In this article, we’ll look at what nutritional supplements are recommended for deep sleep and recovery, based on the latest data and science.
We’ll share a number of clinical studies published on PubMed, the online database maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
As we stated in our similar article about supplements that may work for anxiety, there is no magic pill that will fix all your sleep issues instantly … but there are a handful of supplements that may help you sleep a little better at the very least. And any improvement in your sleep that actually sticks and causes positive shifts in your sleep habits can make a major difference in your health.
If you’re considering taking nutritional supplements to help you sleep better, read on to discover 6 natural herbal supplements that may help you get some relief from insomnia and a better night’s sleep.
6 of the Best Deep Sleep and Recovery Supplements
Click to read more about the benefits and side effects of each.
Is Melatonin Good for Sleep?
Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays a role in sleep.
It has been shown to synchronize our circadian rhythms, and improve the onset, duration and quality of sleep, meaning it may help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that taking a melatonin supplement may help with:
- Jet lag
- Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (people with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning).
According to the Sleep Foundation, the results of melatonin for insomnia are mixed.
Some experts reviewing it find some evidence in favor of melatonin while organizations like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) have concluded that there is not sufficient scientific support for melatonin in reducing insomnia.
Long story short, melatonin works for some people while for others, it may not have much of an affect.
Melatonin Side Effects and Drug Interactions
The Mayo Clinic says that melatonin is generally safe for short-term use. Treat melatonin as you would any sleeping pill and use it under your doctor’s supervision.
As far as side effects go, melatonin can cause:
Possible drug interactions include:
- Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, herbs and supplements
- Blood pressure drugs
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants
- Diabetes medications
- Contraceptive drugs
- Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19) substrates
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Seizure threshold lowering drugs
Will L Theanine Help You Sleep?
L-theanine is an amino acid found primarily in green and black tea and some mushrooms. It’s also available in pill or tablet form.
Research on the effect of L-theanine for sleep is limited, but here’s what we know based on current evidence:
A 2019 randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that:
Stress-related symptom (i.e., depression, anxiety-trait, and sleep) scores decreased and cognitive function (i.e., verbal fluency and executive function) scores improved after four weeks of L-theanine administration. The reduction in sleep quality problems (disturbances in sleep latency, sleep disturbance, and use of sleep medication) was greater in the L-theanine administration compared to the placebo administration, while verbal fluency, especially letter fluency, was improved in the L-theanine administration among individuals who showed relatively low performance at pretreatment. Moreover, L-theanine administration was safe and well complied with. Therefore, L-theanine may be a suitable nutraceutical ingredient for improving mental conditions in a healthy population.
And a 2011 study found that “400 mg daily of L-theanine is safe and effective in improving some aspects of sleep quality in boys diagnosed with ADHD.”
L-Theanine Side Effects
When taken by mouth: L-theanine is possibly safe when used short-term. Doses of up to 900 mg daily have been safely used for 8 weeks. It isn’t clear if L-theanine is safe to use for longer periods of time. It might cause mild side effects, such as headache or sleepiness.
Is L-Tryptophan Good for Sleep?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays an important role in a handful of different bodily processes. Many people associate tryptophan with turkey and feelings of sleepiness after holiday meals, but it is found in a wide variety of foods and beverages. Some people also take tryptophan supplements, though their safety and efficacy is limited.
A 2022 metaanalysis that looked at several studies of tryptophan’s effect on sleep found that taking a tryptophan supplementation at a dose of ≥1 g can help improve sleep quality, notably reducing the time it takes to fall asleep.
L-Tryptophan Side Effects
L-tryptophan supplements are considered potentially safe for short-term use. Potential side effects include headaches, blurry vision, drowsiness, stomach pain, diarrhea, or vomiting.
L-tryptophan supplements have not been extensively studied and more research is needed to pinpoint why and how they affect the body.
L-tryptophan supplements may interact with certain other medications and produce some undesirable side effects. People who take tryptophan along with medications, herbs, and supplements that have sedative properties may experience breathing problems and excessive sleepiness. Issues may also arise with serotonergic medications, herbs, and supplements, since they – like L-tryptophan supplements – can increase serotonin production. Excessive serotonin levels can lead to vomiting, seizures, and heart problems.
Does CBD Help You Sleep Better?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of 113 naturally-occurring compounds called cannabinoids created by the Cannabis sativa L. plant species.
CBD can be extracted from one of two types of Cannabis sativa plants: hemp or marijuana. The main difference between marijuana and hemp is that hemp contains only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the molecule that causes the “high” that marijuana is famous for.
