Inositol is a form of sugar that is found in citrus fruits and nuts, among other plant sources. It contains negligible calories and may aid sleep by calming anxiety and quieting mental chatter that keeps you up at night.
Why Inositol Works for Sleep: It activates pathways in the brain that stop your mind from racing. Shows inositol activates serotonin and the orexin pathway to calm your brain and help you go to sleep.
Inositol comes in powder form. Take it in water about 45 minutes before you want to go to bed. Good results have been reported with doses of 2 to 10 grams.
Deficiencies in the B vitamins and thiamine are nutrients that have repeatedly been linked with sleeping problems. Folic acid, B6 and B12 are especially important for a tidy mind and the rest it requires.
The B vitamins are intricately involved in detoxification in the body; they also lower inflammation and affect brain transmitters. Thiamine also affects brain transmitters and is closely linked with serotonin, so a lack leads to poor sleep.
A genetic variation inhibits many people from absorbing non-methylated forms of the B vitamins, which is a primary cause of B vitamin deficiency, leading to poorer sleep and health. Folic acid is the most important B vitamin to obtain in methylated form; many people have good results from a methylated B complex. Thiamine is found in meat, particularly organ meat.
Medicinal plants have been shown to help people with insomnia go to sleep and stay asleep due to their sedative and anxiolytic properties. Individual efficacy is hit or miss with each herb – some people have good results, while others don’t. Valerian takes a while to kick in, typically 2 to 3 weeks before people experience better sleep but, as one researcher writes, it does have “profound beneficial effects on sleep architecture.”
Valerian activates GABA, calming the brain in the same way as taurine, although it has a more sedative effect.
Herbal teas will give you a very small dose of phytochemicals from valerian. Concentrated liquid extracts will provide a much more potent dose. Inhaling the aroma of herbs can improve sleep, so try aromatherapy if you don’t want to take an extract.
Chamomile has a sedative effect, and although teas are popular, you may benefit from a more concentrated dose in extract form. Research suggests chamomile can calm the brain and help you go to sleep sooner.
Ginseng is known for reducing stress and enhancing brain activity related to the GABA transmitters to support deeper sleep. Ginseng tea is available, as are extracts and capsules.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in the camellia sinensis tea plant and in an exotic form of mushrooms. Research shows that it can reduce mental and physical stress, improve cognition and aid in sleep.
In animal studies l-theanine has been found to help reverse caffeine-induced sleep disturbances. Anyone can benefit from taking l-theanine, but people who can’t sleep and can’t give up caffeine will find it most useful.
L-theanine works by counteracting the effects of caffeine while increasing levels of GABA and boosting serotonin in the brain.
It’d be great if you could just rely on green tea for l-theanine, but because green tea contains caffeine, it’s a no-go. However, if you require caffeinated coffee to keep you going, you may want to switch to green tea to get the caff kick, while boosting l-theanine intake. You’ll probably also find that the stimulating effects of green tea are different from those of coffee.
Beyond that, pure l-theanine supplements are available, as are formulated sleep aids in which l-theanine is bound to magnesium. Anecdotal reports from stressed insomniacs suggest great results from magnesium l-theanine.