https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/supplements-for-sleep

The 18 Best Supplements Of 2021 (All With Science-Backed Ingredients)*

Emma Loewe

mbg Senior Sustainability EditorBy Emma Loewe

Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., R.D.N.

Expert review byAshley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., R.D.N.

Woman Sleeping in Bed

Image by iStockOur editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.July 18, 2021 — 9:04 AMShare on:

Over a third of Americans regularly miss out on the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep a night, according to the CDC. Beyond cranky mornings and coffee cravings, sleeplessness can have real impacts on health, as rest is essential to brain functionimmunitymuscle repairmetabolic health, and much more.

These days, countless sleep supplements promise to make it easier to catch some shut-eye (and all the benefits that come along with it)—but which ones actually work? Here’s mbg’s holy grail list of what to look for in a sleep supplement and how to find the right one for your nightly needs.*In This Article

How to pick a sleep supplement & what we look for.

Anyone in the market for a new sleep aid knows how tricky it can be to cut through all the labels, claims, and ingredient lists on various products. Here, mbg’s Director of Scientific Affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, breaks your search down into six key elements of an effective and safe sleep supplement:*

  • It has science-backed ingredients: The ingredient label is always the first thing you’ll want to look at in a sleep supplement. It should feature active ingredients that are backed by sleep-relevant science and dosed properly. We broke down what those are below to make your search easy breezy.
  • It comes in an effective but gentle form: Since you’ll presumably be taking this supplement every night, you’ll want to make sure it’s gentle on the stomach. Look for ingredients that have been studied on humans in clinical trials. The higher the bioavailability (the percentage of supplement that actually makes it into the bloodstream), the better.
  • It comes in a convenient serving size: Be it a capsule, spray, or tincture, the supplement should be easy and enjoyable to consume nightly.
  • Its ingredients justify the cost: The most affordable sleep supplements tend to contain a single active ingredient. Formulas that are more expensive should feature high-quality, clean ingredients (e.g., organic, higher bioavailability, botanical extracts, etc.) paired with additional premium nutrients or botanicals.
  • It contains few other ingredients: The shorter the “other ingredients” list, the better. You’ll want a supplement that contains actives and not much else, so look for one free of binders, preservatives, and artificial colors or flavors. Looking for allergen-free supplements made without gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc., is also a smart move.
  • It comes from a trusted brand: Buy from a brand that’s transparent about its ingredients, sourcing, and quality testing. Above and beyond practices would include independent third-party testing (which helps ensure the purity and potency of a product) and/or USDA-certified organic seal. If the company has committed to sustainable packaging and/or shipping practices, all the better.

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Top sleep supplement ingredients.

Remember how science-backed ingredients are the most important things to look for? That’s because there are lots of ingredients that are labeled as sleep promoters but don’t have the data to demonstrate they work.

This isn’t necessarily because supplement companies are trying to dupe you but more likely because long-term, rigorous research is wildly expensive. While pharmaceutical companies have the budget to spend on them, smaller supplement brands usually don’t (and nutrition research is a less-funded area in general). As such, they typically rely on the collective body of science from smaller, more modestly priced studies.

When you’re looking for a sleep supplement, you can be confident that the following ingredients do have at least some (and in some cases, lots) of research to back them up:

