A good night’s sleep has the power to make you feel like Wonder Woman – and who doesn’t want to feel that kind of terrific every day? If you’re struggling with shuteye, these supplements can help.
- For years, sleep has been dismissed as one of the least important aspects of health
- But over the last decade, we’ve become increasingly aware of how important good-quality sleep is for both mental and physical health
- In fact, we now know that chronic sleep disruption is linked to an increased risk of serious diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Despite knowing how rubbish too little sleep makes you feel, lots of people still struggle to get enough of it.
Sometimes, this is due to how tech dominates our lives and the addictive nature of screens.
Often, it’s because it’s hard to switch off when there’s an ever-increasing to-do list swirling around your head.
It’s hard to prioritise sleep when there’s a million other things you feel you should be doing. But sleep can have a magical effect on many of the areas of life that concern you most.
Sleep can help you:
- Normalise your appetite (think about how tempting biscuits, cake and other high-sugar foods are when you’re tired), which will have a positive knock-on effect on your weight
- Improve your memory, concentration and productivity.
- Support your immune system to work at its best.
- Give you the energy to exercise plus, it helps you recover more quickly afterwards.
If you’re worried that you’re not getting as much sleep as you need, or that when you do sleep, it’s fitful and poor quality, it may be time to reflect on your lifestyle, diet, environment, evening routine and stress levels. These can all have a negative impact on your sleep.
However, change (even the positive type) doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen at all, despite your best intentions.
That’s why there’s no harm in getting a helping hand from a few natural supplements that have been proven to help you sleep.
Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in hundreds of chemical reactions that go on within the body. It is often referred to as the calming mineral, due to its anti-anxiety, stress-lowering effect. Low levels of magnesium in the body can result in poor sleep.
Magnesium also helps something called GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) work more efficiently in the body.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it puts the brakes on all physical and mental activity in the body, helping you to relax and switch off.
Studies have found that a dose of around 400mg magnesium per day seems to work best for most people. This can be divided into smaller doses across the day.
Interestingly, magnesium doesn’t make you sleepy in small amounts. It may also improve energy levels across the day, while still helping you sleep better at night.
Alternatively, you can take the full 400mg dose in the evening. This may be more beneficial if you exercise late at night, too, as the adrenaline and cortisol released during exercise can keep you awake.
Chelated forms of magnesium, like citrate and glycinate, have a higher absorption rate (if a vitamin or mineral is ‘chelated’, it means it’s mixed with an agent that helps the body absorb it better).
You can also apply magnesium topically (to a specific part of the body) with sprays, moisturisers or bath salts.
These deliver magnesium directly to the muscles, helping to relieve tension or soreness.
Montmorency cherry juice
One small-scale study found that juice made from Montmorency cherries may help increase melatonin, which is the sleep hormone that naturally increases in the evening.
Having more melatonin in your body can increase both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
If you don’t fancy drinking cherry juice, this is also available in supplement form as a capsule. Many products combine it with magnesium and other nutrients that support sound sleep.
L-theanine is an amino acid. Amino acids combine to form complete proteins. L-theanine helps you sleep better in several ways.
Firstly, it supports the production of GABA. It can also help minimise the impact of caffeine and prevent it from disrupting your sleep.
It may be especially beneficial if you have a busy, chattering mind.
L-theanine increases alpha-wave activity in the brain, which helps you feel more relaxed and mindful. It’s the headspace you get into when you do yoga, or meditate.
Milk protein hydrolysate
Milk protein hydrolysate has been widely studied for its sleep-enhancing effects.
In supplement form, it provides a concentrated source of the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body make a hormone called serotonin.
Serotonin itself helps you relax and balances out mood swings. But it’s also converted to the sleep hormone melatonin, which doubles its sleep-inducing powers.
Milk protein hydrolysate can also lower levels of stress-related anxiety by enhancing the activity of GABA.
It’s lactose free, so is fine to take even if you’re lactose-intolerant but it should be avoided if you have an allergy to dairy.
Taking whey and casein protein powder supplements before bed also provide milk protein hydrolysate, although be mindful that these contain lactose so may cause stomach upset if you’re lactose intolerant.
Glycine taken just before bedtime can help you fall asleep and get into a deeper sleep state quickly.
Studies have also shown taking 3g glycine enhanced the duration of deep sleep, known as slow-wave sleep (SWS). This sleep phase is important because it’s when your body repairs itself and rebuilds muscle.
Glycine can also assist in body-temperature regulation, helping to cool your core body temperature which supports your ability to both fall and stay asleep.
If you’re prone to not getting enough sleep, this could be a great option to make sure you make the most of every minute in bed.
Herbal formulas can be consumed as a tea, supplement or in extract form. Extracts tend to have higher amounts of active plant substances.
Many have been used for centuries as sleep aids, although quite how they work is not yet completely understood. Often, formulations contain a combination of calmative ingredients that each enhance the effects of the other.
Valerian root has been shown as a safe herb to promote sleep, relieve anxiety and reduce numerous sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Lavender, chamomile, hops and passionflower are often combined. These have been shown to have sedative effects and be helpful for anxiety-related restlessness and disturbed sleep.
If you feel herbal supplements could work for you, talking to a trained herbalist can be helpful – try the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. Be aware that these may interact with any medicines you’re taking so discuss it with your GP
Make sure you tell your doctor if you’re taking any new supplements and always follow the dosage advice on the label. And, if you can, reach out to your Peppy practitioner for support and advice.