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The number of people struggling with sleep disorders is rising at a staggering rate, which has immense adverse effects on health and well-being. 

Sleep deprivation impairs immune function and cognitive function including our ability to focus, make decisions, and impairs long-term memory. Humans need sleep, we can survive longer without food than without sleep and when we’re sleep deprived we run the risk of causing undue stress in our body because we activate our sympathetic nervous system which results in an increase of blood pressure and cortisol secretion

Insufficient sleep among adolescents has been shown to increase feelings of depression, anxiety and alcohol use. In addition, our appetite gets thrown out of whack when we don’t get sufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in leptin, which is the hormone that suppresses appetite and an increase in ghrelin, which is the peptide that stimulates appetite. This means that on less sleep we’re more prone to eat more as we feel hungrier and we’re less likely to feel full. 

Our exercise may be impaired because the lack of restfulness effectively reduces our energy and drive. In addition, sleep deprivation causes an increase in the secretion of cortisol, and our body responds by wanting to store more body fat. And while our appetite is adversely affected, we adopt poor eating habits as we tend to crave foods that will make us feel better because sleep deprivation can negatively affect our mood. Not to mention that if you’re an active individual with aesthetic or strength goals, sleep is sacred because sleep is when we repair and build our muscles. 

Sleep is valuable, we want to protect our sleep in order to promote healthy cognitive functioning, to combat age induced cognitive declines and to protect our immune system and overall well-being. Anxiety and a racing mind are prevalent now more than ever, so it’s no surprise so many have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes we just need a helping hand to get our best sleep. 

Natural and Herbal Sleep Aids

  1. Melatonin
  2. Magnesium 
  3. Valerian Root
  4. Passionflower
  5. Glycine
  6. Reishi 
  7. Lavender


Melatonin is one of the most studied natural remedies for insomnia, it improves sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), duration and quality of sleep. Melatonin synchronizes the circadian rhythm, sleep-wakefulness cycle, and modulates the immune and cardiovascular systems. It also has immense benefits for our health, and is considered an effective antioxidant as it is used to combat oxidative stress and inflammation. It has also been shown that lower levels of melatonin increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted in the pineal gland and is released in the evening. It is also produced in other organs including the gastrointestinal tract which contains much more melatonin than the pineal gland. Through consumption of melatonin-rich food, dietary sources of tryptophan and supplements, melatonin in the GI tract can be released into the bloodstream. The amount of melatonin present in food is significantly lower than the amount in supplements, however, is still beneficial to consume melatonin-rich foods. One study measured insomniac students consuming kiwi one hour prior to bed and showed that kiwi potentially has components to improve sleep. Cherries contain melatonin and one study showed drinking a cherry juice blend had benefits for sleep in participants with insomnia. The benefits of cherry juice were equal to or exceeding the effects in studies of valerian root and some studies of melatonin supplements. Additionally, ginger and tropical fruits including pineapple, banana, orange, papaya and mango contain melatonin and increase the level of melatonin in our body upon consumption. 

Dietary sources of tryptophan are also beneficial because when consumed the body converts it to 5-HTP and serotonin which increases melatonin. Since tryptophan is an essential amino acid, the body cannot produce it unless we consume it. Turkey, meats, banana, milk, eggs, oats, cottage cheese, fish and seeds are all dietary sources of tryptophan. Although it’s possible to consume tryptophan in supplement form, it is not recommended due to its potential side effects. 

Melatonin-Rich Dietary Sources

  • Alfalfa Seed 
  • Almond 
  • Apple 
  • Barley 
  • Black mustard Seed 
  • Celery Seed  
  • Flax Seed 
  • Fennel Seed 
  • Fenugreek Seed 
  • Grape berries 
  • Ginger 
  • Milk thistle Seed 
  • Mint 
  • Oat Grain 
  • Olive oil Extra virgin 
  • Poppy Seed 
  • Red radish Root 
  • Rice 
  • St. John’s wort 
  • Sunflower Seed 
  • Tart cherry 
  • Tomato 
  • Turmeric 
  • Walnuts 
  • Wheat 
  • White mustard 

Melatonin Supplementation

Supplementing with melatonin is an effective strategy in comparison with other pharmaceutical solutions to improve sleep as it has minimal short or long-term adverse effects. To regulate your sleep-wakefulness cycle with melatonin the appropriate dose is 0.3 mg -5 mg. If you occasionally supplement with melatonin to combat jet lag, the appropriate dose is 0.5 mg – 8 mg. It is important to consult with a doctor when deciding on a melatonin supplement as melatonin content of supplements varies widely.

Get it: Melatonin Supplement


Magnesium is an essential mineral for the maintenance of our health and well-being as it regulates many physiological functions, yet most Americans are deficient. Low levels of magnesium induces anxiety and is associated with conditions of chronic stress, a decrease in quality of sleep and cardiovascular disease associated with sleep deprivation. In addition, magnesium deficiency decreases athletic performance.  

