Good sleep is key to both physical and mental health. While you are asleep, your body performs important functions like muscle repair, tissue growth and protein synthesis. In the brain, memories are stored and processed during sleep. You also need sleep to think clearly and to help regulate your overall mood.
Unfortunately, understanding the importance of sleep doesn't mean you're getting enough of it. The good news? Researchers have identified certain ingredients that can can support restful sleep. Here are some of the best natural sleep aids.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps regulate the body's natural sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. When this rhythm is thrown off, sleep disturbances can occur. Restoring it may lead to better sleep as well as improved mood and cognitive function, according to a study in Current Neuropharmacology.
For people whose sleep-wake cycles have been disrupted — whether by travel, late nights, stress or over-exposure to electronic devices — supplementing with melatonin may help reset the body's internal clock. It can promote restful sleep without leaving you feeling groggy the next day.
Ashwagandha belongs to a group of plants known as adaptogens that support a healthy stress response. Ashwagandha appears to work by moderating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a significant role in the body's reaction to stressors.
Supplementing with ashwagandha may support healthy sleep by promoting relaxation, according to a study in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night because of stress, ashwagandha might help.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It plays a role in sleep regulation by moderating central nervous system excitability, noted a study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. Many Americans consume less than the recommended daily amount of this mineral, as reported by the National Institutes of Health.
Supplementing with magnesium can promote healthy sleep patterns, potentially helping you fall and stay asleep. Magnesium may also support the body during stressful times, which could be useful for those whose worries keep them awake.
Valerian is a herb with a long history of use for rest and relaxation. It has sleep-promoting effects, possibly because it increases the activity of the calming neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Because of its soothing properties, valerian has been extensively studied as a natural sleep aid. It seems to work particularly well to promote healthy sleep when used in combination with other herbs like hops, passionflower and lemon balm.
Passionflower is another herb traditionally considered to be one of the best natural sleep aids. Thanks to its sedative and relaxing effects, it may be useful for those whose nervousness and restlessness keep them awake, a study in Phytotherapy Research found.
As mentioned above, passionflower is frequently combined with valerian and other herbs to support healthy sleep but can also be used on its own.
Sleep is a time for rejuvenation and repair — one that benefits both body and mind. A good night's sleep leaves you refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life throws at you. Since it's not always possible to get as much sleep as you'd like, natural sleep aids can provide you with additional sleep support.
Ingredients like melatonin, ashwagandha, magnesium, L-theanine, valerian and passionflower can be used on their own or together as part of a wellness plan that promotes restful sleep. If you cant always get enough hours of sleep, adding the support of these natural aids to promote restful, quality sleep can be highly beneficial.