Top Sleep Supplements Backed by Research

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Getting sufficient restful sleep is vital to being happy, productive, and having energy. Finding which supplements could help you is difficult, as most sources of information about supplements are biased. For this reason we've focused on supplements that have the support of research conducted by respected scientists.

We've also researched the most reputable companies and made some recommendations, because just buying a supplement backed by research doesn't guarantee that you're getting a high-quality product.

The Best Sleep Supplements

Gummies for Sleep

  • This product combines many of the top recommended supplements for sleep including magnesium, L-theanine, melatonin, 5-HTP, and a herbal combo including valerian
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, no artificial sweeteners or flavors, soy-free
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • 30-day supply

Melatonin and 5-HTP Capsules

  • Melatonin is produced by your pineal gland every night, and supplementing it for short periods has been found to help people get to sleep faster
  • Vegetarian
  • Time-released to help you stay asleep throughout the night
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Free from peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, yeast, egg, and crustacean shellfish
  • 2-month supply

GABA Capsules

  • GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down the brain, producing a calming effect
  • Gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • 1000 mg per serving (with 2 capsules), 300 capsules and 150 day supply

Magnesium Lotion

  • Low levels of magnesium has been linked to insomnia 
  • Magnesium can be effectively absorbed through the skin
  • Magnesium chloride in a base of organic oils
  • Free of fragrances, parabens, and phenoxyethanol
  • 1 ml of lotion has 30 mg of elemental magnesium
  • Non-greasy formula that hydrates the skin

CBD

  • Supplementing CBD for sleep has been found to relieve anxiety, reduce sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep once you lie down), and increase the length of sleep as well as the depth
  • Full-spectrum extract
  • 100% organic and non-GMO
  • Third-party tested
  • CO2 extraction method helps preserve the terpenes, essential oils, vitamins, trace minerals, omega fatty acids, and cannabinoids
  • Grown in the USA on licensed farms in Colorado

Magnesium Glycinate Capsules

  • Magnesium has helped many with their sleep and combining it with glycine has enhanced benefit as glycine is a neurotransmitter involved in relaxation; magnesium glycinate is therefore one of the forms of magnesium recommended for sleep
  • Free from gluten, tree nuts and peanuts, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and ingredients, coatings and shellacs, unnecessary binders and fillers, trans fat and hydrogenated oils
  • Non-GMO and hypoallergenic
  • 120 mg magnesium glycinate per capsule
  • 90 capsules

Lavender Essential Oil

  • Lavender has been used to combat insomnia for centuries
  • Vegan, non-GMO, cruelty-free, and free from additives
  • Organic and third-party tested
  • Bottle is dark amber glass to help prevent damage to the oil from UV light
  • Comes with German dropper in the cap
  • For use with a diffuser, or putting a couple drops on your pillow
  • There's debate on whether you should put essential oils on your skin; to be on the safe side, mix it with a carrier oil (such as olive oil) in a 95% carrier oil/5% lavender oil mix

Valerian Capsules

  • Valerian root is the most popular and studied herbal supplement for sleep. There have been many studies that have shown valerian helps people get to sleep quicker and increase sleep quality without producing side effects
  • Certified organic
  • Vegan, no binders or additives
  • Non-GMO, free from soy, wheat, gluten, tree nuts, and sugar
  • 2 capsules contain 900 mg

Melatonin

Melatonin is the most popular sleep aid for a reason - your pineal gland produces it every night in order for you to sleep when it gets cooler and darker. It has been approved in Europe for the management of primary insomnia in adults over the age of 55, and clinical trials have shown that melatonin is effective for children with autism spectrum disorders, adolescents with depression, children with ADHD, hypertensive patients taking beta-blockers, and women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Sleep experts don't recommend using melatonin for long periods, but it seems to be safe for short-term situations such as:

  • Jet lag
  • Irregular sleep schedule, such as working a late shift or waking up late
  • Occasional problems getting to sleep

Melatonin is effective for treating insomnia without physical dependence, addiction, or other negative side effects, though large-scale clinical trials are warranted. Melatonin stops being effective if taken for a while.

Dosage

Taking half a milligram to 3 mg a couple hours before bed is recommended.

Side Effects

Daytime sleepiness, irritability, and mild headaches sometimes occur with taking melatonin, though it often comes from taking too much, or not timing your dosage correctly.

