Natural Supplements For Sleep


Fact Checked

Written by James Dixon

Poor sleep seriously impacts our lives, yet it can be hard to know how to improve it. James Dixon outlines the most effective and natural supplements for sleep in this informative guide.

Sleep is a complex process that is not fully understood, but its significance for our mood, energy levels, and brain function is universally recognized. While the exact benefits of sleep are still being investigated, it is clear that it rejuvenates our cells, helps remove harmful chemicals from the body (especially the brain), and plays a crucial role in immune function, among other functions.

Lack of sleep, disrupted sleep patterns, or sleep deprivation can greatly impair both mental and physical function, leading to various health conditions such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

Happily, there are plenty of things that we can do to improve our sleep quality. Natural supplementation is one of them.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation occurs when a person doesn’t get enough sleep, either in terms of quantity or quality.

woman sleep deprived in bed

Many people don’t get sufficient sleep, leading to daytime sleepiness and fatigue and an increased risk from many chronic health concerns.

Insufficient sleep in adults can result in constant yawning, morning grogginess, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes such as irritability. Children, on the other hand, may become moody, have tantrums, and exhibit hyperactivity during the day. They may also take naps, wake up feeling groggy, and struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

The causes of sleep deprivation vary, including staying up late for socializing or entertainment, illnesses, sleep disorders, work-related factors, certain medications, environmental factors, poor sleep hygiene habits, and the demands of parenting, to name just a few.

Lack of sleep can significantly impair performance, leading to reduced alertness, attention span, reaction time, judgment, decision-making skills, and memory. It can also result in fixation on thoughts, mood swings, and decreased work efficiency.

In children and teenagers, sleep loss can cause issues with concentration, behavior, impulse control, depression, and ADHD.

The appropriate amount of sleep varies depending on factors like age, physical activity, and health. Typically, primary school children and teenagers need around nine to ten hours of sleep per night, but social commitments and early school start times can interfere with teenagers’ sleep. For adults, it is generally recommended to get around eight hours of sleep per night, although individual needs can differ.

It’s important to pay attention to your body and get more sleep if you feel tired during the day.

Why go for natural supplements?

You can always go for hardcore sleeping pills that will knock you out and keep you asleep for hours, so why choose to go natural?

Well, partly because sleeping pills aren’t really that good for you. Sleeping pills can extend total sleep duration and reduce night time awakenings, but they disrupt normal sleep patterns, making it difficult to reach deep sleep stages and causing a hangover effect.

The association with an elevated risk of premature death is particularly alarming. As of December 2020, over 24 population-based studies have demonstrated this connection. This could suggest that the use of sleeping pills is simply an indication of stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression, all of which are also linked to a higher risk of premature death. However the causation works out, though, the correlation should be enough to make you wary.

On the other hand, natural sleep aids can enhance time spent in deeper non-REM sleep, promoting full rejuvenation, with far fewer side effects.

Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs carry risks, including addiction, drowsiness, and impaired coordination, which can be exacerbated by alcohol. It is crucial to avoid driving while under the influence of these medications. The most serious side effects of sedative drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, are related to their impact on memory and behavior in the short term, and an increased risk of depression, cognitive decline, and premature death in the long term.

Improving your sleep the natural way

As well as opting for natural supplements to improve your sleep, there are also plenty of healthy, natural habits you can adopt that should help.

Reduce or even cut out caffeine intake

coffee overspilling coffee cup

Improving sleep quality involves identifying and addressing factors that hinder sleep, similar to other health conditions. A common first step for many people is cutting out caffeine. The average person consumes 150 to 225 mg of caffeine daily, which is equivalent to one to two cups of coffee. However, individuals vary greatly in how quickly they metabolize caffeine due to genetic differences in the enzymes involved.

For those struggling with sleep, it is recommended to completely avoid caffeine for seven to ten days. This includes not only coffee, but also tea, chocolate, medications containing caffeine, energy drinks, and other sources. This should have quite a profound effect, allowing to you get to sleep faster, reach a deeper sleep state, and stay asleep for longer.

Do note, however, that the first few days can be rough. Caffeine withdrawal is real and can lead to headaches, nausea, and cognitive impairment, among other symptoms.

