10 Sleep-Enhancing Supplements Recommended by Doctors
Occasional sleepless nights are inevitable parts of being human. Add demanding work schedules and blue light into the mix, and relaxing can feel impossible. On these difficult evenings, you might turn to a sleep-enhancing supplement to get some shut-eye—but what are they, exactly? These treatments, often taken orally, aim to help you relax enough to fall asleep. In the United States, there are three different types, explains Dr. Abhinav Singh, facility director of the Indiana Sleep Center: melatonin formulations—available as gummies, liquids, capsules, drops, and more—that boost the natural amount of melatonin hormone produced by your brain's pineal gland each evening; antihistamines (such as Benadryl and Tylenol PM) that can induce drowsiness, helping you fall asleep; and natural iterations, such as valerian root, GABA, chamomile, and lavender, which are known to help, but require more research.
When taking supplements, sleep doctors like Dr. Singh emphasize making them one part of a comprehensive routine instead of your sole method for treating insomnia. "Supplements are training wheels," Dr. Singh says. "Don't use them forever. Use them for a few weeks or intermittently as needed. If you feel that you need it every day, bring it up with your doctor."
Adds Dr. Carleara Weiss, a clinician-scientist with a focus on behavioral sleep medicine and circadian rhythm, "Supplements should be part of an overall lifestyle change toward sleep and wellness. Creating a bedtime routine and avoiding electronic devices such as smartphones, TV, laptops, or tablets at least one hour before going to bed should also be part of a wellness plan to improve sleep quality." And finally, remember to seek medical advice to find the safest, most effective supplement for your needs. "These supplements all have different applications and side effects, so it's important to speak with a sleep medicine physician before you self-medicate—or if you find yourself using sleep aids on a regular basis," explains Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, Chief Medical Officer of Nox Health. With all of this in mind, keep reading for doctor-recommended sleep-enhancement supplements to help you get some shut eye.
"Valerian root enhances the signals associated with sleep onset in the brain," says Dr. Durmer. In other words, the herb can potentially work as a sedative for the brain and nervous system if you're struggling with a sleep disorder or insomnia.
Shop Now: GNC Herbal Plus Valerian Root Extract 500 mg, $14.99, gnc.com.
Dr. Nicole Avena, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology, recommends Frunutta if you are new to melatonin supplements. A neuroscience professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, Dr. Avena notes, "Frunutta is easy to take because it dissolves right under your tongue." The dissolvable formula helps your body absorb melatonin more quickly, helping you sleep sooner and preventing grogginess the next day.
Shop Now: Frunutta Dissolvable Melatonin 5 mg, $16.99, frunutta.com.
"It's all about convenience and not needing to take 20 different supplements," Dr. Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., explains, which is why he recommends sleep aids from Natrol; they combine different herbs and sleep-enhancing supplements into single-dose formulas. These gummies contain a 6 milligram dose of melatonin, mixed with calming herbs like lavender and chamomile. "I recommend this supplement for anyone battling stress—which seems to be everyone these days. Lavender, L-theanine, and lemon balm are fantastic for those with restless minds," he adds.
Shop Now: Natrol Sleep+ Calm Melatonin and L-Theanine with Botancial Blend, $13.97, amazon.com.
"I always recommend taking magnesium. Low levels are associated with poor sleep and restless leg syndrome," says Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, Ph.D., neuroscientist and Head Sleep Specialist at Wesper. Magnesium glycinate supplements can help boost your body's natural levels while specifically helping to relieve anxiety, regulate your heart rate, and manage chronic fatigue. "Magnesium is best taken at night to get the most effectiveness for sleep," Dr. Rohrscheib adds.
Shop Now: KAL Magnesium Glycinate 400 mg, $16.49, vitaminshoppe.com.
Low iron levels in the body are also associated with poor sleep quality, Dr. Rohrscheib says. Boosting your natural iron levels with a supplement can also aid red blood cell production, which lessens fatigue and allows for more restful sleep. "Iron can be taken at any time during the day in combination with vitamin C to maximize absorption," notes Dr. Rohrscheib. Good news: This organic supplement from FutureBiotics combines iron with vitamin C.
Shop Now: FutureBiotics Certified Organic Iron + C, $22.18, iherb.com.
Restful sleep is important for maintaining immune health, so if you're dealing with insomnia, this can be one of the main concerns pushing you towards sleep aids, Dr. Dow says. "Natrol Sleep+ Immune Health contains melatonin, vitamins C and D, and zinc," he says, helping you get that much needed rest while strengthening your immune system.
Shop Now: Natrol Sleep+ Immune Health Melatonin and Elderberry Gummies, $13.49, amazon.com.
Your brain produces an amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which helps your thinker and nervous system talk to each other. GABA's nickname is the "calming neurotransmitter," since the communication it facilitates helps ease feelings of anxiety. So what happens if your natural GABA levels are low? Racing thoughts might be keeping you up at night. Dr. Durmer recommends GABA supplements to raise your levels and help your brain and nervous system calm down before bedtime.
Shop Now: NOW GABA 500 mg, $12.99, gnc.com.
"Research demonstrates that micronutrients such as magnesium and amino acids such as L-theanine may promote sleep quality," explains Dr. Weiss. "Melatonin, as we know, also promotes sleep quality, but newer research has shown the benefits of CBD in promoting relaxation, ultimately contributing to sleep." Dr. Weiss recommends Beam Organic's Dream Sleep Powder; it combines so many different elements of recent research. The powder formula includes "sleep-enhancing vitamins, minerals, and nano hemp," which can be mixed with hot water or warm milk to create a relaxing cup of cocoa.
Shop Now: Beam Organics Dream Sleep Powder, $95, beamorganics.com.
Perhaps you don't have any trouble falling asleep, but you keep waking up in the middle of the night. For this dilemma, Dr. Dow recommends a low-dose melatonin supplement such as Natrol "3 a.m." Melatonin, which only contains 3 milligrams in each tablet.
Shop Now: Natrol "3 a.m." Melatonin, $9.99, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed, also known as sleepy-time tea, is often recommended as a natural method to help you calm down, Dr. Durmer says. This is all thanks to an antioxidant called apigenin, which exists within chamomile. It can decrease anxious responses in your body.
Shop Now: Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile with Lavender Herbal Tea, $5.29, target.com.