More controlled clinical trials are needed, but mounting scientific research (both animal and human studies) highlight CBD’s potential as an adjunct treatment for a wide range of maladies, including (but not limited to):
- Anxiety and Depression
- Autoimmune conditions and symptoms (inflammation, chronic arthritis)
- Neurological conditions (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury)
- Neuropsychiatric illness (ADHD, PTSD, alcoholism, opioid addiction)
So what benefits does CBD have, if any, for sleep?
- CBD may hold promise for insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness, according to this study. Researchers said, “Preliminary research into cannabis and insomnia suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.”
- In a 2020 research review, scientists stated that endocannabinoids like CBD “play a prominent role in sleep and sleep neurophysiology.”
- CBD does not appear to alter your sleep-wake cycle like benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Keep in mind certain types of CBD get absorbed by your body faster …
Onset Time With Capsules Vs. CBD Oil Tinctures
- Capsules generally take 45-60 minutes to begin working.
- CBD oil tinctures tend to take effect within 15-30 minutes when applied directly under the tongue.
Is CBD Safe?
CBD is non-toxic, non-intoxicating, and non-habit forming, with few negative side effects.
Your body does not build a tolerance to CBD, so there’s no physical withdrawal symptoms or need to continue upping doses once the therapeutic impact you desire has been achieved.
That being said, there are several serious safety considerations:
- CBD can thin blood, so people with thin blood or who are on blood thinners should consult a doctor before taking it.
- CBD is known to inhibit the CYP450 enzyme system which is a primary means with which the body processes a large assortment of conventional medications (NSAIDs, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, steroids, anesthetics, etc.). Meaning, with both CBD and these drugs in the system, they’re processed slower than normal which can lead to problems, especially liver toxicity.
- Another issue is that certain drugs are designed (prodrugs, like codeine which metabolizes into morphine inside the body) to activate during processing, and CBD can inhibit the amount of the drug being activated.
Side Effects of CBD Usage
According to a 2017 review from the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the three most common side effects from clinical studies looking at patients who used CBD to treat epilepsy and psychotic disorders were strong changes in food intake, some diarrhea, and tiredness at high doses.
Does Ashwagandha Make You Sleep Better?
Ashwagandha is a herbal treatment commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ashwagandha root extract is a natural compound with sleep-inducing potential, well tolerated and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily. It could be of potential use to improve sleep parameters in patients with insomnia and anxiety, but need further large-scale studies.
A randomized, double-blind clinical trial showed that ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and can help in managing insomnia.
More research is need but early results seem promising for ashwagandha and sleep.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
Side effects of using ashwagandha may include:
- Stomach irritation
Avoid ashwagandha or talk to your doctor if any of the following apply to you:
- If you have any issues with your thyroid, check with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha.
- Don’t use ashwagandha if you’re pregnant because it may cause abortion (end your pregnancy).
- Talk with your doctor if you have hormone-sensitive prostate cancer because ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels. This can interfere with your treatments.
- Ashwagandha may increase the drowsiness effects of some prescription medications so talk with your healthcare provider before taking it.
Does Taking Valerian Root Work to Fall Asleep Faster?
However, not all studies have shown valerian to be effective, and the exact dosage needed to sleep better is unclear.
Valerian seems to be most effective after you take it regularly for two or more weeks.
Valerian is also used in patients with mild anxiety, but the data supporting this indication are limited.
Valerian Root Side Effects and Drug Interactions
Although valerian is thought to be fairly safe, side effects such as headache, dizziness, stomach problems or sleeplessness may occur. Valerian may not be safe if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. If you have liver disease, avoid taking valerian. And because valerian can make you drowsy, avoid driving or operating dangerous machinery after taking it.
Valerian may increase the effects of other sleep aids. It also increases the sedative effect of depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines and narcotics. Valerian can interfere with some prescription medications. And it may interact with other dietary supplements, such as St. John’s wort.
If you’re thinking of taking valerian, talk to your doctor first to make sure it won’t interact with other medications or supplements you’re taking and that it’s safe to take with any health or medical conditions you have.
Does taking nutritional supplements to sleep better really work?
Based on the current body of evidence available, there do seem to be some supplements available in pill form that can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less throughout the night, and sleep deeper … but oftentimes it can take some trial and error to figure out what works well for you. Larger studies are definitely needed to better understand the efficacy, safety, and dosing for most natural sleep aids.
Talk to your doctor if you’re having sleep issues before taking any new supplement, so they can help determine the best option(s) for you.
Ultimately, supplements should be a short-term fix.
If you focus your efforts on creating better sleep habits, like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, turning off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, and limiting light exposure in your bedroom, that’s what really going to help you create sustainable changes that improve your sleep over the long-term.