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Sleep Supplements – What Works?

Man suffering from poor sleep, with sleep supplements on bench.

Are you having trouble sleeping, and have you considered sleep supplements?

Getting a good night’s sleep is difficult for so many of us. Whether it’s driven by snoring or sleep apnea, stress, insomnia, or restlessness, failing to get a good night’s sleep most nights can have significant ramifications for our general health and well-being, including mood, memory, performance, concentration, learning, and the safety of ourselves and others. It can also lead to some serious health conditions down the line.

If sleeping well is a challenge, it is tempting to look for anything to help us sleep better, and some people turn to pharmaceuticals that promote sleep. Unless used under strict medical supervision by your doctor, and for only a very short time, this can be dangerous. At best it is a slippery slope. This is because using medications like antihistamines (diphenhydramine), sleeping pills, muscle relaxant/sleep aids (doxylamine succinate), and opiate (painkiller) medications (e.g. codeine) to enable sleep is not good for you physically or psychologically. These drugs can quickly become habit-forming and lead to drug tolerance and even addiction. At best, they make you feel sluggish the next day and some can leave you with a headache on waking. 

Alternative/complementary medicine sleep supplements are a popular choice. Are they safe – and do they work?

Sleep Issues – a Much Too Common Problem

According to research published by the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health, approximately 25% of NZ adults report insomnia or another chronic sleep problem. Insomnia is a major public health issue in New Zealand, and it leads to poor quality of life and health outcomes. The incidence of insomnia is markedly higher in Maori people.  

In September 2023, the US Sleep Foundation reported that:

  • In the USA, the annual economic impact of insufficient sleep exceeds $411 billion (USD).
  • More than one-third of US adults get less than seven hours of sleep most nights.
  • 7% of adults need to take a nap of an hour duration (on average) every day.
  • The cost of workplace accidents and errors in the USA due to insomnia is $31.1 billion (USD) every year.
  • Driving while drowsy causes more than 6,000 fatal road accidents in the USA every year.
  • 10-15% of people experience chronic insomnia. Women are 40% more likely than men to report this. It directly impacts 55% of nurses, 34% of active-duty military service members, and 75% of senior adults overall.

Lifestyle changes and other alternatives can be implemented to improve sleep quality, and this includes taking natural supplements for better sleep. 

A Variety of Sleep Supplement Options

Sleep supplements are over-the-counter natural remedies. They are marketed as being an effective way to promote a better night’s sleep. 

From herbal teas (tisanes) using ingredients like chamomile flowers and lemon balm to taking valerian root, magnesium, CBD oil, or synthetic melatonin, the effectiveness of these varies. 

According to the Harvard University-affiliated Brigham & Women’s Hospital Department of Behavioural Sleep Medicine, evidence supports the use of some supplements for better sleep. It’s very important to take care, especially when used by people with certain medical conditions, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, or when other medications are being used.




Magnesium is an essential mineral for cardiac health, brain function, and many other physiological processes. It influences melatonin production, relaxes muscles, and optimises both sleep quality and quantity, helping to calm the mind and body for better sleep. Some cases of insomnia have been directly linked to low magnesium levels in the body, especially in older people. Magnesium can be taken alone or in combination with other vitamins or sleep aids. It can also be applied to the skin via sprays or in magnesium bath salts.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring brain hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Influenced by light and darkness, its levels should naturally rise around two hours before bedtime. This signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep. Synthetic melatonin is available over-the-counter as a sleep supplement or in a larger dose with a prescription. This supplement has been clinically shown to help people with circadian rhythm disorders, night owls who go to sleep very late but then can’t wake until late in the morning, and people with jet lag. It may also help people with insomnia to fall asleep more quickly. *Synthetic melatonin is not suitable for people with autoimmune disorders, seizure disorders, depression, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.*

Chamomile is derived from the chamomile flower. This member of the daisy family is usually consumed in the form of a herbal tea and is safe and gentle. Used by humans all over the world for thousands of years, it is a mild tranquilliser and sleep-inducer. It has antioxidant properties and offers an array of other benefits including reducing inflammation, promoting relaxation, reducing menstrual discomfort, lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes, and even helping to relieve symptoms of the common cold. 

Ashwagandha root extract is used in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine to lower stress and improve sleep quality. Taken as a pill, tea, powder, or liquid before sleep, it helps users fall asleep more quickly, sleep longer and deeper, and wake fewer times during the night. It also improves mental alertness on waking in the morning. Ashwagandha also helps reduce anxiety and stress levels and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-modulating effects. 

Lavender is a fragrant purple or white flowering plant with a distinctive, soothing aroma that enhances sleep and helps treat headaches. It can be used to promote sleep as aromatherapy (lavender oil sprinkled on one’s pillow or in a diffuser or bath) or as an herbal tea/tisane ingredient (dried flowers). *Never ingest lavender oil orally. *

Passionflower has sleep-promoting effects. The therapeutic species is native to the Americas and is usually found in New Zealand in tea form combined with other sleep-inducing plants such as chamomile. 

Valerian is a flowering plant that is native to Europe and Asia. Since ancient times, its roots and stems have been used to make effective sleep aids. In Western societies, it is usually taken as a pill or in a herbal tea. Relaxing and mildly sedating, it is traditionally used for insomnia and to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and menopause. For some people, it can cause very vivid, strange dreams, which may be contradictory to a restful night’s sleep.

CBD or cannabidiol is an active compound derived from the hemp plant. Unlike the “high” produced by THC (another active compound in the hemp plant), CBD induces feelings of calm. CBD oil (and medicinal cannabis) are legal in New Zealand – however, importing these is illegal. CBD oil may be accessed in NZ as a prescription-only medicine.

Other popular sleep supplement options include Tryptophan, Glycine, Ginko biloba, L-theanine, and Kava.

Improve Sleep Quality – Stop Snoring with ApneaRx

Is snoring disrupting your sleep?

Snoring has a terrible impact on your quality of sleep. 

All is not lost! There are simple, affordable solutions that minimise and can even prevent snoring – ApneaRx is one of these.

A top-quality, medically engineered snoring mouthguard, ApneaRx is a budget-friendly, safe, and comfortable-to-use mandibular advancement device. Washable and reusable, it is worn in the mouth during sleep and gently moves the lower jaw slightly forward. This helps to open the airways and prevent the main cause of snoring. ApneaRx also treats the symptoms associated with mild to moderate sleep apnea, assuring you of healthy, snore free sleeps.

Visit our website to learn more. We also offer a catalogue of informative, interesting, helpful articles about sleep and snoring. Try ApneaRx for yourself – buy yours now.