Supplements That Might Help You Sleep
Here’s what you should know about melatonin, iron, vitamin D, and valerian
First, a shopper’s tip: A seal from a group like the U.S. Pharmacopeia or ConsumerLab.com provides some assurance that supplements contain what their labels claim. Here’s what to look for on the bottle before you buy.
This popular supplement is made from a natural or synthetic version of the hormone melatonin, which signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. It can be helpful for older adults (who produce less melatonin) and those with wonky body clocks (night owls, jet-lagged travelers, and night-shift workers).
But a 2013 meta-analysis found that, on average, people fall asleep only about 7 minutes faster after taking melatonin. Talk to your doctor before trying this supplement, and consider taking it only occasionally: Research is still pending on the safety of long-term use, beyond about three months. Get the Best of Our Health AdviceOur free weekly health newsletter has the latest on wellness, nutrition, and safety.First NameLast NameEmail
Iron deficiency is closely linked to restless legs syndrome, a condition marked by uncomfortable sensations in the limbs and an uncontrollable urge to move them—which can interfere with sleep. Think this might be your issue? Consult a doctor before self-treating. Taking iron could mask a more serious problem. Plus, in people without a deficiency, supplementing could lead to iron overload, which can damage organs.
A growing body of evidence suggests a link between low levels of vitamin D and sleep troubles. MORE ON SLEEPHow to Get the Sleep You Really NeedYour Toolkit for a Good Night’s SleepShould You Take Trazadone for Insomnia?Best Mattresses of 2022The Truth About Melatonin
One study of 89 adults with sleep disorders, published in 2018, found that when people whose vitamin D levels were on the low side, but not deficient, took supplements regularly for eight weeks, they said they nodded off faster, slept longer, and had better sleep quality than those who received a placebo.
But other research has found that in certain populations, the supplements have no positive effect on sleep, or may worsen it. What to do? Talk to your doctor about vitamin D testing and whether supplements might be worth a try.
This root has been used for centuries to treat insomnia. And several studies suggest that this supplement may help people fall asleep faster and wake up less often at night—though next-day grogginess may occur. But other studies show no benefit. Such mixed findings may be due to the variable quality and instability of active ingredients in valerian, according to a 2020 research review, so be sure to check for a trustworthy seal on the bottle.