Have you ever put off making a decision on something until the following day? The seed of an idea was there. But you decided to “sleep on it”.
And the next morning, whatever it was you were contemplating, the solution was ‘plain as day’.
It turns out we have the science to explain this phenomena.
Over a century of research has established the fact that sleep benefits memory.[i]
There’s nothing quite like a full deep sleep. And waking refreshed the next day.
We spend a third of our life sleeping. During that time between sunset and sunrise and while we sleep, our body recuperates and restores itself. Systems are repaired and prepared for the following day.
And we now know that quality sleep is crucial for optimal memory consolidation. The best nootropic stack in the world will not work if you don’t get enough sleep.
This post is about how sleep works in your body and brain. With a clear understanding on how sleep works, and the problems that arise without it, we dive into how to fix insomnia.
And the safest way for better sleep and lucid dreams is selecting the right nootropic stack.
Sleep is such an important part of our life and an optimized brain that a book could be written on this subject. And several have been written. This post distills all the important information down into usable nuggets.
Use the Table of Contents to skip to the sections that interest you most. And come back for more detail later.
Table of Contents
How sleep works
Sleep is critical for optimal cognition and well-being. Let’s take a couple of minutes to understand the actual stages and mechanism of sleep.
Knowing how we fall asleep and stay asleep may help us identify some of the nootropics that could support healthy sleep.
Deep in your brain, the hypothalamus contains clusters of cells that receive information about light exposure from your eyes. The hypothalamus works with your brain stem to produce GABA. Which helps to reduce arousal levels in this area of your brain.
Your pineal gland is located deep within the center of your brain. Named for its pinecone shape, this gland receives signals from the hypothalamus to synthesize and secret the hormone melatonin. Which plays a role in your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.[ii]
Your circadian rhythm or body’s biologic clock synchronizes with environmental cues like light and temperature. But also seems to work even in the absence of external cues.
This natural process can get disrupted by exposure to artificial light (i.e. cellphone screens), medical conditions, medications, stress, and food and drink.
Your circadian rhythm can also get out of whack by flying to a different time zone. Or from working the night shift.
The neurotransmitter adenosine is created over the course of your day as a natural by-product from the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the fuel that is produced in your mitochondria and is used to power each of your cells.
The current theory is this buildup of adenosine from creating ATP during the day leads to the eventual need to slow down and replenish these stores of energy through sleep.
This natural homeostatic sleep drive reminds your body that it needs sleep. And even regulates sleep intensity depending on the amount of natural stress you’ve put on your system.
Stimulants like caffeine act as an adenosine antagonist which inhibits its sleepiness effect.
We have two basic types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has three different stages. Each stage is linked to specific brain waves and neurotransmitter activity.
Stage 1 non-REM sleep is where you changeover from being awake to asleep. This stage ideally lasts only a few minutes where heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow. And muscles relax. Brain waves slow to theta brain waves, punctuated occasionally by brief bursts of alpha brain waves.
Stage 2 is the next stage of non-REM sleep where alpha brain wave activity dies down. In this stage your heartrate and breathing slow even more. And muscles relax even further. Body temperature drops and eye movements stop.
Stage 3 non-REM sleep is the period of deep sleep that you need so you can wake up refreshed in the morning. This is where slow wave sleep begins. It occurs in longer periods during the first half of the night. You heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels. And your muscles relax to the point where it may be difficult to wake you. Brain waves enter delta activity.
Stage 4 or REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Eyes move rapidly from side to side. Brain wave activity varies between theta, alpha and beta brain waves which is closer to that of wakefulness. Breathing becomes faster and irregular. And heartrate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels.
Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can occur during non-REM sleep. Arm and leg muscles become paralyzed which prevents you from acting out in your dreams.
From then on, you spend the rest of your night cycling between stages 2, 3 and REM sleep.
How much sleep do you need?
Need for sleep and sleep patterns change as you age. School-age children and teens need about 9 ½ hours per night. Adults need 7 – 9 hours per night.
But individual sleep needs can vary. And only you will know what is “optimal” by how you feel from day to day. Some are naturally short or long sleepers. This would not be considered a ‘sleep disorder’.
A recent study shows the effect of a good night’s sleep can contribute to your happiness level as much as winning the lottery.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK examined the sleep patterns of 30,594 people for 4 years. The scientists analyzed sleep quantity, quality and the use of sleep medication.
The study showed that not enough sleep or poor quality of sleep had a negative impact on medical conditions and emotional states.
Improvements in sleep quality and quantity, and using less sleep medication, had the same impact as 8-weeks of cognitive therapy.
And study score improvements on feelings of well-being from adequate sleep were equivalent to winning $250,000 in the lottery.[iii]
Sleep as a public health concern
A recent study showed that 70 million Americans have problems sleeping.[iv] But insomnia is not unique to those of us who live in countries like the USA or Canada.
