Magnesium + Calcium
This is a great starting point for anyone considering a sleep supplement. Why? Magnesium and calcium are both naturally occurring minerals that your body needs anyway, and they help your muscles and your brain relax so you're able to drift off faster. Calcium helps you absorb magnesium, which makes combining the minerals a more effective sleep aid.
My Rx: You should get your MD's OK before trying this or any sleep supplement, especially if you're taking other medications that might interact. But if you get the green light, I recommend a pill that has a two-to-one ratio of calcium to magnesium; look for a 200 mg/100 mg or a 300 mg/150 mg dosage. If you spot the liquid version, go for it. Unlike herbal pills, which can take 60 to 90 minutes to be effective because your body has to digest them first, a liquid supplement (two to three drops under your tongue) gets absorbed faster. That means you can take it right before bed or even if you wake up in the middle of the night. It's fine to use it regularly — yes, even every night — especially because most Americans are deficient in magnesium.
Valerian + Hops
Sometimes patients who've tried magnesium and calcium still can't sleep. That's when I suggest a switch to valerian, a plant that's been used for thousands of years to treat insomnia; it can help reduce anxiety and shorten the time it takes to doze off. I've seen that combining valerian with hops can lead to deeper shut-eye.
My Rx: Try a pill that's 150 mg valerian and 50 mg hops, and take it 30 minutes to an hour before bed. If patients still aren't sleeping soundly after a week, I suggest a dose of 300 mg valerian/100 mg hops. Some of my patients take this supplement nightly; others pop it as needed. Choose an organic brand to lessen your exposure to pesticides.
Melatonin, a hormone that's produced by your body, doesn't initiate sleep, meaning you can't pop it a few minutes before bed to conk out. Instead, it helps regulate your sleep cycle. It's best for jet lag or when you can't fall asleep after a string of late nights that threw off your circadian rhythm.
My Rx: You might find it sold in 3, 5, or even 10 mg pills, but those doses are way too high and can lead to daytime sleepiness, headaches, and dizziness. I recommend 1 to 2 mg 90 minutes before bed, because it takes about that long to reach effectiveness in the bloodstream. Melatonin isn't for long-term use; two or three nights should get your sleep cycle back on track.
This story originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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