The Best Natural Substances For Improving Sleep
We Let The Science Tell Us What Works and What Doesn’t!
Whether you’re building your own sleep promoting stack from scratch, or you just want to learn how to tell genuinely good supplements from bad, this page is for you!
Natural herbal extracts, amino acids, and hormones can significantly reduce sleep latency, improve the quality and restfulness of your sleep, and eliminate anxiety.
You just need to know which ones to use.
Today, the supplement industry has very deep pockets and an incredible amount of influence. They have many blogs, influencers, and YouTubers in their pockets, and they tell you what the supplement manufacturers want you to hear. They aren’t often lying, but they are often misleading, and they’re always biased.
As a result, it’s incredibly hard to tell what information you can trust and what information you can’t.
That applies to sleep supplements just as much as other products. Every natural sleep stack contains various ingredients and, according to the manufacturer, every one is the most amazing thing in the world. Every ingredient improves sleep quality, helps you fall asleep faster, and so on. The same ingredients crop up again and again in different stacks, while others are only used by a handful.
But since everyone is claiming the same thing, somebody has to be lying, right?
How do we tell the truth from the lies?
How do we sift the marketing spiel from the facts?
Well, the science never lies!
We’re going to list the very best, most effective natural sleep aids as proven by science. If we can’t find multiple, robust, independent clinical trials showing an ingredient as having significant effects, then we aren’t going to list it.
We also factor in side effects. If an ingredient has some seriously positive effects but it also causes substantial side effects, then we’re not including it in our list. There are plenty of natural sleep supplement ingredients out there capable of delivering serious benefits while causing zero side effects. That’s the standard for us, and we think it should be for you too.
Let’s get into it. Here are the best natural sleep aids, according to the science.
Best Natural Sleep Aids
Here are the best natural sleep supplement ingredients. If a sleep aid contains these ingredients and nothing else, then you definitely have a winner on your hands (assuming the doses are right, of course). When shopping for a sleep supplement, make sure to compare it to this list to see if it is actually giving you value.
This isn’t a very in-depth analysis of each ingredient. We’ve gone for ease of understanding and brevity over detail and technical accuracy. That is for the dedicated ingredient guides.
Remember, the science never lies…but manufacturers sometimes do!
This one has to go right at the top as it is an absolute staple ingredient for natural sleep aids. It is found in pretty much every natural sleep supplement on the market today, and for one very good reason – it works!
Melatonin is the hormone which controls your sleep cycle. It is produced by the pituitary gland, and released in large quantities at the times of day when it is most beneficial for you to sleep. You get a small bump of melatonin at around 2pm, followed by a rapid decline. Then, starting at 9pm, you will see an exponential rise in melatonin levels until it peaks at about 2-3am. At its peak, your melatonin levels wil reach 6-7 times their baseline value! Then from 4am your melatonin levels drop until they reach baseline at 7am; time for you to wake up!
Supplementing with hormones orally almost never works. But melatonin is the exception to the rule; several peer-reviewed scientific papers have shown that melatonin supplementation accelerates the onset of sleep, encourages deep, restful sleep, and more.
How To Take It: The best source of melatonin to use is actually a natural form – or as close as you can get while maximizing potency. A small number of foods represent excellent sources of melatonin.
Tryptophan is a highly effective sleep aid. It works via multiple pathways at the same time; reducing anxiety, hastening the onset of sleep, and improving the depth of that sleep. But the most important effect of tryptophan is its ability to reduce sleep onset latency. Very few natural sleep stacks use tryptophan, and when they do, they don’t dose it properly, so we often use this as a benchmark when reviewing sleep aids.
Tryptophan is an amino acid. It has the incredible quality of being a precursor to both melatonin, a hormone, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter. It is absolutely vital for the synthesis of serotonin, which helps regulate your mood and keep you feeling relaxed. Serotonin in turn is very important for the synthesis of melatonin.
Many people supplement with 5-HTP to increase serotonin levels, but we don’t believe this to be very effective. 5-HTP is poorly metabolized, it doesn’t seem to cross the blood brain barrier well, and the end results are unimpressive. Tryptophan is a much more efficient and effective option.
How To Take It: Tryptophan is one of the least common amino acids in naturally-occurring proteins, so supplementation is a good idea if you’re struggling with sleep or anxiety. We recommend consuming between 250mg and 500mg an hour or so before going to bed.
No list of the best natural sleep aids is worth a damn if it doesn’t contain theanine. Like tryptophan, theanine helps with many different aspects of sleep at once. It has been shown in various clinical trials to improve sleep quality, help you fall asleep much faster, and to help you relax. Importantly for us, this last benefit does not mean that it makes you sedated. It doesn’t relax your muscles, and it doesn’t dull your brain. It simply reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, allowing you to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
We can get theanine naturally. The best source is back tea; nothing else actually comes close to black tea on the theanine front. Green tea contains a fair amount (but with all the added goodness that comes with green tea on top). However, if you are struggling with sleep onset latency, or you find yourself not feeling refreshed even after 7 hours of sleep, theanine supplementation may be in order.
How To Take It: Most studies showing theanine having serious effects have used between 200mg and 400mg. Theanine is cheap and widely available, so any stack using this stuff should go heavy – 400mg or more!
For a humble dietary mineral, magnesium has some pretty unbelievable physiological functions. It is involved, or rather necessary for, the synthesis of various hormones, the regulation of multiple bodily processes, and more. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to learn that magnesium also seems to be directly involved in the regulation of sleeping cycles.
Studies have found that magnesium deficiency is highly correlated with low quality sleep, difficulty falling asleep at the right time, and even insomnia. When researchers have taken populations typically deficient in magnesium, such as in the elderly, and given them magnesium supplements, the result shave been pretty remarkable. This study found that Mg supplementation was able to significantly reduce insomnia, reduce sleep onset latency, and increase wakefulness in the morning. Other studies have found that Mg supplementation has a dramatic effect on sleep quality.
Sadly, many people today are deficient in magnesium. Many problems people encounter (low energy, low strength, poor sleep, low libido) can often be attributed to a magnesium deficiency. As such, supplementation is often necessary. The good news is that it is so simple to fix, you’ll wonder why you put up with such poor quality sleep for so long.
How To Take It: We think all you need before bed is a top up. Throw in about 25-50% of your RDI on top of your sleep stack. Opt for a quality, highly bioavailable form of Mg for best results.