The University of Warwick Medical School in the UK conducted a multi-national study on sleep with nearly 50,000 people. The results closely resemble that of the USA where 17% of the population studied were dealing with sleep problems.[v]
This widespread issue with insomnia led the National Institute of Health in the USA to create a separate division entirely devoted to sleep. It’s called “The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research”.
The Institute works with neuroscientists, cellular and molecular biologists, geneticists, physiologists, neuropsychiatrists, immunologists, pulmonary specialists, cardiologists, epidemiologists, and behavioral scientists.
The Institute was created because sleep problems are now recognized as a serious public health concern. Estimates show sleep disorders in the USA alone adds about $15.9 billion to the national health care bill.
Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in your body – from your brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.
Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases your risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.
Sleep and learning & memory
Ever noticed after a night of poor quality sleep that your brain doesn’t work as well? Mental tasks are difficult and inefficient. Here’s why…
Your experience during the day leads to a progressive increase in synaptic strength in your brain. This is the ‘encoding’ phase of memory formation. Inputs during your day are stored for later ‘consolidation’ during the night while you sleep.[vi]
But if this strengthening happened continually, your brain would soon become insensitive to new inputs.
Continual inputs would cause neurons to lose their ability to fire selectively. Synapses would lose their integrity and neuroplasticity would be overloaded.
Cellular maintenance and the removal of neurotoxic waste would redline causing an unsustainable level of energy consumption.
Deep sleep is essential for down-regulating synaptic strength. This deep sleep phase is also called slow-wave sleep. It’s key for memory formation and processing. It’s also when your brain goes into maintenance mode after a day of activity.
When your sleep is disturbed during this slow-wave cycle, your synapses cannot rest. Synapses cannot restore themselves in preparation for the next day’s activities. This inhibits neuroplasticity which means learning is no longer possible.[vii]
Recent research has also begun to understand how the last phase of sleep, or REM sleep (dream sleep) is involved in memory. Studies show that REM is needed for several types of memory. Including spatial and contextual memory consolidation.[viii]
Spatial memory is recording information about your environment such as your neighborhood, where you live, or where you buried your food to find the next day.
Contextual memory is the ability to memorize and discern the origin of a specific memory. Including time, place, people or emotion related to that memory.
If your REM sleep is cut short, you’ll not be able to recall where you buried your food. Or who you were with, and why you were with them when you buried it.
Now you know why a poor night’s sleep can severely affect your performance the next day. And a good night’s sleep typically results in a happier and more productive day.
ADHD and sleep disorders
I was diagnosed Adult ADD about 10 years ago. But I’ve dealt with sleep problems all my adult life. It never occurred to me until researching this post the association between the two.
If you are ADHD or ADD and have problems going to sleep, and staying asleep, you are not alone.
In 2017, a cross-sectional study of 268 adult ADHD patients was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Of the patients studied, 82.6% reported a lifetime of sleep problems. And 61.4% used hypnotics to help them sleep.
Symptoms reported by Adult ADHD patients included excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, loud snoring, breathing pauses during sleep, restless legs, and periodic limb movements in sleep.
One important thing to note from this study is ADHD stimulant medications were NOT associated with more sleep-related problems.[ix]
If you are a parent with an ADHD child, I realize it will be of little comfort. But you are not alone. One study in 2013 showed that children with ADHD nearly always also dealt with sleep problems.[x]
What I find encouraging in all the research done on ADHD and sleep is that mainstream medicine does not recommend using prescription sleep meds for treating sleep disorders in children.[xi]
The nootropic recommendations later in this post apply to, and work well, for any age group dealing with ADHD, ADD and sleep problems.
Sleep and quality of life
It will come as no surprise that getting enough sleep every night is associated with feelings of a better quality of life.
Researchers analyzed data from 10,654 patients records collected from 2008 – 2010. Quality of life was assessed using the EQ-5D questionnaire which is used to measure health outcome.
The study showed that those who slept less than 6 hours, or more than 9 hours per night experienced a decrease in quality of life. And an increase in depression.[xii]
Dr. Matthew Walker at the University of California – Berkeley notes that “Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep”. Poor sleep has been linked to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke.[xiii]
Consistently getting a good night’s sleep usually leads to a better day. But not getting quality sleep every night can lead to an early grave.
Sleep and feelings of fear
A very recent study showed that good quality sleep including adequate REM sleep reduces fear.
Researchers at Rutgers University conducted a study indicating that better sleep quality lowers brain activity in regions tied to fear learning. Which ties into the “Sleep and learning & memory” we talked about earlier in this post.
Fear learning is the mechanism where you attempt to predict exposure to threatening situations. So you can react appropriately to preserve your safety.
This study looked at whether a person’s sleep patterns before witnessing a traumatic event would be a good indicator of whether fear memories would be established in the first place.
