I don't know about you, but when I lay down to go to bed and my body just won't switch off, it absolutely sucks.
It's even worse and downright frustrating knowing that you have an important meeting or busy schedule the next day, and you just can't get that noggin' to switch off.
There are many reasons why we don't sleep, from racing thoughts, anxiety, and relationship problems, to nutrient deficiencies, biological imbalances, and even dips in our blood sugar through-out the night.
In this article, we will discuss some fairly common although potentially less used natural sleep aids that have shown effective in improving a night of sleep long-term. We will aim to discuss why each nutrient is effective at improving our sleep, and some supplement options that are available.
Magnesium is probably one of the most common and well-known compounds for improving sleep, in fact, magnesium supplementation as a natural sleep aid has shown to improve sleep duration, sleep onset (time falling asleep) and increases serum melatonin, our an important hormone that governs our internal body clock (Cao et al., 2018).
This is an important micro-nutrient to start with as a natural sleep aid, because according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an estimated one third of Australian Adult's don't meet their magnesium requirements (Australian health survey, 2015), and even that "benchmark" may be too low for adequate body function.
Of course, when shopping for magnesium supplements, not all are created equal. You want to look for products that contain highly bioavailable forms of magnesium, such as Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Orotate.
Some forms of magnesium you may want to avoid include: Magnesium Oxide (low absorption, common in most supermarket brands) and Magnesium Aspartate (has shown to be neurotoxic, common in most cheap ZMA supplements).
Some products that we recommend for magnesium as a natural sleep aid include:
True Protein ZMA Blend (contains magnesium citrate, not aspartate!)
β-caryophyllene (BCP) is an aromatic compound commonly found in hemp oil, and other common essential oils including rosemary, clove and black pepper.
This compound has some extensive reach on it's ability to act on cannabinoid receptors in the body, which help modulate inflammation, reduce pain, and also, as a natural sleep aid.
If you want to learn more about BCP's effect on pain reduction, you can read more here.
BCP works well as a sleep aid through it's ability to minimise oxidative stress and lower anxiety, which results in a mind that is able to slow down, relax, and switch off. Studies have actually underscored BCP's anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) properties as a potential to decrease sleep latency (time to fall asleep) and increase sleep time (time asleep) (Galdino et al., 2012).
There are many β-caryophyllene extracts out there on the market, and the one we recommend is Cannamax Plus with Hemp, which contains 50% β-caryophyllene Oil and only requires just a few drops.
Glycine is known as a non-essential amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter that functions primarily in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Glycine plays a crucial role in regulating food intake, blood sugar control, and due to it's inhibitory actions on the CNS, also assists in the improvement of mood and sleep.
Studies have shown that moderate-to-high intake of glycine may help us fall asleep faster, improve sleep efficiency (time in bed) and may even promote a deeper, more restful night of sleep (Inagawa et al., 2006).
Supplementation with glycine or glycine-rich compounds such as Nutra Organics Gelatin is also a great way increase serotonin levels, which subsequently is then converted into melatonin at night, which encourages healthy sleep patterns, and encourages a deeper, more restful sleep (Bannai et al., 2011).
Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) Oil
It might seem a bit odd, but supplementing with MCT Oil as a natural sleep aid may actually improve the quality of your sleep.
Usually, through-out the night, we may experience some level of blood sugar fluctuation, maybe from perhaps a large carbohydrate meal or pre-bed sugary snack. When our blood sugar fluctuates at night, it may cause us to wake up frequently, lowering the quality of the sleep that we get.
When we increase our fat intake through a clean energy source such as MCT Oil, we can reduce these insulin-esque blood sugar spikes commonly associated with a high intake of carbohydrates before bed (Geng et al., 2015).
MCT Oil also increases our fat oxidation (or fat burning) capacity while we sleep, whilst also increasing the time we stay asleep, which allows for a more restful, restorative sleep.
What's even better, you can get MCT Oil in the form of delicious sleep-friendly desserts, including Ketao Keto Custard, which contains a high level of powdered MCT Oil.
Lastly, we look at a Vitamin that is constantly overlooked as a natural sleep aid for improving sleep, and that's Vitamin D.
According to studies, there may be an association between individuals with Vitamin D deficiency and sleep disorders, including poor sleep quality, short sleep duration and overall daytime sleepiness (Gao et al., 2018).
This may be due to Vitamin D's ability to influence the body's daily sleep-wake cycle through it's ability to influence levels of serotonin in the body, which can be used by the body to convert into melatonin, two important hormones that regulate the body clock (Choukri et al., 2018).
Additionally, vitamin D obtained by sun exposure also as an indirect effect on signaling the body on when it's daytime, and night time. Daily sunlight exposure has massive influences on sleep, and highlights the the importance of getting your daily dose of sunlight through-out the day.
This also means that when supplementing with Vitamin D, it's best to supplement in the morning, rather than at night.
Not being able to get to sleep at night sucks, and it's an even worse feeling knowing your sleep and energy levels are going to suffer next day.
Luckily, there are compounds such as Magnesium, β-caryophyllene, Glycine, MCT Oil and Vitamin D that we can use to improve our sleep long-term.
When we look at addressing our sleep long-term, it can help us get to sleep faster, reduce the amount of time we may wake during the night, and overall increase the the quality of our sleep.
If you know if you other natural sleep aids that have worked wonders for you, leave it in the comments.
About The Author: Stephen Brumwell
As a Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and holistic wellbeing. His goal is to help people better understand the science of human health, and how they can use it to perform better and live a life that is absolutely limitless.
- Australian health survey. (2015).Australian health survey: Usual nutrient intakes, 2011-12. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/australian-health-survey-usual-nutrient-intakes/latest-release
- Bannai, M., Kawai, N., Nagao, K., Nakano, S., Matsuzawa, D., & Shimizu, E. (2011). Oral administration of glycine increases extracellular serotonin but not dopamine in the prefrontal cortex of rats.Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 65(2), 142-149. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1819.2010.02181.x
- Cao, Y., Zhen, S., Taylor, A., Appleton, S., Atlantis, E., & Shi, Z. (2018). Magnesium intake and sleep disorder symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu nutrition study of Chinese adults at five-year follow-up.Nutrients, 10(10), 1354. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101354
- Choukri, M. A., Conner, T. S., Haszard, J. J., Harper, M. J., & Houghton, L. A. (2018). Effect of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms and psychological wellbeing in healthy adult women: A double-blind randomised controlled clinical trial.Journal of Nutritional Science, 7. https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2018.14
- Galdino, P. M., Nascimento, M. V., Florentino, I. F., Lino, R. C., Fajemiroye, J. O., Chaibub, B. A., & Costa, E. A. (2012). The anxiolytic-like effect of an essential oil derived from Spiranthera odoratissima A. St. Hil. leaves and its major component, β-caryophyllene, in male mice. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 38(2), 276-284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2012.04.012
- Gao, Q., Kou, T., Zhuang, B., Ren, Y., Dong, X., & Wang, Q. (2018). The association between vitamin D deficiency and sleep disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 10(10), 1395. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101395
- Geng, S., Zhu, W., Xie, C., Li, X., Wu, J., Liang, Z., Xie, W., Zhu, J., Huang, C., Zhu, M., Wu, R., & Zhong, C. (2015). Medium-chain triglyceride ameliorates insulin resistance and inflammation in high fat diet-induced obese mice.European Journal of Nutrition, 55(3), 931-940. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-015-0907-0
- Inagawa, K., Hiraoka, T., Kohda, T., Yamadera, W., & Takahashi, M. (2006). Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality.Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4(1), 75-77. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x