Sweet Dreams: 4 Nutrients for Sleep

Try some of these nutritional supplements for extra help with sleep.

| September/October 2016

  • If you have long-term, recurring sleep problems, consult a physician to rule out physical causes.
    Photo by iStock

An array of nutrients affect our ability to sleep; consider these nutritional supplements for help with sleep issues. When it comes to dosages for these nutrients, we recommend consultation with a medical doctor, naturopathic physician or certified nutritionist.

Vitamin B12

B12 speeds the rate at which melatonin is produced, which precipitates an increased desire to sleep. B12 also may reduce homocysteine, a chemical that causes inflammation throughout our bodies.


Numerous studies have demonstrated magnesium’s sleep-benefiting effect. Compared with other remedies, this effect is mild yet valuable. Several studies have shown that Western diets are often magnesium-deficient. When it comes to supplements, don’t use magnesium oxide; it’s cheap but poorly absorbed. Magnesium citrate is a good value; it’s a well-absorbed, general purpose source of this nutrient. Magnesium malate would be an alternative to consider if you suffer from neurological or muscular pain such as fibromyalgia.


An inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA can help put the brakes on anxious, worrying thoughts going around in the mind and has a general calming effect. If anxiety, racing thoughts or stress are causing insomnia, try GABA (or theanine, which may boost GABA levels) as sleep aids.


Tryptophan is converted in the brain into serotonin, which has an antidepressant effect; serotonin is in turn converted into melatonin, our primary sleep-inducing hormone. Evidence shows that a dose of 1,000 mg of L-tryptophan reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. My personal experience is that tryptophan helps provide a deeper and more refreshing sleep. Studies suggest that even when tryptophan is prevented from being converted into serotonin (and therefore melatonin), it still improves sleep; I have often found it beneficial to combine tryptophan and melatonin supplements. However, L-tryptophan may interact with a number of medications and is contrarindicated for some medical conditions. Do not use L-tryptophan without the advice of a medical professional.

Learn more about natural sleep remedies in Sweet Dreams: Tips for Good Sleep.

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