Reduce alcohol intake

People with sleep issues should avoid alcohol as it can release adrenaline and disrupt the production of serotonin, which is important for sleep. Additionally, consuming high amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates or having irregular eating patterns can trigger the body’s fight or flight response, leading to wakefulness.

Cut sugar intake down

Reducing sugar intake is crucial for managing sleep maintenance insomnia, a condition where individuals struggle to stay asleep after a few hours. This type of insomnia is often caused by unstable blood sugar levels throughout the day and night. A low-carbohydrate diet, particularly one that avoids sugar and foods that rapidly increase blood sugar levels, can be highly beneficial.

Keep on top of your stress levels

Stress is our reaction to difficult situations and everyday life. It affects us emotionally, physically, and behaviourally. While the right amount of stress can be helpful and keep us alert and motivated, too much can make us anxious, tense, and disrupt our sleep.

person meditating overlooking water

Signs of stress include depression, sleep problems, anxiety, difficulty focusing, and loss of interest. Physical symptoms may include headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, loss of appetite, and pain in the chest, neck, or back. Properly managing stress is important for our health and well-being.

You can manage stress and sleep quite simply, however. Try to identify the sources of stress and take steps to reduce them. Seek support from loved ones to help cope with stress. Practice thought management to change negative thought patterns that contribute to stress. Engage in physical activity to reduce stress and maintain flexibility.

Learn relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Maintain a healthy diet and avoid excessive consumption of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Get enough sleep, aiming for 7 to 9 hours each night. Delegate responsibilities to alleviate stress from overwhelming workload. Many of these tie into the other tips on this list, making tackling them all the more important and potentially rewarding.

If sleep problems persist, consult a doctor to rule out medical or psychiatric conditions and seek appropriate treatment.

Our top natural sleep supplements

There are some truly wonderful natural supplements out there to help in improving sleep quality. Some notable natural sleep aids include melatonin, methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12), 5-HTP, L-theanine, magnesium, and valerian.


Melatonin is the top choice for a natural sleep aid, proven effective in promoting and sustaining sleep in both children and adults. It is particularly beneficial when melatonin levels are low, which is often the case in individuals over the age of 40.

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to regulate sleep-wake cycles. In supplement form, it is typically synthesized in a laboratory. The production of melatonin is triggered by darkness, promoting sleep, while light inhibits its production, signalling wakefulness.

It’s quite common to see low melatonin levels in those habitually suffering with sleep concerns. Melatonin supplementation may therefore be of particular help in longer-term sufferers. As such, melatonin supplementation is most common for insomnia and managing sleep issues related to conditions like jet lag.

This isn’t an end to it, either. It’s also quite common to see melatonin used to treat a variety of additional concerns like depression, chronic pain, and dementia, and even long-term effects of COVID-19. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these uses.

For adults, a bedtime dosage of 3 to 5 mg of melatonin should do the trick. Children aged 6 and above should take 1 to 3 mg.

Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12)

Methylcobalamin is the active form of vitamin B12. It’s quite often unsurprisingly used to treat vitamin B12 deficiency, which is incredibly important. Vitamin B12 is vital for maintaining healthy brain and nerve function, as well as the production of red blood cells.

You can also take vitamin B12 to treat conditions like pernicious anaemia and diabetes.

However, for our purposes, we are looking at methylcobalamin’s ability to enhance the effectiveness of melatonin, especially for those over 40 and shift workers. It has been found to be particularly helpful for people with sleep-wake disorder, a condition characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, restless nights, and frequent awakenings, where it has been shown to improve sleep quality, increase daytime alertness and concentration, and enhance mood. This is achieved by reducing daytime-melatonin secretion and promoting night time-melatonin secretion.

Aim for a dosage of around 3 to 5 mg of methylcobalamin in the mornings for best results.


Magnesium has gained attention as a potential sleep aid due to its various effects on the body and its potential to influence sleep-promoting processes. Magnesium can improve sleep by promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and relieving depression. It not only helps with falling asleep but also contributes to achieving deep and restful sleep.

