Natural Sleep: A Companion to the Sleep Research Review This article will be short and sweet as I presented all of the nitty gritty on melatonin, Valerian and magnesium in my research review of homeopathic sleep remedies. What I wanted to do first was present an objective stance on the three supplements so you could form your own opinion and then follow that up with my own experience ans take on them. I could stay completely objective but I have a sneaking suspicion that any author writing about supplements, training or nutrition has a personal experience with the subject and it is always nice to hear how it impacted them.
A little back story on my own sleep issues. I have always been a poor sleeper. My brother can and does fall asleep on car rides, at family functions, holidays, probably in the bathtub too. I on the other hand, have always had trouble falling asleep and this is mostly due to racing thoughts and weird late-night energy. I always joked that I was bad at sleep like it was a skill or a habit, but in reality sleeping poorly is one of the worst things for your health. I began taking prescription sleeping meds soon after high school which was around 2003. I took them in one form or another and probably every brand out there up until 2012. That is 9 years of bad sleep, with forced rest coming from the medication. I would sleep around 6 hours a night after literally laying in bed wide awake for 2 to 3 hours every night and then waking up feeling zombie-like and agitated....for NINE years.
OK, I was messed up, we get it. Being so fed up with taking meds that only sort of worked and not wanting to depend on them for the rest of my life, I did some research. Thanks to work and written advice from Mike Mahler, Julia Ross and Charles Poliquin I began to realize my issue. Imbalance cortisol. I will go into detail on this in another article because it is at once fascinating and critical to have balanced cortisol to live a normal life. I will skip some of the steps I chose to re-balance cortisol and include them in the article just mentioned, but believe me, there were steps taken between prescription sleep medication and sipping on Valerian root tea!
This leads into my next point. If you have real sleep issues as in insomnia type I or II, I don't think any of these three remedies will get you where you need to be. If you have occasional sleeplessness or know you need to get to bed early once in a while because of an early morning, then they work great. Here we go:
A somewhat unpleasant tasting tea that your grandma would brew and for good reason. This stuff works for me. It gives you a quiet, calm feeling with heavy eyes in my experience. From tinkering around I found it to be most effective immediately before bed, so I drink a cup or two of Valerian root in bed while reading and this usually does the trick. There is a point of diminishing returns though, so drinking it every night for a year would get you lackluster results after a while. I like to alternate this with chamomile and drink the Celestial Seasons brand.
Aside from having antioxidant properties and being an anti-aging, this is a great, cheap sleep remedy. I take anywhere from 3 to 9 grams when I need the assistance sleeping, depending on how awake I feel. I like to take this only when I need it because you can easily build up a tolerance and it just won't work for you after a few weeks of chronic use. Like I mentioned in the research review, melatonin helps either A. Fall asleep faster or B. Sleep longer. So either take it an hour or two before bed to fall asleep faster or right before bed to sleep longer. I buy Swanson because it is cheap and effective.
Magnesium is one supplement I take day in and day out. On top of helping calm your nervous system and increasing some peristalsis in your digestive tract ( to help you poop), this mineral has some anti-estrogenic properties which is good news for Testosterone production. I have experimented with varying forms and found that your typical Walmart brand is junk and has poor absorption. You need a chelated form of this mineral (same with Zinc) so it doesn't compete for absorption with other minerals like Calcium. I by the glycinated form from Swanson and take around 400mg a night. I will vary the does just so I don't develop a tolerance to one specific dose so sometimes I take 200mg and sometimes up to 600mg, but 400mg is the usual dose. I find this helps more in keeping you asleep and allowing you to have a really deep sleep with some vivid dreams. It might shock you at first how real your dreams can be with this mineral so keep that In mind when taking.
These three are some of my go-to supplements to help with occasional sleeplessness and anxiety at night and they all work well if used properly. Once again, cycle your doses, don't take them every day until the end of time and stay tuned for my cortisol article.