The study found that more time in REM (dream) sleep dampened activity in the region of the brain associated with fear learning. They also found that REM sleep moderated levels of norepinephrine in the brain. This neurotransmitter is linked to the regulation of the fight-or-flight response.[xiv]
The bottom-line is good quality sleep will make you more resilient to and less susceptible to trauma and fear.
Sleep and sexual satisfaction
Poor sleep quality has a negative effect on your sex life for both men and women of all ages.
Lack of sleep even in younger men can reduce testosterone levels and completely wipe out sex drive.[xv]
Sleep-deprived women are less likely to have sex than those who have had proper sleep.[xvi]
Sleep deprivation lowers sperm count in men.[xvii]
When you lack sleep or sleep fewer hours, cortisol levels rise.[xviii] Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone. A rise in cortisol negatively impacts sex drive.[xix]
In men, poor sleep quality can result in erectile dysfunction (ED).[xx]
And studies show that shorter sleep duration and higher insomnia scores are associated with decreased sexual function.[xxi]
To sum up, for more and better sex you need plenty of good quality sleep.
Sleep and lucid dreaming
A lucid dream is a dream in which you are fully aware that you are dreaming. And you are able to control the dreamscape.
Many view lucid dreaming as a novelty. And a state that is not easily attained. But some researchers believe that lucid dreaming treatment shows promise in treating chronic nightmares. Including those dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A study conducted at the University of Adelaide in Australia worked with 169 participants split into 3 groups. Each group was assigned a different combination of lucid dreaming techniques.
The 3 main lucid dreaming techniques were; Reality testing, Wake back to bed, and Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams.
- Reality testing involves examining one’s surroundings multiple times throughout the day. And questioning whether one is awake or dreaming.
- Wake back to bed involves going to bed. Waking up after 5 – 6 hours. Staying awake for 10 minutes to an hour. Then going back to sleep. The idea is to launch directly into REM sleep which tends to be the stage involved in lucid dreaming.
- Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams is often combined with the #2 technique. But before going to bed, you repeat a phrase such as “next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming”.
The study found that the third group which combined all three techniques had a success rate of 17.4% in achieving lucid dreaming over the one week study period.
The study also found that those who reported success using the #3 technique were significantly less sleep deprived the next day. Which indicates that lucid dreaming should not have a negative effect on sleep quality.[xxii]
Lucid dreaming is a technique that can be learned. And certain nootropics have shown promise in achieving this sleep state which I’ll cover next.
Sleeping pills prevent memory formation
We know that quality sleep is required for memory consolidation at the end of every day. But what if we can’t sleep?
When you are exhausted and can’t sleep, it’s tempting to reach for a prescription sleep aid such as Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta.
But many people have reported memory problems while using prescription sleep meds. And science is beginning to understand why.
Drugs like zolpidem (Ambien®) are GABAa receptor agonists that bind to the α-1 subunit, which is believed to be responsible for the drug’s sedative properties.
Turns out this mechanism of action is likely responsible for memory prevention effects as well.[xxiii]
Multiple studies show that hypnotic sleep meds impair memory. But the good news is this impairment of short- and long-term memory are of short duration. Memory consolidation returns to normal once you stop using the meds.[xxiv]
Another sleeping aid option are OTC meds containing diphenhydramine which is an antihistamine used for treating minor pain and itching. A brand name you may be familiar with is Benadryl®.
The problem is any medication that begins with ‘anti’ including antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, antispasmodics, or antihypertensives is that they negatively affect acetylcholine levels in the brain.
Drugs that prevent acetylcholine action are anticholinergics. Low acetylcholine can lead to brain fog, mental confusion, delirium, blurred vision, memory loss and hallucinations.[xxv]
The final prescription sleeping med people often turn to are benzodiazepines (benzos)a. These meds are used as a sedative, anti-anxiety and for muscle relaxing properties.
Benzos work by enhancing the effect of the major inhibitor neurotransmitter GABA at the GABAa receptor. Similar to meds like zolpidem.
The most noticeable problem associated with benzos are that they interfere with the formation and consolidation of memory.[xxvi]
With all the negative effects on memory caused by pharmaceutical sleep medications, clearly we need a safer alternative. Once again, nootropics come to the rescue.
Best Nootropics for Quality Sleep
One of the primary reasons we need quality of sleep is for learning and memory consolidation. So in the following recommendations, select a nootropic that helps you fall asleep, and another that helps optimize memory.
But how do you know for sure that one or more of these nootropic supplements will actually work for you?
The two factors that most say make the biggest contribution to perceived sleep quality: 1. The number of times a person wakes during the night, and 2. How much time they spent asleep during the previous night.
