Sleep is just as important as physical exercise. However, if you struggle to get a restful 8 hours or fight with insomnia each night, quality sleep is not always easy. There’s a lot of sleep advice out there, and you may think that heavy medication is your best bet. Thankfully, vitamins — either obtained from your diet or in a pill form — can play a vital role in promoting healthy sleeping patterns.
Read more: Groggy From Melatonin? Try This Dietary Supplement to Fall Asleep Instead
Here are the best vitamins and supplements to take for your best night’s sleep.
How we chose the best vitamins for sleep
The vitamins and supplements on this list were chosen from my own personal experience of natural sleep aids and heavy market research. Each vitamin or supplement is backed by scientific studies. While supplements are not regulated by the FDA, all the supplements on this list are considered generally safe sleep aids. The precautions, especially with some medications, are listed.
Best sleep vitamins and supplements
Ditch sleeping pills with side effects that leave you feeling drowsy. Promote sleepiness with these natural vitamins and supplements.
This essential nutrient is important for brain and muscle function, the regulation of blood pressure, bone development and more. Additionally, magnesium can help you sleep at night. Studies suggest that magnesium can aid insomnia due to the way the nutrient helps regulate our circadian rhythm. Low levels of magnesium have also been associated with poor sleep.
There are little to no side effects of magnesium. However, too high of a dose can lead to nausea, cramps and diarrhea.
Melatonin is one of the better known supplements for sleep. This hormone is already produced naturally in the brain at night, telling the body it’s time for bed. Synthetic melatonin mimics this natural hormone and may help you fall asleep faster. It may even aid jet lag and some sleep disorders such as delayed sleep-wake phase disorder.
With melatonin, look out for side effects like headaches, upset stomach, tiredness during the day and strange dreams.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Gamma-aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA, is an amino acid neurotransmitter found naturally in our brain (and even in some foods) that helps to calm the body. By slowing messages from the brain to the central nervous system, GABA may be able to decrease anxiety, stress and increase quality sleep. One study found that 300 mg of GABA a day improved sleep quality in 40 insomnia patients after four weeks.
More studies need to be done on the effects of GABA supplements. Use precaution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk with your doctor before starting any supplements.
This amino acid is found naturally in mushrooms and made into some teas. L-theanine behaves similarly to glutamate — an amino acid in our brain that helps transmit signals throughout the body. Studies suggest that L-theanine may promote calm and ease anxiety and stress. One review found that L-theanine is a generally safe natural sleep aid that doesn’t make you feel groggy.
Be careful not to mix L-theanine with blood pressure medications. The amino acid may lower blood pressure so take precautions and speak with your doctor if you are on medication for high blood pressure. Also be weary of mixing L-theanine with sedative medications.
Valerian root comes from a white flower native to Europe and Asia. The plant has long been used to treat cramps, headaches and most commonly — insomnia. While the research is lacking, some studies suggest that valerian root is best for those struggling to sleep with menopausal symptoms. This low-risk herbal remedy is cost-effective and may improve your overall quality of sleep.
You can drink valerian root in a tea or take it in a supplement. If you are really looking for a relaxing, sleep-inducing tea, find a tea with valerian root and chamomile.
Chamomile is a flower widely used to promote sleepiness and aid anxiety. It can even ease symptoms of a sour stomach. If taken at night, chamomile can calm the mind and induce sleep. Studies suggest that the flavonoids (the chemicals found in plants) bind well to the GABAA neuroreceptors in the brain.
I recommend getting chamomile in a tea. It is a lot cheaper than opting for a chamomile supplement.
It should be noted that vitamin D may also promote a good night’s sleep. However, it is not the vitamin itself that aids insomnia. Instead, taking a vitamin D supplement is a good idea if you are vitamin deficient. Studies have found that low levels of vitamin D have been linked to poor sleep. This might be due to the fact that vitamin D is needed in all the tissues in the brain, especially the parts that are essential for sleeping.
I don’t recommend taking a vitamin D supplement specifically for sleep if you are not already deficient. Instead, turn to the other vitamins and supplements on this list.
Risk of sleep supplements
Vitamins and supplements are considered generally safe as they are already found naturally in our diets and bodies. However, before taking any supplements, talk to your doctor. Supplements may interact with certain medications and have risky side effects. Especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to talk about vitamins and supplements with your primary physician before starting to take them.