9 Potent Over The Counter Sleep Supplements That Saved My Ass!

Here is my experience with insomnia, anxiety, and stress.

I have the memory of a moist colander (on a good day).

When I was at university, I had to study for at least 14 hours a day. And I mean every day.

No matter how far in advance I began preparing for exams, I just couldn’t remember my notes or my lectures.

It felt like there wasn’t enough hours in the day.

Occasionally, I would go and train but I looked and felt like AIDS on legs.

There was nothing left. I was burned out.

It had become so bad that even the few shitty hours of sleep I could get, sucked!

I kept waking up, it took me around 2 hour each night to fall asleep and it it just spiraled out of control.

As you can see I needed to make the most of what little sleep I had.

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Here is how your body will grind to a screeching halt if you sleep for 6 hours or less 4 nights in a row, with:

  • Cognitive performance (concentration/attention/memory formation/learning).
  • Mood (depression/happiness).
  • Glucose metabolism (increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes).
  • Appetite regulation (increase ghrelin and decrease leptin = increased appetite especially for carb rich foods).
  • Compromised immune function.
  • Shit athletic performance.
  • Increased pain perception.
  • Negatively affects neuroendicrinology (increase cortisol = stress hormone).
  • Reduces protein synthesis and increase proteolysis.
  • Tinkers with the secretion of HGH, IGF-1 and testosterone.

Before I start, understand that a pharmaceutical option should be your last resort but sometimes, you need to do what you need to do.

Seems legit....

1)     The good ol’ magnesium. Magnesium is nothing new. There are many papers, books, and blogs written on the topic.

This mineral is important for many biological reactions and most of us are deficient in it.

Combine that with the go, go, 24/7 life style we lead – and our bodies end up craving it. Just look at this paper on stress and magnesium (definitely worth a read).

Benefits: 

  • Calming nervous system effects.
  • Deficiency in magnesium can cause irritability, insomnia, and anxiety in people.
  • Magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve sleep quality.
  • Supplementation will increase DHE levels, which is an important hormone for stress management.

My 2 cents:

  • Different types/absorption rates/prices.
  • Tablets aren’t always best, just usually the most convenient.
  • Try magnesium salt baths and oils for better absorption.
  • Like with all the drugs, more isn’t always better.

Dosage:

  • I don’t stress over it. I get it from a ZMA supplement.
  • Start at600-800mg/day.

2)     Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone and a powerful antioxidant that is produced by a gland in our brains. It has many roles in our body, with the most important being a key synchroniser of our biological clocks.

Benefits:

  • Crucial for deep sleep and GH production.
  • Anticancer properties.
  • Immune system strengthening.
  • Potent antioxidant (combats inflammation and ROS).
  • Anti-aging properties.
  • Deficiency has been linked to bipolar and depression disorders.
  • Very low side affects.

My 2 cents:

  • Personal favorite.
  • Sleep in a dark cold room as melatonin production is decreased with exposure to light and is increased in the dark, thus regulating our circadian rhythm.
  • Medicine in the UK.

Dosage:

  • I like Mahler’s approach. Start with the smallest dose and up it if you need to.

3)     5-Hydroxytryptopha (5-HTP) Is synthesized naturally in our bodies from tryptophan and is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin has many roles in the body but it’s mostly associated with feelings of well-being and happiness.

Benefits:

  • 5-HPT supplementation has been shown to help with insomnia.
  • Antidepressant properties.
  • Helps with fibromyalgia and migraines.

My 2 cents:

  • A few tips to raise serotonin naturally.
  • Can raise peripheral serotonin levels as a result of the blood brain barrier.
  • Possible drug interactions?

Dosage:

  • 200 – 400 mg. 

4)     Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid found in our bodies and is a favourite neurotropic from the cognitive enhancement crowd but it has other cool uses too.

 It has the ability to blunt exercise stress induced cortisol increase in athletes (keep this in mind).

To put it simply, cortisol is secreted when we are stressed.

Sports, exams, relationships, work issues, bills, etc. It doesn’t matter, to our bodies it’s the same shit.

Atlanta Falcons v Chicago Bears

It is becoming not too uncommon to see chronically high cortisol levels in people, which has all sorts of detrimental health effects.

This supplement seems like a perfect compound for the young baller pimp entrepreneur who loves to demolish weights/pillage small villages just for fun.

Benefits:

  • A great compound to use after training or a stressful day of work to help you sleep by lowering your cortisol levels.
  • Suggested to help with memory and cognition.
  • Can help with ADHD.
  • Anti-ageing properties.

My 2 cents:

  • Pills are expensive.
  • Buy it in a powder form as it’s more cost effective.
  • Take it after training or an hour or so before bed.

