Sleep problems often occur during periods of street when anxiety makes it difficult to relax.
But not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to a person’s health.
Making changes to your sleep environment is often recommended, such as making sure the room you sleep in is cool, quiet and dark.
But some experts say supplements can help assist uninterrupted sleep. Dr Sarah Brewer recommends six supplements for you to try.
Some experts say supplements can help assist uninterrupted sleep
CBD (cannabidiol) oil is Dr Brewer’s own sleep-promoting supplement of choice.
She said: “CBD is a natural extract from industrial hemp plants which is relaxing, lifts mood and generates feelings of wellbeing.
“CBD enhances the effects of brain chemicals such as serotonin and anandamide, and helps you achieve a good night’s sleep by reducing muscle tension, reducing restlessness and anxiety, and by supporting a normal pattern of REM sleep. It also reduces the perception of pain and may help if aches and pains are keeping you awake.
“Ever since I started taking a capsule at night I’ve slept really deeply and woken feeling refreshed. While some people experience vivid dreams when taking CBD, I now sleep so heavily that I rarely recall my dreams.”
But she notes: “If you have a health condition or are taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, always check with your doctor or a pharmacist before taking CBD, as it interacts with enzymes involved in metabolising some medicines. Many doctors and pharmacists feel unable to advise on this, however.
“The best Drug Interaction checker I have found is on Drugs.com, which includes most herbs, supplements and prescribed medicines. While it does not specifically include CBD it does include cannabis (which as well as containing CBD also includes the legally-regulated, psychoactive ingredient, THC).”
Best supplements for sleep: Six natural remedies could ensure a good night’s rest
Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in the synthesis of melatonin hormone, which helps to program your sleep-wake cycle, says Dr Brewer. She added: “Magnesium also has a relaxing effect on muscles and helps to prevent restless legs – an annoying jerking of the lower limbs which can stop you from drifting off. A study involving 46 older people with sleep problems showed that taking 500 mg magnesium a day for eight weeks significantly improved melatonin levels, sleep time and reduced early morning waking compared with placebo. It helped those taking magnesium gain an extra 18 minutes of sleep (7.9 hours versus 7.6 hours).
“When taken by mouth, magnesium supplement can have a laxative effect at doses above 400mg per day which is not always a bad thing – taking a magnesium supplement at night helps to promote regularity next morning. I take Healthspan Opti-Magnesium (which I helped to formulate) which is less likely to produce this effect, and can easily be taken in a half dose. Other options include absorbing magnesium through the skin (eg BetterYou magnesium Oil Spray) or have a relaxing bath containing magnesium salts.”
Valerian is a traditional herbal remedy that both reduces anxiety and improves sleep quality, and it appears to have a similar effect to a calming brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Dr Brewer said: “This reduces anxiety and restlessness, and induces calm so you achieve a deeper level of sleep more quickly. Valerian is also helpful for women whose sleep disturbance is linked with the menopause. A large analysis of data from 18 studies, involving over 1,300 people with sleep difficulties found that valerian significantly improved sleep quality by 37 per cent compared with inactive placebo.
“When valerian was compared with the prescribed tranquiliser, oxazepam, it was at least as effective for increasing sleep quality, duration of sleep, dream recall, waking feeling refreshed and reducing evening exhaustion. Valerian was less likely to cause side effects, however and, unlike oxazepam, does not have any potential for addiction.
“The combination of valerian and hops has a synergistic sedative effect, and in one study allowed participants spend a significant longer periods asleep, including longer periods in refreshing deep sleep after a single dose eg A.Vogel Dormeasan Valerian-Hops Sleep Remedy which is available in the form of a tincture. It tastes bitter, so mix with fruit juice. My other half swears by Dormeasan and takes it every night.
“Valerian is also available combined with Passion Flower in Schwabe Pharma’s Bonuit Sleep Aid, which is an herbal medicine licensed for the relief of sleep disturbances due to mild anxiety.”
Lavender is well-known for its sedative effect and is often used in pillows and as an aromatherapy oil to improve sleep quality. Dr Brewer said: “Lavender oil capsules are now also licensed as a traditional herbal medicine to relieved symptoms of mild anxiety, such as stress and nervousness, which can interfere with sleep. For safe oral use, the oil must come from the flowers of one particular species of lavender and be prepared to pharmaceutical standards (eg Kalms Lavender One-A-Day).
“Lavender is especially helpful when sleep difficulties are due to anxiety. Brain scan studies show that lavender oil works by raising levels of serotonin and other brain neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood and anxiety. Clinical trials show that lavender oil is as effective as the prescription-only tranquiliser, lorazepam, for relieving anxiety, bit without the side effects or potential for addiction. The main side effect is flatulence (but at least your wind smells nice!)”
Best supplements for sleep: Lavender oil is well-known for its sedative effect
Best supplements for sleep: Valerian is a traditional herbal remedy
Cherry juice is one of the richest dietary sources of pre-formed melatonin sleep hormone, according to Dr Brewer. She added: “The level of melatonin present in sour cherries is at least five times greater than is found in other dietary sources such as blackberries and strawberries. Cherries also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed for the synthesis of melatonin, while the dark red cherry pigments boost the uptake of tryptophan, to magnify its effects.
“In a UK study involving 20 volunteers drank tart cherry juice concentrate or placebo for 7 days. Melatonin levels rose significantly in those drinking the cherry juice, along with total sleep time and sleep efficiency, while no changes were seen with placebo.
“Researchers from Louisiana State University found that drinking Montmorency cherry juice increases the amount of time you spend asleep. in fact, those with insomnia who drank cherry juice twice a day, for two weeks, slept over an hour longer each night (averaging 84 minutes) compared with placebo e.g Healthspan Super Cherry juice concentrate.”
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a unique amino acid that’s only found in two places in nature – the human body and in the seeds of a West African medicinal plant, Griffonia simplicifolia from which supplements are derived.
Dr Brewer explained: “5-HTP acts as a building block to make brain chemicals including serotonin and melatonin sleep hormone. Studies show that 5-HTP helps you fall asleep more quickly, and extends the length of time spent in REM (rapid eye movement, or dreaming) sleep, so you wake up feeling more refreshed. 5-HTP is especially helpful for people with fibromyalgia, in which widespread pains, fatigue and sleep disturbance have been linked with low levels of serotonin.”
Dr Sarah Brewer has a master’s degree in Nutritional Medicine and is the Medical Director of Healthspan. www.DrSarahBrewer.com.
Important: If taking any prescribed medication, always check for interactions before taking any supplement, especially herbal supplements.
During the day, certain supplements can help you beat tiredness.