With exception to immortals and the occasional freak of nature, everyone needs sleep. Contrary to the past few decades of motivational “you can sleep when you’re dead” go-getter sermons, getting adequate sleep every night is actually one of the key ingredients to success. In fact, the more active you are during the day, even if “activity” in this sense simply means paying attention to difficult class lectures, the greater your need for deep, restful sleep.
Even so, plenty of us, despite our awareness of the life-essential importance of sleep, consistently fail to get enough sleep. Some research even suggests that the global pervasiveness of sleep deprivation is tantamount to a public health crisis, an issue with direct and indirect negative consequences on our physical, mental, and even economic health.
From poor cardiovascular health to cognitive decline, obesity to vehicular accidents, the costs of getting insufficient sleep can be deadly.
Why then are we failing to get enough sleep? Don’t we like sleep??
There can be any number of reasons why we’re failing to get enough sleep: inconsistent sleep schedules, lack of daily exercise and activity, overconsumption of caffeine and other stimulants, overexposure to blue light-emitting electronics, etc. Whatever the cause, our circadian rhythms are off, and we need to get them back on track.
One of the best ways to get your circadian rhythm back into healthy order involves taking a natural, healthy sleep aid supplement.
As opposed to, say, prescription sedatives, natural sleep supplements may significantly improve your sleep quality without any of the attendant side effects that tend to come with powerful, prescription-grade tranquilization. This means that with a sleep supplement, you can get better sleep without impairing your daytime performance and productivity.
But you don’t want any ol’ sleep supplement. After all, though many over-the-counter (OTC) sleep supplements boast having an “all-natural” sleep formula, many of those same OTC sleep aids either don’t work or they work too well, resulting in a foggy, groggy morning after.
Which is why we’ve listed here the Best Sleep Supplements to Buy in 2020—all tried, tested, and reviewed for you!
Top-Rated Sleep Supplements
Whereas many supplements supply large doses of synthetic melatonin, which is commonly linked to morning grogginess and headache, Performance Lab Sleep supplies a minimally effective dose of natural melatonin extracted from Montmorency tart cherries.
The extract is called CherryPURE®, which is a premium melatonin ingredient that not only induces and extends deep sleep but also provides a rich mix of joint- and muscle-soothing antioxidants. This combination of bio-effects makes Performance Lab Sleep particularly effective for athletes and exercisers—and anyone else engaged in a highly active lifestyle.
- 100% Plant-Based, Vegan-Friendly, Eco-Friendly
- CherryPURE® Montmorency Tart Cherry Extract
- TryptoPure® L-Tryptophan
- Probiotic-Cultivated NutriGenesis® Magnesium
- Prebiotic-Infused NutriCaps® Capsules
- Two NutriCaps® Per Serving
- Safe for Long-Term, Daily Use
Aiding the sleep-promoting benefits of CherryPURE® are TryptoPure®, a plant-sourced amino acid that promotes synthesis of sleep-supportive, mood-boosting brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin), and NutriGenesis® Magnesium, a probiotic-cultivated mineral that helps calm overexcited brain activity and muscle twitches.
Altogether, these ingredients contribute both towards nighttime sleep enhancement and daytime cognitive performance, thanks in large part to melatonin’s modest dose and L-tryptophan’s next-morning mood support. Also, thanks to Performance Lab Sleep’s modest dose of melatonin, this is a formula that easily scalable, allowing for pre-bedtime serving sizes that can range anywhere from 2-4 capsules.
The results: quicker sleep onset, greater overall recovery, optimal tissue repair, enhanced joint recovery, faster cell renewal, brighter daytime cognition, and no next-morning grogginess.
- Free from harmful, synthetic additives
- Premium ingredient brands
- All-natural ingredients and capsules
- Low, yet effective, dose of melatonin
- Additional antioxidants for tissue repair
- Sleep-supportive L-tryptophan and magnesium
- No morning grog or brain fog
- Non-habit forming
- Not available in stores like Amazon or GNC
All Performance Lab products sell exclusively through the Performance Lab website. Performance Lab Sleep is an intelligently designed and affordably priced source of natural melatonin. With its clean label and manufacturing practices, on top of its premium quality ingredients, this sleep aid supplement is an excellent choice for anyone looking to simply get better sleep. (Without any of the usual melatonin side effect hang-ups in the morning!)
