Top 4 Supplements to Improve Sleep

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improve sleep

Top 4 Supplements to Improve Sleep

Sleep is a huge problem and most people are looking for ways to improve sleep quality. In today’s society, it’s hard to come by someone who naturally has consistent and truly restorative sleep. Lying in bed while your mind races about how you wish you could be sleeping can be super frustrating… That’s why I created this list of my top supplements to improve sleep because sometimes temporary relief can make a huge difference.

I understand this and I know why many Americans turn to medications and supplements to help take the edge off just to get some sleep. What we sometimes fail to address is if our body has the nutrients it needs to get optimal sleep and that sometimes nutrition plays a major role.

The way I look at it, chronic insomnia or sleep disruptions just aren’t normal. There are several factors involved but sometimes it comes down to your body just not having what it needs. There are several connections between nutrition and sleep that are overlooked too often so in this article I hope to expose those connections to you.

bad sleep, Bad Sleep: Common Causes and How to Reverse It

The Importance of Sleep

Good sleep is important for activating the glymphatic system of the brain.  The glial cells are specialized immune cells within the brain and they help to function to clean up metabolic debris and flush it out of the brain through the cerebrospinal pump.  Sleep is when this process takes place.

When we sleep we get rid of dysfunctional brain and nervous system cells and rebuild new neuronal connections.  Additionally, sleep allows us to reset the balance of neurotransmitters and improve the sensitivity of the neurotransmitter receptors.

This is really important as many people suffer with conditions such as depression, anxiety, brain fog and poor memory that are related to reduced glymphatic activity due to poor sleep quality.

deep sleep, Deep Sleep: What Is It and How to Measure and Optimize It

Nutrition-Related Sleep Problems

One of the reasons I think that the nutrition-sleep connection is not made is that the connections aren’t very obvious. These are what I have noticed to be some of the common culprits in my experience.

Blood sugar issues are so common in our society, many people also suffer with nutrient deficiencies and disorders in their microbiome.  All of these conditions can hamper sleep quality.

Blood Sugar Dysregulation 

Blood sugar problems can disrupt sleep big time. The main reason this happens has to do with the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands during high-stress situations or when the body perceives an immediate crisis. One of the primary actions of cortisol is to pull sugar from glycogen stores and into the blood so the body can use it for immediate energy to solve the crisis.

If we are eating a diet that is constantly throwing our blood sugar around, it can become hard for the body to regulate it. When an intense blood sugar crash occurs, cortisol is released to help stabilize it.

Consuming a meal rich in fast-digesting sources of sugars before bed will likely lead to this kind of blood sugar response and either prevent you from falling sleep or wake you up in the middle of the night. If you are someone who consumes a carbohydrate-rich diet and often wake during the night, you may want to address this first.

Try instead opting for a meal high in healthy fats, a nice clean source of protein, and some slow digesting carbs. Scroll down for some great information on eating this style of diet.

Nutrient Deficiencies 

The body relies on chemical signals in order to properly regulate itself. Whether it is a hormone, neurotransmitter, or a protein, the body needs to have the building blocks necessary to manufacture those chemicals.

For example, the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA that signals the brain to relax requires adequate amounts of zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium, taurine, and glutamine. Being able to produce enough melatonin at night also depends on your intake of tryptophan which then needs all the necessary conversion factors to be made into melatonin.

I would say the two biggest factors here to address are to make sure you are consuming a super nutrient dense diet devoid of as many toxins (pesticides, molds, heavy metals) as possible. On top of that you want to make sure you have strong stomach acid and a healthy gut, otherwise you will not be able to absorb these critical nutrients.

Gut Problems

Partially mentioned already, your gut health can influence your ability to get good sleep at night. Not only will poor gut health inhibit the absorption of nutrients needed to make sleep chemicals in the body, but can also damage the very tissues in the gut that produce these chemicals.

Did you know that your gut produces most of your melatonin (not your pineal gland)(1)? Gut health is tied to overall health in complex ways that we do not fully understand yet. I always look to the gut in times of dysfunction in the body, including chronic insomnia.

My main action tips here are:

  1. Remove as many toxins from the diet as possible that could contribute to gut damage. This includes pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and fungus.
  2. Be proactive in healing your gut lining. Consume things like bone broth, fermented foods, and a high-quality probiotic on a regular basis.
  3. Find out if you have any food sensitivities. It is possible that foods you are eating every day are damaging your gut even though you don’t feel any different after eating them. Common ones are eggs, dairy, nightshade vegetables, grains, and caffeine.