To get to sleep quicker
Ashwagandha – is an ancient Ayurvedic herb with remarkable stress relieving qualities. It helps reduce anxiety and depression in part by reducing the stress hormone cortisol.[xxvii]
Earlier in this post you may recall when talking about sleep and sex that a lack of sleep or sleeping fewer hours increased cortisol levels. Ashwagandha helps reverse this trend by reducing this stress hormone.
Bacopa Monnieri – is an adaptogen that helps prevent the chemical and physical effects of stress. Research at Banaras Hindu University in India showed Bacopa Monnieri as effective for anxiety as the benzodiazepine drug lorazepam.[xxviii]
One of the side effects of lorazepam is memory loss. Bacopa Monnieri on the other hand, reduced anxiety while boosting cognition. Research also has shown Bacopa Monnieri improves signaling of electrical impulses between neurons in your brain.[xxix] Improving memory consolidation during REM sleep.
GABA – is the major inhibitory or relaxing neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA’s primary role is to keep the major excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in check.
One study in Los Angeles conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial with 18 patients with sleep disorders. The patients received either a placebo, or Gabadone (a combination of GABA and 5-hydroxytryptophan).
The difference between the two groups of sleep-deprived patients was significant. The Gabadone group fell asleep faster, stayed asleep longer, and had a better quality of sleep than the placebo group.[xxx]
Kava – is an herb that’s native the South Pacific islands. It’s traditionally been used in the islands as a hypnotic, psychotropic, and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety).
California’s Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation took a look at 24 studies of Kava and other herbal medicines for anxiety. And there was substantial evidence that kava relieved not only anxiety, but also restlessness and insomnia.[xxxi]
Lemon Balm – has a long history as a treatment for stress, anxiety, thyroid issues, indigestion, infections, viruses and inflammation. One way Lemon Balm does this is to promote GABA, a glutamate inhibitor in your brain.
Glutamate excites brain cells to act. While this excitation is necessary, too much glutamate results in cell death. Lemon Balm promotes a better balance in glutamate levels, and helps new cell growth. Some users say it works as well as popping a Xanax®.
Magnesium – is the 4th most abundant mineral in your body. And critical for optimal cognitive health. It is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in your body. But many of us in Western society are living with a magnesium deficiency. And most are unaware of this deficiency.
Magnesium is required for ATP synthesis. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the main energy source produced within mitochondria and is used for cellular energy. Without magnesium, your brain cannot produce ATP, and all brain function breaks down.
Most neurohackers report an increased level of focus, energy, memory, and cognitive ability when supplementing with magnesium. You should also experience an improved quality of sleep. And have an overall improvement in mood.
Melatonin – is a hormone primarily produced in the pineal gland. Your pineal gland acts as your body’s central clock through its secretion of melatonin. Telling your brain, body and organs when it’s time to be active and when it’s time to rest. This is the reason why melatonin is referred to as the “sleep hormone”.
Melatonin is a powerful sleep aid and is registered as a drug in Europe for that purpose.[xxxii] Study after study shows that melatonin is effective in improving quality of sleep and how fast a person went to sleep.[xxxiii]
Be careful with Melatonin however because everyone reacts differently to this powerful hormone. I’ve personally found that even in small 1 mg doses used every night that it negatively affects my normally cheerful mood the next day.
Tryptophan is a far safer and more effective option for boosting serotonin and melatonin naturally.
Phenibut – is an analogue of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. The addition of a phenyl ring allows Phenibut to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
Phenibut was included in the medical kit for Russian astronauts on the Soyuz-19 and Salyut-4 missions as a ‘tranquilizer’. Phenibut is one of the only tranquilizers that lowers stress levels without negatively affecting performance.[xxxiv]
As a nootropic, when you use Phenibut to normalize GABA levels you’ll experience a reduction in anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, restlessness and stress.
L-Tryptophan – is an essential amino acid and precursor to serotonin, melatonin and niacin (Vitamin B3) in your body and brain. Tryptophan is one of the best natural sleep aids available. Without unwanted side effects. And unlike 5-HTP which tends to lose its effectiveness within 4 – 6 weeks, L-Tryptophan can be used daily and long-term.
L-Tryptophan and serotonin play a significant role in memory. And can have a significant effect on mood as well.
You’ll get better results when supplementing with L-Tryptophan as a sleep aid by stacking it with magnesium and Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) because they are required cofactors needed to synthesize serotonin and melatonin.
L-Tryptophan is also a precursor to the synthesis of Vitamin B3 (niacin). So if you don’t have enough niacin in your body, supplementing with L-Tryptophan will not efficiently produce serotonin because it’s being used to produce niacin. Which also depletes stores of the vitamin cofactors Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B6.
I find that L-Tryptophan is also a better sleep aid than melatonin. Instead of a darker mood the next day, I wake feeling refreshed and in a cheerful mood for the rest of the day.