Powher Down is a sleep support supplement designed specifically for women. Formulated with proven sleep enhancers, Powher Down is designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
- Melatonin for relaxation and longer, deeper sleep
- Magnesium for healthy nervous system function
- L-tryptophan for increased serotonin and melatonin production and bioavailability
- Chamomile for its calming effect
Powher contains no harsh or additive ingredients. In fact, all of the compounds in this product can be found in nature. For example, melatonin can be obtained from tart cherries and tomatoes, while L-tryptophan, an amino acid, can be found in bananas and turkey. This means Powher Down is a safe, natural sleep enhancer that is suitable for most users.
Read the full Powher Down review here.
- Proven, natural ingredients
- Gentle but effective formulation
- Suitable for vegetarians
- Easy to use
- May help prevent jet lag
- Quite expensive
- Not designed for men
If you are a woman struggling to get enough sleep, Powher Down can help. Made with natural, proven ingredients, this useful product should help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to face the day!
Alpha Lion Superhuman Sleep is more than just a standard sleep enhancer. While it WILL help you sleep longer and more soundly, it also contains ingredients that can help you recover faster from exercise, build muscle, and even burn fat. If you want to get lean while you sleep, this product can help.
- Proven sleep-enhancing, fat burning, muscle building ingredients
- 30 servings per container
- Fast-acting formula
- Available in two flavors
- Suitable for men and women
To use Alpha Lion Superhuman Sleep, simply mix a 10-gram scoop with water and drink about 30 minutes before bedtime. You’ll soon start to feel drowsy, relaxed, and ready to sleep.
As you slumber, your body will get busy burning fat and building muscle, as well as restoring your energy levels so that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day ahead.
- Easy to use
- Tastes good
- Non-habit forming
- Each tub contains a one-month supply
- Can cause very vivid dreams
While Alpha Lion Superhuman Sleep will definitely help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper and longer, it won’t leave you feeling drowsy like prescription sleeping medications can. But, ingredients like GABA, magnesium, and tryptophan promote REM sleep, which is when we tend to dream. Because of this, you should expect some vivid dreams when you use this supplement.
- Supports mood and sleep – We supplemented 200mg of pure 5-HTP with clinically studied SAMe and L Tryptophan to optimize 5-HTP conversion and manage stress levels in the body.
- Contains vitamin B6 for improved 5-HTP conversion – Vitamin B6 has been shown to aid 5-HTP conversion. Studies show that even a slight B6 deficiency can greatly inhibit the efficacy of 5-HTP.
- Promotes calm and relaxation – Dr. Emil’s 200 MG 5-HTP Plus formula is a natural way to promote a calm and relaxed mood by supporting 5-HTP conversion in the body.
- Doctor-derived formula – Dr. Emil Hodzovic has painstakingly formulated our 200 MG 5-HTP Plus supplement with the highest quality ingredients that are gluten-free, non-GMO, and manufactured in a cGMP facility to ensures that each product is 100% free of hype, hormones, and empty promises.
- Helping create a healthier world – Thanks to our customers, and through our partnership with Vitamin Angels, Dr. Emil Nutrition is helping create a healthier world for mothers and children everywhere.
Dr. Emil Hodzovic is a medical doctor, nutrition expert, and bodybuilder. As such, he is uniquely positioned to understand the importance of sleep, both for muscle growth and enhanced health. This supplement contains ingredients proven to enhance sleep, improve your mood, and boost brain function.
- 5-HTP – the precursor of serotonin
- Vitamin B6 for enhanced 5-HTP conversion into sleep-enhancing serotonin
- L-tryptophan for increased serotonin synthesis
- SAMe – a well-known serotonin booster
Dr. Emil’s 5-HTP Plus sleep enhancer is designed to maximize serotonin production. All of the ingredients are either serotonin boosters or increase serotonin sensitivity. The good news is that serotonin is not just a sleep enhancer. It’s also been proven to promote a more positive waking mood and reduce anxiety, both of which will further support sleep.