Food Sources

According to the Sleep Foundation, the following foods are high in melatonin: kiwi, tart cherries, milk, fatty fish, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and rice.

Magnesium

Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to insomnia and sleep disturbances, and healthy magnesium levels often lead to deep, restful, and uninterrupted sleep. Magnesium also maintains healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in sleep, as low levels of GABA make it hard to relax and sleep. Low levels of magnesium are associated with stress and anxiety, as well as depression.

Magnesium gets depleted through exercise, illness, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption. The American Osteopathic Association estimates that 50% of Americans are magnesium deficient.

Different Forms of Magnesium

The magnesium molecule has to be bonded to another molecule in order to be stable. The most common forms of magnesium are chelate, citrate, oxide, glycinate, or sulfate. The rate of absorption for magnesium is low, ranging from 35% to 45%, and shouldn't be taken with calcium (they compete with each other). The magnesium molecule is small, but the size of the molecule it bonds to varies. In some cases you may have a form of magnesium that has a lower assimilation rate, such as magnesium oxide, but the oxygen molecule is smaller, so you get more magnesium. And magnesium citrate is the best absorbed form, but the molecule it's bonded to is large, so you end up getting less magnesium per dose.

In deciding what form of magnesium to take, you have to consider what the bonded molecule does. For example, magnesium taurate is good for the heart, as the amino acid taurate feeds the heart muscle and enhances the quality of the contractions of the heart. But the taurate molecule is large, so you will receive less magnesium per dose relative to most other forms of magnesium.

For the purpose of sleep, there are the best 3 options to consider.

The first recommendation is magnesium glycinate. Glycine is a neurotransmitter involved in relaxation.

The second is based on the fact that magnesium is absorbed well through the skin, so you can use it topically before bed in an oil, gel, or lotion in the form of magnesium chloride. You can also soak in a hot bath with epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).

The third option is magnesium L-threonate, which passes the blood brain barrier more easily and has been shown to enhance sleep quality.

Dosage

One study found that older adults with insomnia who took 550 mg of magnesium before bed fell asleep faster, stayed asleep longer, had fewer awakenings, and increased their levels of melatonin. The recommended daily allowances to meet the nutritional requirements of 97%-98% of all individuals is 400 mg in males and 360 mg in females from 19-30 years old, 420 mg for males aged 31 and older, and 320 mg for females 31 and older.

Larger amounts of magnesium aren't necessarily better, as there's a higher likelihood of side effects.

Side Effects

High doses of magnesium can cause nausea, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. It can also interact with some types of antibiotics and other medicines.

Food Sources

Good sources of magnesium, listed from highest to lowest, include roasted pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, boiled spinach, dry roasted cashews, oil roasted peanuts, black beans, edamame, peanut butter, baked potato, brown rice, yogurt, kidney beans, banana, Atlantic salmon, milk, raisins, avocado, chicken breast, beef, broccoli, apple, and carrot.

For more information about magnesium and sleep, see our article "How Magnesium Affects Your Sleep."

L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that promotes relaxation and sleep. It may slow brain activity, promote positive feelings, and reduce alertness and anxiety. Taking it with GABA reduces the time it takes to fall asleep, and it increases NREM sleep.

Dosage

The FDA states that it's probably safe to consume up to 200 mg of L-theanine before bed to help with sleep.

Side Effects

The FDA classifies L-theanine as generally recognized as safe up to 250 mg per serving, though high doses can cause gastrointestinal issues, and in rare cases, liver problems.

Food Sources

Green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and some mushrooms. Green tea has the most L-theanine of all sources.

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down your brain by blocking some signals in your brain and spinal cord. It's known for producing a calming effect and is thought to play a major role in reducing fear, anxiety, and stress. Its main benefit is to help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency).

Dosage

There are no universal standards for dosage and timing of GABA supplements. One small study found that a 300 mg dose of GABA before bed for several weeks was well-tolerated. And studies suggest that GABA should be taken for at least a week before any improvement in sleep will be noticed.

Side Effects

There are few side effects to supplementing GABA. At normal doses, there are no issues, though in rare cases, people experienced abdominal pain and headaches. At high doses, people have reported a burning feeling in the throat.

