nite thru sleep aid reviews

15 Best Nootropics for Sleep

David Tomen
David Tomen
25 minute read

Key Takeaways

  1. Ashwagandha: An Ayurvedic herb effective in reducing anxiety by lowering cortisol levels.
  2. Bacopa Monnieri: An adaptogen useful for anxiety and improving memory consolidation during REM sleep.
  3. Melatonin: A hormone aiding in sleep regulation, effective in improving sleep quality.
  4. Magnesium: A vital mineral enhancing sleep quality, mood, and cognitive functions.
  5. Phenibut: An analogue of GABA reducing anxiety and stress without affecting cognitive performance​.

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.

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.

Sleep mechanisms

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 stress and arousal levels in this area of your brain.

Circadian rhythm

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]

sleep nootropics redditYour 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.

Sleep-wake homoeostasis

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.

Sleep stages

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 sleep onset than 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.

sleep stack supplements

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]

aniracetam helps recover from sleep deprivation

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…

sleep stacksYour 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 mental 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.

Huperzine-A sleep aidLack 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.

  1. Reality testing involves examining one’s surroundings multiple times throughout the day. And questioning whether one is awake or dreaming.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

insomnia supplements

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.

GABAis 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 cognitive 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.

Aniracetamis 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. Enhanced 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. Combining many of  the supplements I detailed above with any of these prescription drugs could put you in a coma or cause Serotonin Syndrome. So, please read the Side Effects carefully before using each supplement.

With some dedication and patience you too can have consistent and 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.

Try: Performance Lab® Sleep

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

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[ii] Macchi M.M., Bruce J.N. “Human pineal physiology and functional significance of melatonin.” Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology. 2004 Sep-Dec;25(3-4):177-95. (source)

[iii] Tang N.K.Y., Fiecas M., Afolalu E.F., Wolke D. “Changes in Sleep Duration, Quality, and Medication Use Are Prospectively Associated With Health and Well-being: Analysis of the UK Household Longitudinal Study” Sleep Volume 40, Issue 3, 1 March 2017 (source)

[iv] “The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR)” USA National Institute of Health (source)

[v] “Global ‘sleeplessness epidemic’ affects an estimated 150 million in developing world” Warwick (source)

[vi] Rasch b., Born J. “About Sleep’s Role in Memory” Physiology Reviews 2013 Apr; 93(2): 681–766. (source)

[vii] Fattinger S., Beukelaar T.T., Ruddy K.L., Volk C., Heyse N.C., Herbst J.A., Hahnloser R.H.R., Wenderoth N., Huber R. “Deep sleep maintains learning efficiency of the human brain” Nature Article number: 15405 (2017) (source)

[viii] Boyce R., Williams S., Adamantidis A. “REM sleep and memory.” Current Opinions in Neurobiology. 2017 Jun;44:167-177. (source)

[ix] Bjorvatn B., Brevik E.J., Lundervold A.J., Halmøy A., Posserud M.B., Instanes J.T., Haavik J. “Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Report High Symptom Levels of Troubled Sleep, Restless Legs, and Cataplexy” Frontiers in Psychology. 2017 Sep 20; 8: 1621 (source)

[x] Hodgkins P., Setyawan J., Mitra D., Davis K., Quintero J., Fridman M., Shaw M., Harpin V. “Management of ADHD in children across Europe: patient demographics, physician characteristics and treatment patterns.” European Journal of Pediatrics. 2013 Jul; 172(7):895-906. (source)

[xi] Hvolby A. “Associations of sleep disturbance with ADHD: implications for treatment” Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders 2015; 7(1): 1–18. (source)

[xii] “The good life: Good sleepers have better quality of life and less depression” SLEEP 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC June 14, 2011 (source)

[xiii] Nauert R. “Deep Sleep Can Improve Quality of Life in Seniors. Psych Central.” Retrieved on November 12, 2017

[xiv] Lemer I., Lupkin S.M., Sinha N., Tsai A., Gluck M.A. “Baseline Levels of Rapid-Eye-Movement Sleep May Protect Against Excessive Activity in Fear-Related Neural Circuitry” The Journal of Neuroscience 23 October 2017, 0578-17 (source)

[xv] Leproult R., Van Cauter E. “Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men” Journal of the American Medical Association June 1, 2011 (source)

[xvi] Kalmbach D., Arnedt J.T., Pillai V., Ciesla J.A. “The Impact of Sleep on Female Sexual Response and Behavior: A Pilot Study” The Journal of Sexual Medicine Volume 12, Issue 5 May 2015 Pages 1221–1232 (source)

[xvii] Jensen T.K. et. Al. “Association of Sleep Disturbances With Reduced Semen Quality: A Cross-sectional Study Among 953 Healthy Young Danish Men” American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 177, Issue 10, 15 May 2013, Pages 1027–1037 (source)

[xviii] Leproult R., Copinschi Gs, Buxton Os, Van Cauter E. “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.” Sleep. 1997 Oct;20(10):865-70. (source)

[xix] Hamilton L.D., Rellini A.H., Meston C.M. “Cortisol, Sexual Arousal, and Affect in Response to Sexual Stimuli” Journal of Sexual Medicine 2008 Sep; 5(9): 2111–2118. (source)

[xx] Budweiser S., Enderlein S., Jörres R.A., Hitzl A.P., Wieland W.F., Pfeifer M., Arzt M. “Sleep apnea is an independent correlate of erectile and sexual dysfunction.” Journal of Sexual Medicine 2009 Nov;6(11):3147-57. (source)

[xxi] Kling J.M., Manson J.E., Naughton M.J., Temkit M., Sullivan S.D., Gower E.W., Hale L., Weitlauf J.C., Nowakowski S., Crandall C.J. “Association of sleep disturbance and sexual function in postmenopausal women.” Menopause. 2017 Jun;24(6):604-612 (source)

[xxii] Aspy D., Delfabgro P., Proeve M., Mohr P. “Reality testing and the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams: Findings from the national Australian lucid dream induction study.” Dreaming Vol 27(3), Sep 2017, 206-231 (source)

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Join The Discussion - 118 comments

November 12, 2020

David, could you please talk about the benefits of consuming Glycin as a supplement? I have seen that you have never dedicated an investigation to them as in other substances

    David Tomen
    November 14, 2020

    Flavio, it’s on my list of things to write. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

Jon Moore
June 21, 2020

Dear David. I’ve been in the process of weaning off Zopiclone sleeping tablets and now down to half the lowest dose (3.75mg tablet cut in half).
As this works on GABA, as I come off the Zopiclone totally, if I start making a sleep and anxiety stack would it be best to try something like Ashwagandha to rebalance the GABA system as this is an adaptogen and acts on GABA?

I’m looking at trying:-

Performance Lab Sleep (Tart Cherries, Mg and Tryptophan)
L-Theanine (I already take this)
Lemon Balm

with maybe Ashwaghandha and CBD Oil.

Does this seem a reasonable balanced starting point?



    David Tomen
    June 21, 2020

    Jon, you’re on the right track. Zopiclone enhances GABA binding at the GABAa receptors which is how it affects sleep onset. One thing you should be aware of is that magnesium also binds to GABAa receptors. So consider increasing your magnesium by another 300 mg (i.e. magnesium glycinate).

      Jon Moore
      June 26, 2020

      Thank you David.

      I have two questions:-

      1) Can Performance Lab Sleep ingredients in the standard dosage cause any digestion issues? I’m a bit prone to bloating in the stomach and indigestion at night and my first night trying this supplement I had these issues and wasn’t sure if it was my normal issues or the supplement. Your article on tryptophan suggests that might cause these side effects, but wasn’t clear if the low dose in the supplement makes this likely. Anyway I’ll try it again and see what happens, if I consistently get issues then will stop taking.

      2) Out of interest why do you recommend the glycinate form of magnesium over l-theonate form you suggest is best on the magnesium page? Also others have recommended magnesium malate, this is a form I didn’t see you mention, do you have any opinion on it?

      Thank you

        David Tomen
        June 27, 2020

        Jon, stomach bloating is one of the side effects associated with L-Tryptophan but usually at much higher dosages. Performance Lab Sleep has only 250 mg which shouldn’t be a problem. Unless you’re unusually sensitive to that ingredient.

        And any chelated form of magnesium works. That includes glycinate, L-Threonate and Malate. Whichever you prefer.

        Jon Moore
        June 29, 2020

        Thanks David for all your help.

        I tried it again and no stomach issues so think it was a coincidence.

        What I am finding is so far Performance Lab Sleep not helping my sleep much even with some Magnesium malate (Now brand). What happens is about 1 hour after taking it I feel slightly unpleasantly drowsy (a bit drugged almost) and maybe doze without properly sleeping then it wears off and I’m awake again. If I took just 1 capsule then the effect was more pleasant but didn’t really get me off. I don’t take any other night-time supplements and in the morning just Krill Oil, B12, Ubiquinol (CoQ10).

        I think all I can do is try Performance Lab Sleep a few more nights and if no joy, try a scientific approach and try a few nootropics individually and then in combination

        So my questions are:-

        1) How many nights you would try each nootropic or combination for before making a change?

        2) Do you find the timings key with sleep stacks and was it just a long process of trial and error?

        3) How do you decide what nootropics to try first when trialling a new stack based on a list like above? Or do you just narrow things down then randomly select one from the shortlist and observe effects?

        David Tomen
        June 29, 2020

        Jon, most people who use Performance Lab Sleep report the most benefit after 2 – 3 weeks of consistent daily use.

        Sleep supplements like any nootropic supplement is trial and error until you find what works for you. The purpose of the above post is to help you understand what you’re dealing with. And I’ve made some suggestions on how to deal with each stage of sleep. I’ve found they work best if taken about 60 minutes before bed.

        But the key is experimenting with different supplements. For example, I’ve found I need to increase the amount of L-Tryptophan and magnesium. I also add GABA, Charlotte’s Web Calm gummies and Lemon Balm.

        It’s hard to answer your last 2 questions other than trial and error is key to making any nootropic stack work.

March 7, 2020

When taking l tryptophan, would one need to avoid any other supplements/medications that affect seratonin levels as a person taking an antidepressant would?

    March 7, 2020

    Also how does magnesium threonate compare to magnesium chelate?

      David Tomen
      March 7, 2020

      Kelly, magnesium l-threonate is best for boosting cognition. And magnesium glycinate for sleep. Both are chelated forms of magnesium.

    David Tomen
    March 7, 2020

    Kelly, the biggest danger is using L-Tryptophan with antidepressants that affect serotonin. The only nootropic I’d not combine with it is 5-HTP which is a direct precursor to serotonin.

      February 19, 2021

      Hey David, I’m replying to this thread because I was about to write you with a question about all these recommended nootropics for sleep and mood and how they effect Seratonin in the brain. I’m particularly concerned about serotonin syndrome. I am no longer on anti depressants and attempting to control my mood and insomnia issues with nootropics, but many of these substances seem to effect serotonin. So when creating and experimenting with a stack, which ones should you NOT combine together? For example, can I take GABA, 5-HTP, L-the anine, taurine, kava, Ashwaganda,, Theobromine, magnesium, CBD, and Kratom all together? Or might a stack like this cause serotonin syndrome?
      Thanks in advance for your reply.

        David Tomen
        February 20, 2021

        Alexis, it is unlikely that a combination of nootropic supplements will cause Serotonin Syndrome. This is primarily a danger when combining a direct precursor like 5-HTP or L-Tryptophan with a prescription antidepressant or anti-anxiety med.

        It is possible to increase serotonin too much with just nootropics because excess serotonin depresses dopamine. And vice versa. When these two get out of balance you end up with very unpleasant side effects.

        March 6, 2021

        Thanks David.. so your saying that a nootropic stack that effects seratonin can not lead to seratonin syndrome, but CAN lead to too much seratonin , just short of seratonin syndrome perhaps, with very unpleasant side effects. That being said, can you lease list what nootropics you would NOT recommend stacking together, as per my original comment above? I e been trying different combos of the nootropics I mentioned and sometimes I feel just awful from them, but can’t tell what exactly is causing the bad effects. When I say “bad effects” I mean like waking up in the morning horribly groggy and with brain cloud and nervousness.. like a hyper exhaustion. I must be taking the wrong combinations.

        David Tomen
        March 7, 2021

        Alexis, the combo of 5-HTP, KAVA and Kratom is overdoing it. I suggest stopping 5-HTP altogether. If you want to increase serotonin and melatonin then use L-Tryptophan.

        Using KAVA and Kratom together is likely a bad idea as well.

        The only way to find out what’s causing your symptoms is use one supplement at a time for a night. If it does not cause you problems then add the next one. If that doesn’t cause problems then add the next one. etc.

        It’s the only way you’ll figure out what is going on.

January 25, 2020

Hello again, Mr. Tomen

I have some very positive results to report. After taking approximately 6 oz of 100% TART CHERRY JUICE, I was able to achieve a rare 7 1/2 hrs of sleep, waking up only once at night!

Dreaming has also markedly increased since I started stacking (L-Theanine, Lemon Balm, Mag Glycinate/Threonate) which is also a positive sign.

As you pointed out in a video, Tart Cherry Juice posesses a compound that appears to be structurally identical to melatonin. Amazing! It also shows promise as a pain reliever which is also a wrecker of my sleep. I thank you for bringing this to my attention.

I am curious about your take on Passion Flower, as I’ve heard it suggested elsewhere that it might serve as a competitive block to pre-synaptic GABA reuptake pumps.

Recently added a small portion of 85% Cacao along with CBD oil 20mg to stimulate the CB1 receptor and boost ananamide. In the morning which seems to get the day started with a good mix of energy and calm.

As I have disclosed in earlier posts, I am tolarant to my benzodiazepine sleep and anxiety meds after many years of use and have come to research nootropics in an attempt to extend the diminished effects of these meds as dose escalation is no longer sustainable. My doctor is aware of my nootropic experiments.

These past few weeks have been more effective in terms of symptom control than from any remedy previously tried. There is reason for positivity.

Thank you.

December 12, 2019

Hid David
Thanks a lot for your posts and help.
well, Following a urine test, I found that my dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin levels were lower than the minimum of the normal range and that the rate of my adrenaline was correct, in the middle of the normal range.
To rebalance my serotonin level and improve my sleep, I took L-tryptophan or 5-HTP for several months. Thanks to LIDTKE’s L-tryptophan Complete, I have been able to improve my sleep and reduce my nocturnal awakenings.
Recently, 3 times, I tried to take 500 mg before bedtime L-tryptophan brand Now Food and each time I had a bad feeling 20 minutes after taking. it was hard for me to fall asleep and during my sleep I was awake with a feeling of panic. the sensation is really disagreeable and not easy to explain.
Since I do not understand what’s going on, I did not have the courage to test with another brand.
do you have an idea?

    David Tomen
    December 12, 2019

    Adil, it sounds like you have used L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP in the past with some success. For several months you mentioned.

    And all of a sudden you have problems with a different brand of L-Tryptophan?

    Either the dosage was higher than what you were using before. Or your system does not agree with the NOW Foods brand of product.

    What exactly was in the Tryptophan product you used before? Include ingredients as well as dosages of each. And we’ll try to figure out if there is something else going on here.

      December 12, 2019

      Thanks a lot David.
      I ve been taking 3 capsules a day before bed.
      Each 3 capsules contain:
      Vitamin C (as calcium ascorbate) 90mg (150%)
      Vitamin B2 (as riboflavin) 15mg (885%)
      Vitamin B3 (as niacinamide) 60mg (300%)
      Folate (as folic acid) 800mcg (200%)
      Pyridoxal 5-Phosphate 15mg
      —(enzymatic form of vitamin B6)
      L-Tryptophan USP 1050mg
      L-Lysine HCl USP 300mg
      Proprietary Blend 570mg
      —Curcumin (from turmeric root)
      —Magnesium glycinate
      —Magnesium taurinate
      I dont know why i have this with good now brand.

      Actually, i m taking Mind lab pro. 2 pills a day before brakefast. I m taking also tumeric , 100mg magnésium and 1800mg of Royal jelly. What do you think about this ?

      Thanks a lot

        December 12, 2019

        Some thing strange is hapening with me now. All the week, i ve been taking 200 mg of magnésium before bed, but today , i added 2 mg of melatonine and unfortunatly, i have same problem as with tryptophane. I have a feeling of fear exactly as when i take tryptophane.

        David Tomen
        December 14, 2019

        Adil, I am assuming this is supposed to be a sleep supplement? The manufacturer is using the synthetic form of Vitamin B9 (folic acid) instead of what they should be using which is folate. This is especially problematic because they’ve got such a high dose of folic acid too.

        The other thing is the dosage of L-Tryptophan is double what I’d recommend for sleep.

        And you bring up one of the reasons why I do not recommend melatonin as a supplement. You are experiencing just one of the many side effects possible with synthetic melatonin.

        This is why I use tart cherry juice concentrate before bed as my natural source of melatonin. I doesn’t cause the type of side effects as synthetic melatonin.

August 16, 2019

Hi. What do you think about passionflower for sleep? Thank you.

    August 16, 2019

    It’s about the variety of passionflower called Passiflora incarnata.

      David Tomen
      August 16, 2019

      Folashadé, Passion Flower would likely help with sleep because it boosts GABA in the brain. It’s on my list of nootropics to review this year so thanks for the reminder. 🙂

July 15, 2019


Does galantamine and as well as Huperzine-A boost ach and induce lucid dreams? I am taking L tryptophan (tryptopure) 500mg every night with b6. I sleep so well that I cannot remember or lucid at all. I am feeling refresh in the morning too. However I do want to have lucid dreams but it’s so hard. I cannot remember my dreams too. You ever mention that if someone lucid when taking certain nootropics supplements means they are working . Kindly advise as I wanted to lucid badly and thinking of dropping tryptophan at night .

July 9, 2019

Hello my name is Richard and first I wanted to say I love your work your doing great things. could you please make a video on the stack to heal the brain from alcohol and drug abuse a stack that can heal the damaged brain.
could you please look at my list and perhaps make a suggestion.
1) vinpocetine
2) acetyl L carnitine
3) dha
4) resveratrol.
5)? any others ? should I take one out?
help please . thank you very much

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