Healing Diet 

The three major issues that were just outlined can be addressed nutritionally by following the healing diet guidelines here. This type of nutrition plan maximizes the nutrients you are getting from your food while also limiting toxins and sensitive foods that may be causing you trouble.

By following this style of eating you empower your own body to balance blood sugar, obtain the nutrients it needs, and give the gut a chance to heal any damage it may have.  In addition to following a healing diet, there are certain supplements that can help boost the quality of your sleep: some for daily use and some only recommended for occasional use.


Good Sleep Hygiene

While this article is about nutrition and supplement strategies for good sleep, I can not overemphasize the importance of good sleep hygiene.  Sleep hygiene refers to the practices you have throughout the day and especially in the evening that prepare you for a good night sleep.

This includes things like having your room cool and as dark as possible, wearing a sleep mask and avoiding bright lights in the evening.  The following strategies are things you can start implementing right away to ensure you are getting the sleep you need to be on your game all the time.

Top 4 Supplements to Improve Sleep 

Although I wouldn’t consider a reliance on supplements for sleep a healthy practice, there are some supplements that can improve the body’s own ability to induce sleep. When it comes down to it, sleep is a regulatory cycle in the body.

By using substances that improve the body’s ability to regulate itself, sleep can actually be improved over time and not just when the substance is being used.  With that said, here are the best supplements to improve sleep quality.

1. Magnesium To Improve Sleep Quality

I believe magnesium deficiency may be one of the most pervasive and insidious deficiencies of our time. There are many consequences of not taking in adequate dietary magnesium. Utilized in over 300 different body processes, it just may be one of the most important minerals in our bodies.

In terms of sleep, magnesium plays a critical role in regulating melatonin and GABA levels in the brain (2, 3). Melatonin and GABA are released in healthy individuals to help induce relaxation and sleep. Without adequate magnesium intake, the brain may not be able to properly signal the body for sleep.

Also, for its ability to support GABA production in the brain, magnesium is an effective anxiolytic. Additional research has shown that magnesium helps to balance blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and relieve physical tension. For anyone experiencing insomnia and especially those who can’t seem to shut their brain off at night, magnesium is my go-to.

I typically recommend Brain Calm Magnesium or the Mag Sleep clinically because these products contain a form of magnesium that has been proven to improve sleep quality and the Mag Sleep also has sleep enhancing herbs such as lavender and tart cherry powder.  I hear consistent testimonies from our followers about how well these two magnesium products improve sleep quality.

2. Adaptogens To Improve Sleep Quality

Adaptogens are substances that improve the body’s ability to endure stress. Traditionally, adaptogens were seen more as a performance enhancer for athletes but could they also improve sleep?

There aren’t too many studies investigating the direct impact of adaptogens on sleep. What there is, however, is research showing the ability of adaptogenic herbs to lower cortisol and improve anxiety. This could be an effective remedy for anyone who is enduring chronic stress or blood sugar imbalance that is causing an evening spike in cortisol.

The most effective herbs I have found for this purpose are ashwagandha, reishi mushroom, Magnolia bark, cordyceps and rhodiola (4, 5).  One product we use is Cortisol Defense which has clinical doses of ashwagandha and Magnolia bark.  These will help improve sleep quality and daily energy levels.

improve sleep3. Relaxing Herbs To Improve Sleep Quality

There are several herbs that can help to improve sleep quality. I find that for someone with severe insomnia, these herbs don’t quite do the job. In combination with other strategies, however, certain herbs can complement a sleep plan very well.

Some of my favorite herbs to improve sleep are kava, chamomile, valerian, passionflower, lavender, and lemon balm. Instead of going out and buying all of these herbs, I usually recommend this Nighty Night tea made by Traditional Medicinals that combines many of the best sleep herbs in one tea bag.  Use this daily to improve sleep quality!  We also offer a great supplement with clinical doses of these calming herbs called Relax Calm.

improve sleep

4. Melatonin To Improve Sleep Quality

This one is touchy and there are many opinions on melatonin. When it comes down to it, melatonin is a hormone. The ideal situation would be to optimize your body’s own ability to create melatonin so I would consider this supplement an acute support for occasional use.

Supplementing with melatonin can be very useful for either occasional sleep support or retraining the sleep cycle.  For this purpose I really like this magnesium plus melatonin that can be applied to the skin. Applied to the abdomen this combination works really well for relaxation and sleep.

If you prefer Melatonin capsules we offer our Sleep Support supplement which is a slow release form that brings up your melatonin levels and keeps them sustained for the first 6 hours of sleep before they start to fade in order to prepare you to wake up with energy.

improve sleep

Bonus Sleep HACK: Camping 

It’s starting to become apparent that many of our sleep problems are a result of not being fully in tune with nature. Naturally our bodies should coordinate with the cycles of night and day and additional support shouldn’t be needed. While nutrition plays a huge role in helping the body regulate itself, there is another major deficiency that I believe affects almost all Americans. This deficiency is exposure to nature.

