Sleep is a bodily function that is critical to our overall health and wellbeing. It allows your mind and body to rest and reset after a long day, thus making you ready for the next. Though this benefit may be obvious, many people do not understand just how important sleep is to the body (1).
Outside of providing you a way to recharge, sleep can also:
With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, many of us do not prioritize sleep in the way we should. Knowing the importance of sleep in our health and wellbeing, you should always aim to get the recommended amount of sleep every night.
The amount of sleep you should get depends on your age and will change throughout your lifetime. Children and adolescents, for example, usually require much more sleep, especially if they are less than five years old. As you get older and into adulthood, experts recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep per night (5).
Sleep hygiene refers to maintaining sleep habits that help you achieve a full night's rest. Doing these things can help to relax you and eliminate distractions and stimuluses. Such habits include:
While sleep hygiene and lifestyle can be important to getting a good night’s rest, there are also various supplements that have demonstrated effects in improving sleep quality.
Passiflora extract, also known as Passiflora incarnata or passionflower, is an herbal supplement with anti-anxiety and sedative properties. Therefore, it has been historically used to help with sleep, commonly in the form of an herbal tea. Experts believe that passionflower functions in this way by increasing gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain. GABA is a brain chemical that promotes sleep at increased levels (8).
To understand these potential effects, one study evaluated how Passiflora incarnata tea influenced sleep in 41 individuals versus placebo. Findings indicated that low doses of the herb improved sleep quality amongst study subjects (9).
Chamomile, known as Matricaria chamomilla, is another plant used traditionally as a sleep aid and as a sedative. It has also been used for other medicinal purposes such as a hypnotic, analgesic, antipyretic, and immune and nervous system modulator. In a study evaluating how chamomile affected sleep in older adults, the group taking 400 mg oral capsules of chamomile twice daily demonstrated improved sleep quality compared with placebo. Additionally, no side effects were associated with its use (10).
Valerian root extract, or Valeriana officinalis, is yet another example of an herbal sleep remedy used for inducing sleep and bettering sleep quality. It has been widely used in Europe for this indication, and roughly 1.1 percent of adults in the United States report having used valerian root extract within the last week. A meta-analysis of 16 studies that included a total of 1,093 patients examined its effectiveness. The review concluded that valerian may improve sleep quality with minimal side effects (11).
Magnesium is a chemical element that controls several biological functions. In fact, it plays a role in greater than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Of note, it is involved in neural transmission, thereby affecting the excitability, or lack thereof, of the central nervous system. It modulates the N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor and GABA, two entities implicated in sleep regulation. Likewise, magnesium is known to prevent insomnia by reducing stress, relaxing the body, and helping you to sleep longer.
A study evaluating 46 elderly participants analyzed how magnesium influenced sleep patterns compared with placebo over the course of eight weeks. Magnesium supplementation was found to improve sleep time, efficiency, and onset latency. It also improved other measures such as insomnia severity index (ISI) score and early morning awakening. Therefore, magnesium supplementation can play an important role in improving sleep quality (12), (13).
Ashwaganda is an herb found in India and south Asia, traditionally used for several ailments and purposes, with effects ranging from anti-inflammatory to neuroprotective. In terms of neurological effects, ashwaganda has demonstrated that it can decrease stress and anxiety and increase cognition and memory in bipolar disorder. In studies, it also provided benefits at doses of 300 mg twice daily in terms of improving sleep quality and sleep onset latency. Therefore, it shows promise in preventing insomnia and anxiety (14).
If you want to feel your best, it is crucial to focus on getting a good night’s sleep. To accomplish this, it is vital to adopt sleep habits that focus on relaxing the body before bed, as this puts you in the best position for falling asleep quickly, staying asleep, and having good quality sleep. Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants is key!