- Holistic ingredients which are all linked to serotonin production
- Non-addictive formulation
- Created by a medical doctor
- Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
- Competitively priced
- Gentle formulation which may not work for everyone
Most users of this product report very favorable effects. However, a few noted that Dr. Emil 5-HTP Plus didn’t work as well as products that contain melatonin. However, for mild to moderate sleep disruption, this product is highly recommended.
- A SUPERIOR SLEEP – Shut Eye delivers an unsurpassed sleep experience. Fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up refreshed without side effects. Our maximum strength herbal sleep aid is non habit forming and promotes a more restful and restorative sleep than other products.
- SAY “SO LONG” TO STRESS – A powerful combination of L-THEANINE & GABA induce relaxation by helping reduce feelings of worry and anxiety. Sleep faster, longer and deeper with Shut Eye. A truly satisfying slumber.
- A NATURAL NIGHT’S REST – Shut Eye is formulated by renowned neurologist Dr. Mahyar Okhovat using only the highest quality all-natural ingredients. Lemon balm, passion flower, valerian root and chamomile combine with melatonin, magnesium and 5-HTP to soothe even the most restless of sleepers.
- MADE IN THE USA – All Nuvana products are lab-tested & produced in a state-of-the-art facility following GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) under a strict system of procedures, and documentation to ensure exacting levels of strength, composition, quality, and purity.
- A BRAND YOU CAN TRUST – At Nuvana, we proudly stand behind the safety and efficacy of our products. If you are unsatisfied for any reason, contact us to receive a full refund. Our success is your satisfaction. Naturally, Nuvana.
If you are unable to get to sleep or often wake up during the night, Nuvana Shut Eye could help. Its powerful, comprehensive formulation enhances sleep through several different mechanisms and pathways.
- L-theanine for reduced stress and enhanced relaxation
- Magnesium for normal brain and nervous system function
- GABA for fewer sleep interruptions
- Valerian root extract for less anxiety and deeper sleep
- 5-HTP – the precursor of sleep-crucial serotonin
- Chamomile root extract for less stress and anxiety
- Passionflower extract for its mild sedative effect
- Lemon balm extract to reduce stress and promote relaxation
- Melatonin, the precursor of serotonin
Nuvana Shut Eye is a very well-rounded product. Instead of focusing on just one pathway to better sleep, it contains a range of ingredients to ensure you sleep longer and deeper but still wake up feeling refreshed and not groggy. Shut Eye is a very potent sleep supplement.
- Strong but natural formulation
- Formulated from proven ingredients
- Vegetarian and vegan-friendly
- Suitable for men and women
- Non-habit forming
- Valerian root has a very unpleasant odor which is hard to disguise
- A small number of users report stomach upsets using this product
The ingredients in Nuvana Shut Eye are designed to help you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, but still wake up feeling alert and refreshed. Its proven formulation should produce good results for anyone with mild to moderate insomnia.
- Fall asleep faster with our fast dissolve melatonin, an over the counter sleep aid supplement*
- Melatonin comes in many forms, including gummies, chocolates, capsules, chewables, drops, and liquid
- Carlyle Melatonin is a Non-GMO Gluten Free supplement that supports better rest and more relaxation*
- Our fast dissolve tablets contain 12 mg of melatonin;a great alternative to other sleep supplements*
- Carlyle max potency Melatonin helps relieve occasional sleeplessness from jet lag*
Carlyle Melatonin is a high-potency melatonin supplement designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Providing a hefty 12mg of melatonin per dose, this is a very concentrated supplement that should enhance sleep in most users.
- Melatonin for increased serotonin production
- Fast-dissolve tablets
Melatonin is a precursor of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that regulates your waking and sleeping cycles. Stress, exposure to bright lights, and lack of mental and physical activity can all lower serotonin levels. Supplementing with melatonin will increase serotonin levels and will help reset your natural sleep and waking cycles.
