Many people are surprised when during a counseling session for weight loss I ask how they are sleeping. Poor sleep however, has quite a bit to do with our bodies ability to let go of weight. When discussing sleep problems, I find that people either can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep or have restless sleep. When we don’t get enough restful sleep we see a shift in the hormones that regulate our appetite. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases and leptin (the satiety hormone) decreases leaving our bodies craving food and typically it is not the healthy kind. Additionally, a tired body is typically expending less energy throughout the day due to fatigue. This combined with the inflammation that is caused by poor sleep lead our bodies into favorable conditions for steady weight gain, in addition to the development of chronic diseases like diabetes.
I am a huge fan of looking to food as a first line of defense against any health condition however, there are certain supplements that can be supportive of a better nights sleep if you are doing everything else right, including eating a whole foods diet with the right balance of macronutrients and practicing good sleep hygeine like no screen time 2 hours before bed. The following supplements are a much better option than pharmceutical sleep aids as those all bare some degree of risk and include potentially harmful side effects.
Magnesium – This an important mineral for many reasons one of which includes keeping our nervous system calm. Additionally, many people aren’t consuming enough of it due to a poor quality diet or because it is overall depleted in our soil and therefore our food supply. For better sleep, I recommend 400-600 mg of magnesium glycinate or a calcium/magnesium blend like Natural Calm by Natural Vitality one hour before bed. This can help you relax so you fall asleep and stay asleep without feeling groggy the next morning.
Valerian – This herb modulates GABA receptors in the brain creating a calming, sedative effect. Research on the use of valerian for sleep has shown mixed results but I have seen it benefit many of my clients and it is generally safe. As with any supplement, the quality of the supplement matters! For the best results, I recommend taking 1-2 capsules (520-1040 mg) of Nature’s Sunshine Valerian Extract about an hour before bed.
Passionflower – Some evidence suggests this herb improves sleep quality helping you stay asleep during the night. Passionflower has also been shown to be mildly effective at treating anxiety. The recommended dose is 300-600 mg of passionflower extract about an hour before bed.
Tart Cherry Juice – Tart cherries contain small amounts of melatonin. Some studies have shown that drinking two ounces daily of Montmorency cherry concentrate like Cherry Active, provided about 0.08 mg of melatonin, which was enough to significantly increase time in bed and total sleep time. Many of my clients have benefited from this regimen!
As with any supplement, consult your doctor before you add anything to your regimen as they know your entire medical history!