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If you find yourself chasing a good night’s sleep night after night and suffering from sleep deprivation, you are not alone.
It is recommended that adults sleep between 7–9 hours a night, and for good reason. Depriving your body of sleep over the long term may cause a weakened immune system, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Sleep is necessary for your body to recover from the day’s activities, repair damaged cells, and ensure your nervous system gets its much-needed recharge. [1,2]
Having difficulty falling asleep can have a negative impact on your mood and health. Fortunately, there are some activities and natural remedies that can help!
When it comes to supplements for sleep, the first thing many people think about is melatonin. Melatonin helps people fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up feeling alert and refreshed. Your body produces melatonin naturally. Your pineal gland secretes it, which then tells your body it is time to sleep. However, for some people, melatonin may not be the best option, and there are several reasons for this:
Natural melatonin is sourced from animals; so if you are a vegetarian or vegan, the other option is a synthetic source.
Sleeplessness may not be related to decreased melatonin production but rather to another condition that should be investigated by your health care practitioner.
Some people report feeling groggy upon waking when taking melatonin, even at a very low dose.
Taking too much melatonin can have the opposite effect, or perhaps you haven’t figured out the best dosage for you yet. Consider starting at a lower dose, such as 1 mg, and slowly increasing the dose until you find the best fit for you. If this doesn’t work, then melatonin may not be for you.
Exercise, along with relaxation techniques, has profound benefits on reducing stress and improving sleep.
The simple act of pausing for a moment several times a day to take deep breaths and consciously relax can be quite effective in letting go of stress and promoting a more peaceful frame of mind.
Keep a regular sleep pattern. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will train your body to sleep better. Also, avoid napping during the day. Napping will make it much more difficult to sleep at night. If you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes and make sure you are awake for at least four or more hours before bedtime.
Similar to having a sleep schedule, a bedtime routine can help you wind down so you can fall asleep more easily. Here are some suggestions:
Take a warm bath.
Do some light stretching. We recommend these five best stretches to do before bed.
Have a cup of tea. Make sure to choose a tea that promotes relaxation, such as chamomile.
Read a book before going to bed. Bedtime stories aren’t just for kids! Whether you’re reading or listening to stories, they can help you relax and quiet your mind.
Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, cool, and quiet. Clutter in your room and the colour of your walls can also affect your ability to fall asleep. You also need to refrain from using electronics (smart phones, laptops, tablets, TV) within 30 minutes of bedtime as the blue light from these devices restrains your natural production of melatonin.
For more tips on how to improve your sleep, read The Ultimate Guide to Better Sleep.
While melatonin may not be right for you, there are other supplements that can help:
Magnesium is a natural sedative. Magnesium deficiency can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that may help you fall asleep faster, sleep for longer periods of time, and have better sleep quality.  It is best known for its stress-reducing effects. This herb helps lower levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by your adrenal glands in response to stress.
5-HTP is an amino acid that increases the production of serotonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and promotes a feeling of well-being.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, which supports feelings of relaxation and can lower the body’s response to stress, resulting in a more restful sleep.
Valerian root is a traditional herb used to ease pain and improve sleep, digestion, anxiety, and headaches. Valerian may increase the body’s available supply of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that eases physical tension and stress.
Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
Lavender has anxiolytic properties, acts as a sedative, and works with GABA to calm the mind. Lavender is often used as an essential oil in diffusers, bed sheets, and baths.
Glycine helps make serotonin, a hormone that can affect sleep. It also increases blood flow to your extremities, resulting in a decrease in core temperature, which is important for your body’s progression to falling asleep. 
CBD (Cannabidiol) has been shown to have an effect on sleep, and research indicates that it may interact with specific receptors, potentially affecting the sleep-wake cycle. Also, CBD may decrease feelings of anxiety and pain, which for many can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
It is important that you always discuss any changes in your health and supplement regimen with your health care practitioner. There are many health conditions that may be causing your sleeplessness, so ensure you are getting assessed by your health care practitioner to find out these causes. This article is not medical advice, and any changes to your current protocol should be discussed with a health care practitioner.
Joyce Johnson ND (Inactive)
Dr. Joyce Johnson is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and natural health and lifestyle expert with 18 years of experience in the natural medicine field.
Colten HR, Altevogt BM. Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. 2006.
CDC. How much sleep do I need? [Internet]. 2017. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html