The weather is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, the children have gone back to school and Halloween is around the corner! The transition from summer to fall is often accompanied by changes in routines. We may need to wake earlier to prepare lunches for our children or to plan for more travel time getting to work with increased traffic on the roads. We may need to go to sleep a bit earlier to feel our best for the upcoming day. Sleep is critical for well-being and skin health. If you are having a difficult time with sleep, and don’t want to rely on over the counter or prescription pharmaceutical sleep aids, there are a variety of supplements to consider trying that may help your cause.
Melatonin is a hormone made by your pineal gland that signals to your body that it is time for sleep. It is the most widely known natural product for sleep issues. But, did you know that in some people, melatonin can take up to 2 weeks before obvious results are noticed? It’s true! Some people are very fast responders to melatonin- one tablet will make them tired soon after taking it. Melatonin is a great short-term treatment for sleep issues associated with jet lag or if transitioning to a new sleep schedule. A typical dose of melatonin ranges from 1-3mg prior to bedtime.
If your brain is overactive at night and it is difficult to turn your thoughts off due to the anticipation of upcoming events or nervousness, then GABA or L-Theanine might be your most effective supplement for sleep. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Benzodiazepines (e.g. valium, klonopin, ativan) are the most calming pharmaceutical medications available and act on the GABA receptor in the brain. The use of GABA as a supplement can also reduce anxiety/nervousness at bedtime, in a similar fashion. Up to 750mg of GABA may be necessary to induce sleep. L-theanine has a slightly different effect on brain chemicals. In addition to stimulating the production of GABA, it also directly blocks the glutamate receptor. Glutamate is the most excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. Through this inhibitory effect, L-theanine has a calming and relaxing effect. Up to 400mg of L-theanine may be necessary to induce sleep. Both GABA and L-theanine can be used in smaller doses during the daytime to help quench anxiety.
Often, supplements that help with hormonal imbalance can contribute to sleep problems. Some women only have sleep issues in the premenstrual phase of their cycle, and many women have sleep problems during and following the transition into menopause. These symptoms are usually related to estrogen and progesterone imbalance. In men, lower testosterone levels that are seen in relation to aging can also contribute to poor sleep quality. Both sexes can experience sleep disturbances with thyroid or adrenal imbalance. Hormonal factors can be complicated, as imbalance in one system often leads to imbalances in other glands. The best way to determine if a hormonal imbalance is contributing to sleep issues is to get lab testing and review the results in detail with a qualified provider.