Science hasn't yet discovered exactly why we need to sleep, yet we do know about the health benefits good quality sleep brings. An optimal sleep routine detox's the brain in fact, doing so by making it possible for the brain to effectively dispose of the waste that brain cells have produced throughout the day. It does this by shrinking neurons to half their size, this makes the channels that the waste moves through wider, and allows the waste to be expelled to the liver twice as fast. Adequate sleep also consolidates memory, improves weight loss, reduces stress, strengthens immunity and puts you in a better mood amongst many other things. So how can we get good sleep?
Sleep experts recommend that adults need between 7 and 9 hours sleep, though the actual number is different for each of us. Growing children need more sleep than adults, and some people may be genetically predisposed to need less sleep. Regardless of your exact sleep requirements we all know that we feel and function better when we are well rested, in fact it's essential to our physical health and emotional well being.
There are a few obvious things we can do to help us establish a good sleep schedule including: keeping the same sleeping hours, cutting down on caffeine, winding down before bed and keeping electronic gadgets such as TVs and phones out of the bedroom.
However, there are also some supplements that can help you sleep, working in various different ways they can mimic natural sleep hormones or just help your mind and body to relax. Here are a few of the most popular sleep hormones and how they work.
Popular sleep supplements
Melatonin is a hormone that works within the body to signal that it's time to sleep. If your body is not producing enough melatonin naturally then it can cause significant disruption to your sleep-wake cycle. A strong bio clock and regular sleep-wake routines are the cornerstone of healthy, restful, rejuvenating sleep therefore taking melatonin supplements can really help get things back on track when they're out of whack.
Research has shown that by mimicking natural melatonin, a melatonin supplement can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and improve quality of sleep. This is even the case for people who work night shifts or are suffering from jet lag.
Just Vitamin's Montmorency Cherry Juice Extract contain high levels of melatonin, in an easy to take capsule.
5-HTP is short for 5-Hydroxytryptophan and is a precursor to seratonin. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a very important role in regulating sleep-wake cycles as well as supporting general mood. Seratonin, is in fact a precursor to melatonin therefore it makes sense that helping your body's seratonin production with 5-HTP supplementation may lead to better sleep.
5-HTP can be effective in improving mood and easing symptoms of stress and anxiety which, in turn, can interfere with sleep. It may also be effective in helping to reduce sleep terrors in children.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves. While tea is the most common dietary source for L-theanine, this compound is also found in some types of mushrooms and is also available in supplement form.
It is known to have some cognitive benefits, but it also has relaxing properties that may help with sleep. Experts say L-theanine supplements can boost calming brain chemicals, including GABA, serotonin and dopamine, to help you relax. It may also help support a healthy response to stress, lowering “excitability” chemicals in the brain. L-theanine doesn’t directly make you sleepy the way melatonin can, but its calming properties may help you drift into slumber more easily.
L-theanine appears to trigger production of alpha waves in the brain, which enhance relaxation, focus, and creativity. This means that L-theanine works to relax you without having a sedating effect thereby making it a good choice for people who are looking to enhance their "wakeful relaxation" without worrying about becoming sleepy and fatigued during the day.
With its ability to increase relaxation and lower stress, L-theanine can help people fall asleep more quickly and easily at bedtime. Research also shows L-theanine can improve the quality of sleep.
Magnesium is a mineral that your body requires for hundreds of different processes. This includes a role in muscle relaxation and helping to calm the mind, which of course are both crucial at bedtime.
Research suggests that magnesium's calming effect may be associated with it's role in regulating sleep hormones, including melatonin. In fact people with low magnesium often experience restless sleep, which means that replenishing the body's magnesium can be helpful for sleep.
Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and quality sleep. Research indicates magnesium supplements can improve sleep quality, especially in people who sleep poorly. Magnesium can also ease symptoms of both mild-to-moderate anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression, which in turn may help you sleep better.
CBD is one of the most calming and stress-reducing of the natural compounds derived from the cannabis plant. New research shows CBD can significantly reduce insomnia symptoms. CBD also can ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain all of which often interfere with sleep. A recent study has shown CBD can exert calming and stress-reducing effects without causing changes to healthy sleep-wake cycles.
Remember, your sleep routine is completely unique to you
Remember, your sleep routine is completely unique to you and it might take time to find what your optimal amount of sleep is, also keep in mind that people sleep differently at different stages of their life, so your sleep requirements are likely to change as you age. A good night’s sleep is the first step to enjoying many health and psychological benefits.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.