There’s nothing worse than lying down in your cozy bed, anticipating some much needed shut-eye after a busy day, but it doesn’t happen. Tossing and turning for hours is not only frustrating, but not getting enough sleep is linked to weight management troubles because of how it effects a person's hunger hormones and appetite. Sleep is also crucial for the health of your adrenal glands.
If you have troubles sleeping, ask yourself why? Is the insomnia stemming from stress? mental anxiety? too much physical energy that didn't get burned off during the day?
With the root cause of your poor sleep in mind, here are some suggestions to consider, in no particular order. I urge you to investigate each one to see what might be right for you.
Taurine is an amino acid and potent antioxidant that balances the body’s stress response and supports normal, healthy rest, relaxation and sleep.
Taurine is important for the support of healthy nerve transmission and muscle function to promote a calming effect. It can be used alone or with other calming ingredients to maintain healthy emotional balance. It also helps modulate the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which is super important for sleep.
I recommend taking the Taurine dose that gives the best sleep with the least amount of grogginess in the morning. You may wake up groggy or fatigued, but that usually goes away after a few days. If you continue to wake up feeling groggy, reduce the dosage and/or take Taurine at dinner rather than before bed. This will allow it to wear off by the time you wake up, but you’ll still get the stress reduction benefits.
Start taking 1 capsule of Taurine about 30 minutes before bedtime. If no morning grogginess after several days, increase to 2 capsules. If no morning grogginess after several days, increase to 3 capsules.
Taurine works well with Magnesium to support sleep and relaxation.
Ashwagandha's effective for promoting healthy sleep and helping manage stress. It works in subtle ways by calming you down and taking the edge off. How does it do this? It’s a very complex mechanism, but in a nutshell, Ashwagandha contains chemicals that might help calm the brain. When taking ashwagandha, you can take it in the day and at night. When using it for sleep support, always take ashwagandha before bed. Ashwagandha needs time to build up and is typically taken long term. I prefer a powder or tincture form over a capsule because I have noticed more potency.
Side note: If you take thyroid medicine, ashwagandha is shown to increase T4 levels, so please talk to your health care provider before taking. Do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding.
One of the effects of a magnesium deficiency, which is very common, is sleep disturbance. Specifically, a disruption in sleep includes less slow wave, or deep sleep, a decrease in total sleep time, and an increase in waking during the night. Magnesium plays an important role in regulating the body’s stress response system (the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, or HPA axis) as well as supporting the normal production of GABA, a neurotransmitter integral to healthy sleep.
The RDA for magnesium ranges from 310 to 420 mg daily for adults 18 and older.
Magnesium food sources include seeds, legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans), nuts, and greens such as kale and swiss chard.
The best tolerated forms of magnesium are chelates, which means they are magnesium bonded to an amino acid. Other generally well-tolerated forms include magnesium citrate and magnesium aspartate; however, in sensitive individuals, these forms can irritate the digestive system.
The form of magnesium recommended to avoid is magnesium oxide; it is poorly absorbed and altogether a waste of money. Magnesium citrate isn't ideal either.
The B-vitamins, B12, folate, and B6, are required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in sleep, including melatonin and serotonin, and vitamin B6 appears to help cells absorb magnesium more effectively. Try a combination of magnesium with a high-quality B-complex supplement.
#5: Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with poor sleep quality and quantity, with research indicating blood levels less than 20 ng/mL, which isn’t uncommon, can significantly increase the risk of “unhealthy sleep.”
Vitamin D is known to influence the activity of hundreds of genes, and now researchers have discovered it appears to activate two genes which control our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm affects body temperature and hormone production, including melatonin, and is heavily influenced by sunlight.
Our bodies also naturally produce vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight, leading the researchers to suggest vitamin D may play an important role in the maintenance of circadian rhythms at the cellular level. Experts recommend maintaining blood levels of vitamin D at 65+ ng/mL to support optimal health.
#6: L-Theanine and GABA
This amino acid found in green tea has a calming, relaxing effect to support normal emotional balance. It helps support healthy sleep via several changes in the brain including increasing levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which is intimately involved in sleep, while decreasing levels of excitatory neurotransmitters. It also increases alpha brain waves, present during REM sleep.
L-theanine has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, within about 30 minutes of taking it. GABA is also available as a supplement, and a study published earlier this year found a combination of L-theanine and GABA was more effective compared to either supplement taken alone. For sleep support and stress support, try 100-400 mg of L-theanine and 100-200 mg of GABA.
Bottom Line: The foundation of good health is built on a healthy diet, regular movement and sufficient, quality sleep. If one of these components is missing, overall health will suffer. Start by building a foundation for healthy sleep from the ground up through stress-reducing tactics, eating well, and supplementing with a few basic nutrients known to support your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Sleep is crucial and priceless! Find a way to get yours!
I like this sleepytime smoothie which contains ingredients scientifically shown to support sleep.
In Health and Happiness, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods