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There are so many barriers to getting a good night’s sleep
Whether medical, nutritional, or lifestyle induced. It’s no wonder an estimated 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes suffer from sleep-related problems, or that an estimated 164 million Americans struggle to get a good night's sleep at least once a week1 2 How we eat and drink; how our brain functions; how much screen time we encounter during the day, and especially at night; how much we weigh; and how much stress we’re under all contribute to the quality of our sleep, or the lack thereof. While some medical sleep conditions must be properly diagnosed and treated by a doctor or a sleep-support specialist, consider these natural sleep solutions and tweaks to your bedtime routine that may finally offer you some much needed zzz’s.
Melatonin is perhaps the most widely known natural sleep aid for its use in treating sleep disorders, particularly jet lag and insomnia.3 4A hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain, studies show that melatonin supplementation signifi cantly reduces sleep onset latency (i.e., the time it takes to fall asleep), increases sleep efficiency, and increases sleep duration.5 6 There are many factors that can interfere with our body’s ability to produce adequate melatonin each night. One factor is that as we age, our production of melatonin decreases.7 Perhaps it’s not surprising then to learn that clinical trials involving elderly insomniacs showed improvement with supplemental melatonin.8
An effective dose of melatonin can vary widely from person to person, ranging from .5 mg up to 3 mg. To find the amount that works best for you, start with a lower dose and increase the amount until you fi nd your “sweet spot.”
Another major factor interfering with melatonin production, regardless of age, is our exposure to light before going to bed. Research shows that being in a fully lit room prior to going to sleep resulted in a delayed and shortened production of melatonin to help us fall and stay asleep.10
Specifically, blue light emitted from TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices during the day, and especially before bedtime, is a major culprit to suppressing melatonin production. A recent study looking at smartphone use among 1,043 students between the ages of 18 and 30 at King's College London, found that students who reported high use of cellphones also reported poor sleep quality.11 According to a recent interview with CNN, Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, who directs sleep research in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that the number one rule is "no computers, cell phones, and PDAs in bed and at least one hour prior to bedtime," adding, "any LED spectrum light source may further suppress melatonin levels."12This goes for falling back asleep if you happen to wake up during the night: avoid bright lights, or any light source if possible, as that is further destructive to melatonin production.
Lutein, a carotenoid and antioxidant found in the retina and macula of the eye, and found in bright yellow, red, and orange colors of many fruits and vegetables, is a powerful ally to protecting the eyes from blue light damage—and it can even help with sleep. 13 A double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that a combo supplement of lutein and zeaxanthin at 24 mg/day yielded significant improvement in overall sleep quality, sleep disturbance, daytime dysfunction, and medication requirement for sleep versus a placebo.14 15
Valerian root extract is widely used for inducing sleep and improving sleep quality without side effects. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled trials of valerian for improving sleep quality showed a “statistically signifi cant benefit.” In fact, valerian was found to almost double the chance of sleeping better when compared with a placebo.16 17 18The dosing amounts for the favorable outcomes ranged from 90 mg to 600 mg, depending on the study.19
Wild lettuce, found in capsule and tincture forms, is a natural sedative that acts on the central nervous system, soothing and relaxing the body and easing anxiety. It helps prevent sleepless nights, improves sleep quality, and helps keep nighttime restlessness at bay.20 21 It contains the compounds lactucin and lactucopicrin that essentially slow communication between brain cells; lactucin is considered the predominant substance that creates a sedative, sleeppromoting effect.22 23 Glycine, an amino acid, is another sleep supporting superstar. It has a calming effect on the brain and can help you fall and stay asleep. Research has shown that taking 3g of glycine before bed decreases how long it takes to fall asleep, enhances sleep quality, lessens daytime sleepiness, and improves cognition.24 25
Glycine, an amino acid, is another sleep supporting superstar. It has a calming effect on the brain and can help you fall and stay asleep. Research has shown that taking 3g of glycine before bed decreases how long it takes to fall asleep, enhances sleep quality, lessens daytime sleepiness, and improves cognition.26 27
Certain nutrients are essential to producing the neurotransmitters and hormones needed for healthy sleep. B vitamins support a healthy stress response and are necessary for making the neurotransmitters and hormones involved in sleep regulation. Vitamin B3 (niacin) enhances REM sleep and leads to decreased nighttime wakefulness, while B6 and B1 (thiamin) are involved in the production of serotonin and melatonin.28 29 People with insomnia are often deficient in folic acid, which also supports the body’s production of melatonin and serotonin.30
Note: Since the B vitamins are also involved in energy production, and may have a stimulating effect on some people, they should be taken early to mid-day.
A common symptom of magnesium deficiency is insomnia and restless sleep. This mineral plays a crucial role in the nervous system and stress response system and supports healthy levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which can promote sleep. Magnesium can also reduce feelings of stress and anxiety that may interrupt sleep.31 In addition to these nutrients, consider taking a high-quality multivitamin, which can provide the foundation for good health and can help fill in any nutritional gaps that could be having an impact on your quality of sleep.
A common symptom of magnesium deficiency is insomnia and restless sleep. This mineral plays a crucial role in the nervous system and stress response system and supports healthy levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which can promote sleep. Magnesium can also reduce feelings of stress and anxiety that may interrupt sleep.32 In addition to these nutrients, consider taking a high-quality multivitamin, which can provide the foundation for good health and can help fill in any nutritional gaps that could be having an impact on your quality of sleep.