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We’re all about getting a good night’s sleep, but sometimes we need a bit of help.
Enter melatonin — one of the most popular sleep supplements in the biohacking community.
But what about if you’re looking for alternatives to melatonin? Perhaps the supplement doesn’t agree with you, or makes you feel hungover and groggy when you wake.
In recent years melatonin has been hailed as a bit of a natural wonder drug to treat insomnia, but research shows that melatonin may not, after all, be the magic solution it was purported to be, and it may not be suitable for everyone.
Let’s find out more — and what are the best melatonin alternatives available right now.
What is Melatonin?
Our bodies all naturally make our own melatonin.
It’s a hormone produced by a small gland tucked away in the brain called the pineal gland, and it performs some pretty amazing tasks in our bodies.
Every human being has an internal body clock that controls our sleep and wake cycles, and melatonin plays an important role in regulating that clock and keeping it ticking along nicely.
Melatonin levels are influenced by light exposure — when the twilight arrives and the light begins to fade, it triggers our natural melatonin levels to start rising.
This has a relaxing effect and tells your body it’s time to sleep.
Seasonal changes, working nights, jet lag, and old age can all diminish melatonin production, which can leave us fatigued and depressed.
Taking melatonin supplements can be a useful aid to counteract this imbalance, replenishing natural melatonin levels and prompting the onset of sleep, enabling sound sleep throughout the night.
Benefits of Melatonin
So, aside from helping you get to sleep at night, how else can melatonin benefit a person.
Glad you asked. Here are a few other possible benefits of melatonin supplementation:
- Eases jet lag
- Eases tinnitus
- Suppresses stomach acid
- Prevents Type II diabetes
- Reduces heartburn
- Reduces acid reflux
- Reduces frequency and intensity of migraines
- Reduces tumor growth
That’s a lot of benefits? But there must be a catch, right..?
Melatonin Side Effects
Possible side effects from taking melatonin include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, changes in blood pressure, irritability, depression, feeling groggy — and, rather ironically, disruption of the sleep cycle.
Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children should think carefully and consult a physician before taking melatonin supplements.
Melatonin supplements may also interact negatively with various other medications such as blood-thinning drugs, medications that suppress the immune system, diabetes medications and birth control pills. Always consult a doctor before taking more supplements.
Is Melatonin Addictive?
Recent research shows that melatonin supplements should only be used in specific, short term situations (situations lasting less than 2 weeks).
After this time — particularly if you’re taking a high dose — the brain becomes accustomed to it, you build up a tolerance and the positive effects simply stop.
In addition, while there is no evidence to suggest that melatonin is addictive, long term use for general insomnia may nevertheless have undesirable effects, and as dosage is not regulated it is all too easy to take too much or develop a habit taking it before bed every night.
Alternatives to Melatonin
The good news is that there are a ton of fantastic, non-risk alternatives to melatonin that will help you catch your zzzzs.
Here are our 6 favourites…
Sleep masks are a simple and effective solution to get good natural sleep.
Both glamorous and comfortable, a quality sleep mask should be made of a soft, natural fabric that covers both your eyes and cuts out as much light as possible to let the darkness work its magic to stimulate melatonin production.
Sleep masks also cut out any other visual distractions, and when combined with earplugs to block out noise can be an exceptional, cost effective sleeping aid that will boost your natural melatonin levels and send you into a deep, sound sleep.
Here are some of our favorite sleep masks:
For millions of years herbs and plants have been used to treat ailments like insomnia and anxiety, and herbal teas are a delicious, healthy way to relax before bedtime and get your body prepared for rest.
Many special blends using plants such as chamomile, valerian and lavender are available (they are of course, caffeine free), and many people swear by them.
Chamomile is probably one of the most popular sleepy-time teas, that’s known for inhibiting disorders like insomnia and anxiety.
Valerian, too, has a mild sedative effect and is a popular tea. Even if not drunk on its own, it’s often brewed into ‘sleepy’ formulations.
There’s also something incredibly calming about sitting quietly with a warm, steaming cup of tea before bed.
Sleep teas may not work for everyone, but they are one of the safest, natural — and most delicious — alternatives to melatonin around.
Our favorite sleep teas:
Magnesium is a mineral that’s vital to general good health — and good sleep.
It’s also a natural muscle relaxant, plus it blocks the production of cortisol in the brain (a hormone produced when we are stressed), meaning that it induces an overall calming effect in our bodies, which can help us to fall asleep and stay asleep until morning.
Since there are no recorded long term negative effects to taking a magnesium supplement and the effects are normally seen quickly, it is a worthy alternative to melatonin.
There are plenty of other benefits of magnesium aside from promoting healthy sleep. Try these on for size:
- Keeps teeth and bones strong
- Supports muscle function, and relieves soreness and cramping
- Increases focus and memory
- Eases depression and anxiety
- Strengthens cardiovascular function
- Alleviates constipation
Many Americans are actually deficient in magnesium, so supplementation could be a good option for you.
If you’d prefer to take in your magnesium the natural way, you can find it in dark, leafy greens like spinach, collard greens and kale.
Seeds and nuts are also a good source for it.
The best magnesium supplements:
Glycine Supplement for Sleep
Glycine is a naturally-occurring amino acid in the body that’s important for many different muscle, cognitive and metabolic functions.
It’s also used by the body to induce relaxation and kick off the sleep process, so it makes sense that this is a good choice of supplement when it comes to improving sleep quality — it has been shown to be particularly effective for people prone to waking up in the middle of the night.
A glycine supplement for sleep is also proven to help reduce hyperactivity in the brain (stop over thinking!) and calm anxiety or nervousness that may prevent you from sleeping, and unlike melatonin it won’t leave you with that groggy ‘morning hangover’ feeling.
Some of the best glycine supplements:
Another amino acid, the body needs Tryptophan in order to make serotonin — a chemical famous for regulating and balancing your moods.
Serotonin also plays a crucial role in melatonin production, so it’s logical that boosting your Tryptophan levels will help you achieve a great night’s sleep.
Indeed, while there is less research available regarding Tryptophan as a sleep aid, Tryptophan supplements have nevertheless shown potential for treating insomnia.
Here’s a good video about which form of L-Tryptophan is best for treating insomnia:
Some people have experimented with L-Tryptophan for other mood-boosting reasons, being as it’s a precursor for feel-good hormone, serotonin.
Aside from sleep regulation, here’s what you can expect with a course of L-Tryptophan supplements:
- Eases social anxiety and depression
- Controls mood swings
- Improves mood
- Can stop teeth grinding
- Might ease ADHD
- Could improve athletic performance
Here are a handful of the best L-Tryptophan supplements:
Theanine is the last of the melatonin alternatives on our list, and compared to melatonin it has no known side effects.
Normally found in many different types of tea — it was first discovered in green tea — Theanine is involved in memory function and learning processes, and it also known to have a sedative and calming effect.
Theanine is often used in the treatment of physical and mental stress, and importantly for our purposes — insomnia.
L-Theanine is also known to generate and regulate alpha waves in the brain which occur when the body is in a state of deep relaxation.
By increasing alpha wave activity, Theanine works to regulate our sleep and suppress hyper beta waves which might be keeping us awake and alert when we just want to rest.
Here are some of the best L-Theanine supplements available right now:
Phew! Now you know all our favorite alternatives to melatonin you should be in a good position to decide which is best for you and your sleep.
What are your favorite melatonin alternatives?