You don’t have to rely on dangerous, addictive sleep medication to visit the Land of Nod. Opt instead for natural therapies that help calm your body and mind while also promoting sleep. Some of the best-researched sleep nutrients include melatonin, GABA, and the herbs chamomile and passionflower.
Melatonin helps to regulate your body’s natural rhythms, including waking and sleeping. It is produced in the body from serotonin and found in bananas, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, and breast milk. Begin with a small dose (2 mg) at bedtime. For melatonin to be effective, your bedroom should be dark, as light destroys melatonin through the skin.
GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Unlike excitatory neurotransmitters, which speed up your body’s processes and promote energy, inhibitory transmitters such as GABA quiet things down and help to calm the brain during times of over-stimulation. Specifically, GABA helps to stop your brain from sending messages that cause anxiety and thus promotes calm and relaxation.
In this way, GABA is effective for reducing anxiety, improving the immune system response, and improving sleep quality. Aim for 250 mg of GABA taken about 30 minutes before bedtime.
When it comes to sleepy-time herbs, you cannot do much better than chamomile and passionflower. For more than 50 years, chamomile has been proven to help calm nerves and promote sleep. It depresses the central nervous system, reducing anxiety without disrupting normal functioning.
Conversely, passionflower works by maintaining your blood levels of serotonin, which promotes sleep. To make a delicious, calming sleep tea, steep two or three heaping teaspoons of chamomile flowers and one teaspoon of dried passion flower leaves in 1½ cups of boiling water and drink 30 minutes before bed.