Sleep health is a growing trend, and the benefits of a good night’s sleep are becoming more well known. Do we need supplements to help us though?
Sleep… so hot right now. I’m not kidding though, sleeping is a growing wellness trend! I’m seeing articles, left, right and centre about how to improve my sleep quality with tips that range from investing in the right mattress and bedding to lavender scented sprays, sun clocks and room diffusers.
One interesting addition to this trend is sleep supplements. We all know what supplements are, as many of us are in desperate need of a helping hand (particularly when it comes to vitamin D in the UK and B12 for those who are plant-based). But, rather than popping a supplement first thing with breakfast or a brew, sleep supplements are intended to be taken 30–60 minutes before you settle down to sleep.
The key ingredient that many sleep supplements contain is melatonin; a hormone that plays a vital role in our day/night cycle and circadian rhythm. It’s often prescribed as an insomnia treatment for the over 55s, but, like many wellness trends, it’s made its way into the commercial market with slick branding and advertising.
One question remains. Do they work? That’s what I set out to answer, but first I had to get my head around the dizzying array of sleep supplements that are on the market.
As a fan of their protein powders, I was intrigued when Form Nutrition launched their nootropic sleep supplement, ZZZZ’s. They’ve been lauded by the likes of Elle and GQ and, rather than containing melatonin itself, it uses amino acids and other minerals/elements to help your brain create its own.
I decided I’d start with a bottle of 30 tablets, which is perfect for a trial month’s use. At £19 they’re a fairly pricey supplement, but I figured that if they worked they’d be worth the investment (and possibly even worth subscribing for a 20% saving).
Bottle in hand, I settled into my usual bed time routine (you know, skincare, no screens, reading a book) and took my first tablet.
And what do you know, within about 30 minutes I started to feel quite sleepy! As my Lumie lightclock dimmed down I started to drift off and felt pretty refreshed in the morning. And, looking at my FitBit data, it seemed like I was able to get a bit more deep sleep.
Mind you know, some nights didn’t go as smoothly but that could be for various reasons. I may have had a coffee later in the day than usual, or it may have been due to hormonal changes.
Personal experience is one thing, what does the data say?
I had a look on PubMed, which is THE place to go for medical literature, and looked specifically for meta analysis papers as these do a lot of the hard work for me by going through numerous studies and their data to give clearer answers.
So what did I find? Well a 2022 analysis looked at dietary supplements (perfect timing for this blog post) and found that amino acids, vitamin D and melatonin all significantly improved sleep quality.1 Yay! But, as always, there’s a slight caveat. We still need more evidence to definitively say that they work.1
I kept up with my search, and other papers gave more mixed results. One said that vitamin D is ‘promising’ with helping improve sleep but needs more investigating.2 Another said that dietary melatonin (as in, the one you can buy in the shops and not the one prescribed by doctors) had little effect on adults but worked better in the elderly.3
All in all, I’d say that things are looking good for the supplement market but, as always, it’s best to know that a supplement like this may not magically improve your sleep overnight.
Final thoughts for getting a good night’s sleep
Like I just said, taking a sleep supplement may not immediately change the quality or quantity of sleep that you get. As always, there are lots of different changes you can make to improve sleep that add up.
This starts with simple things like shutting down screens about an hour or so before you want to go to sleep. Then there’s things like having a warming drink, like chamomile tea or a specific sleep blend, that may help you to unwind and put you in the space to get to sleep. Even wearing the cosiest, comfiest sets of pyjamas may help!
Finally, I’m a personal fan of the Lumie clock as it gently dims the lights and the Headspace app, which contains a long list of sleepcasts that take you on a peaceful journey and guide through breathing exercises.
In fact, I can see Twilight Square right now or maybe I’ll pop by to Rainday Antiques…
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- Chan V and Lo K. Postgrad Med J. 2022;98(1158):285–293.
- Abboud M. Nutrients. 2022;14(5):1076.
- Want L, et al. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021;131:489–496.