Two of Americans’ biggest lifestyle concerns—energy and sleep—are closely related: If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re lacking energy the next day.
Supplements work for some people—and a sleep supplement that doesn’t work for someone else may be just the snooze ticket for you. Discovering the best supplement for your best sleep may take some trial and error, but avoiding prescription sleep medications, which can have unwanted side effects, makes the little bit of effort so worthwhile.
Discover the potential benefits of these sleep-supporting supplements.
Chamomile helps older adults
Older adults are more likely than younger ones to have problems falling and staying asleep, and prescription sleep medications can have harsh side effects. In this study, 60 older adults complaining of low-quality sleep and insomnia took 200 mg of chamomile extract capsules, twice per day, or a placebo.
After 28 days, compared to placebo, those taking chamomile reported better sleep quality including less time spent falling asleep, a greater percentage of total time in bed spent sleeping, fewer sleep disturbances, less need for taking sleep medication, and better daytime functioning.
While the total time sleeping did not increase, doctors said this may be because the study, at just one month, was too short. Doctors think chamomile may work because compounds in the plant bind to nerve-signaling sites in the central nervous system, creating a natural sleep-inducing effect. Reference: Complementary Therapies in Medicine; December, 2017, Vol. 35, 109-14
Tart Cherry for Sleep
Older people often have insomnia, but standard medications can increase falls and have other side effects. In this pilot study, eight adults over age 50 with confirmed insomnia took a placebo or 240 ml of tart cherry juice twice per day. After two weeks, sleep time increased by 84 minutes, and more of the time in bed was spent sleeping.
Discussing the findings, doctors said they believe that procyanidin-B2, a B-complex vitamin in tart cherry, may increase the availability of naturally occurring tryptophan in the body by inhibiting an inflammatory factor that degrades tryptophan. Reference: American Journal of Therapeutics; March, 2017, Published Online
Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an amino acid that calms nervous activity in the brain. Indeed, sleep drugs like Ambien, though they don’t contain any GABA themselves, work by binding to GABA receptors in the brain, thereby giving a GABA-like effect.
One study found 100 mg of GABA alleviated stress induced by mental tasks. Because GABA has been associated with lowering blood pressure, you should check with your physician before taking a GABA supplement if you already have low blood pressure. The general dose recommendation is between 250 to 750 mg taken 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
Also, researchers found that doing yoga for an hour three times a week for 12 weeks increased GABA levels, all while improving mood and decreasing anxiety.
A sleep-helper in itself, but also in connection to GABA is magnesium. This master mineral works in conjunction with calcium. While calcium activates cells and tenses up muscles, magnesium relaxes. Magnesium has also been shown to bind to and stimulate GABA receptors in the brain. Magnesium, then, is another way to get at the GABA problem without actually taking GABA. And most of us are low on this important mineral.
There’s a revolution happening in even the socially disruptive world of cannabis. It’s called CBD – cannabidiol. This non-buzzy cannabinoid is showing provocative health effects. Word of mouth asserts that CBD can promote sleep. Animal model studies are showing that CBD has a role in sleep regulation, including increased total sleep time. Documented case studies indicate CBD as a safe natural solution for reducing anxiety and improving sleep.
A longtime a staple of sleep herbal teas, valerian root extract was the subject of a systematic review of placebo- controlled trials for improving sleep quality.
Though valerian improves sleep, researchers looked at 16 studies on more than 1,000 patients and noted a wide variation in doses, preparations and length of treatment. One study on postmenopausal women, who are known to experience sleep disturbances, found 30 percent of women reported better sleep compared to a placebo when they took 530 mg of valerian twice daily for four weeks. Studies suggest that valerenic acid may increase GABA modulation in the brain.
Today’s leading natural sleep aid is well-known for rejiggering circadian rhythms (the daily cycle of light and dark), which is what made melatonin the go-to supplement for jet lag.
And there are other reasons to take melatonin. Researchers in Poland gave two groups of overweight postmenopausal women doses of either 20 mg of Prozac in the morning or 20 mg of Prozac plus 5 mg of melatonin in the evening. Although both groups reported better sleep quality and less anxiety, the melatonin group had double the combined sleep score. In addition, the melatonin group had an average combined body mass index (BMI) decline from 30.9 to 26.3 after 24 weeks, while there was no BMI change in the Prozac-only group.
Melatonin declines with age and because of certain drugs. Otherwise, this hormone should be used with caution in those who are younger, whose bodies are still actively making melatonin. The last thing you want to do is make the body stop making melatonin because you are providing it in a supplement you would then be forced to continue to take whether you wanted to or not. Discuss the likely benefits of melatonin for your particular situation with your healthcare provider.
Supplements that support better sleep should not be combined with prescription sedatives. You should also try supplements that support sleep when you know you have sufficient time to sleep so that you don’t spend the next day too drowsy to function.
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before beginning a supplement, especially if you take medications or have a medical condition. For example, supplements for sleep should not be combined with prescription drugs for sleep. Magnesium, valerian, chamomile, tart cherry and CBD may thin blood.
Article copyright 2018 by Natural Insights for Well Being and Delicious Living. All rights reserved. Used with permission.