Your best option when selecting a L-Tryptophan supplement is called Tryptopure® which is made by the Japanese company Ajinomoto. Several well-respected supplement manufacturers use Tryptopure® as their source of L-Tryptophan including Performance Lab® Sleep.
Stack it with a highly bio-available B-Complex vitamin along with 400 mg of chelated magnesium 60 – 90 minutes before bed. If you find the B-Complex causes problems with sleep then use it earlier in the day.
Better quality sleep
Once you’re asleep you want to stay asleep. And you’ll do what you can for better quality sleep, optimal memory consolidation and better dreams.
Aniracetam – is a fat-soluble ampakine nootropic in the racetam-class of compounds. And up to 10-times more potent than the original racetam, Piracetam.
Neurohackers use Aniracetam to boost learning and memory. And to relieve anxiety, depression, stress, and for social anxiety.[xxxv] And some report Aniracetam helps promote lucid dreams.
DMAE – naturally occurs in your brain. DMAE as a nootropic has been reported by some neurohackers to improve vigilance, attention, mood and energy while alleviating depression.
DMAE has also been reported to induce lucid dreaming.[xxxvi]
Gotu Kola – is one of the most important herbs in the ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. In Bali, Gotu Kola is called “the student herb” because it sharpens the mind. The Balinese also use it to combat senility.
Many say that taking Gotu Kola is like “energizing of the brain”. Particularly during a period of high mental demand. Mental blocks or mental fatigue feel like they’re swept away.
Others report dreams seem more vivid and intense. And Gotu Kola seems to have an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect as well.
Huperzine A – is a water-soluble alkaloid nootropic derived from Chinese Club Moss (Huperzia serrata). It is a reversible acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. Which means it prevents the breakdown down of acetylcholine (ACh). Boosting short-term memory and long-term brain health.
Research has shown that acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may enhance REM sleep. In one study using the ACh inhibitor donepezil, the percentage of REM sleep and REM density increased. And the researchers found a correlation between memory performance and REM sleep.[xxxvii]
L-Theanine – is a non-dietary amino acid found in green tea. It is similar to the neurotransmitters l-glutamate and l-glutamine. L-Theanine boosts the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and GABA in your brain. As well as increasing Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).[xxxviii]
L-Theanine improves your quality of sleep. Researchers in Japan gave volunteers 200 mg of L-Theanine daily and recorded their sleep patterns. Sleep quality, recovery from exhaustion, and feeling refreshed were all enhanced by supplementing with L-Theanine.[xxxix] . I recommend 200 – 400 mg L-Theanine 60 – 90 minutes before bed for better sleep.
Picamilon – is a combination of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA with nicotinic acid (Vitamin B3 or niacin). The addition of niacin allows GABA to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
Neurohackers report that adding Picamilon to their stack relieves anxiety “better than Xanax”. There is less stress and they feel more relaxed.
Picamilon may also offer a stimulant effect providing mental clarity, dreams can be vivid, and it’s not sedating like Phenibut.
The perfect nootropic sleep stack
If you’re dealing with ongoing problems of insomnia or poor quality sleep. And not waking up feeling refreshed the next day. Nootropics can help.
Each of the nootropics I detailed above have been shown to contribute to improving sleep quality. But it’s up to you to find 3 or 4 that work for you.
Trial and error are the key to success with nootropic supplements. Each of the nootropics I detailed above links through to a full review of that supplement. Pay close attention to the Recommended Dosage and Side Effects for each supplement.
The amount of each supplement you select is important. Remember, “more is NOT better”.
Some of the nootropics in this article are contraindicated with prescription meds. Especially SSRIs, MAOIs, and benzodiazepines. Some can put you in a coma or Serotonin Syndrome. So, please read the Side Effects carefully before using each supplement.
With some dedication and patience you too can have consistent great quality sleep night after night. And feel amazing the next day.
Note: I’ve had many ask me what I use for sleep every night since I first published this article. And my answer has been; tart cherry juice concentrate (natural source of L-Tryptophan and melatonin), magnesium, L-Tryptophan, Lemon Balm, and L-Theanine. Works like a dream and I’ve been using this sleep stack consistently for over six years.
But I’ve also added Performance Lab® Sleep which contains some of the same sleep ingredients I’ve been putting together myself every evening. Still my favorite sleep stack. But depending on what you choose to add, you could save some money by using this pre-made sleep supplement.
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Any tips for sleep apnea?
David Tomen says
Michael, NAC, Vitamins C & E, CoQ10, Selenium, Vitamin D and DHA (Omega-3) (but NOT fish oil or most Omega-3s because you need 1,000 mg DHA per day).
Ryan Smith says
Thank you for this article.
I am on a mission to fix my sleep. I have tried some products in the past with not much luck and I am going to try some different combination in hopes of finally getting some good sleep
I am thinking of starting out with:
Performance lab sleep- as recommended
What are you thoughts on this stack?