  1. Magnesium bisglycinate: This form of the essential mineral magnesium is attached to two glycine molecules to make it more bioavailable, gentle, and easy for the body to absorb come bedtime. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help with slumber; for example, this double-blind randomized clinical trial demonstrated that this mineral helps older adults fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.*
  2. Jujube seed extract (Ziziphus jujuba var. spinosa): Jujube dates have long been used for relaxation and sedation in traditional Chinese medicine, and one 2017 scientific review of the fruit—which can also be found in a concentrated powder extract form—supports its potentially calming effect on the brain.*
  3. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): A naturally occurring neurotransmitter, GABA sends the brain a signal to calm down. PharmaGABA® is a GABA supplement bioactive (made by a fermentation process) that has been shown in clinical trials to enhance natural sleep quality.*
  4. L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea, but the kind you’ll find in supplements is often synthetic. Due to the way it blocks receptors in the brain that can initiate a stress response, it’s been found to support sleep and cognitive function and calm stress in healthy adults.* A dose of 200 mg is the minimum amount of L-theanine you’ll want to take to get these calming sleep effects, according to a 2020 systematic review.*
  5. Melatonin: Our bodies naturally secrete melatonin at night to signal that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. However, factors like stresslight, and caffeine can all inhibit its production and make it harder to wind down. Research shows that, when consumed in low physiologic doses (no more than 0.5 mg per serving), supplemental melatonin can help support this natural circadian rhythm process and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.* While synthetic melatonin is widely available, you’ll want to opt for plant-derived forms of the hormone when possible.
  6. Tart cherry extract (Prunus cerasus): In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 40 people over seven days, tart cherry juice concentrate, a natural source of melatonin, enhanced sleep efficiency when enjoyed before bed.*
  7. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): 5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that produces serotonin, which can then be converted to melatonin in the body. Supplemental forms of it have shown potential in supporting a steadier mood.* Again, plant-derived forms of it, from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia, are superior to synthetic ones. When taking a 5-HTP supplement, make sure it also contains some vitamin B6 (also might be labeled pyridoxal 5′-phosphate) to help catalyze the conversion to serotonin.*
  8. Rafuma leaf extract (Apocynum venetum): Rafuma leaf is a plant extract that was historically used in China to promote longevity and mental well-being.* The modern research on this one is light, but according to one study on Rafuma leaf and GABA, the two compounds may work synergistically to help people fall asleep faster and achieve deeper sleep.*
  9. Ashwagandha leaf and/or root extract (Withania somnifera): This popular adaptogen was been shown to help alleviate stress in one double-blind, placebo-controlled study when consumed in high doses (at 240 mg).* As such, it may help the mind calm down before bed, but any ashwagandha supplement you take for sleep should contain a decent amount of glycowithanolides (at least 20%), the herb’s active plant compounds.*
  10. Saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.): The saffron spice, while pricey, has a growing body of clinical support for sleep, like this recent double-blind trial that found adults who took 15.5 mg of saffron extract a day for six weeks reported better sleep quality.*
  11. Hemp extract: Full-spectrum hemp extract (from industrial hemp) contains a number of plant compounds (including CBD) that work synergistically to promote calm.* Some emerging research has also found that taking it before bed might enhance sleep quality, due to its relaxing and mood-supporting properties.* If you’re using a hemp extract for relaxation or sleep, look for one that contains at least 20 mg of CBD.
  12. Botanical extracts: Other plant compounds that have demonstrated calming effects in scientific trials include valerian rootlavenderlemon balmhopspassionflowerchamomile, and skullcap.*

Best sleep supplements 2021:

With these criteria in mind, here are the best science-backed sleep supplements on the market right now.

At a glance:

Best for falling asleep & staying asleep: mindbodygreen sleep support+

We like to think of our sleep supplement as a targeted generalist: It’s designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed.* We worked with leading researchers and physicians to perfect our powerful blend of magnesium bisglycinate, jujube, and PharmaGABA® so it’s just right for enhancing overall sleep quality, night after night.* As with all mbg supplements, it’s rigorously tested, formulated with clean ingredients, and free of unnecessary additives or preservatives. mbg’s Ferira shares that “this sleep supplement is also vegan and free of GMOs, gluten, dairy, soy, and food allergens.” Learn more about our bestselling supplement with hundreds of five-star reviews under its belt here, and read what users are saying about it here.

sleep support+mindbodygreen ($49/month)

dark brown supplement bottle with orange letters

mindbodygreen

Best for shift work & jet lag: Nature’s Bounty Melatonin

For an allergen-friendly, high-potency melatonin tablet supplement without artificial colors or preservatives, check out this option from Nature’s Bounty. Clocking in at 5 mg per serving, it’s not intended for nightly use but can help you ease into a new sleep pattern if your schedule gets interrupted (say, if you’re jet-lagged or need to pick up a night shift at work).* Ferira explains, “This formula features a combination of instant- and extended-release melatonin, to sustain its delivery while you’re asleep.” At less than $6 per bottle, it’s affordable to boot.