- Fast-acting formulation
- High-potency ingredients
- Non-habit forming
- Excellent value
- Very high dose of melatonin may be too powerful for some people
- Prolonged use of high doses of melatonin can cause long-term sleep cycle disruption, and you may need to reduce your dose slowly to “come off” this product
Carlyle Melatonin is something of a one-trick pony. Melatonin can definitely help you sleep but does nothing for stress or anxiety, which are often the causes of sleeplessness. Some users may find 12 mg of melatonin is too much, and they wake up feeling groggy. The manufacturers recommend starting with half a tablet. A 5-6 mg dosed product may be more suitable for most users who can then double up and increase their dose if necessary. Suddenly stopping this product could cause insomnia to come back with a vengeance.
- OLLY SLEEP GUMMIES: Our Melatonin gummies, with L-Theanine and Botanicals, help boost your natural sleep hormone, mellow your mind and calm your senses so you can relax and enjoy restful sleep*
- THE GOODS INSIDE: Effective sleep blend features 3mg of Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that works with your body’s chemistry. L-Theanine supports calmness and Botanicals like Chamomile, Passionflower & Lemon Balm to help soothe and relax*
- HOW TO TAKE: Chew two gummies 30 minutes before bed, no food or water needed
- NATURALLY DELICIOUS: Sleep gummies come in naturally flavored Blackberry Zen with a fresh hint of mint—no artificial colors or flavors and are gluten free. 70 gummies per bottle
- NON-HABIT FORMING: OLLY Sleep gummies for adults are packed with a unique blend of drug-free, non-habit forming ingredients. Just what you need to slip into sleep and wake up feeling refreshed*
Chewing candy before going to bed might seem like an odd way to enhance sleep. Still, these Melatonin gummies by OLLY are designed for that exact purpose! Made with a range of natural sleep enhancers, as well as natural blackcurrant flavorings, this is the best-tasting sleep-enhancer around.
- L-theanine for less stress and greater relaxation
- Melatonin for deeper, longer-lasting sleep
- Chamomile flower extract for reduced anxiety
- Passionflower extract which acts as a mild sedative
- Lemon balm extract for enhanced relaxation and less stress
The ingredients in this unique product are designed to remove the barriers to sleep and help you stay asleep longer once you doze off. The gummy formulation means you need to chew this product 30 minutes before heading off to bed, so make sure you brush your teeth before falling asleep!
- Holistic formula
- Proven ingredients
- 35-day supply
- Well-priced product
- An alternative to tablets and capsules
- Contains sugar (in the form of glucose)
- Contains coconut and canola oil
- Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans
If you don’t enjoy taking capsules, tablets, or pills, Olly Sleep Melatonin Gummies could be the product you have been waiting for. They contain a range of sleep-enhancing ingredients that will help reduce stress and anxiety so you can drift off more easily. Make sure your brush your teeth after using, though, or you may end up with dental cavities.
- FALL ASLEEP FASTER, SLEEP BETTER, WAKE UP REFRESHED! Formulated by a neurologist using clinically tested herbs, melatonin and amino acids. Safe, gentle and effective!
- BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY with the Sleep Fairy sleeping aid, which will help promote deep relaxation and calmness. Release all the tension of a hard day at work faster and combat the symptoms of sleeplessness naturally with our magnesium, valerian root, chamomile, L-theanine, 5-HTP and melatonin sleep capsules!
- START FEELING CALMER, MORE RELAXED & SOOTHED with our sleep aids for women, which will help balance your hormones and combat stress. As a result, you will see an immediate difference in your overall mood, since you will be able to relax faster and feel soothed.
- UNLIKE OTHER LOW-QUALITY SLEEPINGS AIDS that contains toxic ingredients, the Sleep Fairy sleep supplement for adults uses ONLY natural root and magnolia bark extract. Plus, our formula is 100% non-GMO, stearate-free and vegan too!
- ENJOY SOOTHING & REJUVENATING NIGHTS OR GET YOUR MONEY BACK! That’s right! You can try our natural sleep aids for adults for 30 days and if you are not 100% thrilled, we promise to offer a full refund. No questions asked! What are you waiting for?
Hollis Nutrition Sleep Fairy Natural Sleep Aid is designed to attack insomnia on several fronts at the same time. It contains natural anxiety and stress reducers, ingredients that can help you relax, and all-important sleep enhancers. This combination of ingredients should help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve your waking mood too.
