The 9 Best Sleep Supplements & Aids of 2023 (All With Science-Backed Ingredients)*
A quick look at the best sleep aids of 2023
A quick look at the best sleep aids of 2023
Over a third of Americans regularly miss out on the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep a night, according to the CDC1.
Beyond cranky mornings and coffee cravings, sleeplessness can have real impacts on health, as rest is essential to brain function, immunity, muscle repair, metabolic health, and much more.
These days, countless sleep aids and supplements promise to make it easier to catch some shut-eye (and all the benefits that come along with it)—but which ones actually work?
Science-backed ingredients are the most important things to look for in a natural sleep aid. And while there are lots of ingredients that are labeled as sleep promoters, fewer have the data to demonstrate they work.
That's why we've rounded up mbg's holy grail list of what to look for in a sleep aid, frequently asked questions, and how to find the right supplement for your nightly needs.*
Sleep aid ingredients to look for
- Magnesium bisglycinate: This form of the essential mineral magnesium is attached to two glycine molecules to make it more bioavailable, gentle, and easy for the body to absorb come bedtime. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help with slumber; for example, this double-blind randomized clinical trial2 demonstrated that this mineral helps older adults fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.*
- Jujube seed extract (Ziziphus jujuba var. spinosa): Jujube dates have long been used for relaxation and sedation in traditional Chinese medicine, and one 2017 scientific review of the fruit—which can also be found in a concentrated powder extract form—supports its potentially calming effect on the brain.*
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): A naturally occurring neurotransmitter, GABA sends the brain a signal to calm down. PharmaGABA® is a GABA supplement bioactive (made by a fermentation process) that has been shown in clinical trials to enhance natural sleep quality3.*
- L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea, but the kind you'll find in supplements is often synthetic. Due to the way it blocks receptors in the brain that can initiate a stress response, it's been found to support sleep and cognitive function and calm stress in healthy adults4. A dose of 200 mg is the minimum amount of L-theanine you'll want to take to get these calming sleep effects, according to a 2020 systematic review5.*
- Tart cherry extract (Prunus cerasus): In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 40 people6 over seven days, tart cherry juice concentrate, a natural source of melatonin, enhanced sleep efficiency when enjoyed before bed.*
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): 5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that produces serotonin, which can then be converted to melatonin in the body. Supplemental forms of it have shown potential in supporting a steadier mood7. Again, plant-derived forms of it, from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia, are superior to synthetic ones. When taking a 5-HTP supplement, make sure it also contains some vitamin B6 (also might be labeled pyridoxal 5'-phosphate) to help catalyze the conversion to serotonin.*
- Rafuma leaf extract (Apocynum venetum): Rafuma leaf8 is a plant extract that was historically used in China to promote longevity and mental well-being. The modern research on this one is light, but according to one study on Rafuma leaf and GABA9, the two compounds may work synergistically to help people fall asleep faster and achieve deeper sleep.*
- Ashwagandha leaf and/or root extract (Withania somnifera): This popular adaptogen has been shown to help alleviate stress in one double-blind, placebo-controlled study10 when consumed in high doses (at 240 mg). As such, it may help the mind calm down before bed, but any ashwagandha supplement you take for sleep should contain a decent amount of glycowithanolides (at least 20%), the herb's active plant compounds.*
- Saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.): The saffron spice, while pricey, has a growing body of clinical support for sleep, like this recent double-blind trial11 that found adults who took 15.5 mg of saffron extract a day for six weeks reported better sleep quality.*
- Hemp extract: Full-spectrum hemp extract (from industrial hemp) contains a number of plant compounds (including CBD) that work synergistically to promote calm. Some emerging research12 has also found that taking it before bed might enhance sleep quality, due to its relaxing and mood-supporting properties. If you're using a hemp extract for relaxation or sleep, look for one that contains at least 20 mg of CBD.*
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies secrete at night to signal that it's time to go to sleep. As such, melatonin supplements may be temporarily helpful for adjusting to a bedtime your body is not used to (like when you're acclimating to a new time zone). However, there is limited evidence13 that melatonin improves sleep quality on an ongoing basis, and it's not marketed as a nightly supplement in most countries outside the U.S. and Canada.*
- Lavender: The lavender plant can help calm the mind thanks to its main active ingredient, the terpene linalool14. It's a pleasure to smell before bed, but it can also be consumed in supplement form for more exact dosing.*
- Chamomile: A favorite among herbalists, chamomile is another plant that helps support the nervous system and may by extension make it easier to sleep. In one randomized clinical trial15 of 60 people, those who consumed a chamomile extract capsule for one month reported better sleep quality than those who took a placebo.*
- Botanical extracts: Other plant compounds that have demonstrated calming effects in scientific trials include valerian root16, lemon balm17, hops18, passionflower19, and skullcap20.*
With these ingredients in mind, here are the best science-backed sleep aids and supplements on the market right now.
