I’m the type of nerd who’s never satisfied with a day’s education. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, the more I want to learn more things — and on and on — which is why, when nightfall hits, I’m nowhere near ready for bed. Instead, I’m still sitting at my desk with a day’s accumulation of, like, 20 books and 13 magazines all piled atop each other, open and bookmarked.
It’s kind of strange and sad, really. More productivity leads to more feelings of daily unfulfillment. What the hell kind of bogus trade-off is that?
What’s worse is that it’s hard to fall asleep feeling unfulfilled with a day’s work.
Often I’m tempted to resort to heavy-grade sleeping pills, the type that totally wipe you out and leave you with no choice but to sleep. But given their risk of abuse and side effects — such as a loss of memory, which would be insanely counterproductive in my case — I avoid these types of sedatives.
Instead, I resort to nootropics and natural sleeping pills. This year, in particular, I feel I’ve finally found a sleep aid stack that I like — that actually helps me fall asleep without leaving me feeling groggy in the morning — and that refreshes me in a way that actually allows for greater productivity; enough productivity that I’m starting to actually feel somewhat fulfilled by bedtime. So, if you’re anything like me, the following list may be of some benefit to you. Enjoy.
Best Sleep Supplements to Buy in 2021
Enough’s enough. It’s been a long day, it’s been a long week — it’s been a long year — and, now, it’s time to finally relax, stop worrying, and get some sleep. We’ve got a big day, week, year, etc. ahead of us, so let’s start it all out right with some of the best sleep supplements of 2021. Check it out, friend-Os:
Montmorency Tart Cherry Extract
I did not know that montmorency tart cherries supplied the richest natural source of dietary melatonin, but there you have it: tart cherries have melatonin, the sleepy-time neurochemical secreted by the pineal gland when it’s, well …time to sleep. Or when our brain perceives that it’s time to sleep in response to your circadian rhythm and light exposure.
It’s important to maintain a consistent sleep and wake schedule, if you wish to maintain a consistent circadian rhythm. When you wake and sleep at generally consistent hours, your body develops a rhythm, a predictable cycle of hormone activities that trigger morning wakefulness (e.g., the morning spike in stress hormone cortisol) and nighttime sleepiness (e.g., the nighttime release of melatonin).
When your mind and body fall out of rhythm — i.e., when you sleep and wake at unpredictable hours — your sleep quality and overall health suffer.
The best way to get back in rhythm is to organize a better, more consistent sleep-wake schedule. Another best way to get better sleep is to supplement melatonin. And not just any ol’ melatonin, but the good stuff: the montmorency tart cherry extract stuff. Whereas generic melatonin tends to be synthetic and over-dosed, natural cherry melatonin extract offers a standardized, modest amount of this brain chemical. Enough to get the job done, but not so much that you wake up feeling like you left your brain in the dumpster somewhere.
Also, bear in mind that drinking tart cherry juice itself prior to sleep also seems to improve sleep quality, while also supplying the cherry’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory health benefits. But if you can get your hands on cherry extract in supplement form (see below), it’s definitely worth it.
Turkey meat’s heavy in L-tryptophan, right? That’s where the whole “you’re tired after eating Thanksgiving dinner” myth came from, right?? I’m fairly sure that’s an unfounded myth, as you’d have to eat a lot of turkey to receive that much L-tryptophan — like, a lethal, stomach-bursting amount of turkey. However, the belief that L-tryptophan makes people sleepy is not a myth.
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that assists with sleep quality enhancement by participating in the serotonergic, melatonergic pathways. Essentially, L-tryptophan converts to serotonin and melatonin through the following conversion processes:
- L-tryptophan converts to 5-HTP
- 5-HTP converts to serotonin
- Serotonin converts to melatonin
It’s important to note the intermediate neurochemicals between L-tryptophan and melatonin: serotonin and 5-HTP. These are your feel-good brain chemicals that keep you in a good mood during the day and in a calm, relaxed mood at night. Serotonin, in particular, is responsible for your feelings of well-being and security. Thus, L-tryptophan not only assists with sleep but also mood.
The mood boosting aspect of this ingredient is particularly groovy, as it ensures that your night of great sleep actually works towards a morning (and day) of feeling good and ready to go — ready to take on all of life’s BS with a smile and positive attitude. (Sort of like Camus’ Sisyphus.) With that in mind, it’s a smart idea to pair this ingredient with melatonin, given their shared participation in the serotonergic pathway.
Here’s the problem with magnesium: it’s an awesome mineral that we’re not getting enough of.
Okay, so maybe that’s a problem with us and not magnesium, per se, but the fact remains: magnesium deficiency is a fairly widespread condition. And this is a total bummer considering that this mineral plays a role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions across the brain and body. Many of those reactions play a role in relaxation and falling asleep. For example, magnesium stimulates the activity of GABA, the neurotransmitter that counteracts excitatory brain activity.