Should I try some of these individually first or leave some out to start?
David Tomen says
Ryan, you many need more than 140 mg magnesium L-Threonate. If that stack is not enough consider adding 400 mg Lemon Balm extract and CBD Oil if needed.
holy basil also promotes vivid dreams and lucid dreams are attached, melatonin also, bacopa is also a little.
Anything that causes vivid dreams will also lead to lucid dreams.
For the last two months I’m having trouble with my sleep. I fall asleep fine, but after sleeping for 2- 3 hours I wake up to go to the bathroom to urinate and after when I go back to sleep, I cannot fall asleep and I stay up no matter how much I try to go back to sleep. Before it started, I never had a problem like this in the past for such a long time. It started when my mum was taken to the hospital and doctors told me the bad news. Lately thankfully my mum is okay, but I still have the problem.
Before bad I take, same dose for years:
[edited for length]
David, do you have any advice for me about this situation?
David Tomen says
Mick, I haven’t the time to do a consultation in the comments section. I suggest scheduling a one hour consultation with me and I’ll help you figure it out.
Been binging a lot of your content, specifically on sleep. Great info! Keep it coming!
I’m interested in what you are scurrently taking for your sleep stack and the dosages:
Magnesium (Performance Lab Sleep) – 100 mg
+ additional Magnesium – ????
Tart Cherry (Performance Lab Sleep) – 500 mg
+ additional Tart Cherry – ????
L-Tryptophan (Performance Lab Sleep) – 250 mg
+ additional L-Tryptophan – ????
L-Theanine – ????
Glycine – 3000 mg??
Lemon Balm (10:1) – 300 or 600 mg???
Anything new or additional?
David Tomen says
Jon, my current sleep stack:
– Performance Lab Sleep
– magnesium Bisglycinate 400 mg
– L-Theanine 200 mg
– L-Tryptophan 300 mg
– Lemon Balm extract 200 mg
– PharmaGABA 250 mg
– Charlotte’s Web Calm gummies (3)
First off, I want to thank you for the helpful information you put out. I never even heard the expression ‘Nootropics’ before I recently found this page about sleep supplements. After having found this page I bought your ebook ‘Head First’ and now I’m ‘all in’ – I pretty much bought all the individual supplements you mentioned in this article that I could find, and am currently testing them out – slowly and methodically.
Here are my questions/suggestions/comments:
1) For Magnesium – maybe consider listing it out on this page as ‘magnesium glycinate’ as you mentioned in one comment reply since that particular one is best for sleep.
2) One thing you may want to consider adding to the list on this page is Magnolia Bark as that works for me – I read your webpage about it from this site, that’s how I know about.
3) DMAE – is listed as a suggested nootropic on this page, but in your ebook, p119 you recommend against using it as a nootropic. So, which is your most current take on it?
4) Picamilon and Phenibut – are listed as a suggested nootropics on this page, but I just could not find these anywhere online to buy. After a little more digging it appears these are banned in the U.S.?
5) Aniracetam – I tried this at night but I did not sleep well. As noted on p44 of your ebook it is stated that Anicracetam is a ampakine and ampakines tend to have a stimulant effect. Side-note: I did take it for about a week during the day (with citicoline) and I did experience positive cognitive benefits. Had to stop taking it though because my skin started to itch all over (i have sensitive skin, so i’m not surprised)
6) Finally, what nootropics will YOU be taking today?
David Tomen says
Any form of chelated magnesium will work for sleep because it affects the GABAa receptor similar to Ambien. Magnolia Bark extract is a good option for sleep if the rest of the sleep stack I recommend is not enough.
DMAE is a an old ‘drug’ that affects how your system using choline. We have far better options and methods for increasing acetylcholine. Phenibut and Picamilon is hard to find because the FDA keeps sending out letters to companies who sell them. And either shutting them down or using some other method of forcing them out of business.
Aniracetam boosts the use of acetylcholine in your brain by 200 – 300%. So, if you do not use it with CDP-Choline or Alpha GPC it is highly unlikely you will experience the benefit of this nootropic. And you may even end up with a racetam-headache.
This is what I use today: https://nootropicsexpert.com/what-i-take/
I woke up very tired every morning. I take PL lab sleep but it didn’t change much in how I feel the next day. I need to work until late night as a programist. All I have is a pair of blue light blocking glasses. Is bright light from the monitor (not blue light) also contributing to my bad sleep? Should I turn off computer about an hour before sleep and stop relying on blue light blocking glasses? Thank you so so much!
David Tomen says
Marco, any kind of light will upset your circadian rhythm because your system cannot tell if it is day or night. Lack of light allows your body to naturally relax and begin producing things like melatonin.
Calvin Sampaio says
Is there any reason behind CBD Oil not being mentioned in the article but only in your comments?
