As a sleep doctor, it’s a question I get asked by patients all the time: How can I improve my sleep without prescription medication? In combination with good sleep hygiene, there are supplements that can help you relax, strengthen sleep-wake cycles, and improve the quality and quantity of your nightly rest. Here are three of the most well-researched, effective supplements I recommend for better sleep.
Among the most calming and stress-reducing cannabinoids, CBD is also one that delivers the most help for sleep. CBD can alleviate anxiety that interferes with nightly rest. One thing I especially like about CBD is that it relieves anxiety without causing changes to healthy sleep-wake cycles.
In small doses, CBD can stimulate alertness and reduce daytime sleepiness, which is important for daytime performance and for consistent sleep-wake cycles. A consistent sleep routine is the single most important factor that leads to healthy rest. Studies show CBD can significantly reduce insomnia symptoms and increase sleep amounts.
It often surprises people to hear that melatonin isn’t a sedative. It improves sleep by helping to strengthen the body’s sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is a sleep facilitator, helping the body transition into a state of rest. Increasing melatonin levels can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase overall sleep amounts. It can also improve the quality of sleep and reduce daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Melatonin is helpful in treating jet lag. When I travel, I take melatonin about 90 minutes before bedtime in my new time zone and make sure to get a dose of bright light exposure first thing the next morning.
The valerian plant has an ancient history as a sleep aid and a natural remedy for stress and anxiety. Valerian’s sleep benefits come primarily through its ability to reduce anxiety. This herbal supplement helps to boost the production of GABA, a calming brain chemical that promotes sleep. Valerian has been shown to help people fall asleep more quickly, reduce restless sleep, increase sleep amounts, and improve symptoms of insomnia. Research also shows valerian is effective in treating sleep problems linked to menopause.