Food Sources

It's not clear if eating foods with GABA will allow the GABA to reach the brain, but GABA is found in kimchi, miso, tempeh, green, black, and oolong tea, brown rice, soy beans, adzuki beans, chestnuts, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, sprouted grains, and sweet potatoes.

5-HTP

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is created in the body from tryptophan, which is then converted to serotonin, which helps regulate mood and behavior, and may have a positive impact on sleep, appetite, mood, anxiety, and pain sensation. And serotonin can be converted into melatonin. One animal study showed that 5-HTP was effective when combined with GABA.

Dosage

It's recommended to take 200 mg to 400 mg per night to stimulate serotonin, but it may take 6 to 12 weeks to be effective.

Side Effects

5-HTP is well-tolerated by healthy adults, and possible side effects include excessive sleepiness, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle spasms, and sexual problems.

Food Sources

5-HTP isn't found in food, although tryptophan can be found in food. According to Mount Sinai, eating foods with tryptophan doesn't increase 5-HTP levels much. 5-HTP as a supplement is made from an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.

CBD

Cannabidiol is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. It doesn't make you high (THC does that). There's a growing body of research that demonstrates CBD's anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and calming effects (though more research is needed). Supplementing CBD for sleep has been found to relieve anxiety, reduce sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep once you lie down), and increase the length of sleep as well as the depth. Read our guide on our favorite CBD oils for sleep.

Dosage

It's recommended to take 1 mg to 6 mg per 10 lbs of body weight, 30 minutes before sleep.

Side Effects

CBD is well-tolerated, but side effects can include diarrhea, reduction of appetite, fatigue, and dry mouth.

Food Sources

CBD is from the hemp plant, though people don't consume hemp as a food. There are however many foods and drinks that are infused with CBD.

Valerian

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is the most popular and studied herbal supplement for sleep. There have been many studies that show valerian to help people get to sleep quicker and increase sleep quality without producing side effects. Valerian has a long history of use; it was first used medicinally as far back as the first century AD, for treating nervous disorders and insomnia in the Middle Ages, and by the English during the bombing raids of WW2.

Researchers have theorized that valerian may release GABA in the brain and may block the enzyme that destroys GABA.

Dosage

It's recommended to take 150 mg to 300 mg of 0.8% valeric acid, 30 minutes before sleep. You can then reduce the dosage if you feel groggy in the morning.

Side Effects

Valerian is considered safe and well-tolerated, but some users have experienced nausea and abdominal cramps. It may have adverse effects when combined with other medications such as Xanax®, Valium®, Ativan®, and Halcion®, Luminal®), morphine, and propofol (Diprivan®), and other supplements such as St. John’s wort, kava, and melatonin.

Food Sources

There are no food sources for this herb, except for steeping the herb in a tea.

Lavender

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has been used for relaxation and insomnia since the Roman Empire. Some studies have found it to be effective in mild cases of insomnia. One study concluded that inhaling lavender and sleep hygiene together, and sleep hygiene alone to a lesser degree, improved sleep quality for college students with insomnia.

Lavender interacts with GABA to calm the brain and nervous system, but also functions as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anxiety reliever.

Dosage

As a supplement, a dose of 80 mg to 160 mg is recommended 30 minutes before bed. The most popular use of lavender is in aromatherapy, which involves a diffuser, or you can put a couple of drops of lavender on your pillow.

Side Effects

Lavender is generally considered as safe, though it can cause constipation, headache, and increased appetite.

Food Sources

There are no food sources for this herb, except for steeping the herb in a tea.

Top Sleep Supplements FAQ

It's best to get your nutrition through food. It's difficult, if not impossible, to get toxic doses of nutrients through food, but it can be done with supplements. And unless your supplement has undergone third-party testing, it may contain harmful ingredients which may damage your kidney, liver, or other organs.

Also keep in mind that some ingredients may interact with other supplements or drugs that you're taking, such as Vitamin K interfering with anti-blood clotting effects of blood thinners, or taking high amounts of B6 for a year or longer is associated with nerve damage.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate supplements, therefore you should look for the NSF or USP seals, which indicate high quality. These third-party labs test products to verify that the products have what they claim to have in their list of ingredients with a Certificate of Analysis (COA), that they don't contain harmful substances, such as heavy metals or microbes, and that the products are standardized from batch to batch.