Today I am continuing my discussion about the best sleep-promoting supplements on the market, including how they can also address menopause symptoms. If these aren’t already on your shopping list, it might be time to make the addition.
Magnesium: The vital-for-sleep-and-everything-else mineral.
Magnesium is about as close as you can get to an all-around sleep and health supplement. Because of its role as an enabler of healthy enzyme function, magnesium plays an important part in most of our physiological functions. Magnesium can deliver a whole spectrum of benefits.
Helpful to pre-menstrual women in relieving symptoms of PMS—including mood swings, irritability, anxiety and tension, and bloating—magnesium also can make a big difference to women in menopause. One of the seven essential macro-minerals that the human body needs in large quantities, maintaining healthy magnesium levels protects metabolic health, stabilizes mood, keeps stress in check, promotes better sleep, and contributes to heart and bone health.
Magnesium deficiency is common; nearly half of adult men and women in the United States are likely deficient. Older adults are more vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. Women are also at higher risk for low magnesium, especially with age.
Supplemental magnesium has been shown to have a stabilizing effect on mood. This whole-health mineral has been shown effective in relieving symptoms of both mild-to-moderate anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression.
Another benefit for women in menopause, especially those with sleep problems and physical pain: Magnesium helps to relax muscles and soothe muscle and joint pain.
5-HTP: The mood-and-sleep hormone elevator
This one has a funny-sounding name, but it can do a lot for sleep as well as for mood, and it helps regulate appetite. 5-Hydroxytryptophan—commonly known as 5-HTP—is a compound made naturally in the body. 5-HTP is created as a by-product of the amino acid L-tryptophan. Our bodies don’t make L-tryptophan naturally; we absorb this essential amino acid from the foods we eat. As we age, natural levels of 5-HTP appear to decline.
5-HTP helps the body produce more serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood and sleep-wake cycles. Healthy levels of serotonin contribute to a positive mood and outlook and also promote restful sleep. Serotonin also plays an important role in many of the body’s other functions, including digestion, appetite, and pain perception.
Because of its role in creating serotonin, 5-HTP is indirectly involved in producing melatonin, a hormone critical for sleep.
5-HTP has been shown in scientific studies to promote relaxation and alleviate stress and anxiety. Research also indicates that 5-HTP may be effective in helping to alleviate depression. 5-HTP has been recognized as important to appetite regulation. Higher levels of serotonin are linked to diminished appetite. Keeping serotonin levels from dipping can help keep appetite in check, and may help reduce cravings for carbohydrates. Research indicates that 5-HTP may be effective in helping people who are overweight or obese lose weight.
Scientific evidence shows 5-HTP may also be able to reduce the frequency of migraine headache attacks and reduce pain from chronic headaches. Many women experience headaches and migraines during menopause.
Valerian and hops: The anti-stress, pro-sleep duo
These two supplements are often used together and are well-known for their sleep-improving abilities. Valerian and hops may help women in menopause by boosting levels of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood and boosts relaxation and sleep.
At least a dozen or more scientific studies have found that valerian—on its own or with hops—helps to improve sleep. Research shows that valerian can help people fall asleep more quickly, improve the quality of sleep, and increase amounts of nightly sleep. Valerian can also help ease the symptoms of insomnia. Studies specifically about women undergoing menopause show valerian is helpful to improve their sleep.
Research shows valerian can be effective in helping to reduce stress, lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Studies also show that hops can be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. A flavonoid in hops has also been found to help reduce weight gain, lower elevated cholesterol, and reduce high blood sugar.
CBD: The calming, sleep-promoting pain reliever
The cannabis plant is filled with hundreds of different compounds, many of which have been studied for decades for their health benefits. The cannabis compounds that scientists have paid the most attention to are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are now used in treatment for a broad—and growing—range of conditions and symptoms, from sleep and pain, to anxiety and inflammation, to Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
Cannabidiol—or CBD—is a cannabinoid that’s available in supplement form, and can help with stress and anxiety, pain, and sleep problems. Unlike medical cannabis, CBD is legal in all 50 states. Even if you live in a state where medical cannabis is currently not legal, you can still purchase and use CBD.
Let me be very clear: CBD is not “pot.” There is no “high” associated with CBD. (I’ll be writing more in-depth about the difference between pot and CBD.) Instead, this compound has calming, anti-anxiety effects. CBD is a sleep promoter. Also of relevance for women in menopause, CBD works as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, as well as an analgesic—a pain reducer—in the body.
CBD can reduce anxiety, making it effective in reducing sleep disruptions and improving sleep quality. CBD may improve insomnia and increase overall sleep amounts. With its sleep-enhancing abilities combined with its power as an analgesic, CBD has been shown to reduce insomnia in people who suffer from chronic pain.
Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat nerves and anxiety, as well as other mood problems. CBD may help to improve both depression and anxiety, at least in part through its interactions with serotonin receptors in the brain. Research shows that CBD can reduce both mental and physical symptoms of anxiety.
Women who experience insomnia and with symptoms of anxiety or depression during menopause, as well as women who have aches and pains as a menopause symptom, may find relief from CBD.
Lifestyle and behavioral changes, including diet, exercise, mind-body therapies, relaxation exercises, and stress management are the foundation of healthy, lifelong sleep hygiene. For many women, supplements can also play a tremendously beneficial role in improving sleep.
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., DABSM
The Sleep Doctor™