This is why magnesium is such a treasured mineral among, say, Adderall users. Magnesium supplementation helps block over-excited neurons to ensure better sleep, better recovery, better neuroplasticity, so on and so forth.
What’s responsible for magnesium deficiency? For most of us, the answer’s found in both our diets and our sweat. With increased food processing technology comes a general loss of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Many of the foods we eat are magnesium-deficient themselves. On top of that, even the health-conscious athletes and bodybuilders risk magnesium-deficiency due to the loss of minerals via sweating. And on top of THAT, many of those athletes who are aware of their loss of minerals supplement weak sauce multivitamins and magnesium sources, which supply magnesium (and other micronutrients) in cheap, hard-to-absorb forms.
Two great, bioavailable magnesium forms: Magnesium Bisglycinate, a chelated magnesium bound to potency-enhancing glycine, and Magnesium Taurate, a chelated magnesium bound to taurine, which is a sleep-improving neurotransmitter and antioxidant on its own.
I love L-theanine, both for daytime mental performance enhancement and nighttime relaxation. It’s an incredibly unique nootropic in that sense: L-theanine helps boost focus without stimulation and L-theanine helps boost relaxation without sedation. In other words, there really isn’t a wrong time to take this brain booster, which is why it’s found in one of my best nootropic supplements to buy in 2021.
Sourced from green tea (Camellia sinensis), L-theanine is the bio-active compound that gives tea its relaxing edge — or rather: a lack of an edge altogether. It smooths out green tea’s caffeine content, distinguishing tea’s caffeine from coffee’s caffeine. Whereas coffee threatens to leave you feeling jittery and spent after a few too many cups, green tea rarely (if ever) reaches that level of excitation. And this is largely due to green tea’s L-theanine content.
Nootropic nerds picked up on the complementary effects of L-theanine and caffeine early. Taken as a standalone ingredient, L-theanine provides its own cognitive enhancement benefits via the promotion of alpha brainwaves, the brain frequency state associated with calm, meditative thinking. When paired with caffeine, L-theanine reduces the jittery edge of this stimulant, yet leaves the focus and energy benefits. Which is super groovy and makes it incredibly hard to return to regular ol’ coffee without L-theanine. (Actually, it’s not that hard, but there is a noticeably positive difference when L-theanine is involved.)
For nighttime use, it’s obviously best to take L-theanine without the caffeine. Again, L-theanine doesn’t work as a sedative, so this isn’t the type of sleep aid that will have you feeling like you’re fighting off gravity to move across the room. But its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects are incredibly useful at reducing anxious thoughts and cognitive processes to more calmly fall asleep.
All-in-One Nighttime Stack: Performance Lab Sleep
Many supplements supply standalone melatonin, and, yes, they work at helping you fall asleep. But they also ruin your mornings by supplying too much melatonin — or worse: too much synthetic melatonin. Performance Lab Sleep has easily become my favorite sleep aid supplement (and one I take every night), due to its use of natural melatonin extracted from cherry. Altogether, this supplement’s simply formula looks like:
- Montmorency Tart Cherry Extract (as CherryPURE®), 500mg
- L-Tryptophan (as TryptoPure®), 250mg
- Magnesium (as BioGenesis™), 100mg
What’s important to note here are the qualities and quantities of these ingredients. Performance Lab does a solid job at supplying highly bioavailable, high potency ingredients in their enhanced forms (e.g., as patented brands: CherryPURE®, TryptoPure®), without overdoing it on the dosage scale.
When it comes to sleep aids, you only want the smallest amount of melatonin required to improve sleep quality. And you want a reliable, consistent amount of melatonin. Synthetic melatonin tends to unpredictably vary in its bio-active concentrations. Natural melatonin extract keeps it to a predictable standard. This is important, if you don’t want to wake up feeling like you’ve been randomly body-slammed in the head over and over while you were asleep.
This is truly one of those supplements that leaves you feeling like you acquired more sleep than you actually did upon waking. And it’s made it a lot easier for me to get up without hitting snooze 25 times, which is a monumental achievement for a morning-hater such as myself.
Want some? Buy Performance Lab Sleep here.
Read my Performance Lab Sleep Review here.
Stack with Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi
I earlier mentioned the risk of magnesium-deficiency with modern food processing and high-intensity, sweat-inducing training. The same applies for many other micronutrients, especially vitamins which have a tough time surviving today’s food prep procedures. This loss of micronutrients is not only detrimental to our sleep but to our health overall. Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi helps replenish those micronutrient levels with its unique, food-identical multivitamin formula.
It’s a smart stack option to Performance Lab Sleep for its foundational nutritional support for overnight recovery and replenishment, as well as for its boost on immune and digestive health. Again, athletes and bodybuilders with additional micronutrient demands may do well with additional micronutrient support. The same applies for anyone who worries they’re not receiving enough nutrients from their diet.
Want some? Buy Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi here.
Read my Performance Lab Whole-Food Review here.