Dual Spectrum Melatonin, Nature’s Bounty ($5.99)

dark green supplement bottle with white and purple label

Nature’s Bounty

Best for beauty sleep: Hum Mighty Night™

For the skin care buffs, this formula from Hum Nutrition contains moisture-locking ceramides to help support a more even skin texture as you snooze.* You won’t find any artificial sweeteners or colors in this one, but you might stumble upon a glowy complexion upon waking.* On the sleep front, we love the supplement’s combination of calming botanical extracts from hops, valerian root, and passionflower.* Ferira adds, “This dual combination of sleep and skin health ingredients is delivered in a two-softgel serving size, featuring vegan softgels.”*

Mighty Night™, Hum Nutrition ($40)

black supplement bottle with dark blue label

Hum

Best menopausal formula: EQUELLE®

Specifically formulated to help support sleep through menopause, EQUELLE® contains a standardized amount of naturally derived S-equol, which has a similar structure and function as estrogen.* Most menopausal formulas contain a mixture of herbs, so the S-equol (a soy derivative) in this formula makes it unique, and brand research shows that it’s helped users sleep an average of 34 more minutes per night, compared to a placebo.* “This soy isoflavone-derived bioactive has clinical trials to back up its ability to promote sleep and reduce hot flashes during the perimenopausal period; that’s a win-win,”* concludes Ferira.

EQUELLE® ($45.95)

white supplement jar with white label

EQUELLE

Best for immunity: Trulacta

This one-of-a-kind supplement is made with biochemicals found in human breast milk (yes, you read that right) to help you quite literally sleep like a baby.* Packed with bionutrients unique to human milk, the two-capsule serving can be taken any time during the day to support a healthy and resilient immune system.* For sleep support, you’ll want to take it one hour before bedtime.* Ferira weighs in: “From sugars (oligosaccharides) and proteins (immunoglobulins) to enzymes and more, these human milk bioactives are multifaceted and, well, fascinating.”

Trulacta ($75)

purple supplement bottle with pouch

Trulacta

Best nighttime powder: Beam Dream CBD Sleep Powder

If you’d rather whip your supplement into a calming nighttime tonic (and who could blame you?), Beam’s dream powder is a tasty pick. A combination of effective doses of magnesium citrate, melatonin, L-theanine, and hemp CBD, it’s packed with functional ingredients. Ferira adds, “Beam delivers on flavor, sweetness, and smooth texture via a blend of tapioca, coconut, organic cocoa, organic cinnamon, vanilla, and monk fruit.” Dairy-free with no added sugars, it’s a naturally sweet treat you can feel chill about sipping on repeat.

dream CBD Sleep Powder, Beam ($95)

light purple pack of supplement powder

Beam

Best sleep tea: Gaia Herbs Sleep & Relax Herbal Tea

This brew from Gaia Herbs takes the relaxing ritual of sipping tea before bed up a notch with lemon balm, chamomile, and passionflower.* Its functional ingredients are responsibly sourced. “Gaia is well respected in the botanical world, and this unique tea formula made in Italy and USDA certified organic is no exception,” shares Ferira. A finishing touch of natural orange flavor helps round out this relaxing tea just in time for bed.

Sleep & Relax Herbal Tea, Gaia Herbs ($5.99)

dark green box of tea with purple flower on the label

Gaia Herbs

Best with melatonin & CBD: Green Roads Sweet Sleep CBD Oil

Female-owned company Green Roads specializes in CBD products from hemp grown in the U.S. Its sleep blend combines CBD with CBN (for a total of 25 mg of phytocannabinoids per 1-ml serving), hemp bioactives that show promise for sleep in preliminary research.* It also contains 2.5 mg of melatonin. It comes in a blueberry-flavored tincture you can place under your tongue before bed. “Formulated by pharmacists and third-party tested, Green Roads is a hemp CBD brand I personally trust,” explains Ferira.

