I’m no stranger to sleep disturbances. I’ve suffered bouts of insomnia during times of high stress or hormonal distress. (or both, when I’m really lucky) I’ve also had bouts of adrenal fatigue, which disrupts sleep because of backwards Cortisol levels. So I’ve tried a lot of supplements to help improve my sleep during times of insomnia or other sleep disturbances.

Here’s a great infographic that shows what sleep deprivation can do to your body. Enough said.

Since so many people suffer from some kind of sleep deprivation, I wanted to share with you some natural supplements that have and have not worked for me. Please note this is not intended to be a substitution for seeking a doctor’s help, as you may have a medical condition contributing to your sleeplessness. Please also be sure to check for any interactions with medications you may be taking.

Quietude: This stuff is one of the best sleep supplements I have found and I recommend it to so many of my clients! It’s a homeopathic remedy, rather than an herbal formula. The package directions are to dissolve 2 tablets under the tongue 3 hours before bedtime, then dissolve 2 tablets under the tongue at bedtime. I usually forget the first dose and I’ve still had good results with just the bedtime dose. When I’m really in a tizzy about my sleep, I’ll take both doses and it definitely helps.

It is intended to relieve restless sleep, restless sleep associated with nervousness, worries and exhaustion, and sleeplessness with intermittent awakening.  One of the best things about Quietude is that it doesn’t have drowsy or hangover-like effects the next morning.

Sleep Tonight!: This is an herbal formula. According to their package, Sleep Tonight! helps activate your body’s relaxation response to return stress hormones to healthy levels—both night and day. Sleep Tonight! is formulated to balance stress hormones like cortisol. It is a gentle formula, containing stress-reducing botanicals, plus phosphatidylserine, which helps support a healthy endocrine response to mental stress.” They do warn that drowsiness may occur, but I’ve had no issues with this nor have I had any hangover-like effects. Sleep Tonight! also contains Suntheanine brand L-Theanine, which I’ll talk about next. This supplement is a little pricey, so I don’t take it regularly. But I do sleep very well when I take Sleep Tonight!

Suntheanine brand L-Theanine: I found out about this supplement when doing research for a case study for my Precision Nutrition Level 2 certification. There is an actual clinical research study that looked at Suntheanine’s effect on sleep in boys with ADHD. Researchers measured bouts of nocturnal activity, number of minutes of wakefulness after onset of sleep and percentage of night spent sleeping restfully. All of these showed significant improvement. Since this supplement helped boys who are on stimulant drugs for ADHD, I wanted to try it out for my sleep problems. I started taking the same dose as in the study; 200 mg in the morning and 200 mg in the afternoon. I would often forget the afternoon dose, so I switched to taking it at bedtime, since the Sleep Tonight! product contains Suntheanine.

I feel like my sleep problems are better since starting Suntheanine. The important thing is to take the actual Suntheanine brand. Off-brand L-Theanine does not have the level of purity as the Suntheanine brand, not to mention that Suntheanine is what was used in the clinical study.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22214254 (click Free Full Text for the whole study)

Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone made by the bineal gland in the brain and it helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Light affects how much melatonin your body produces so your body makes more when it’s dark and less when it’s light. Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age. Some older adults make very small amounts of it or none at all, which can explain why many of us have sleep disturbances as we age. I did not have good results with melatonin, though I know many people who swear by it. It’s certainly worth a try if you’re having problems with sleep and a typical dose is about 3 mg. I have also read that you should cycle your melatonin supplementation, by taking a break from it for periods of time.

Valerian: This is an herb that is commonly used in herbal sleep formulas. It is said to be a sedative on the brain and nervous system. I have slept very well when I’ve taken Valerian, but it gives me a pretty significant hangover effect the next morning. Since I can’t function well with that hangover effect, Valerian is not something I personally take with any regularity.

I’ll  be posting informative articles from Precision Nutrition this week on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn, so please be sure to check them out for more information on how to improve sleep, and why it’s important to make sleep a priority. Nighty night!