Dietary sources of magnesium are beneficial and magnesium supplementation should be implemented to improve sleep quality and physical health.

Magnesium-Rich Dietary Sources

  • Dried apricots
  • Dark chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Tofu
  • Legumes
  • Seeds (Flax, Pumpkin & Chia)
  • Nuts (Almonds, Cashews & Brazil) 
  • Fish (Salmon, Mackerel & Halibut)
  • Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens & Mustard Greens)

Magnesium Supplementation

Magnesium is essential for our health and sleep hygiene as low levels of magnesium are associated with low levels of melatonin. Depending on your age and gender the appropriate dose for adults ranges from 310 – 420 mg, check out this guide based on your needs. I would recommend taking a magnesium supplement, like MagSRT, magnesium baths (link to Epsom salt), or you could also consider applying Magnesium topically with Ease Magnesium

Get it: MagSRT or Ease Magnesium

Valerian Root

Valerian root is an herbal remedy to treat insomnia due to its sedative and hypnotic effects. The reason it’s an effective sleep remedy is because it contains y-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tyrosine, arginine and glutamine. Studies show it helps with insomnia by reducing sleep latency and improves sleep quality.  

If you are someone who consistently gets good sleep, valerian might not improve your quality of sleep as much as if you’re a poor sleeper. One study showed that participants who considered themselves as good sleepers did not experience improvement in sleep latency or quality, while those who considered themselves poor sleepers whether they were male, female or adolescents experienced a significant reduction in sleep latency and improved sleep quality. 

Valerian Root Supplementation

The only adverse effects reported (which are rare) are potential headache and gastrointestinal effects. To reach desired effectiveness, consume valerian root at least 30 minutes prior to sleeping either as a supplement or as a tea. If you are going to ingest extract for insomnia, the appropriate dosage is 300-600 mg, and can even be safely ingested up to 900 mg. If you are taking dried herbal valerian root, the dosage is 2-3 g that can be added to hot water for 15 minutes.  

Get it: Valerian Root


Passionflower is another popular sleep remedy to treat sleep disturbance, anxiety and it is composed of flavonoids which induce sedation. By consuming tea containing passionflower, one study promoted benefits of sleep among participants who typically experience inconsistencies in quality of sleep. 

Passionflower Supplementation

Passionflower is easy to incorporate into your nighttime routine by drinking tea prior to bedtime. It helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system to promote relaxation. 

Get it: This is my favourite passionflower tea or, reap even more benefits with passionflower-valerian tea.  


Glycine is a non-essential amino acid and is a building component for protein. Glycine is found in meat, fish, dairy, legumes and bone broth (link to bone broth article). Glycine is referred to as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it helps you ‘chill out’ by promoting calming hormones including GABA and reduces stress hormones including norepinephrine, which improves sleep latency. Additionally, consuming glycine before bed improves sleep quality, reduces daytime grogginess after a night of short sleep and has been shown to improve performance of memory recognition tasks.

Glycine Supplementation

Besides dietary sources containing glycine such as bone broth, it can also be taken as a supplement and is recommended to take 3 g of glycine before bedtime. Additionally, you can even mix a tablespoon of gelatin powder in your tea before bed because gelatin (also a component of bone broth) contains high amounts of glycine. 

Get it: Glycine Supplement or Gelatin Powder


Reishi Mushroom, an oriental medicinal fungus is widely recognized for its sleep benefits. It can be referred to as Ganoderma Lucidum, Lingzhi in China or Reishi in Japan. Traditionally, the Chinese and Japanese highly regard Reishi for its ability to promote sleep and to treat insomnia due to its sedative properties. It has been shown to decrease sleep latency, increase sleep time and non-REM sleep time.

Reishi Supplementation

Reishi can easily be incorporated into your nighttime routine as a Reishi Elixir tea which has a very calming effect on the central nervous system, or as a supplement.

Get it: Reishi Elixir Tea


Lavender essential oil is effective in providing a calming environment. Exposure to lavender aroma among female college students improved their insomnia and levels of depression. Another study showed that exposure to lavender at night increased deep sleep and participants even felt increased vigor in the morning. In addition, one study showed that exposure to lavender relieved grogginess when participants woke.

Diffusing Lavender 

While the aroma of lavender does not have as strong benefits as the aforementioned sleep aids, it is still effective to include in your evening routine. To reap the benefits of lavender, find a 100% pure natural lavender essential oil and simply add it to your diffuser.

Get it: Lavender Essential Oil & Diffuser

With the right dose you can rest assured these tactics will be of service. If you want to do more for your sleep routine, regulating your circadian rhythm is immensely beneficial for your sleep. In addition, there are many lifestyle habits you can adopt to promote better sleep which you can read more about here.