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3 Great Sleep Supplements — And 2 to Avoid

One of the biggest health concerns our customers share with us here at Woodstock Vitamins is that they’re struggling with poor sleep.

Sleep is a crucial aspect of a healthy life, and makes up one of the five lifestyle domains in my Wellness Pyramid — a visual representation of daily wellness practices that directly impact our immediate long-term health.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what it looks like:

We all need to sleep better. And I’m not the best at getting perfect sleep, either. I can help you, but there’s no helping me with all these great TV shows to watch.

To sleep better, we may need a little assistance. There are a number of supplement options available to us that work exceptionally well, and some commonly use ingredients we should avoid.

Today we uncover my three favorite sleep support supplements — and two that should be avoided at all costs.

In This Article:

How to Sleep Well

In case you missed it, or it’s just been a while, take a second to revisit the original Dr. Neal podcast, “The Big Mouth Pharmacist,” and listen to sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley teach us how to sleep well before we dive in.

Learn More: Sleep Better: B.S. Free Guide to Holistic Sleep Support

Simplifying Sleep Supplements

To understand sleep support supplements and to prevent accidentally taking duplicate products, it helps to understand the type of sleep supplement you’re using.  

Sleep support supplements can fit into a few bins:

  1. Herbal products that have relaxing, sedating, or calming effects on the body
  2. Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and others) that can induce relaxation
  3. Melatonin products

It’s best to stick to one category and one supplement, dose it appropriately, and see how it goes.

Learn More: Sleep Supplements: 5 Lesser-Known Sleep Aids

The Three Sleep Supplements We Recommend at Woodstock Vitamins


CBD is an herbal supplement that has a relaxing effect on the body.  

Why we love it:

  • It starts acting quickly in the body and doesn’t linger or cause a hangover effect
  • It’s easy to really dial in the dose for an individual
  • Studies show CBD reduces the need for prescription sleep and anxiety medicines
  • We’ve had A LOT of success stories using it with patients

Unfortunately, we’re not legally allowed to sell this online yet, so if you’re interested in our high potency, high quality, and high-value CBD product, reach out to us by phone: (845) 521-7455.


Magnesium is a vital micronutrient; it’s a trace mineral that’s important for over 300 functions in the body. Taking a dose of a well-formulated magnesium product has a relaxing effect on people.

Why we love it:

  • Many folks are a bit shy of their recommended magnesium intake through diet alone, so supplementing helps to close or eliminate that gap
  • The effects are reported to be more subtle than herbal options, with fewer side effects than prescription sleep medicine
  • There’s no risk of physical dependence or addiction, since magnesium is non-habit-forming, as compared to prescription options

Here at Woodstock Vitamins, we always encourage chelated versions (such as formulated in our Easy Magnesium), and no more than 500mg of magnesium at a time.

Learn More: Understanding The Different Types of Magnesium Supplements


Before the CBD frenzy shook the nation, valerian was our most potent herbal sleep support supplement.  It exhibits a pretty profound relaxation benefit. 

(The only problem is that it takes about an hour to kick in, and the effects can linger into the next day.)

Why we love it:

  • Valerian root has an efficient, natural sedative effect
  • Its effects last in the 4-8 hour range, as reported by observational studies.
  • It’s far less expensive than CBD

Our valerian capsules are a great herbal option for someone looking for sleep support and want something a bit more powerful than magnesium, but not as expensive (or cannabis-derived) as CBD.

Honorable Mentions

Our top three aren’t the only options for some much-needed ZZZZ support:

  • 5HTP – 5HTP is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to serotonin. Some patients report relaxation, and when used at bedtime, they report better sleep, too. We lean on our 5HTP, a controlled-release formulation of 5HTP.

  • Lavender Essential Oil – Sometimes the best help isn’t a pill you take! Lavender is an herbal compound that works aromatically, causing a relaxation that tickles an evolutionary “sleeping bone.” This is a great non-medical option we offer that could be used with — or without — any of the other options. French lavender is our affordable, thoroughly tested, quality essential oil.

  • Holy Basil – Holy Basil is an herb used for stress and mood support that creates calm in many people who use it.  It’s a little different acting than valerian; it’s less potent and shorter acting. It might be the right choice if valerian packs too much of a punch for you. We promote the Holy Basil Liquid Veggie Caps for a more comprehensive extract.

Learn More: 5 Things to Do (Not Take) for Better Sleep

The Two Sleep Supplements We Don’t Recommend

Not all supplements are winners. In fact, some can be outright bad for you.  Here are two that we’ll pick on today, and for good reason:


Tryptophan is a micronutrient; specifically, it’s an amino acid, and amino acids make up protein. The most famous tryptophan-containing protein is turkey.

The story goes, “The reason you get so sleepy on Thanksgiving is because of the large doses of tryptophan you are eating.”  The response is, no it’s not, that’s silly. It’s the 5,000 calories ingested in an hour.

There’s more tryptophan in chicken, and the only reason you fall asleep from chicken is because you ate an entire tackle box from Popeye’s.

Our problem with tryptophan supplements is that they don’t really work, and they’re promoted based on an American folk story. They won’t hurt, at least not at the doses recommended for sleep support (500mg), but they are almost always a waste of money!


Most people don’t expect to see this on my list of sleep supplement rejects, but here it is.  I cover the reasons why extensively over at the Dr. Neal blog.

In short, melatonin is NOT a sleep hormone. It’s a darkness hormone.

It tells your brain “It’s dark now.”  Your brain then says, “It’s nighttime,” and starts the sleep process.

This is great if your brain needs help knowing when it’s dark.  Like if you travel, or even for shift workers. Melatonin, when used correctly, can be a huge help.

For the rest of us, we’re often taking it FAR after our brain thinks darkness has started. This causes our sleep/wake cycle to be shifted out, often as far as 4 hours. This creates a hangover effect the next day, disrupts daytime productivity, and then completely rewires all of your body’s internal clocks.

In other countries, melatonin is respected at the level it deserves. It’s prescription-only almost everywhere except in the US, and doses are normally 1mg or less. Compare that to the 3, 5, or 10mg most of us have taken.

The sedative benefits of melatonin are not worth the health risks.

Our Sleep Supplements are a Snore… Thankfully!

In building a Supplement Strategy for sleep support, I would encourage everyone to follow a pharmacist’s common advice:

Start low. Go slow. But, go.

Take the lowest possible dose. Make changes in doses cautiously. But, don’t be afraid to make those changes.

Finally, if one thing doesn’t work, stop using it. Don’t pile on multiple things because you’re not getting the results you want. Sleep supplements, though over the counter and readily available, can be dangerous, especially if mixed together with other similar compounds, medicines, or alcohol.

It’s important to understand that just because a supplement is “good for sleep,” doesn’t mean it is a good option or a harmless one.

Avoid melatonin because it could be a problem. Avoid tryptophan because it’s wack. Check out CBD as your first option, magnesium or valerian if you don’t want to pack such a punch.


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