This is it, friends!
2024 is the year that we all finally start getting enough sleep to truly thrive. That means 8 hours minimum of deep, uninterrupted, dream-filled snoozing.
It’s not impossible, we promise! In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, then you know we’ve already shared the low-down on sleeping like a log. Like these wellness practices to reset your circadian rhythm and Dr. Neal’s s-tier approach to making new habits stick.
But even with all the natural, free tools available, we still need a boost sometimes. Or the opposite of a boost, actually — sometimes we need the help of supplements and herbs to wind down, turn off our brains, and get tf back to sleep.
And no, melatonin and valerian aren’t the only science-backed options for naturally improving your sleep! Read on, fellow sleepyhead, to learn about 5 super underrated supplements for snooze support that’ll have you sawing logs in no time.
In This Article:
- Our favorite kind of magnesium
- L-theanine for sleep support
- The role of B-12 on sleep
- Two underrated herbs for sleep
1. Magnesium Supplements for Deeper Sleep
Magnesium is first up on the list because, despite its growing popularity, most people still don’t seem to understand the importance of this mineral.
As a naturally occurring nutrient, magnesium plays a multifaceted role in sleep regulation and overall health. It not only influences the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the centerpiece of the body’s stress response, but also the GABA receptors responsible for quieting the nervous system.
Magnesium is also a cofactor in the synthesis of melatonin — we all know how important melatonin (in the body, not in supplement form) is for sleep. And if that wasn’t enough, your body actually requires magnesium for muscle relaxation to occur.
Without it, calcium buildup in muscles can lead to mineral imbalance, which in turn leads to chronic muscle contraction, AKA tension, soreness, and cramps.
If constant aches aren’t enough to aggravate your symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t worry, a magnesium deficiency will do the trick. Thankfully, modern medical research is addressing this relationship between mental health and magnesium levels, with studies showing exciting results.
Chelated forms of magnesium have a higher absorption rate in the body, leaving less mineral residue in the gut and targeting deficiencies more efficiently. For sleep support, relaxation, and anxiety relief, look for magnesium chelates like magnesium malate, taurate, or glycinate. (Bonus points if you find a magnesium bisglycinate supplement, a form bound to not one but two amino acids.)
2. L-Theanine Sleep Benefits
Now, l-theanine, on the other hand, is about as popular as neem oil. The diehards understand its importance, but most folks wouldn’t pick it up off the shelf.
But this non-protein amino acid actually has a remarkable impact on sleep quality, stemming from its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and modulate neurotransmitters. Like magnesium, l-theanine interacts with GABA but also serotonin and dopamine as well. By raising the levels of the neurochemicals, l-theanine can promote relaxation without a sedative effect.
And, as a result of l-theanine ingestion, we experience increased alpha brain waves, or the pattern of brain activity we associate with meditative states.
On top of its ability to shift the brain into a more relaxed space, l-theanine can also help sharpen focus and cognitive functions. Which isn’t as important for this sleep-centered blog, but it is nice to know your days will improve alongside your nights if you boost your l-theanine levels.
And it makes sense, then, that l-theanine also has observed anxiolytic properties. (That’s a fancy way of saying that it helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety.) Magnesium and l-theanine together make a TKO combo for people who suffer from anxious restlessness or anxiety-related sleep disturbances.
But it doesn’t stop there! Even for non-anxious humans (of which we assume there are still at least a few, somewhere out there), l-theanine can be used to improve sleep latency and efficiency — or how fast you fall asleep and how deep your sleep is.
To boil it all down (pun intended): This humble amino acid, found naturally in the leaves of green, black, and white tea, has no right to be so dang helpful for sleep and brain function. And yet it is.
3. Sleep Better with B-12
Perhaps the most unlikely hero of all, B-12, makes number 3 on the list of underrated sleep supplements for a few key reasons.
While it’s typically known for its energy-boosting properties, B-12 can also support proper cycles of resting and wakefulness. After all, snoozing and cruising are two sides to the same energy production coin, and B-12 is integral in maintaining the balance between both states.
Vitamin B-12 contributes to the synthesis of serotonin, therefore bettering sleep patterns, albeit indirectly. Because serotonin isn’t just the “happy hormone” we know it as — it also plays a crucial part in circadian rhythm maintenance by telling our brains when it’s time to be energetic and when it’s time to relax.
