The Best Natural Sleep Supplements That Actually Work

Written by Melissa Feldman
Read our reviews and buy only the best natural sleep supplements.
Stressed Woman
Natural sleep aids are dietary and herbal supplements that can relieve temporary insomnia. Shutterstock Images

What are sleep supplements?

Sleep supplements include any non-prescription substance or medication that induces a feeling of calmness, relaxation, and sleepiness, and which helps the user fall asleep much faster than they generally do. These supplements also inhibit nervousness and agitation and suppress anxiety.

Sleep aids have a sedative effect on the user. Physiologically speaking, this means that they depress the central nervous system, which induces a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. There are many substances in nature that are incredibly effective sleep supplements, like lavender and passion flower. Unlike most prescription sleep aids, natural sleep supplements aren’t addictive, and they usually have few to no side effects.

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Sleep Aid Reviews

What ingredients to look for in sleep supplement?

There are some natural sleep supplements[1] and ingredients that are backed by considerable scientific research.

  • 5-HTP: This is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in mood, motivation, and sleep. 5-HTP also initiates the production of melatonin, a hormone which plays a significant role in regulating our sleep and wake cycles[2].
  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone which is already present in our pineal glands. Melatonin regulates our sleep[3] when the pineal gland releases it, making us sleepy.
  • GABA: Gamma Butyric Acid is a chemical compound which already exists naturally in our brains, and its role is to stabilize neurons. It’s a neurotransmitter which destabilizes other very excitable neurotransmitters and also initiates relaxed neurotransmitters.
  • L-Theanine: This is an amino acid which initiates the production of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, which are three substances that make you sleepy. It does this by imitating brain wave patterns during sleep, which ultimately leads the user to fall asleep.
  • Vitamin B6: This vitamin uses a tiny amount of tryptophan in your system and converts it into vitamin B3 and also serotonin, which is a brain chemical that regulates our sleep cycles.
  • Passion Flower: Increases the amount of GABA neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA is an excellent sleep aid because it instigates neurotransmitters which are calming.
  • Chamomile: As a direct sleep aid, chamomile hasn’t shown very positive results in the body of research. However, researchers think it may have an indirect effect on sleep. What has been demonstrated in the research is that this substance is a natural anti-anxiety medication. It makes you calmer, so it may help you get to sleep as a consequence.
  • Lemon Balm: People have used this plant as an anti-anxiety medication since the Middle Ages. A study carried out in 2003 showed the effectiveness of lemon balm in inducing sleep, as well as positive mood.
  • Omega 3: This is found in seafood and in algae. Research at the University of Oxford showed that omega 3 fatty acids are associated with improved sleep in children, less resistance to bedtime, and less waking up in the night[4].
  • Magnesium: This is a mineral that is responsible for regulating some of the body’s major processes. Research has found that it does help you sleep[5]; however, it doesn’t increase the length of your sleep at all.
  • CBD Oil: Although it’s actually a stimulant, taking it a few hours before bedtime seems to help people sleep[6]. The mechanism through which it functions is not really understood.

Why do we often need supplements to help sleep through the night?

Insomnia is the inability to get a restful sleep on a chronic basis. It’s actually a worldwide problem that effects about 20% of people on average. Since some people will need to use some kind of sleep supplement on a long-term basis, it’s important to look for solutions that aren’t addictive and that are healthy.

Many sleep supplements have other health promotion benefits as well as inducing sleep. Finding effective sleep supplements is important because insomnia and other sleep disturbances are very prevalent, and they can lead to chronic health problems and difficulty with employment and other responsibilities.

As to the question of why insomnia is so prevalent today, some would say that the pace of the modern world overstimulates us and makes it hard for us to wind down at night. In addition, all the technology we use with it’s bright lights and flashing screens has an impact on how we sleep and how we concentrate.

What is the most effective natural sleep supplement?

Passion Flower Dietary Supplement

Natural sleep aid can help you get to sleep safely and naturally. Shutterstock Images

There are several excellent natural sleep remedies, but the amino acid L-theanine is arguably the best. This substance is responsible for initiating the production of the neurotransmitters called serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Serotonin regulates mood and motivation. It also plays a role in regulating sleep.

It does this by initiating alpha waves, and imitating sleep brain wave patterns. Serotonin also plays a key role in producing melatonin, which is a hormone that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is released by our pineal glans when it’s time to go to sleep. This induces a feeling of drowsiness.

GABA is a brain chemical which can cause you to fall asleep faster. It does this by destabilizing other very excitable neurotransmitters and producing relaxed neurotransmitters.

Dopamine is also an important neurotransmitter that plays a role in your sleep/wake cycle. It can be found in the pineal gland, which is central to your circadian rhythm.

The power of all of these powerful sleep-inducing substances together makes the amino acid L-theanine the best natural sleep supplement.

Why shouldn't you use prescription sleep meds?

If you’ve been prescribed sleeping pills by your doctor on a very temporary basis, you should certainly take them. However, when it comes to finding a long-term sleep aid, it’s not a clever idea to use prescription sleep medication. For the most part, doctors prescribe barbiturates and benzodiazepines, which are highly addictive. You will get to the point where you have to take one or you’ll be awake all night.

In addition, users develop a tolerance for the dose of pill they’re taking, and the pills stop working unless you increase the dose. The more you use, the higher the cost, as well. These medications aren’t cheap, and that can really add up if you depend on them every day.

Prescription sleeping medications often have some very unpleasant side effects. For example, the popular sleep medication Ambien has an extensive list of potential side effects including drowsiness, headaches, nasal congestion, memory loss, muscle aches, double vision, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, voice changes, forgetfulness, belching, and body aches. Natural sleep supplements, on the other hand, have very little in the way of side effects or tolerance. Finally, research has already shown that using prescription sleep aids is associated with developing cancer.

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