The benefits of being in nature are increasingly being uncovered and range from mood improvement, boosts in creativity, better immunity, stress reduction, and yes, even better sleep. A recent study investigated the influence that camping has on our sleep and found that, in the absence of artificial lighting (that means no cellphones), sleep onset occurred much earlier and in sync with the rising and setting of the sun (6).

The most valuable hours for sleep are considered to be between 10pm and 2am so using camping as a way to reset your sleep cycles could be a game-changer. The study found that even just a weekend of camping had a powerful ability to reset the circadian rhythm. Additionally, being in nature during the day will lower cortisol, improve mood, and inspire creativity!

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Sources For This Article Include:

1. Konturek, S. J., Konturek, P. C., Brzozowska, I., Pawlik, M., Sliwowski, Z., Cześnikiewicz-Guzik, M., … Pawlik, W. W. (2007). Localization and biological activities of melatonin in intact and diseased Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT). Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 58(3), 381–405. PMID: 17928638
2. Billyard, A. J., Eggett, D. L., & Franz, K. B. (2006). Dietary magnesium deficiency decreases plasma melatonin in rats. Magnesium Research, 19(3), 157–161. PMID: 17172005
3. Moykkynen, T., Uusi-Oukari, M., Heikkila, J., Lovinger, D. M., Luddens, H., & Korpi, E. R. (2001). Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Neuroreport, 12(10), 2175–2179. PMID: 11447329
4. Candelario, M., Cuellar, E., Reyes-Ruiz, J. M., Darabedian, N., Feimeng, Z., Miledi, R., … Limon, A. (2015). Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABA<inf>A</inf> and GABA?? receptors. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 171, 264–272. PMID: 26068424
5. Cui, X. Y., Cui, S. Y., Zhang, J., Wang, Z. J., Yu, B., Sheng, Z. F., … Zhang, Y. H. (2012). Extract of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 139(3), 796–800. PMID: 22207209
6. Wright, K. P., McHill, A. W., Birks, B. R., Griffin, B. R., Rusterholz, T., & Chinoy, E. D. (2013). Entrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycle. Current Biology, 23(16), 1554–1558. PMID: 23910656

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  1. I had also seen a clip about parasites waking people up in the middle of the night, so that is something to get checked. Have you heard of that?

    Also on another site I had seen that taking a small dose of 20 Mule Team Borax diluted in water, see for more information, will help with sleep…

  2. Thanks for another great article. What form of Magnisium do you recommend? I use : ascorbate, stearate, oxide & oxide monohydrate.

      1. Thanks for your answer. It’s a great article about magnesium.

        What is your supplement made of, for I need to know it’s kosher.

    1. Hi Hana, Stearate is not a form of Magnesium. It a chemical that supplements manufactures use and it is not healthy. It is some sort of salts. Please avoid.

  3. Thank you, Dr. Jokers. Some things I knew-about the role of magnesium, for instance, but I was surprised to find out some other new information. All these supplements you mention can be used at the same time with classical medication for anxiety and part of depressions-anxiety prevails-like Effector and some pills for sleep? I used to take just Effector for about six years,and I felt great, but my mistake was that I gave up pills gradually and two months it was all right until all of a sudden the symptoms reappeared. Now I am taking Effector of 150, just like before when I felt great, but now I have to help myself with some pills for sleep and calmness until Effector begins to really work. Thank you again for your precious advice! Congrats for your great family!

  4. Thank you for this very rare, thorough & informative information regarding to causes for sleep deficiency!
    I would like to try the Brain Calm Magnesium (hopefully to help w/ my nightly blood sugar issues). As long as it doesn’t containl-theanine I should be alright. For some reason I was sensitive to that when trying it a while back. I do have sensitivities to some supplements (not just foods or medications). Could be due to a pituitary adenoma??
    Anyhow – thank you for such valuable information Dr. Jockers!
    Best regards,

    Isabel A.

      1. Months later – I’m finally viewing this! All my sincere thanks & blessings to you & your family. 🙂

  5. Hi Doc! I’ve never used malate before. I was told it is hard to absorb. I have healed my gut which promotes deeper sleep.
    I use Natural calm, Nitey Nite tea, liquid melatonin, um…not altogether…lol.

    I’m Interested in using your premethalated b.
    I have both gene MTHFR.
    I was using Uckele brand Bio V. And taking Dr. Groups B12 2500 mcg liquid, 1/2 dose.
    Will I have to take extra B12 with your formula?
    Appreciate your input.

