To Sleep or Not to Sleep? That is the Question.

Ah, sleep. There’s nothing quite like a good night’s rest. Tucked in under the covers and catching some zzzz’s for eight hours… What? You’re not familiar? Let’s look at some ways to address that.

Sleep is probably the most under-rated protective health measure out there. Without deep, restorative sleep, your body cannot complete the processes of healing and regeneration that are meant to take place during sleep. The number of hours of sleep necessary varies some but it is generally advised to get between six and eight hours of sleep per night.

Barring any medical conditions that may be the underlying reason for sleep difficulties, a few common lifestyle factors are simply not finding enough time for sleep and interference with sleep hormones caused by blue light devices. The first issue, of course, is up to you. Sleep is so vitally important for your body and your brain that nothing else should come before a good night’s sleep. You will be more productive during the day if you get enough sleep each night, so sacrificing sleep to “get it all done” during the day usually proves to be counterproductive in the long run. As for blue light, yes, many cell phones now have an automatic feature that warms the blue light during pre-sleep hours so as not to interfere with melatonin production (blue light tells your body it’s daytime and turns off melatonin release which is necessary for sleep). But what about your tablet, computer, or TV? Finding a pair of blue light filtering glasses is a simple step you can take to limit the blue light that is telling your brain to be ready for daytime when you’re on a device in the evening. Ideally, putting aside all screens an hour or two prior to bedtime is best, but isn’t always realistic.


Commonly used for insomnia and anxiety, this herb is often found in tea blends used for these purposes. Valerian is a flowering perennial plant native to Asia and Europe but is grown in North America, as well. Though this plant has lovely flowers, it’s actually the root that is most beneficial for sleep and anxiety. It contains oils and acids that produce a calming effect on the body. It has been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improves sleep quality with no morning drowsiness. An exciting Swedish study showed significant positive effects of valerian root on sleep. Forty-four percent of the participants reported that their sleep was “perfect”. Overall, 89% of those involved in the study reported that valerian root improved their sleep by helping them fall asleep faster or get better quality sleep. [4]


Undoubtedly, you have heard melatonin associated with sleep. Maybe you’ve even tried it yourself. But what is it and why does it work? Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is released only at night. Melatonin helps us sleep due to its ability to regulate the circadian rhythm while also addressing sleep onset, quality, and duration of sleep. Supplemental melatonin has been shown to safely deliver these same results with very little side effects in comparison to pharmaceutical drugs used for the same purpose. It is important to note that melatonin does not actually make you sleep, it calms the body and prepares the body to sleep. [1]


Magnesium is a mineral that is important for many functions of the body including muscle and nerve function. Adequate amounts of magnesium in the diet enable us to fall asleep without difficulty and to stay asleep while getting quality sleep. This important mineral not only has a calming effect on the body, particularly the nervous system, but it also plays a part in the regulation of neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep. In addition, magnesium helps to reduce symptoms of restless leg syndrome which can be a big reason why some people are unable to sleep or get quality sleep. In studies, magnesium has proven to be valuable in positively affecting sleep time, sleep onset, and quality of sleep. While we do get magnesium from our diet, we don’t always get enough. Foods that are high in fiber also tend to be high in magnesium. A few examples of some of these foods are green leafy vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Also, don’t forget that chocolate contains a significant amount of magnesium (but remember it also contains caffeine)! [5]


Theanine is an amino acid that affects nerve impulses in the brain. It boosts levels of calming brain chemicals while also reducing levels of excitatory brain chemicals. Because of its relaxing effect on the mind and the body, it is considered a natural anxiety treatment. This makes it a great choice to help ease anxiety, hyperactivity and sleep troubles. The beauty of the sleep side of this is that it helps you fall asleep more quickly while extending your time in deep sleep. This is especially helpful for people who wake often during the night. All of this helps to restore the natural sleep and wake cycle helping you to feel refreshed and alert in the morning instead of groggy. Another bonus, if you enjoy dreams, is that theanine may also encourage dreaming. And it produces these results without causing drowsiness. This is noteworthy because pharmaceutical sleep aids are sedatives and often come with a hefty price paid in side effects. [2]


5-HTP is a compound produced by the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Our bodies need tryptophan but don’t make it, so we must get it throughout diet. Meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish are some of the ways to get in your diet. When we do take it in, our bodies can then manufacture 5-HTP from it. If you don’t eat the foods that contain tryptophan or don’t eat much of them, you can help things along by taking 5-HTP in supplemental form. How can this benefit sleep? This compound helps you to sleep by indirectly increasing your melatonin production. It does this by producing serotonin that gets converted into melatonin which we already know is a hormone that has a part in governing sleep. The process looks a little bit like this: tryptophan> 5-HTP > serotonin > melatonin. This may seem complicated, but don’t worry—your body knows what to do. One study shows that 5-HTP taken along with GABA dramatically reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. It also improves sleep quality and duration. [3]


  1. A review of sleep disorders and melatonin – PubMed (
  2. In Search of a Safe Natural Sleep Aid – PubMed (
  3. 5-HTP Supplement — Health Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects |
  4. Double blind study of a valerian preparation – PubMed (
  5. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up – PubMed (

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. None of the research or evidence presented here is intended as a substitute for consulting an appropriate healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have a disease condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this or any other dietary supplement.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep? That is the Question.

Becky Anonich

Becky Anonich crafts articles from her home in Oshkosh. Her passion for health, wellness and research often benefits her two daughters and husband, though they sometimes wonder if she has finally lost her marbles. She keeps her marbles via a good mystery novel, time in her garden and fancy decaf coffee concoctions.