10 Best Vitamins and Supplements for Sleep, According to Experts

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elaine Gavalas, ND, PhD

April 11, 2024

Marissa was a 31-year-old new patient who stood in my office, eyeing the cabinets full of dried herbs and shelves of supplements neatly organized for display. She had dark circles under her eyes and an energy drink in her hand. As a Naturopathic physician, I recognize these small cues as important information when conceptualizing the health of the patient in front of me. 

Marissa took a sip of her energy drink before explaining that she was a mother to a toddler who was finally sleeping through the night. The only problem was that she was still waking up frequently and struggling to fall back asleep

I reassured her that her circadian rhythm had gone through a seismic shift with new parenthood. I explained this was a common occurrence and that she wasn’t alone. 

Sometimes, the circadian rhythm gets “stuck” and struggles to revert back to normal. Quite simply, Marissa needed a little help to shift her sleep rhythm back to its natural state. 

About two weeks later, Marissa came back to my office without an energy drink. Through the vitamins and supplements recommended at our first visit, her sleep was 80% improved. With a little more time, I predicted she would be back to 100% sleeping through the night. 

So, what naturopathic tools cracked the code of Marissa’s sleep conundrum? I compiled a list of my top 10 herbs, vitamins, and supplements that may help you sleep a little more soundly.

1. Melatonin

Melatonin—also called the sleep hormone—is the main hormone secreted by the brain’s pineal gland (1). Derived from tryptophan, melatonin runs the show when it comes to sleep and the upkeep of your circadian rhythm (your brain’s 24-hour internal clock) (2, 3).

By controlling your sleep-wake cycle, melatonin helps to promote sleep while inhibiting wake-promoting signals through interactions with its MT1 and MT2 receptors (two types of melatonin receptors).

Since our bodies naturally produce melatonin 2-3 hours before sleep, supplemental melatonin should be timed to mimic the natural cycle of melatonin. Research shows the most effective dose is between 1-6 mg (4). 

It’s recommended to start low and slowly increase your dose until you notice sleep benefits. Waking up with grogginess can be a sign your melatonin dose is too high. If you struggle with waking up in the middle of the night, sustained-release melatonin products may be a better fit for you than instant-release. 

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2. Glycine

Glycine is an amino acid that plays an important role in the nervous system. It may also help improve sleep. Exactly how this works is unknown, but glycine is thought to act partly by lowering body temperature at bedtime, signaling that it’s time to sleep (5).

In one study, participants experiencing poor sleep consumed 3 g of glycine or a placebo immediately before bedtime. Those in the glycine group reported feeling less fatigued the next morning. They also said their liveliness, peppiness, and clearheadedness were higher the next morning (6).

3. 5-HTP

5-HTP is a compound that your body makes from the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is high in foods like turkey (which may be why a big turkey dinner during Thanksgiving makes you so sleepy). 5-HTP converts into the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is the direct precursor to melatonin (7). 

5-HTP has been shown to increase REM sleep, which is a highly restorative, deep phase of sleep (8). REM stands for rapid eye movement. During REM sleep, dreams are more likely to occur, and the brain undergoes repair and rejuvenation. Too little time spent in REM has been linked to memory decline and cognitive issues (9). Since 5-HTP enhances serotonin activity, it also has the side benefit of supporting mental health.

4. Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that has over 300 roles in the body, including muscle health, nerve function, electrolyte status, and much more. Magnesium promotes better sleep in more ways than one. 

Here’s the gist:

  • Helps regulate GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) . 
  • May enhance melatonin. 
  • Decreases cortisol
  • Physically relaxes the body. 
  • May help you sleep longer.

In one study, 46 elderly subjects were randomly given 500 mg of magnesium or placebo daily for 8 weeks.

The results? There was a statistically significant difference in the sleep time and sleep efficiency of those taking magnesium versus those taking the placebo (10).

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Native Note: While there are various types of magnesium (citrate, oxide, chloride, and so on), when it comes to the best magnesium supplement for sleep, magnesium glycinate is the way to go (11).

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5. L-Theanine

L-theanine is an active compound commonly found in green tea that can be supplemented for its anti-anxiety and sleep-promoting properties. 

L-theanine has been found to increase the amount of GABA in the body. GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, meaning that it prevents nerve cells from firing an action potential (i.e., the body’s form of an electrical signal) (12). This makes it an exceptional aid for reducing stress and enhancing sleep.

