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Supplements To Help You Fall Asleep

Falling asleep should be as natural and easy as letting gravity pull you down a slide, but sometimes it isn't. In these cases, the first step in fixing the problem is making sure that you aren't taking something that causes the problem.

Falling asleep should be as natural and easy as letting gravity pull you down a slide, but sometimes it isn’t. In these cases, the first step in fixing the problem is making sure that you aren’t taking something that causes the problem.

Take a look through your supplements and prescriptions and ask yourself did the sleep problem start or get worse around the same time that you started a particular supplement or drug? If that’s the case, then certainly talk with your doctor or prescribing physician about it. Check especially carefully for any folate or methyl donors like methyl folate, methyl B12, SAMe, TMG, and even things that spare methyl groups like creatine can be a problem. For some of us, too many methyl groups means you’re just not getting to sleep. At all. Ever. So take a look at what you’re taking first. Also, strongly consider anything that has known “upper” potential – ADHD medications, steroids, thyroid medications, and some antidepressants.

Next, think about what it is that keeps you awake – is it that your body won’t settle down? Your mind? Something mysterious? Let’s talk about some options.

Supplements to Relax Your Body

If your body won’t relax that almost always means unwanted muscle activity like twitches, zings, pings, crawling feeling, or just discomfort. Of course, do your sleep hygiene. Avoid alcohol before bed, make sure your evening meal is high protein, lower carb, and drink enough water through the day. If you have restless legs syndrome, also do some gentle stretching before bed. In terms of supplements, here are my favorites for body relaxation:

  • Magnesium – magnesium is a must with restless legs or any kind of feeling of body tension at night. Magnesium is your natural muscle relaxer, physiologically opposing the calcium that binds to your muscle fibers to help them contract. Magnesium dosing is really variable between people and also for the same person at different times in their life. The best guide is trial and error, not enough magnesium won’t give you the physical relaxation that you’re looking for, and too much magnesium will cause a loose stool in the morning. Also, you don’t need a fancy form of magnesium – the simple forms like citrate or oxide work just as well for this application as the designer forms. It’s rare, but I’ve seen a few clients over the years that have the opposite reaction to magnesium, and if that is you, then try a low-dose calcium chewable at bedtime instead.
  • GABA – GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it calms down all of the excess neurological activity to help you calm your body and relax your mind. Standard dosing of GABA for sleep is roughly 300 mg, about an hour before bed. GABA does lower blood pressure for some people, which usually isn’t a problem during sleep, but if you have medically low blood pressure then it’s good to talk with your doctor before starting a GABA supplement.
  • Passionflower – this herb has several physically and mentally relaxing properties, and it has been shown to boost levels of GABA in your brain in a gentle manner. It is also mentally calming and soothing and well known as a supportive herb for sleep and relaxation.

Supplements to Relax Your Mind

An agitated mind is fully capable of overriding all of your good sleep hygiene and keeping you awake at night. Non-supplement techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, exercise, and cognitive behavioral therapy are the most effective tools here, but supplements can help support your progress.

  • Valerian Root – Valerian has well-documented effects on sleep through several mechanisms of action. It raises levels of GABA, which we discussed as a physical and mental relaxant, and also contains unique compounds like valerenic acids and valepotriates which also contribute to its effectiveness. Valerian helps to improve overall sleep quality and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. It also reduces feelings of anxiety, as well as some hormone symptoms in women including PMS and menopausal hot flashes.
  • Bifidobacterium longum 1714 – this unique strain of gut bacteria works on the gut-stress connection and in a double-blinded placebo-controlled study, sleep quality and duration improved significantly in participants undergoing exam-related stress after just four weeks of use. This bacterial strain is shown to reduce overall stress response and help to normalize morning cortisol levels as well.
  • Aromatherapy – Research has shown that some essential oils can help to promote both anxiety relief and better sleep outcomes. Chamomile and lavender are both well-documented and additional studies have shown orange and peppermint oil to also be beneficial. One study showed that single oils performed better than essential oil blends, especially lavender.
  • Chamomile – I’m sure at least a few of you had a mother or grandmother prepare chamomile tea for you when you were having a hard time sleeping. Mine certainly did. Turns out, the research shows chamomile to be effective in sleep disorders and also generalized anxiety disorder, so your ancestors knew what they were talking about.
  • Glyciene – Glycine is a component of protein and it passively diffuses across the blood brain barrior and modulates neurotransmitters in the brain. Three grams before bedtime has been shown to improve sleep quality and decrease the time it takes to get to sleep.

The Miracle of Melatonin

Melatonin is one of my favorite supplements simply because it has so many beneficial functions in the body, and it is your body’s natural sleep hormone. Melatonin helps enhance sleep, regulate circadian rhythm, acts as an antioxidant (especially within the brain and spinal cord), boosts immune function, reduces inflammation, slows aging, and has anticancer activities. Outside of all of that, it’s neuroprotective, helps control chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. It even helps to regulate mood, sexual maturation, and body temperature.

Natural melatonin is found in plants, animals, and bacteria and we all get some from food sources every day. Melatonin supplements are easy to find and generally well tolerated, although some people report more vivid dreams or some sleep-hangover-type feelings in the morning. Doses from 1 – 10 mg are used for sleep, and doses around 20 mg are used as a supportive therapy in treating solid tumors.

Also, small doses of melatonin can be taken if you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Some evidence suggests that even if it doesn’t bring you back to sleep, it does help your brain to sustain less damage from sleep loss.

Melatonin is a great tool to keep on hand and help enhance your sleep quality as well as get you to sleep faster. Next episode, we’ll talk about supplements to help you stay asleep. There is some overlap, of course, but plenty more to talk about. Thanks so much for watching or listening today and be sure to like, subscribe, review, or otherwise give me a thumbs up if this is helpful.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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