mbg's picks for the best sleep aids of 2023
Best without melatonin: mindbodygreen sleep support+
- Enhances sleep quality*
- Supports a healthy circadian rhythm*
- Promotes a steady state of relaxation*
- Non-hormonal sleep aid
- Serving size is 2 capsules
Dietary:Gluten-freeSoy-freeDairy-freeNon-GMOVeganMajor food allergen-free
We like to think of our sleep supplement as a targeted generalist: It's designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed.* We worked with leading researchers and physicians to perfect our powerful blend of magnesium bisglycinate, jujube, and PharmaGABA® so it's just right for enhancing overall sleep quality, night after night.* As with all mbg supplements, it's rigorously tested, formulated with clean ingredients, and free of unnecessary additives and preservatives. Along with sustainable packaging, mbg's Ferira shares that "this sleep supplement is also vegan and free of the hormone melatonin, as well as GMOs, gluten, dairy, soy, and food allergens."
Plus, new customers save 10% on their first order with promo code MBG10.
What our reviewers say:
"For the first time in so long, I'm waking up naturally. I can get up and immediately function, no exhaustion or grogginess to get through. I've become so much more of a morning person since starting sleep support+." — Jen Deutsch
Read Jen's full review here.
Best for shift work & jet lag: Nature's Bounty Melatonin
- Helps you ease into a new sleep pattern
- Contains melatonin
- Not the best for everyday use
- Long list of "other ingredients"
For an allergen-friendly, high-potency melatonin tablet supplement without artificial colors or preservatives, check out this option from Nature's Bounty. Clocking in at 5 mg per serving, it's not intended for nightly use but can help you ease into a new sleep pattern if your schedule gets interrupted (say, if you're traveling or need to pick up a night shift at work).* Ferira explains, "This formula features a combination of instant- and extended-release melatonin, to sustain its delivery while you're asleep." At less than $6 per bottle, it's affordable to boot.
Best for beauty sleep: Hum Mighty Night™
- Supports healthy skin texture + tone*
- Supports cellular turnover*
- Contains gluten-free wheat (allergen)
- Contains corn
For the skin care buffs, this formula from Hum Nutrition contains moisture-locking ceramides to help support a more even skin texture as you snooze.* You won't find any artificial sweeteners or colors in this one, but you might stumble upon a glowy complexion upon waking.* On the sleep front, we love the supplement's combination of calming botanical extracts from hops, valerian root, and passionflower.* Ferira adds, "This dual combination of sleep and skin health ingredients is delivered in a two-softgel serving size, featuring vegan softgels."*
Best nighttime powder: Beam Dream CBD Sleep Powder
- Calming formula with hemp, L-theanine, etc.*
- Easy to mix
- Contains melatonin hormone
- Contains coconut (tree nut allergen)
If you'd rather whip your supplement into a calming nighttime tonic (and who could blame you?), Beam's dream powder is a tasty pick. A combination of effective doses of magnesium citrate, melatonin, L-theanine, and hemp CBD, it's packed with functional ingredients. Ferira adds, "Beam delivers on flavor, sweetness, and smooth texture via a blend of tapioca, coconut, organic cocoa, organic cinnamon, vanilla, and monk fruit." Dairy-free with no added sugars, it's a naturally sweet treat you can feel chill about sipping on repeat.
Best sleep tea: Gaia Herbs Sleep & Relax Herbal Tea
- Herbal blend promotes relaxation*
- USDA certified organic
- Certified B corporation
- Contains licorice which may not be suitable for those with certain health considerations
This brew from Gaia Herbs takes the relaxing ritual of sipping tea before bed up a notch with lemon balm, chamomile, and passionflower.* Its functional ingredients are responsibly sourced. "Gaia is well respected in the botanical world, and this unique tea formula made in Italy and USDA certified organic is no exception," shares Ferira. A finishing touch of natural orange flavor helps round out this relaxing tea just in time for bed.
Best for kids 12+: Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Kids Sleep Gummies
- Clean gummy formula with herbs
- Melatonin hormone alternative
- No artificial colors, flavors, or additives
- Added sugars
This gentle herbal formula of chamomile, valerian root, lemon balm, and L-theanine from green tea extract (provided via two gummies) is designed to help children 4 years and up sleep easier.* The yummy natural raspberry-flavored gummies are gluten-free and non-GMO. Their natural color comes from carrot and blackcurrant, whole foods we love. Ferira divulges that, "yes, this product contains added sugars because they are gummies, where supplement meets confection; although these sugars come from clean sources, namely organic tapioca syrup and organic cane sugar."
Best with melatonin & CBD: Green Roads Sweet Sleep CBD Oil
- Supports stress management*
- Female-owned brand
- Broad- spectrum hemp oil with zero THC
- Contains melatonin hormone
- Contains sugar
Female-owned company Green Roads specializes in CBD products from hemp grown in the U.S. Its sleep blend combines CBD with CBN (for a total of 25 mg of phytocannabinoids per 1-ml serving), hemp bioactives that show promise for sleep in preliminary research.* It also contains 2.5 mg of melatonin, so be cautious about taking it nightly. It comes in a blueberry-flavored tincture you can place under your tongue before bed. "Formulated by pharmacists and third-party tested, Green Roads is a hemp CBD brand I personally trust," explains Ferira.
