In this article you will learn:
What nutrients are responsible for helping you sleep based on the research
What the best options are for each and where to get them
Take this stuff to the next level:
Many of these recommendations are simple, but some may need a more detailed exploration. If you want to dive deeper, check out my nutrition book with 1600+ scientific references or simply reach out to me and we can take this to the next level.
Nutrition plays a major role in your sleep, and unfortunately there are countless nutrients that affect sleep quality. This is why a complete nutrition program along with testing and supplementation are so important for maintaining sleep quality long term.
Additionally, as you intervene in other areas like healing your thyroid, your adrenals or your digestive center, your body will make changes and undoubtedly need more
nutrition. These fluctuations are normal, but they may impact your sleep one way or another. The thyroid consumes a lot of resources for example, and as you regain whole body iodine sufficiency (I discuss this in my book) it will burn through calcium and magnesium which in turn may reduce the quality of your sleep temporarily until you change your dose.
Regular testing, taking high-quality supplements, knowing the story of your genes and having a healthy digestive center to process all of the nutrition are key strategies. In this article I discuss many specific supplements for sleep, but here I want to point out just how many nutrients are involved with creating what we perceive to be such a simple process:
1. Calcium helps process tryptophan into melatonin,(1,2) lowers blood pressure(3) and
contributes to deep sleep cycles based on animal research.(4,5,6) If you have low
calcium, you’ll have more sleep disturbances and a harder time falling asleep.
==> What to get: I use this product as it is the most bioavailable you can get.
2. Potassium affects sleep duration,(7) so eating a diet rich in vegetables is important for sleep and circadian rhythm maintenance.
==> What to get: Potassium (usually) shouldn't need to be supplemented, get it from eating your vegetables.
3. Iron regulates neurotransmitters like serotonin,(8,9) and iron deficiency has been related to sleep disturbances in both adults and children.(10,11)
==> What to get: For most people iron shouldn't be needed as a supplement, but if you are a woman or have certain genetic issues it may be warranted with proper health testing. It's important to use a very bioavailable form, like this one, and to monitor regularly as you intervene.
4. Micronutrient levels in general affect sleep duration and sleep phases (deep, REM, etc.), especially magnesium, iron and zinc.(12)
==> What to get: Magnesium I'll discuss later below. Most all of your minerals should come in chelated form, and for zinc I suggest this one.
5. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to insomnia and restless sleep,(13,14) and deficiency also seems to increase incidence of obstructive sleep apnea.(15,16,17,18)
==> What to get: It's best to take vitamin D with it's cofactors of A and K, and also in the morning as some limited accounts suggest for some it may cause restlessness if taken at night. For a comprehensive DAK supplement, I like this one.
6. Vitamin B6 is a cofactor in the creation of serotonin and melatonin,(19) and supplementation can help with insomnia.(20)
==> What to get: Every B vitamin has its "active" form, and this is the best to get because it bypasses genetic issues in conversion. For B6, that's the "P5P" form, and this product is a great choice.
7. Vitamin B12 deficiency may be linked to daytime sleepiness(21) and it seems that B12 also indirectly supports circadian rhythm Timing.(22) It also impacts melatonin
production(23) and helps with sleep duration.(24)
==> What to get: This sublingual B12 is highly bioavailable and concentrated for rapid absorption. The best forms for B12 are methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin.
8. Magnesium may reduce daytime sleepiness(25) and improve sleep time, sleep onset,
melatonin production and cortisol regulation.(26) Magnesium also acts on the
parasympathetic nervous system and helps to regulate your relaxation response.(27)
Low magnesium will lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
==> What to get: A quality chelated magnesium like this one is one of the most important supplements in your cabinet
9. Vitamin E can improve nighttime breathing and reduce oxidative stress in people with sleep apnea,(28,29) and it served to reduce memory loss in sleep deprived rats because of its antioxidant role in the brain.(30,31) It can even protect testosterone levels from sleep deprivation.(32)
==> What to get: The best product for vitamin E is this one by AC Grace
10. Similar to the above, vitamin C can reduce episodes of apnea and also serve as a
protective antioxidant for the damage that is done to the blood vessel lining from
apnea.(33,34) It can also help with memory loss from sleep deprivation just like vitamin
E,(35) and reduced intake of vitamin C has been associated with shorter average sleep
durations in adults.(36)
==> What to get: It's important for this one to find a "whole food" version that originates from foods like acerola cherries, rather than just ascorbic acid which can be toxic for several reasons. That's why I prefer this one.
11. Eating starchy carbohydrates a few hours before bed (about 4-5) can help with sleep onset and duration, possibly by keeping more tryptophan and serotonin in the blood, although the authors of this often-referred to study did not actually measure these chemicals in their participants.(37) Consuming tryptophan before bed may help with sleep onset and serotonin/melatonin production.
==> What to get: Normally you could get tryptophan from the diet, but if you want to supplement it I use this product as it comes with some calming herbals as well. It's great to take at dinner time to start easing into the night.
12. Butyric acid (or butyrate) is a short chain fatty acid that has many beneficial effects on neurotransmitter production, gut-brain communication, reducing inflammation and
maintaining both brain and gut health.(38,39,40) This is the preferred food of your good
bacteria and is made by fermenting resistant starch or foods containing soluble fiber.
It is also a supplement and should be part of your Basics for digestive health in general.
==> What to get: A relatively newer form of delivering this product was discovered in 2018, which allows it to get farther into the digestive system. This product is my choice.
13. Nitric oxide levels may increase the permeability of GABA into the brain.(41) We know NO also helps to reduce blood pressure and improve Circulation, and these are
important in general for good, restful sleep.
==> What to get: For taking at night, this product works great because it doesn't have any added stimulatory ingredients. It's just amino acids and helps to increase your body's production of NO through the night, unlike many products that also come with caffeine or other stimulants to dilate the blood vessels (for pre-workouts).
14. Boron can help to regulate estrogen and testosterone levels and may be helpful if you are pre- or post-menopause or have low testosterone as a man.
==> What to get: I use this product. When you create an account to purchase it, use coupon code "tudor10yay" (no quotes) to save 10%.
Besides this list of nutrients there are many others that work indirectly along with your
hormones to create the complex, yet simple-seeming pattern that we call sleep. It’s crazy to think that so many things go into creating a good night’s rest, and often we don’t realize this complex dance until night after night of shitty sleep leads us down the rabbit hole of nutrition, genes and health research :)
This may seem like a lot of bases to cover, but they are all part of The 5 Pillars of Optimal Health you should be using on a daily basis anyway. The point of illustrating them here is to give you an appreciation of not just how many things can go wrong, but why being comprehensive in your nutrition is so important.
Everything is related to everything, and if you want to have insurance against fluctuations or future problems, then you have to cover every base possible.