Melatonin. A hormone produced by the body’s pineal gland, melatonin is critical in regulating sleep-wake cycles and is especially effective at easing insomnia and normalizing sleep after jet lag. Several studies show that 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin significantly increased actual sleep time, sleep efficiency, non-REM sleep and REM sleep. A review of 19 studies involving a total of 1,683 subjects, published in PLOS One, found that melatonin was effective at shortening time to fall asleep, increasing total sleep time and improving overall sleep quality. Look for sublingual melatonin for enhanced absorption and availability.
See Also: 7 Foods to Help You Sleep
L-tryptophan. An amino acid that occurs naturally in high-protein foods, tryptophan has been investigated since the 1970s for its role in treating sleep disorders. It has been shown to increase concentrations of both serotonin and melatonin and to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and promote sleepiness. A review of 20 randomized controlled trials published in Sleep Medicine Reviews showed an overall improvement of insomnia and increase in total sleep time.
Valerian. This perennial herb (Valeriana officinalis), long valued for its sedative properties, was used by ancient Greeks to treat insomnia. The primary active plant compounds include valerenic acids and amino acids, and it’s thought to work by acting on the neurotransmitters GABA and/or serotonin. One review of 16 studies published in The American Journal of Medicine found sleep benefits with valerian, including increased total sleep time, reduced time to fall asleep, fewer nighttime wakings and improved overall sleep quality.