Good Sleep Matters — So Where Do Supplements Fit In?

Navigating the science behind a good night of rest

March 13, 2024 11:45 am
From Left to right: Yogi Bedtime Tea, Papa Barkley CBD, Dr. Formulated CBD, Thrive Magnesium Powder
From Left to right: Yogi Bedtime Tea, Papa Barkley CBD, Dr. Formulated CBD, Thrive Magnesium Powder
The Vitamin Shoppe

Getting enough sleep can often be overshadowed by the romanticization of being productive at all hours of your 24 hour day — even if that means cutting corners on rest (see rise and grind-core content). However, in honor of March being National Sleep Awareness Month, we shall underscore the fact that getting your beauty sleep is quite literally — and this cannot be overstated enough — vital to the rest of your existence; and sometimes just sometimes supplements can help you get there.

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Even if you do recognize the importance of sleep, a lot of people only let themselves settle into bed after checking off all the tasks they set out to accomplish in a day — and may feel guilty for sleeping anyway when one or two things are incomplete. But when you disregard that much needed shut-eye you’re bound to pay a price — and continue paying, despite any attempt to clear your debts with caffeine.

From the viral sleepy girl mocktail to CBD gummies, the internet has made a great fuss about how hard it can be to get a good eight hours of rest, and what kind of products have or have not helped. But with the sleep supplement market being as saturated as it is, it can be hard to navigate all of those recommendations. What works for one person might not work for someone else let alone you.

We sat down with a few sleep experts to get the skinny on why sleep matters, what can prevent us from getting a goodnights sleep and what you can do in the way of supplements if you are looking to prioritize rest.

Why Good Sleep Matters

If you weren’t aware of this already — however much sleep you are, or are not, getting has an impact on almost every other bodily function explained Dr. Janet Kennedy, a clinical sleep psychologist, formerly at Manhattan VA Hospital.

When we fall asleep our bodies use that time to mend the “wear and tear” we endure on a daily basis. “We use energy, we use our bodies, we use our minds and that leaves behind some kind of imprint,” said Dr. Kennedy. So when it comes time to sleep functions like muscle repair kick in and our brains file away information we took in throughout the day.

“What you’ve learned during the day isn’t yours to keep until you’ve slept on it,” she summed.

We know that poor sleep in the short term will knock you off of your A-game; but when you face a more chronic form of sleep deprivation it can disrupt all those necessary functions that take place during sleep. This can lead to a weaker immune system, impact cardiovascular function and impair memory function said Dr. Kennedy.

Now don’t panic about whether or not your restless nights are permanently impairing your memory or your heart. Those anxious thoughts are the last thing you need, especially when it comes to falling asleep at night. But if you’re finding that you do have trouble sleeping on a regular basis and it significantly impacts your life — it’s probably worth looking into.

Your OG Melatonin

Our bodies are pros at naturally regulating sleep but there are a lot of factors that can easily disrupt our built-in checks and balances system. Melatonin and cortisol are the two hormones that respectively put you to sleep and tell your body when it’s time to wake up.

Throughout the day, as it gets darker your body starts to produce melatonin so that once you’ve settle into bed you’re ready to conk out. Throughout the night your melatonin levels peak and after that point you start to slowly produce cortisol, which is a hormone that helps you wake up in the morning, explained Dr. Kennedy.

She added that your sleep-wake cycle “works in the shadows,” and doing things like maintaining a consistent daily routine and avoiding binge sleeping on the weekends can help keep it in check.

If you’re constantly changing your sleep schedule throughout the week, your body’s ability to signal sleep and wake times becomes less effective, explained Dr. Kennedy.

Reducing the amount of screen time you get before bed can also be an effective way to make sure you’re on track toward a restful night. Looking at screens delays your body’s ability to release melatonin because of the blue light emitted from your phone or laptop, said Dr. Kennedy.

If you’re prone to doom-scrolling before bed, you might also be familiar with the anxiety social media can draw up when you’re supposed to be winding down. Looking at other people’s lives online can put people into a state of comparing yourself to others and focusing on things you didn’t accomplish during your day.

“These things plug you back into your day, when you should be separating from your day,” said Dr. Kennedy.

How Can Supplements Help?

If you’re looking to try supplements to get better sleep, either because of your own personal interest or because the internet has persuaded you, Dr. Kennedy recommends classifying them as “sleep enhancers.” She stressed the fact that supplements are not going to knock you out, nor should they.

When you consistently outsource sleep to the likes of a supplement or even sleep medication, it can make you anxious about your body’s innate ability to regulate sleep; and that’s when people toe the line of believing they’re dependent on something else to get some rest said Dr. Kennedy.

That being said — “if [you have] a ritual and a way to help you unwind and relax and it has beneficial ingredients — that’s what I mean by enhancing,” explained Dr. Kennedy. Now remember, what is beneficial for some might not work for others — but hopefully we can help clarify what some good starting points are and what certain supplement products actually do to help you sleep better.

Dr. Kennedy identified CBD as a particularly effective option to ease you into sleep, adding that it has been shown by data to both enhance sleep quality and slow down any fast-moving thoughts people get before bedtime. Users may expect CBD sleep products to have an almost sedative effect, but it’s job is to help you mentally separate from the anxiety of your day and put you into a peaceful headspace, she said.

Magnesium is a supplement making the rounds on social media right now. The sleepy girl mocktail’s operative ingredient is a magnesium mixed in with tart cherry juice, which has been shown by certain studies to help enhance sleep. Dr. Leat Kuzniar, a naturopathic doctor at Your Natural Path to Health clinic, added that magnesium, especially magnesium glycinate, can promote muscle relaxation and ease your nervous system before bed to give you a good nights rest.

Magnesium and CBD are both pretty common-knowledge supplements at this point. But there are a few others that sound a touch too scientific to really understand.

Two common supplements that fall into that category are L-Theanine, an amino acid, and phosphatidylserine, a fatty substance that supports brain function. Dr. Kuznair explained that both of those ingredients work to reduce your cortisol or stress hormone levels to help you get into sleep mode.

It is important to note that supplements can vary greatly in terms of dose, potency and any extra fillers that may be in them — hence the importance of sourcing supplements with ingredients supported by data and from brands that use proper quality control, flagged Dr. Kennedy.

To get your started on supplements, if you are so interested, we’ve gone ahead and linked some products below from The Vitamin Shoppe that use the ingredients mentioned above.

Sometimes, separate to taking supplements, a cup of sleepy time tea just hits. Similar to waking up and preparing your morning coffee, winding down with a warm drink at night could be a way to put your mind at ease and get into a more relaxing meditative state.

At the end of the day, sleep is highly coveted and extremely personal. That is to say that if something is working for you — trust yourself and keep on keeping on. Sometimes getting your bedtime routine down pat requires trial and error but it’s definitely a journey you should want to commit to. Whether it is the ritual of preparing a sleepy supplement cocktail or timing your sleep and wake hours to a tee, getting the rest you need and deserve should be a priority this year.

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