After your training programme and nutrition plan, sleep is the third pillar of changing your body for the better. Yet while many people plan their workout and diet plans to the last detail, sleep often gets ignored as something that happens at end of the day, rather than the most crucial period for your body to recharge, rejuvenate and rebuild. And the harder you train, the more important both the amount and quality of sleep you get becomes. But when you’re training hard and eating a restrictive diet it can be very hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. If you’re struggling to get enough shut-eye consistently then it may be worth considering these two supplement recommendations from the independent experts at Examine.com.
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Why? Magnesium is an important dietary mineral, and deficiencies are associated with impaired sleep quality. Such deficiencies are more common in athletes because you lose magnesium through sweat. Supplementation can improve your sleep quality and is most effective for sleep-deprived people who also have low dietary magnesium intake – those with healthy magnesium levels may not find that their sleep quality improves after taking supplements. But although increasing your magnesium levels can help improve sleep quality, it does not have a sedative effect – that means you don’t need to worry about getting sleepy or drowsy after taking it.
How to take it Magnesium isn’t a time-dependent supplement – in other words, you don’t have to take it immediately before bed. The standard dose is 200mg of elemental magnesium, while magnesium oxide is not recommended for supplementation because it can cause diarrhoea and isn’t as easily absorbed as other forms. Magnesium gluconate should be taken with food; all others are fine on an empty stomach.
Why? Lavender oil has been traditionally used in aromatherapy for its relaxing scent. Recently, it has also been used as an oral supplement to treat anxiety and reduce intrusive thoughts, which can increase the time it takes to fall asleep. It’s also been shown to improve sleep quality, though more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism behind this effect.
How to take it To supplement with lavender, take 80mg of lavender oil 30 to 45 minutes before bed. As mentioned, lavender supplements are particularly effective if you have intrusive thoughts that affect sleep, and they may also have a positive effect on general anxiety. Lavender aromatherapy has also been found to improve sleep quality when used either at night or in the afternoon. You’ll need an aromatherapy machine to benefit from this at night (safety reasons) but candles are fine for daytime sessions. Dosage is more approximate than with oral supps, but studies on lavender use a minimum of 30 minutes’ exposure. It’s thought that using lemon balm alongside lavender can bring greater benefits.