Sweet Sleep CBD Oil, Green Roads ($89.99)

small dark brown bottle of CBD

Green Roads

Best Sleep Mouth Spray: Biocol Labs Sleeping Spray

Biocol Labs’ spray lets you spritz a bit of calm as needed.* Ferira shares that, “for a two-dose spray, this formula delivers a clinically relevant array of calming and sleep-promoting bioactives.”* Formulated with melatonin, lemon balm, passionflower, lemon essential oil, vitamin B6, and vitamin B1 (thiamin), it’s a botanical- and vitamin-rich mix that supports mental and physical relaxation.* Its (Instagram-worthy) bottle is TSA-approved and ready to join you on your next long-haul flight, just in case.

something for dreaming Sleeping Spray, Biocol Labs ($22.90)

white spray bottle with light purple label

Biocol Labs

Best L-Theanine: NOW Double Strength L-Theanine 200 mg Veg Capsules

This double-strength blend contains a healthy dose (200 mg) of L-theanine to support calm and enhance sleep.* “This amino acid ingredient is known to relax the brain from clinical study evidence,”* shares Ferira. This vegan supplement is non-GMO and features a short, scannable ingredient list with no additives or nasties. Since L-theanine shows promise for easing stress, this would be a good one for people who could use some help quieting the mind in the evening.*

Double Strength L-Theanine 200 mg Veg Capsules, NOW ($20.79)

white supplement bottle with purple lid and orange label

NOW

Best fast-dissolve tablet: Nature Made Back To Sleep™

This berry-flavored tablet dissolves quickly and easily on the tongue for a pleasant supplement experience. Ferira explains, “This product features a trio of sleep-supporting bioactives without overdoing it, namely 1 mg of melatonin and 200 mg of L-theanine and GABA in one tablet.”* It’s naturally berry flavored and sugar-free, so you don’t have to worry about jitters getting in the way of your snooze.*

Back To Sleep™ Fast-Dissolve, Nature Made ($10.99)

dark blue supplement box with yellow accents

Nature Made

Best full-spectrum CBD tincture: FAB CBD Pure CBD Oil

This supplement’s high-quality ingredients and potency justify its steep price point. Ferira breaks it down for us: “For the 2,400-mg tincture product, each hemp CBD serving (½ dropper) delivers 40 mg of CBD from full-spectrum hemp extracts from hemp organically grown in Colorado.” With third-party lab testing and five diverse and natural flavor options, you can feel confident and tailor to your personal taste, literally.

Pure CBD Oil, FAB CBD ($129)

an array of CBD dropper bottles in different colors

FAB CBD

Best plant-based melatonin: Symphony Natural Health Herbatonin 0.3 mg

While most supplements contain synthetic melatonin, this rare plant-based and vegan option is derived via plant extracts from rice, alfalfa, and chlorella. And the dose is right for a nightly supplement: 0.3 mg is enough to kick off the rest response without disrupting the circadian rhythm or causing next-morning grogginess.* “This plant-based melatonin is innovative and mimics the physiologic melatonin dose our body naturally produces to support our sleep-wake cycle on the daily or as needed,”* adds Ferira.

Herbatonin® 0.3 mg Plant Melatonin, Symphony Natural Health ($15.99)

white supplement box with image of eyelash on it

Herbatonin

Best for kids: Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Kids Sleep Gummies

This gentle herbal formula of chamomile, valerian root, lemon balm, and L-Theanine from green tea extract (provided via two gummies) is designed to help children 4 years and up sleep easier.* The yummy natural raspberry-flavored gummies are gluten-free and non-GMO. Their natural color comes from carrot and blackcurrant, whole foods we love. Ferira divulges that, “yes, this product contains added sugars because they are gummies, where supplement meets confection; although these sugars come from clean sources, namely organic tapioca syrup and organic cane sugar.”