- Valerian root extract to lower anxiety and stress
- Magnesium for healthy nervous system function
- L-theanine for a quieter, calmer mind
- GABA for relaxation and longer, deeper sleep
- 5-HTP – the precursor of sleep-enhancing serotonin
- Chamomile flower extract for reduced stress and anxiety
- Magnolia bark extract for less stress and anxiety
- Melatonin to induce sleep and reset your wake/sleep cycles
Hollis Nutrition will do more than just knock you out like some sleep enhancers. Instead, it is formulated to remove the barriers that stop you from falling asleep, enhancing sleep naturally. As a result, despite sleeping soundly, you should wake up feeling alert and clear-minded and not groggy.
- All-natural ingredients
- Proven formulation
- Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
- More than just a natural sedative
- Competitively priced
- Only contains a modest dose of most key ingredients
Because it contains a range of different ingredients, and not large amounts of any of them, this product is quite mild. Some users reported that it didn’t do anything for them. However, for mild or occasional insomnia, Hollis Nutrition Sleep Fairy Natural Sleep Aid is an excellent and highly recommended product.
Genius Sleep AID
- FALL ASLEEP FASTER, SLEEP BETTER / WAKE UP RESTORED – Our natural sleep aid sources the best scientifically proven ingredients found in nature! These sleeping pills help adults calm anxiety, improve sleep quality and support adrenal health! Restore cognitive function and wake up feeling refreshed and renewed!
- NON-HABIT FORMING SLEEP OPTIMIZATION – With less than 1mg of melatonin, Genius relies primarily on pure herbs and proven amino acids to optimize sleep so you aren’t running the risk of building up melatonin tolerance & forming dependency.
- COMBAT ADRENAL FATIGUE & DETOX CAFFEINE – In addition to the synergistic relaxation & sleep blend, Genius also provides adrenal support with the caffeine eliminating ingredient, rutaecarpine! Fall asleep faster by reducing caffeine from the body
- DRUG-FREE SOLUTION / BEST NATURAL SLEEP AID – Forget the OTC sleep aids and get a natural sleep supplement that works, discover the science behind deep sleep with our synergistic formula
- BACKED BY THE GENIUS PROMISE – Our formulas are always backed by science and the research indicates they will do exactly what they claim but if for whatever reason you aren’t thrilled, please reach out and we will refund your hard-earned money.
Genius Sleep Aid is designed to do more than just help you doze off at night. Its unique formulation is also a mood and cognitive function enhancer that can help boost mental and physical energy while increasing immune system function. And yes, it also helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- L-glycine for deeper, higher quality sleep and less waking fatigue
- L-theanine to reduce stress and anxiety, and boost waking mood
- Rutaecarpine to speed up the removal of caffeine from your body
- Inositol to increase relaxation and reduce stress
- Melatonin to help regulate sleeping/waking cycles and induce sleep
Unlike most sleep enhancers, Genius Sleep Aid contains minimal amounts of melatonin – only 0.5 mg per serving compared to 5, 10, or even 12 mg in other products. That’s because this product is not designed to knock you out! Instead, it’s formulated to remove the barriers to sleep so that you drift off naturally. The melatonin content of Genius Sleep Aid is meant to help reset your circadian rhythm, which is how your body regulates your wake/sleep cycle.
- Clinically proven ingredients
- A sleep aid and cognitive function enhancer
- Non-addictive formula
- Designed to help combat adrenal fatigue and eliminate the effects of daytime caffeine
- Some users may prefer a product with more melatonin
Genius Sleep Aid takes a different approach to sleep enhancement compared to most other products. Instead of trying to sedate you with large doses of melatonin, it is designed to remove the barriers that may be preventing you from sleeping. If traditional sleep enhancers aren’t working for you, this product may be the solution you are looking for.
- Contains one 120-count bottle of Deep Sleep softgels
- #1 Selling Herbal Sleep Aid* (*health & natural foods industry)
- Consistently produces deep, refreshing sleep – 100% herbal supplement
- Restores rejuvenating, natural sleep patterns
- Does not cause drowsiness or withdrawal symptoms, is non-habit forming and can be taken long term
Most sleep supplements are made from dry ingredients packed or pressed into tablets. Deep Sleep Herbal Sleep Aid delivers its ingredients in gel-filled capsules, which, according to the manufacturer, makes this product easier to digest and much faster acting.
