Millions of Americans are dependent on medications to help them get through the night without waking. But many of these sedatives come with side effects.
So scientists have been searching for safer ways to help people fall asleep and stay asleep.
The following are some nutritional compounds that have demonstrated such benefits. Keep in mind that not everyone responds to nutrients in the same way, and you should always discuss supplement use with your doctor to avoid side effects and drug interactions.
Melatonin. This hormone regulates the normal sleep-wake cycle, and has been found to promote sleep, especially when people suffer from jet lag. Many studies have shown that melatonin makes it easier to fall asleep in the evening and can help people get back to sleep more quickly if they awaken in the middle of the night.
Theanine. This amino acid found in green tea releases brain GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which activates neurotransmitters that reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Some studies have shown that theanine can also reduce symptoms of anxiety — which, of course, can lead to better sleep.
Valerian. This supplement also increases the amount of the calming GABA neurotransmitter. Placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated its benefits in helping people sleep better.
Curcumin. Several studies have demonstrated curcumin’s benefits for anxiety and depression, which could help some people sleep better at night.
L-tryptophan. This compound is derived from an amino acid that has been used to improve mood and decrease appetite. Studies comparing tryptophan to sleeping pills have shown improvement for insomnia symptoms without the side effects observed from the medication.
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