Since L-theanine peaks in the blood about an hour after ingestion, it should be taken an hour before bed (13). 

L-theanine might not be the best fit as a sole therapeutic agent for people who wake frequently, as its half-life—the time it takes for your body to metabolize it—is only 59-74 minutes (14). However, if you have trouble falling asleep, L-theanine can be an excellent support to help escort you to dreamland.

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6. Valerian

Valerian is an herb with a long history spanning back to early Greek and Roman civilization. The therapeutic compounds are found in the roots of the valerian plant (15). A perennial flowering plant, Valerian blooms white or pink flowers.

A close up shot a pink and white Valerian flower.

Valerian is commonly found in herbal teas formulated for healthy sleep, and due to its strong earthy flavor, it is often blended alongside other herbs. Valerian has been extensively studied to be effective in inducing sleep (16).

Extracts of valerian can also be taken in capsule form, which is sometimes standardized to a certain percentage of valerenic acids, one of the active compounds. 

7. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also called Indian Ginseng, is an evergreen shrub in the nightshade family that grows in Africa and Asia. It’s often referred to as an “adaptogen,” a type of herb, root, or plant that helps the body combat stress. Ashwagandha works on the part of the nervous system that promotes feelings of relaxation and calm (17). 

Ashwagandha is an excellent choice for people dealing with sleeplessness due to an uptick in stress. If you find yourself sleeping less due to high work stress, parenthood, or big life changes, consider adding Ashwagandha into your supplement routine. 

NativePath Native Balance combines the benefits of 300 mg of magnesium glycinate and magnesium oxide with 100 mg of Ashwagandha to restore your mind and body with deep, restorative, quality sleep.

NativeNote: If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, ashwagandha should be avoided.

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8. Skullcap

A member of the mint family, skullcap is a medicinal plant with vibrant purple blooms.

A close up photo of purple skullcap flowers.

Native Americans used skullcap, and although it is native to Europe, its medicinal benefits were passed on through the interactions between Native Americans and Europeans. In the 19th century, herbal doctors brought the American species of Skullcap to Great Britain (18). 

Skullcap acts on neurotransmitters in the brain that enhance feelings of calmness (19). Skullcap has a grassy, slightly bitter taste and is often combined with other herbs in tea preparations. 

9. Chamomile

The first recorded mention of chamomile originates in ancient Egypt around 1550 BC. Egyptians used chamomile as an oil to anoint those who had passed on, heal the sick, and as an offering to their gods. 

Chamomile has some unique properties that may benefit the quality of your sleep. It contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia—the chronic inability to sleep (20).

A double-blind study found that people who consumed 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days had 33% less nighttime awakening and fell asleep 15 minutes faster than those who did not consume the extract (21).

These findings are promising, but more studies are necessary to determine the extent of chamomile tea’s effects on sleep. Nevertheless, drinking chamomile tea before bed is certainly worth a try if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.

10. California Poppy

California poppy is the sun-loving state flower of California. Its native habitat spans from southern Washington to the Sonoran desert. 

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A pop culture highlight of this plant’s effects comes from a scene in one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. On the way to the Emerald City, Dorothy and her posse walk through a poppy field conjured by the Wicked Witch to slow them down. Dorothy and the lion fall asleep in the field while the Scarecrow and Tin Man try to wake them, seemingly unaffected by their lack of human or animal biology.  

The most popular ways to consume California poppy are teas or tinctures. Tinctures are alcohol extracts of herbs. As it is possible to overdo it on California poppy, it’s advised to stick with the dosing on the manufacturer’s label and consult with your physician if you use medications that may interact with it (22).

The Bottom Line

Getting quality sleep that leaves you refreshed is doable with holistic help. Remember, certain medical conditions might not mix well with some holistic treatments, so it's always best to consult with your medical provider first.

Know someone like Marissa who could use some natural sleep aids? We all have a friend facing big changes, stress, or sleepless nights. If you do, feel free to share this with them!

Dr. Laurel Ash
Article by

Dr. Laurel Ash

Laurel Ash, ND, MS is an Oregon and Washington board-certified Naturopathic Physician. She earned her Doctorate in Naturopathy from the National University of Natural Medicine alongside a Master of Science in Integrative Mental Health.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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