I try to keep a regular sleep routine so that I can be my best at writing and work. This involves wrapping up writing before dinner, finishing dinner at least 2-3 hours before I want to go to sleep, getting off the glowing screen, and reading in bed for an hour. But even with this relax-before-bedtime routine, I’ll sometimes notice that I’m feeling over-energized at bedtime, or slightly stressed if I had a long day at work.
Other times, I’ll have shifted my sleep schedule out a few hours, and need to shift it back in. For example, I might sleep in later on the weekend, and come Sunday night, I can’t get back on my weeknight sleep schedule. When I’m traveling and changing time zones I run into a similar problem.
Here’s how I’ve been able to keep a fairly regular sleep routine with the help of natural sleep aids like melatonin and magnesium:
Magnesium for when you’re feeling over-energized or stressed at bedtime
When feeling over-energized or stressed (or if I’ve consumed some caffeine / alcohol that day), I take magnesium as a sleep aid. I usually take it a few hours before I want to go to bed. Magnesium is nature’s muscle relaxer. It helps keep our blood pressure normal, bones strong, and heart rhythm steady (see WebMD). I’ve noticed that it helps me get better, more deep sleep.
Unlike melatonin, magnesium doesn’t make me sleepy when I take it. But it does relax me into my bedtime routine. I like to take the Now Foods brand, in capsule form as it’s easier to swallow than tablets (it’s available on Amazon). Magnesium citrate is more easily used by the body than magnesium oxide (the stuff they sell in the drug store).
Caffeine and alcohol drinkers have another reason to take magnesium- if you drink caffeine or alcohol on a regular basis, that can make you deplete your magnesium reserves (see University of Maryland Medical Center). This is because caffeine and alcohol consumption cause the kidneys to release extra magnesium.
Melatonin for when you need to re-adjust your sleep schedule / change time zones
If I’m trying to recalibrate my sleep schedule on a Sunday night (or changed time zones), I’ll take melatonin as a sleep aid. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control our sleep and wake cycles (see WebMD). Melatonin is naturally occurring in some meats, grains, fruits and vegetables. We also produce it in our bodies (although less as we age). I try not to take melatonin every night, as you can develop a tolerance for it over time. I take it when I need it.
I take melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime. I prefer taking the sublingual (tongue-dissolving) form as it starts working faster and is more easily used by the body. The brand I use is Source Naturals (it’s available on Amazon). For sublingual melatonin, I take 1-2 mg. Any more than that, and it will give me a sleep hangover, where I wake up feeling overly groggy. A lot of drug stores sell melatonin in ridiculously large doses. You really only need .5-2 mg to do the trick. If you happen to have a larger size (ex. 3 mg), you can cut the pills in half (here’s a pill cutter on Amazon).
What are your experiences with natural sleep remedies?
I’d love to hear about your experiences with melatonin and magnesium, along with any other natural sleep remedies you’ve discovered. Add a comment below to start the discussion. Make sure to join my private newsletter (see below) so I can keep you updated on future health and productivity tips.
Photo by Carla Gabriel Garcia