- California poppy extract for muscle relaxation and promoting sleep
- Valerian root extract to reduce anxiety and stress
- Passionflower extract for its mild sedative effect
- Chamomile extract to reduce stress and anxiety
- Lemon balm for reduced stress and promote relaxation
- Oats, which are high in sleep-promoting melatonin
- Orange peel for its mild sedative properties
Deep Sleep Herbal Sleep Aid is made from extracts of fresh ingredients, which are then combined and packed into gel capsules. However, the ingredients are a proprietary blend, which means the quantities are unknown.
- All-natural ingredients obtained from fresh sources
- No isolated melatonin
- Proven, natural formulation
- Quite expensive
- Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans because of the gelatin capsules
- Unknown quantities of ingredients because of the proprietary blend
Deep Sleep Herbal Sleep Aid is one of the most natural products on review. The ingredients have all been obtained from fresh sources using minimal processing to create liquid extracts. However, the use of gelatin capsules means this product is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians, and there is no way to know how much of each ingredient you are consuming.
- HEALTHY HEART FORMULA: Our unique blend combines Magnesium Taurate (for cardiovascular support, arrhythmia prevention, and supports healthy blood pressure) with Magnesium Glycinate (which calms anxiety and promotes relaxation and quality sleep), and Magnesium Malate (to help with muscle soreness and cellular energy production).
- OPTIMAL ABSORPTION: Triple Calm Magnesium blends the best forms of chelated magnesium for optimal high absorption in an easy to swallow pill! The recommended daily serving size is two capsules per day that can be divided between AM & PM.
- HIGH QUALITY INGREDIENTS: This magnesium blend is easy on your stomach and non-laxative (unlike Magnesium Oxide and other forms of magnesium), and is Vegetarian, NON-GMO, and Gluten Free!
- FIND YOUR NATURAL RHYTHM: A great supplement to support Magnesium deficiency, but also to use as a weapon to help you in your battle against stress and anxiety, and return to your natural, calm, peaceful, healthy rhythm of life.
- ALWAYS TESTED & cGMP CERTIFIED: All our products are produced in the United States at a FDA registered, cGMP and Safe Quality Foods certified facility. Every product is gluten-free, NON-GMO, and vegetarian. Each one is also tested for heavy metals to ensure the highest quality!
Magnesium is a crucial mineral that is involved in hundreds of biochemical processes. Commonly found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and seafood, magnesium is especially important for relaxation and sleep. Natural Rhythm Triple Calm Magnesium contains three different types of this critical element.
- Magnesium taurate for improved cardiovascular health
- Magnesium glycinate for relaxation, calmness, and sleep
- Magnesium malate for improved muscle and nerve function
One two-capsule dose of Natural Rhythm Triple Calm Magnesium provides 36% of your recommended daily allowance of magnesium. While not explicitly designed as a sleep aid, taking this product 30 minutes before going to bed should aid relaxation and help you fall asleep more easily.
- Gentle, stomach-friendly formulation
- High absorbency and potency
- All-natural ingredients
- Suitable for vegans and vegetarians
- Contains no additional sleep-enhancing ingredients other than magnesium
If your insomnia is due to a deficiency of dietary magnesium, Natural Rhythm Triple Calm Magnesium can help. However, if your diet is already high in seeds and nuts, seafood, and leafy green vegetables, taking even more magnesium probably won’t improve your sleep.
Key Information about Sleep Supplements
Look for the bottle that says “melatonin,” buy it, pop a serving before bed, and that’s all you need to know about taking a sleep supplement. Easy as that, right?
While melatonin supplements are effective and relatively safe sleep aid options, there are variations in melatonin efficacy and safety based on type of melatonin—namely, if it’s natural vs. synthetic melatonin.
Plus, melatonin isn’t the only sleep aid ingredient you should look for when looking for a sleep supplement. In fact, plenty of sleep supplement formulas work without using melatonin at all. And the best sleep supplements that do supply melatonin don’t just supply melatonin. They pair it with other natural ingredients and sleep-supportive compounds that further assist with overnight mind-body rest and recovery.