Dose:

  • 400mg-800mg.

5) GABA (γ-Aminobutyric acid) GABA is one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters in the mammalian CNS.

Excess electrical activity in humans can lead to insomnia, restlessness, irritability, and seizures.

GABA dampens/balances out this excess electrical activity in the brain.

Decreased GABA function can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders (i.e. anxiety, depression, insomnia, and epilepsy).

A great way to understand the role of GABA-nergic system to look at the class of drugs called the benzodiazepines (think Valium), usually prescribed as sedatives, hypnotics (induce sleep), anxiolytics, anticonvulsants, and muscle relaxants.

Something to keep in mind, people will abuse the shit out of them just like barbiturates and opioids.

Benefits:

  • GABA can help with stress and anxiety.
  • GABA can improve relaxation and sleep quality.
  • GABA supplementation could increase GH secretion.
  • Evidence shows that people with depression have low levels of GABA.
  • Most anti epileptic drugs work directly or indirectly on the GABA-nergic system.

My 2 cents:

  • Don’t be fucking stupid and replace your prescribed medication with GABA supplements.
  • There isn’t enough evidence to state that there are strong side effects or drugs interactions but always err on the side of caution.
  • There are only a few studies on GABA supplements as most of research is focused on patentable GABA alternatives.
  • GABA receptor types and novel medicines is a fascination area of research and is beyond the scope of this article.

Dosage:

  • 100-200mg up to three times a day for anxiety or sleep benefits.
  • Bulletproofexec recommends starting at 500mg.
  • People with epilepsy have been known to use 1,200-2,500mg dosages.
  • Poor absorption when combined with a protein meal.

5)     Chamomile, valerian room, lemon balm, etc…

Herbal teas have been used as sleep aids for centuries.

All facts aside, a warm cuppa could be a very British and a really beneficial way to unwind before bed.

Caffeine free, bruhh….

6)     Booze and Cannabis.

People have used these for years but….

Is a glass of wine, to help you unwind, once in a while, a bad thing?

Nah, who cares!

Stop being so uptight but a whole bottle of JD to escape from your problems …

Erm, not so great.

Use it, just don’t make it a habit (that you cannot control).

FYI, I think cannabinoids are an awesome field of study.

7)     Growth hormone  

Many people who use HGH (anti-ageing or as performance enhancing) have noticed improved sleep quality.

Some people like to use it when they are taking compounds, like clenbuterol and trenbolone, which are notorious for causing shitty nights of sleep.

8)     L-tryptophan

L-tryptohan is an essential amino acid, which is used to make the neurotransmitters mentioned above (5-HTP and melatonin).

This section is closely related to the 5-HPT part.

Tryptophan depletion has a parallel serotonin decrease, which can mess with feelings of well-being and happiness.

Benefits:

  • Doses of +1g have been shown to decrease time taken to fall asleep and rated subjective sleepiness, especially in patients with sleeping problems.

My 2 cents:

  • Serotonin supplementation increases peripheral 5-HTP levels and the long-term effect of this isn’t well known.
  • L-tryptophan could be a smart alternative as mentioned by Bulletproofexec.
  • Especially as melatonin is a prescription medicine in the UK.

Dosage:

  • 1000- 1500 mg, taken a couple of hours before bed time

So many options! (I feel like a kid in a candy store)

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This isn’t a pick and mix affair and you definitely don’t need to take every single one of these compounds.

Start with a single compound, like magnesium/melatonin/phosphatidylserine, and go from there.

You can’t really do much harm to yourself with any of the compounds, especially those three.

Start small and build up gradually (if you need to). If a small amount works for you, just go with that.

Why waste your cash?

A word of caution, especially with booze and other “goodies”

One thing that stuck with me when I was in a guest lecture by Professor Nut was the human nature of addiction.

He gave some great examples of people who use alcohol (or whatever the substance may be) for what feels like a legitimate reason and soon find themselves on a slippery slope of addiction and dependence.

Think tool, not a crutch. Which leads me on nicely to my next point.

A pharmacologist’s take on taking drugs

A chemical solution to your problems should always be your last resort. Shocker, eh?

In my particular case, I just couldn’t sleep during exams.

Later down the line, I found out that I had a learning difficulty and received some help, but it was too little, too late.

But that alone helped.

For most people, reading a book, yoga, a nice cuppa, or busting your nut will be more than enough to let you sleep like a king.

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You just need to work on it.

Don’t be lazy.

But extreme situations cause for extreme solutions.

In closing, figure out what’s keeping you awake.

A new and exciting idea? Great!

A shitty job, partner, or finances? Sort it out.

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Lack Motivation and Discipline to Get Shit Done?

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