Gratitude from Brazil.
David Tomen says
Calvin, I didn’t want to overwhelm people with too many options. CBD Oil is an excellent addition to a sleep stack IF you need it.
I fall asleep easy, always have. I wake up though, 3-4 times a night. I take GABA and Seriphos to get another 2 hours sleep. I have tried everything, L Tryptophan, Melatonin, CBD, Lemon Balm, Ashwagandha, Magnesium, Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, L Theanine. The only thing that has ever works is 10mg Amitriptyline (but it is anticholinergic and I found my memory failing). What it did though is prevent me from dreaming and I seem to always be waking out of a dream (not even a nightmare, just a regular dream). When I don’t dream, I don’t wake up.
Any tips for more NREM and less REM?
David Tomen says
Les, I do not recommend using Melatonin because it is usually dosed incorrectly and in excess which will backfire on you. L-Tryptophan makes serotonin which naturally goes on to make melatonin.
And Lemon Balm, Passionflower, Ashwagandha, Valerian and L-Theanine ALL affect GABA one way or another. That combination is overdoing it with GABA which is also not good.
Try L-Tryptophan 500 mg, CBD Oil 20 – 40 mg, Magnesium chelate 400 mg, L-Theanine 300 – 400 mg, and possibly Valerian about 60 mins. before bed. Frequent awakening is also often caused by a drop in blood sugar. You can counter that with a tablespoon of raw honey before bed and see if that helps.
If you wake up at night, first you should check your glucose levels and whole context of glucose and Insulin in stead of taking much drugs before sleep 🙂 you may have a hypoglicemia.
Exactly what happened in my case = overnight hypoglycemia, not dangerous (aka not below 70) and hyper production of cortisol to counter this. Had morning cortisol tests to validate. Lemon Balm with Cinnamon added has helped a bit although now taking 500mg of metformin in the morning to stop persistent high blood sugar from cortisol and liver glucose overreaction until +/- 2pm. My A1C is 5.6 with Normal BMI, so not overtly Type 2, yet most definitively insulin resistant and sleep quality deprived. I can tell without checking glucose because I’m cold until sugar comes down so high insulin as well which causes weight gain. Menopause kicked off this chapter in life if any ladies are reading this, FYI, this stuff is normal. Now use a CGM to stay on top of this. Best “gift” to myself ever.
David Tomen says
Sandra, I have found (and studies back me on this) that Berberine 500 mg 3-times per day will normalize blood sugar as well as metformin does.
Hi David, how are you? I’ve been dealing with insomnia, anxiety and horrible sleep, then lack of energy during the day and brain fog for years, also some mild depression.
Recently started testing L tyrosine 500 twice a day and 5 Htp 100mg before sleep (I know you recommend Nalt and tryptophan instead but I already had these so I’ll try while I have the bottle and might switch after) it’s been only 2 weeks but I do think they are helping a bit.
I also take b complex with zinc and copper, l glutamine, l theanine and a supplement that has magnesium, ashwaganda, GABA and bioperin before sleep. All of these have helped me some but I feel I need more energy during the day and something else to help me sleep.
I recently added ps100 which is phosphatidylserin and had the 2 worst night sleeps I’ve had in a long time. Couldn’t fall asleep and horrible anxiety and this was the only different thing I took.
I’m trying to add something else that can help me fall asleep easier and that I can add to what I already take. I worry about interactions because 5htp and the others. Which of these do you recommend?
Can I add Bacopa and lemon balm? Will these help me?
I used to take Xanax occasionally for sleep and helped me fall asleep but next day I just didn’t want to get up so I haven’t taken it again in a while and decided try these kinds of things.
Sorry if this is all over the place. I’m starting in this world and trying to learn.
Thanks for your help, your website has been really useful.
David Tomen says
Monica, I suggest you change 5-HTP and use 500 mg of L-Tryptophan instead. It is safer, easier to dose, and can be used long-term.
L-Tyrosine works great and you do not need to change to NALT.
Lemon Balm extract is a good idea. You can also try CDB Oil. I use Charlotte’s Web “Calm” gummies and you’ll find a link to them in this review: https://nootropicsexpert.com/cbd-oil/. If you still need something more to help you sleep I’ve recently discovered Dela-8 gummies which is extracted from THC but is not a scheduled substance. You can find it at your local vape shop.
Marcie Webber says
So David, when they say dosing 1st in AM, noon and evening, the evening is what time ? 4p? Vinpocetine is dose that way. Ginkgo and Multi AM and evening. My 1st dose is 8A. It doesn’t matter the spacing then?
I thought dosing that way covers 24h protection especially the circulation aspect.
Recommendation on L tryptophan and CBD gummies dosage and where to buy for sleep. Magnesium, I am already taking Magtein Bestvite daily @ noon. Will I dose this @ hs instead of during the day?
