Changing your diet to maximize sleep-promoting nutrition clears away the crud and lays the foundation for better sleep. But it is not a cure. First, nutrients don’t work in isolation, but synergistically. As far as sleep is concerned, two obvious examples are the relationship between magnesium and calcium, and that between tryptophan and carbohydrate. The science of nutrition is littered with such examples, and you could drive yourself mad trying to compose the theoretical ‘ideal’ diet and it still wouldn’t work.
Similarly, we all absorb some nutrients better than others (I have the perfect diet, and lousy absorption), need more of this or that than the next person – and we are highly unlikely to be aware of what our precise needs are. I have no idea, for example, of how much vitamin C my personal bio-system thrives on. I just whack it in (as it’s water-soluble, excess is just flushed out). All scientists and experts can do is generalize.
This is where supplements come in. They are not a substitute for a good diet and sound nutrition, but are potentially a good way of boosting whichever nutrient or sleep-promoting substance you might need, which might help do the trick.
American studies using magnesium and B complex supplementation, for example, have all resulted in improved sleep for their insomniac guinea pigs. Sleep-promoting supplements fall into two broad groups: those which aim to get to the root of the biochemical problem and boost your serotonin or melatonin levels, and those which help you to relax and therefore hopefully stop those stress hormones from doing their worst.
Don’t use supplements as a quick-fix for not eating well sleep foods, you will need these to make sure you give your body the best chance of maximizing their absorption and doing their bit. They are additions and enhancements, not an excuse for passing the buck.
Nor are supplements cheap. We all experiment with them, with mixed results. If you are serious about supplements for sleep, you should consult a specialist nutritionist or naturopath who will help determine the right dose for you, and which other supplements you may need.
The more you begin to understand biochemical processes and just how complex they are, the more it becomes obvious (at least to me, and I speak as one who has tried most) why a supplement may or may not work for you. Each of us is a unique, constantly changing, forever interactive mass or mess of chemical reactions and electrochemical vibrations. Biochemically, the reason for your insomnia will always be slightly different from the next person’s, so your body’s reaction to adding anything into the soup will be unique as well. It will also change with time.
Think of supplements as first aid. Remember, too, that unless your insomnia is straightforward that is, there are no underlying emotional, psychological, life-sorting issues though proper supplementation can definitely help and does indeed fix many people’s insomnia they are not a magic solution.