  6. I really need help with the middle of the night wake-up problem. It seems like I am often awake for an hour and then I can go back to sleep. I’m currently taking melatonin, magnesium and vitamin C before bed.

  7. Would you be able to tell me if your herbs for sleep are low in Oxalate? This has cause me a lot of trouble sleeping and I have had to stop some Herbs!

  8. These days I get up about three times a night to pee.
    Yet I have no kidney , prostate, heart or any digestive problems
    and I usually go back to sleep immediately.

  9. We live in the country which is great for fresh air and lots of room to walk in nature but I am still concerned about walking around barefoot bcuz we also have deer raccoon possum coyote chickens wild turkey dogs and even a bobcat ! Running around here and I am concerned with parasites/worms etc Not to mention thorns twigs sharp rocks …. Is there some kind of sock or foot covering that the fabric used still allows for the grounding process to happen?

  10. Love linden flower tea!
    Every year I collect enough flowers to last me all year. I’ve been taking your brain calm mag for a while now and LOVE it. I do think it recently got smaller though…?
    Started taking melatonin after menopause as well. I think I finally got my sleep down now. 🙂 Unless of course I cheat with the sweets, then I pay for it. Haha

  11. Insomnia’s awful. Tried supplements including adaptogens since 2007. Then even Rx sleep meds didn’t work. They were my last resort. Melatonin made me nauseous. That’s finally changed. I increased some dosages and combinations. Now take 200mg Magnesium during the day, another 300-400mg one hr before bed, along with 1x L-Tryptophan and/or a 1/2-1 dropper of Passionflower liquid extract. This works. And magnesium increase was they key. But you must increase gradually (I learned the hard way). Taking up to 800mg of magnesium, which was recommended to me, was horrible. As they forgot to say to do so gradually! Starting with 200mg both AM & PM, then adding 100mg in the PM every 4-7 days. That was the magic. Many ppl need a much more Magnesium than they think, I was one of them. One dr told said, up to 800mg maybe what you need (but gradually). I’m now taking 500-600mg. And the type of magnesium is important. Forget oxide, it’s basically a laxative and cheap filler. Magnesium Glycinate or Bisblycinate (same thing, two different names), or Threonate is great. They cross the blood brain barrier for greater benefits.

  12. I seldom have trouble with sleep, since I follow most of your recommendations.
    However, i have had some bad occasions when I tried melatonin 3 mg x 3 tablets
    but they did not help at all.

    1. Hello Ian, yes for a small subset of individuals, they do have trouble with melatonin supplementation. If you have had these issues, try the 5-HTP and L-theanine in our Mood Protect product or the calming herbs.

  13. Your health emails are amazing. They are researched, seasonally repeated, and so well explained and illustrated. I have bought some products through your site and hope to purchase more as income is available on retirement income. I wanted to thank and bless you for all you give…and give…and give.

  14. Hello Dr Jockers,
    I have sustained TBI years ago along with other traumas. I definitely have difficulty with sleep issues! Also hypoglycemia & adrenal insufficiency. I take Valerian root & melatonin which help some. I’m wondering if the sleep troubles are due to HPA dysfunction? I waken after 12:30 am & sometimes go back to sleep around time to get up. I plan to check out your products asap. Any other suggestions are welcome.

    1. I had this problem. Turned out my nighttime cortisol levels were really high. I use a product called Seriphos which lowers cortisol by fixing your HPA axis. It has a long history. I take one before dinner and 3 before bed. I also use lactium in a product from Swanson that works faster and I take one with a Seriphos if I wake at night and have trouble going back to sleep.

  15. Great advice. Look up Jim Donovan TedTalk where he shows how you can used rhythym to slow your brain down and sleep (it also helps your vagus nerve). It really works but it took a few times for it to work for me. I used it this mornign when I woke at 6:30 and overslept to 10AM.

  16. I can’t seem to find these indicators on your products? Non-gmo, organic, fair trade, cruelty free, sustainably harvested and others . Am I missing something?

  17. Thank you, Dr. Jockers, you mentioned in a recent podcast about an app or podcast you like to help sleep I think it’s called sleepy magic or something, do you have the link to that? Thanks.

  18. Bonjour, existe-il une technique de respiration vraiment rapide et efficace pour améliorer le sommeil? et que faire lorsqu’on peut pas dormir du tout?

  19. Bonjour, existe-t-il une technique de respiration vraiment rapide et efficace pour améliorer le sommeil ? et que faire lorsqu’on ne peut pas dormir du tout?

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