With insomnia affecting around 1/3 of UK adults at some point in life, we all need the occasional bit of help getting to sleep. From sleep teas to nutraceutical formulas, there are a range of products available to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Here are 5 of the most popular and effective sleep supplements:
This perennial herb has a long history of traditional use for calming the nervous system and inducing sleep. Bioactive ingredients include flavonoids, valepotriates, hesperidin, linerin, and sesquiterpenes. In clinical trials, valerian has been shown to improve sleep onset, quality, and duration, and relieve nervous tension and restlessness. A popular ingredient in herbal teas for sleep, valerian can also be taken as tablets, capsules, or tincture.
Commonly known as the “anti-stress” mineral, magnesium aids sleep in several ways. Firstly, as an essential co-factor nutrient for the formation of melatonin, the sleep hormone, where it works alongside vitamin B6 to convert serotonin to melatonin. And secondly, as a muscle relaxant, ensuring muscles can relax properly. Night-time leg cramps are often a sign of low magnesium.
Studies have shown that glycine can improve sleep quality and reduce daytime fatigue and sleepiness in people who have difficulty sleeping. A non-essential amino acid, glycine works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, calming the central nervous system. Good food sources include red meat, poultry, salmon, soy, and pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Renowned for its use in beer making, hops have been used for thousands of years in herbal medicine as a sedative and to induce sleep. Often used alongside valerian, hops depress the central nervous system and increase levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric acid).
Tart cherry extract
Varieties of sour cherry such as Montmorency and English Morello are rich sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. Tart cherry juice extracts are widely available and can easily be added to smoothies, juices, and sauces.
An amino acid found in green tea and some mushrooms, l-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier and elevate levels of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. In a study of stress-related symptoms and cognitive function in healthy adults, l-theanine improved sleep latency and sleep disturbance scores, and the use of sleep medication reduced, compared to placebo.
Bannai, M., Kawai, N., Ono, K., Nakahara, K., & Murakami, N. 2012. The effects of glycine on subjective daytime performance in partially sleep-restricted healthy volunteers. Frontiers in Neurology, 3, 61. doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2012.00061
Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, Ishida I, Yasukawa Z, Ozeki M, Kunugi H. 2019. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. Oct 3;11(10):2362. doi: 10.3390/nu11102362.
Perry, N. & Perry, P. 2018. Botanical Brain Balms Bath: Filbert Press.