Plus, B-12 is necessary for melatonin production, so ensuring adequate levels of the vitamin is a foundational step toward deeper sleep.
Unfortunately, there’s a huge chunk of us soon-to-be snoozers who aren’t getting nearly enough Vitamin B-12 from our diets alone. Vegans and vegetarians are especially susceptible to B-12 deficiencies as the vitamin can only be synthesized by microorganisms.
So B-12 supplements are on the rise as more and more modern folks struggle with fatigue during the day and restlessness at night. The complex nutrient can help with both, according to recent studies on B-12 supplementation.
One clinical trial, in particular, showed high-dose Vitamin B-12 supplements to have a therapeutic effect on circadian rhythm sleep disorders, while another has linked B vitamins to fewer nocturnal leg cramps.
The field of research is continuing to expand and uncover the intricacies of how B-12 can impact sleep quality but its overall importance for whole-body wellness is a long-settled debate.
4. Ashwagandha for Herbal Sleep Support
For a long while, the conversation on sleep support herbs started and ended with CBD and valerian.
Which makes sense, because both plants have a demonstrated ability to knock us out. But there are scores — fields, even, if you will — of other medicinal herbs with potent relaxation properties.
And thank goodness for that! While the efficacy of both herbs has been proven, each has drawbacks that are important to consider. What CBD lacks in accessibility it makes up for in expense, and valerian’s powerful effects can be a little too powerful. Valerian-induced sedation and sleepiness can last up to 12 hours after consuming, making for a groggy morning if not timed properly.
Ashwagandha, unlike its more popular counterparts, is pretty easy to get ahold of and even easier to enjoy. Plus, as a staple of traditional Ayurvedic herbal practices, this particular herb has been used by us humans for literally thousands of years.
Thankfully, modern medical research is finally catching up to what Ayurvedic practitioners have known for, like we said, literally thousands of years. Clinical trials have shown ashwagandha to have beneficial effects on everything from anxiety and energy levels to stress management and memory.
With anxiolytic, adaptogenic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, ashwagandha is most commonly used as a nerve tonic to support overall well-being. In the sleep arena, this herb stands out for the additional neuroprotective and cardioprotective effects it provides while driving down cortisol levels.
5. Passionflower: Our Favorite Sleep Tincture
If you think you have a passion for flowers then there’s no way you haven’t heard of passionflower, right?
As dorky as that joke was, we stand by the fact passionflower deserves more hype than it gets. A climbing vine native to the southeastern U.S., passionflower was used as a relaxant by indigenous people for centuries before being cultivated by European colonizers.
By the 16th century, passionflower gardens grew widely and with a passionate fury. And yet, its story is similar to ashwagandha’s in that contemporary research has only recently come full circle to confirm its potency as a sleep aid. Scientific studies on the herb have shown it to have a beneficial impact on trouble falling asleep, sleep quality, and anxiety with no adverse effects reported.
Additional research on passionflower is underway, but scientists currently believe that its relaxing and sedating effect is due in part to the plant’s ability to affect GABA levels in the brain, like magnesium and l-theanine.
Passionflower is one of the crowning jewels in our proprietary tincture known as Zzzzz. Working side by side with other herbal relaxation powerhouses like milky oats, hops, and skullcap, our Zzzzz tincture always flies off the shelf this time of year when sleep is more important than ever.
By providing a gentle, holistic alternative to OTC sedatives, passionflower can help target long-term, root causes of sleep issues while also helping you get back to sleep right now. What’s not to love? (Besides our soon-to-be-updated tincture labels, of course.)
Now Go Catch Some Data-Backed Zzzzz’s
Don’t get us wrong — the Zzzzz’s you catch don’t have to be from our particular tincture. As long as you’re trading your hard-earned cash for scientifically verified natural sleep aids from reputable sources, you’re clear in our book.
But if you need a personal Sandman, definitely give us a call.
Our Counterside Consults are open and our holistic supplement experts are standing by to help you through the sleepless nights. (Just make sure you wait to call us until the next morning because we’ll be out like lights thanks to our personal Zzzzz tincture stocks. Bet.)