Best organic herbal blend: Gaia Herbs Sleep & Relax
- Unique botanical array
- USDA certified organic
- Certified B corporation
- Not for use during pregnancy or lactation
Dietary:Gluten-freeSoy-freeDairy-freeVeganMajor food allergen-free
Gaia is known for its high-quality herbal formulations, and this sleep option is no exception. A capsule variety of the company's Sleep & Relax tea, the USDA certified organic supplement contains organic passionflower, valerian root, and other herbs to promote a sense of calm and help prepare the body for a solid night's rest.* "While the botanical hero actives in this formula are valerian and Passiflora, this blend is rounded out by lemon balm, lavender, California poppy, and sweet marjoram," adds Ferira.
Best menopausal formula: EQUELLE®
- Rooted in clinical research
- Mimics the role of estrogen to provide menopause relief*
- Long list of “other ingredients”
- Serving size is 4 tablets
Specifically formulated to help support sleep through menopause, EQUELLE® contains a standardized amount of naturally derived S-equol, which has a similar structure and function as estrogen.* Most menopausal formulas contain a mixture of herbs, so the S-equol (a soy derivative) in this formula makes it unique, and brand research shows that it's helped users sleep an average of 34 more minutes per night, compared to a placebo.* "This soy isoflavone-derived bioactive has clinical trials to back up its ability to promote sleep and reduce hot flashes during the perimenopausal period; that's a win-win,"* concludes Ferira.
What to look for in a sleep aid
Anyone in the market for a new sleep supplement knows how tricky it can be to cut through all the labels, claims, and ingredient lists on various products.
Here, mbg's Vice President of Scientific Affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, breaks your search down into six key elements of an effective and safe sleep supplement:*
- It has science-backed ingredients: The ingredient label is always the first thing you'll want to look at in a sleep supplement. It should feature active ingredients that are backed by sleep-relevant science and dosed properly. We broke down what those are below to make your search easy breezy.
- It comes in an effective but gentle form: Since you'll presumably be taking this supplement every night, you'll want to make sure it's gentle on the stomach. Look for ingredients that have been studied on humans in clinical trials. The higher the bioavailability (the percentage of supplement that actually makes it into the bloodstream), the better.
- It comes in a convenient serving size: Be it a capsule, spray, or tincture, the supplement should be easy and enjoyable to consume nightly.
- Its ingredients justify the cost: The most affordable sleep supplements tend to contain a single active ingredient. Formulas that are more expensive should feature high-quality, clean ingredients (e.g., organic, higher bioavailability, botanical extracts, etc.) paired with additional premium nutrients or botanicals.
- It contains few other ingredients: The shorter the "other ingredients" list, the better. You'll want a supplement that contains actives and not much else, so look for one free of binders, preservatives, and artificial colors or flavors. Looking for allergen-free supplements made without gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc., is also a smart move.
- It comes from a trusted brand: Buy from a brand that's transparent about its ingredients, sourcing, and quality testing. Above and beyond practices would include independent third-party testing (which helps ensure the purity and potency of a product) and/or USDA-certified organic seal. If the company has committed to sustainable packaging and/or shipping practices, all the better.
Frequently asked questions
Are sleep supplements (aids) safe?
Sleep supplements are generally safe to consume. However, the product should feature active ingredients that are backed by sleep-relevant science and dosed properly. Look for ingredients that have been studied with humans in clinical trials. Since you'll presumably be taking this supplement every night, you'll want to make sure it's gentle on the stomach. The higher the bioavailability (i.e., maximizing the amount of the active ingredients that are absorbed in the gut and make it into the bloodstream to impact sleep and health), the better. You'll want a supplement that has a short “other ingredients” list, so look for a product free of binders, preservatives, and artificial colors or flavors. Looking for supplements free of major food allergens and made without gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc., is also a smart move. Buy from a brand that's transparent about its ingredients, sourcing, and quality testing.
Can sleep supplements help with serious sleep problems?
Sleep supplements help your body’s natural ability to get a great night’s rest.* However, if you have a serious underlying sleep issue or even a sleep disorder—we recommend consulting with your doctor for the right plan of action for you.
Who shouldn't take a sleep supplement?
Do not take a sleep supplement if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. Those who need to be awoken in the middle of the night (say, caretakers or those on night shift) also might find that sleep supplementation is not right for them. However, mindbodygreen’s sleep support+ is not designed in such a way to keep you from waking up in the event that you need to.
Sleep supplements are not made to treat sleep disorders, but they can help support your body's natural ability to get a great night's rest.*
Look for ones that contain ingredients at effective doses that have been researched in humans for sleep, are low in additives, and come from a trusted brand (our list of 15 is a great place to start).
And as always, talk to your doctor before incorporating any new supplement into your routine.
RELATED: Why Sleep Experts Don't Recommend This Popular Supplement
Meet The Experts