Certainly, the cheapest OTC sleep supplement options are the most appealing. However, there’s a reason they’re so cheap: they’re cheaply made and aren’t all that great for you.
In the long run, it’s better to go with a sleep supplement that not only helps you get better sleep but improves your long-term health, too. That is, after all, one of the key distinctions between natural, healthy sleep supplements and synthetic sedatives.
How Do Sleep Supplements Compare to Sedatives?
Similar to the relationship between nootropics and prescription stimulants, the line between sleep supplements and sedatives is distinguished by a few factors:
- Natural vs. Synthetic: typically, sleep supplements (the best ones, at least) provide only all-natural ingredients that work with, not against, the brain and body’s natural bio-pathways, whereas sedatives overwhelm the brain with a load of synthetically derived chemicals.
- Efficacy and Safety: both sleep supplements and sedatives are effective at helping you get better sleep; however, sleep supplements are superior to sedatives in terms of safety, as they tend to come with low to zero risk of side effects, whereas sedatives have a high risk of abuse and other harmful risk factors.
- Affordability: naturally, sleep supplements tend to be more affordable than sedatives, given that many sedatives require costly doctor visits and prescriptions to buy.
Of course, if sleep supplements worked as an equal substitute for prescription sedatives, there would be no reason for prescription sedatives. Both natural sleep aids and synthetic sedatives are effective at helping you get better sleep, but sedatives represent an extreme measure on the scale of efficacy.
Under severe conditions of sleep deprivation—e.g., clinically diagnosed insomnia—a prescription sedative may be necessary. But for most people without severe sleep disorders, natural sleep supplements represent the superior long-term option.
As previously mentioned, melatonin is a hugely popular sleep aid supplement, but it’s not the only viable sleep aid. Given that the brain naturally produces melatonin, many people are reasonably skeptical of supplementing synthetic melatonin. Plus, for several millennia, humankind has been chewing and brewing and drinking various sleep-inducing, Earth-grown botanicals, such as Valerian root.
For natural sleep supplements, the types of ingredients can range anywhere from natural neurochemicals, such as melatonin, to plant powders, herbal extracts, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and more.
A few examples of ingredients used by sleep supplements include:
- Valerian Root
- Passion Flower
Some sleep supplements go further with harder-hitting ingredients, such as diphenhydramine (DPH) or phenibut, which may help with sleep but tend to come with side effects typical of sedatives, especially when taken frequently.
Ideally, a sleep supplement supplies only minimally effective doses (i.e., just enough to work) of natural sleep aid ingredients with other recovery compounds and antioxidants that may further assist with overnight tissue repair, recovery, and protection.
When and How Often Should I Take It?
The upside of any effective, natural sleep supplement worth its salt is that you can take it daily (or nightly) without having to worry about any accumulation of negative side effects. Quite the opposite, in fact: consistent use of a healthy sleep aid should promote long-term health via the promotion of a consistent circadian rhythm.
Of course, this means that you shouldn’t take a sleep supplement when you don’t want to fall asleep, i.e. during the daytime—that is unless you work night shifts. Even so, whatever your schedule, when and how you take a sleep supplement should abide by the following rules:
- Consistency: taking a sleep supplement at a consistent time every night is key to ensuring not only a consistent bedtime but also a consistent sleep-wake schedule, which is a huge determining factor in your circadian rhythm and overall health.
- Time til’ Wake: ideally, a healthy amount of sleep for adults ranges on average between 7 to 8 hours. With that in mind, taking a sleep supplement too late in the evening may result in a difficult time waking up in the morning.
Typically, sleep supplements recommend taking a serving about an hour to 45 minutes prior to bed. So, ideally, this should land anywhere from 9 to 8 hours prior to your wake-up time.
As far as administration goes, most sleep supplements typically come in capsule or tablet form, which can be taken with a glass of water.
Potential Side Effects
Sleep supplements are mostly made from safe, natural ingredients and, thus, tend to come with high safety ratings. The best way to avoid potential side effects of any sleep supplement: follow the directions on the label and avoid stacking sleep supplements with other sleep supplements.
