseem, Suhel Parvez, “Role of Melatonin in Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury”, TheScientificWorldJournal, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2014.

Dr. Nishi Bhopal MD
Dr. Nishi Bhopal MD

Dr. Bhopal is triple board certified in Psychiatry, Sleep Medicine, and Integrative Holistic Medicine. She brings various disciplines into her practice to offer a comprehensive approach, incorporating sleep medicine, mindset coaching, yoga and medication, psychology, psychiatry, and Ayurveda.

She graduated from the University of Cork School of Medicine, did her Psychiatric Residency at Henry Ford Health System, and completed her Sleep Medicine fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Always looking for new ways to help her patients, Dr. Bhopal regularly attends further training through the Maharishi Ayurveda Institute and the Integrative Psychiatry Institute.

Sleep Advisor