Sleep Upgrade by Noocube

Increasing magnesium intake through whole foods can be a way to observe its effects on sleep. Research suggests that magnesium supplements may be beneficial for older adults struggling with sleep problems.

Magnesium is a vital mineral that is involved in numerous bodily functions, including maintaining bone health, brain function, heart health, and muscle function. It also offers other benefits such as reducing inflammation, relieving constipation, and lowering blood pressure.

Magnesium helps the body and brain relax by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, regulating neurotransmitters and melatonin levels, and binding to GABA receptors. Insufficient magnesium levels can disrupt sleep and lead to insomnia. Certain groups, such as those with digestive diseases, diabetes, alcohol dependence, and older adults, are more at risk of magnesium deficiency.

The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 310-360 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men. Magnesium can be obtained through various sources, including natural mineral water, green vegetables, nuts, cereals, meat, fish, and fruit.

While specific dosages for magnesium supplements have not been extensively studied, clinical trials have used amounts ranging from 225-500 mg. It is important to avoid exceeding the upper limit of 350 mg per day without medical supervision.

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body produces from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in food. Once converted into 5-HTP, it is further transformed into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps relay signals between brain cells.

Taking 5-HTP dietary supplements can increase serotonin levels in the brain, which may have positive effects on sleep, mood, anxiety, appetite, and pain perception.

Research suggests that 5-HTP may be beneficial in treating various conditions related to low serotonin levels. These include depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines, and obesity. However, more studies are needed to fully understand its effectiveness.

It should be noted that 5-HTP can have side effects, such as nausea, heartburn, and feelings of fullness. At high doses, it can lead to serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by an excess of serotonin in the body. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with their doctor before taking 5-HTP. Additionally, those taking antidepressants should avoid 5-HTP due to potential interactions.

In the past, there were concerns about a contaminant called Peak X in tryptophan supplements, leading to a potentially fatal disorder called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). Consequently, the FDA removed tryptophan supplements from the market. Some 5-HTP supplements were also found to contain Peak X, but the levels were not high enough to cause symptoms unless taken in very high doses.

Nevertheless, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before taking 5-HTP, and to do your best to ensure that the 5-HTP supplement is sourced from a reputable manufacturer.


L-theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea and some mushrooms. It can be taken in pill form and is believed to alleviate anxiety, stress, and insomnia. As a result, you’ll often see it included in top-shelf nootropic supplements.

When combined with caffeine, L-theanine may enhance focus and attention. It has been found to improve performance and reduce fatigue in demanding tasks.

In addition, L-theanine may improve the function of the immune system, potentially reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and flu. It may help control blood pressure during stressful situations.

Most importantly for this discussion, however, is L-theanine’s proven ability to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Research suggests that L-theanine can reduce stress and anxiety without leading to increased drowsiness. It has been shown to be effective in various situations, including in people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, and those suffering with ADHD symptoms.

Valerian Root

Valerian root

Valerian root is a herb native to Asia and Europe, also found in North America. It has been used since ancient times to treat various conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, PMS, menopause, depression, and headaches. It is commonly available in dried form as a tea, tincture, capsule, or tablet. It is a popular natural sleep aid, particularly in European countries.

Valerian root contains several compounds that may have effects on the body and brain, such as anti-inflammatory properties and interactions with neurotransmitters. Research suggests that valerian root can improve sleep and reduce anxiety in many individuals, although its effectiveness may vary.

It is generally considered safe, but caution is advised for those taking sedatives or sleep medications, pregnant or nursing women, and children under 3.

The recommended dosage varies, and it’s best to consult a doctor before starting valerian root supplementation for sleep.

A final thought

There is little that can benefit your sleep quality and quantity like living a healthy, active lifestyle, geared towards keeping your stress levels down, your alcohol and caffeine intake within reasonable bounds, and your resting periods plentiful and comfortable. Do this, and good sleep will often follow.

However, natural supplementation will often work wonders, too. Take one, some, or all of the supplements on this list for a bit of surety, for a good back-up. They will mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety, extend your REM phases, make it easier for you to get to sleep, keep you asleep for longer, and allow you to wake up feeling refreshed.