With that in mind, negative ingredient interactions between sleep supplement ingredients do occur. For example, stacking serotonergic ingredients, such as 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort, may result in excess serotonin activity, which can be harmful to brain health.
Likewise, taking too much of any ingredient may result in the negative physical and cognitive consequences of a mild overdose. For melatonin, this typically follows with brain fog or a headache in the morning.
With that in mind, a few potential side effects of sleep supplements include:
- Difficulty in waking up
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Poor memory
- Stomach cramps
- Short-term mood swings
But, again, these symptoms are rare and can be easily mitigated by following the directions listed on a supplement’s label, sticking to one sleep supplement at a time (this includes not mixing sleep supplements with sedatives), and avoiding overdosing sleep aid ingredients and servings.
Other Tips for Getting Better Sleep
In addition to taking one of the best sleep supplements of 2020 listed above, there are other behavior tricks you can adopt to get better sleep, including:
Setting a Consistent Wake-Up Time
Scheduling a consistent bedtime is smart, but it’s not as smart nor as effective as setting a consistent wake-up time. After all, you can set an alarm that forces you to wake up in the morning, but there’s no alarm you can set that will force you to sleep.
Waking up at a consistent time every morning is like anchoring the “wake” portion of the sleep-wake cycle in place, which inherently contributes to a more consistent sleep schedule all around, as the body’s circadian rhythm begins to sync around that anchor. Combined with an effective sleep supplement, and you’ll soon have your mind and body back in a healthy rhythm.
Getting Enough Exercise and Daily Activity
Sleep is not a given, it must be earned. And we earn sleep by staying active during the daytime. Likewise, an active daytime is earned by a night of good sleep.
Even so, given the rise of desk jobs and work that predominantly consists of sitting and staring at a computer screen, many of us are realizing as we get older that staying active is something we must actively seek. Jogging before your work shift. Weightlifting during lunch. Anything that keeps the blood flowing and the muscles pumping.
Granted, this all likely sounds unrealistic and incredibly uncomfortable. But what’s funny about exercise is that the more you do it, the better sleep you get, and the more energy you have to be more productive in the long run. It’s like a win-win-win.
Limiting Evening Exposure to Electronic Screens
Traditionally, the brain and body’s circadian rhythm syncs with daylight, specifically the blue light rays that are also emitted by our electronic screens. In a naturally lit world, exposure to solar blue light essentially tells the body to stay physiologically primed for daytime activity, whereas an absence of solar blue light signals that it’s time to secrete melatonin to fall asleep, as well as human growth hormone and other growth factors to grow and repair bodily tissues.
Because we live in an unnaturally lit world, a world perpetually lit by electronic screens (such as the one you’re staring at right now), our bodies are tricked into thinking that it’s daytime all the time. By limiting blue light exposure via electronic screens in the evening, you may help return your body’s circadian rhythm to a more natural, healthier state.
The modern world is simply not designed with sleep in mind. In many areas of modern life, we’re beginning to realize how far we’ve departed from the natural world, the environment that our bodies are attuned to. Accompanying these realizations is the overarching realization that living a synthetic environment full of synthetic foods and synthetically emitted solar rays can be a disaster for our animal bodies.
This not only explains why we’ve primarily focused on natural sleep supplements here but also why natural sleep supplements have been increasing in popularity in general. People are fed up with being fed artificial junk food, and the same applies to the quality of their supplements.
And, fortunately, supplement manufacturers have been answering the call for natural dietary supplements, as demonstrated by this Best Sleep Supplements of 2020 list.
With these supplements and the information now available to you here with this guide, you should have no problem choosing the best sleep supplement to help you get better sleep and lead an all-around healthier, more active lifestyle.
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- Pandharipande P, Ely EW. Sedative and analgesic medications: risk factors for delirium and sleep disturbances in the critically ill. Crit Care Clin. 2006 Apr; 22(2): 313-27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16678002
- Potter GDM et al. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocr Rev. 2016 Dec; 37(6): 584-608. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5142605/
- Tähkämö L et al. Systematic review of light exposure impact on human circadian rhythm. Chronobiol Int. 2019 Feb; 36(2): 151-170. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30311830
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