Dr. Formulated Kids Sleep Gummies, Garden of Life ($14.99)

blue supplement box with clouds and night sky

Garden of Life

Best nootropics: Qualia Night

This biohacker-approved formula is designed to not only promote rest but make the body more efficient at sleeping over time.* It’s gentle and meant to be taken a few hours before bed five days a week for best results. In addition to magnesium, it contains a laundry list of herbs and adaptogens to promote GABA, help maintain balanced cortisol levels, and support natural melatonin production in the body.* “At four capsules a night, this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink formula is impressively multifaceted but not for the faint of heart,” concludes Ferira.

Qualia Night Optimized Sleep, Qualia ($69)

purple supplement bottle

Qualia

Best 5-HTP: Seeking Health 5-HTP Capsules

For the purist, this pick from Seeking Health contains 50 mg of naturally derived 5-HTP and not much else. Users report that it packs a sense of calm and stability into a small capsule—making this one easy pill to swallow.* “Extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicifolia plant, this plant-derived 5-HTP provides support for biochemical pathways involved in melatonin production in the body,”* shares Ferira.

5-HTP Capsules, Seeking Health ($17.25)

white supplement bottle with green accents

Seeking Health

Best organic herbal blend: Gaia Herbs Sleep & Relax

Gaia is known for its high-quality herbal formulations, and this sleep option is no exception. A capsule variety of the company’s Sleep & Relax tea, the USDA certified organic supplement contains organic passionflower, valerian root, and other herbs to promote a sense of calm and help prepare the body for a solid night’s rest.* “While the botanical hero actives in this formula are valerian and Passiflora, this blend is rounded out by lemon balm, lavender, California poppy, and sweet marjoram,” adds Ferira.

Sleep & Relax™, Gaia Herbs ($29.99)

brown bottle with flower on it

Gaia

Best botanicals blend: Pure Encapsulations Best-Rest Formula

Last but not least, this botanical-rich formula contains a number of science-backed sleep ingredients for sleep.* “Led by plant extracts from valerian root, lemon balm, hops, passionflower, and chamomile, the formula is then complemented by vitamin B6, melatonin, GABA, and L-theanine,” explains Ferira. And it’s all sourced responsibly, dosed with efficacy in mind, and delivered in just two capsules. We’re fans of this supplement option.*

Best-Rest Formula, Pure Encapsulations ($52.10)

white bottle with blue label

Pure

FAQs about supplements for sleep:

Who are sleep supplements for?

Seeing as supplements are nonprescription and sold over the counter, they are not intended for people who have sleep diseases or disorders.

“Supplements might support healthy sleep, and they might alleviate minor problems, but if you’ve got a sleep disorder—including insomnia—that’s not what they’re designed for,” Michael Grandner, Ph.D., the director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, tells mbg.*

Think of them as tools to help support your natural ability to get a great night’s rest.* They work with your body, not against it.

Do they work?

If you don’t have a sleep disorder, the right supplements should help promote sleep that makes you feel more rested and restored upon waking.* However, you can’t out-supplement bad sleep hygiene.

“Supplements can be great for facilitating the sleep process, but you also want to remove barriers [to sleep],” Grandner says. To give them the best chance of working for you, reduce screen time, alcohol consumption, and sugar before bed; sleep in a cool, dark room; and give your body plenty of time to wind down at night.

What are the common side effects?

The main side effect of taking sleep supplements is, unsurprisingly, drowsiness the next morning. Grandner adds that occasional headaches and upset stomachs are not uncommon when starting and getting used to a new supplement.

What time should I take mine?

Since every sleep supplement is a little different, you’ll want to follow the timing instructions on the packaging. Usually, taking a supplement one to two hours before bed should give it enough time to kick in.*

The bottom line.

Sleep supplements are not made to treat sleep disorders, but they can help support your body’s natural ability to get a great night’s rest.* Look for ones that contain ingredients at effective doses that have been researched in humans for sleep, are low in additives, and come from a trusted brand (our list of 18 is a great place to start). And as always, talk to your doctor before incorporating any new supplement into your routine.If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.

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