When I started training I was told to do three things - EAT, LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS & SLEEP. It was a simple recipe for growth that anyone can follow…
It’s getting to that time of year where the summer heat can make sleeping uncomfortable, everyone hates spending all night tossing and turning and a lack of sleep can lead to decreased sex drive, poor performance in the gym, elevated cortisol levels, fat gain etc. All stuff that we as bodybuilders strive to avoid!
In this article I want to give a brief overview of natural sleeping aids that are available over the counter, some are effective on their own, others give a great nights sleep when mixed together.
*IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT SOME OF THESE SUPPLEMENTS MAY INTERACT WITH ANY MEDICATION YOU ARE TAKING AS WITH ANY SUPPLEMENT PROTOCAL ITS IMPORTANT TO CARRY OUT RESEARCH AND SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR *
Melatonin – Powerful anti-oxidant, Melatonin is produced by the human body at night to help us maintain our sleep-wake cycles - 1-3mg 45mins before bed will help you get off to a good nights sleep with no “hangover” feeling the next day, its also common to experience very vivid dreams when using it.
Valerian – is a herb that has been used as treatment for mild insomnia for many years, there are quite a few studies that back its efficacy, depending on the potency 500-1000mg will significantly aid sleep quality, the main side effect being possible sleepiness the following day with higher dosages – therefore I would suggest starting at a low dose to assess your tolerance.
5-HTP – A naturally occurring amino acid and a precursor to serotonin & melatonin, dosage’s for sleep aid are usually 50mg 30 min’s before bed. Because of its effect on Serotonin, this supplement can cause a number of unwanted sides so I would suggest doing some in depth research before using it.
L-Tryptophan – is a precursor to 5-htp and in turn serotonin – in a study, 42 normal subjects took 1 or 3 grams. Both tryptophan groups (1 and 3 grams) had significantly lower sleep latency than the placebo group – Tryptophan has been around for ages and was first synthesized from casein. A dosage of 1g before bed would be more than enough to aid sleep.
GABA – Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) is developed from amino acid glutamine and glucose. It's actually a natural compound exists in your brain. Dosages are usually around 1-2g.
L-Dopa – Typically derived from Macuna Pruriens, it has been used in the past as treatment for Parkinson’s disease. In short it is a precursor to dopamine. There have been multiple studies on its efficacy as a sleeping aid specifically with a view to treat restless leg syndrome. The majority show L-Dopa to enhance sleep compared to a placebo. Usual doses are 10-25mg of L-Dopa (this would be derived from 100g macuna depending on the concentration of the extract).
Kava - Kava is an anti-anxiety herb that may be helpful for anxiety-related insomnia. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory to consumers about the potential risk of severe liver injury resulting from the use of dietary supplements containing kava. To date, there have been more than 25 reports of serious adverse effects from kava use in other countries, including four patients who required liver transplants.
ZMA - is a combination of the two essential dietary minerals, zinc and magnesium. These two minerals are sometimes not adequately supplied in the diet so it could also benefit you even if you don’t have sleep troubles. ZMA aids sleep quality because magnesium has been shown to increase sleep quality. A1998 study published in the journal Sleep focused on magnesium’s effects on participants afflicted with two sleep-specific conditions: period limb movements during sleep (PLMS) and restless leg syndrome (RLS). When given magnesium every evening for 4-6 weeks, these participants showed significant improvements in sleep efficiency.
I hope this gives you a basic understanding of some of the supplements that are available to help you obtain a decent night’s sleep. If you are continually experiencing poor sleep then I would suggest visiting your doctor to discuss the underlying cause.
You'll find many of these supplements in our Relaxation Supplements, Vitamins & Minerals, and Sexual Health sections on site:
Specific product recommendations would be: