We all need a minimum of restorative sleep to be fit during the day and in good health. However, about a third of the population suffers from insomnia. The duration of sleep in adults is generally between 7 and 9 hours per night.
Read: 8 consequences of a lack of sleep
While some choose to take sleeping pills, others may seek more natural solutions, of which here are three of the best known.
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the brain, at the level of the pineal gland, or epiphysis. Melatonin secretion is greatest during the hours when you sleep the most. But melatonin tends to be lacking during aging, which may explain why we sleep less well with age. People who work with staggered hours, for example at night, see their rhythm of melatonin secretion disturbed.
According to Brigitte Karleskind, author of Essential melatonin, “Unlike sleeping pills, when taken at an appropriate dose, melatonin quickly improves sleep, induces a natural restorative sleep that resynchronizes the circadian rhythm. It is neither habit forming nor addictive. »
An analysis published in 2022 in Journal of Neurology pooled 23 randomized controlled clinical trials on the use of melatonin. The results show a significant effect of the supplement on the quality of sleep in adults. In particular, melatonin had a significant effect on the quality of sleep of people who had breathing problems, suffered from metabolic syndrome or sleep disorders.
Supplements often contain between 1 and 3 mg of melatonin. The molecule also exists in the form of a drug (Circadin). When taking melatonin orally, the peak in the blood is observed 60-150 minutes after absorption. This is why, to bring forward the time of your falling asleep in the evening, it should be taken around 7-8 p.m. It is advisable to start with low doses.
Long-term melatonin should not be taken without medical supervision
Melatonin is contraindicated in pregnancy, hypertension, epilepsy, autoimmune disease and taking certain medications. Brigitte Karleskind warns “Long-term melatonin should not be taken without medical supervision. »
valerian Valeriana officinalis is a medicinal plant whose root is traditionally used against anxiety problems and sleep disorders. It is also called catnip, because its smell attracts them.
Valerian has anxiolytic properties which explain its action on sleep. The plant reduces the duration of falling asleep.
In 2020, Japanese researchers published a systemic review including 60 studies and meta-analyses on valerian. They concluded that valerian is an effective plant for promoting sleep. However the therapeutic benefits are more interesting when valerian is associated with other plants. Another important lesson from these studies is that valerian does not lead to serious side effects in subjects from 7 to 80 years old. It therefore appears to be a safe supplement.
Magnesium is a cofactor involved in many enzymatic processes in the body, including biological cycles and sleep. People who have low dietary intakes of magnesium are more likely to suffer from depression; depression is associated with insomnia.
Observational studies show that there is a link between magnesium status and sleep quality: daytime sleepiness, drowsiness, snoring and sleep duration. But randomized controlled trials sometimes give contradictory results.
Two Canadian researchers pooled the results of three clinical trials involving 151 elderly people. They showed that, by taking a magnesium supplement, the waiting time to fall asleep at night decreased by 17 minutes, compared to the placebo group. The group supplemented with magnesium slept 16 minutes more, but this difference was not considered to be statistically significant because the quality of the studies was not sufficient.
For authors, “Because oral magnesium is very inexpensive and widely available, evidence from randomized controlled trials may support oral magnesium supplements (less than 1g in amounts given up to three times daily) for insomnia symptoms. »
Read also: Which magnesium to choose?
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 375 mg per day for adults. In the Practical guide to dietary supplementsBrigitte Karleskind recommends 375 to 800 mg per day. “In France, nearly one in four women and one in six men lack magnesium”.