I also found out, PL sleep takes 2-3 weeks to get stabilized in my body. I experimented taking 3 caps one night and another night 4 caps after going back to the website that they indeed recommended up to 4. Yet i bothered u. i feel ashamed not using my brain more for search. Sorry.
Not much difference considering feeling refresh waking up. So this month happy to take 2 but will try what u considered if it makes the difference.
Thank u. Don’t forget time on evening dose. Will rearrange again my stack
for best absorption and body utilization. Many thanks.
David Tomen says
Marcie, timing between doses depends on the supplement. For example, an amino acid like L-Tyrosine last only a couple of hours before the unused portion is excreted. To get the benefit of dopamine all day you need to dose L-Tyrosine morning and noon and sometimes later in the afternoon as well.
Herbs are different because it often takes daily dosing of 2 or 3 weeks for some of them before you begin to experience the benefit.
Evening dosing of supplements is usually for sleep and those are taken 60 – 90-minutes before bed. Which is long enough for them to get digested and start doing their job to help you sleep.
This is the Tryptophan I use: https://amzn.to/3BSpgi6 and “Calm” CBD Gummies: https://bit.ly/3dH6Ndx
Marcie Webber says
David, for clarity, how do we take PL sleep? empty stomach with fat?
Second, is it safe to increase the dose to 3-4 caps?
As I last mentioned somewhere with u I woke up @ 4a & since that time it is between that & 3am like today. It took me 3 weeks taking 2 tabs to be in that range & plan to finish doing it whole month & see. I like to wake fresh @ 5a.
Still not feeling refresh. What do u think my body is doing? Any thoughts to share. Appreciate very much your input.
I take my 2 Multi with Vinpo 10mg & Ginkgo 60 mg @7p. Dinner is 6p.
Any correlation maybe? Shortly after taking these I feel asleep like a nap because I wake up in an hour or 2 & take PL sleep mostly 9p & fall asleep @ 10 or 10:30p w/c is Ok so long it is before MN. Many thanks.
David Tomen says
Marcie, I would not be taking Ginkgo Biloba or my Multi that late in the day. Because while they are not known to act as stimulants they do produce effects in your body that you need during your day. And not while sleeping.
It is safe to use 4 capsules of PL Sleep rather than 2 capsules. Or you can add a separate L-Tryptophan supplement and more magnesium. That’s what I do because my system requires more. But the key to sleeping through the night (for me) was adding CBD gummies about 60 minutes before bed.
Jennifer Isaac says
I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I have recently had an episode of severe Anxiety and feeling depressed. I am feeling better now but still feeling a bit anxious and not sleeping well. I have consulted you on my Anxiety and Depression and am going to try some supplements through trial and error. I am going to try N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine first. If this works would that possibly help me sleep as it could be the anxiety that is effecting my sleep or should I try one of the above supplements through trial and error with it. It would complicate things though as I need to find something for my anxiety through trial and error and then insomnia through trial and error. I will come up with the situation where I will have a juggling act. eg NALT combined with GABA helps me with my insomnia but doesn’t help with anxiety but NALT may work at treating my anxiety if I combine it with a different supplement from the above list to help with insomnia. I was focusing on getting treatment for my Anxiety and Depression and bought a bottle of NALT on line. When I was having trouble getting a good nights sleep last night I decided to look into natural supplements to help. If I had of thought to do this earlier when I was looking for supplements to help with Anxiety and Depression I would have bought a bottle of something that could help treat my Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia.
David Tomen says
Jennifer, this is my article on anxiety and how to test each neurotransmitter: https://nootropicsexpert.com/best-nootropics-for-anxiety/
You’ll notice that a couple of the supplements mentioned in that article are also used for sleep. Because L-Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and then melatonin in your brain.
NALT is a precursor to dopamine and is not usually associated with sleep. But low dopamine may be a cause for anxiety or depression.
It’s very frustrating when I see across the web, supplements that are suggested for energy and then in another place, suggested for sleep. I’ve battled fatigue all my life, born with it (try and get the Med professionals to believe that) and have ended up taking “energy” supplements that were actually for better sleep. You mentioned kola and DMAE which I thought were for energy. I’m too tired and ADHD to sort through the whole list but I think I saw more for energy. So, which one is it? Should gotu kola and/or DMAE and/or others, be taken during the day or at night? I just want to live before I die. This zombie life is torture… just waiting a very long burning life, to die and finally be done with this useless existence (I’m not suicidal, I’m just lamenting my physical reality).
David Tomen says
Darcy, if I understand your ‘question’ correctly, I think you are asking for nootropic supplements that increase energy. If that interpretation is correct then please see this article: https://nootropicsexpert.com/best-energy-supplements-to-buy/. Start with recommended doses of each of the supplements mentioned in that article and forget about Gotu Kola and DMAE.