test-The Science of Better Sleep: 3 Sleep-Supporting Ingredients to Know
Vitamins & Supplements
The Science of Better Sleep: 3 Sleep-Supporting Ingredients to Know
Lindsey Toth, MS, RD • August 7, 2019

Wellness experts, fitness editors and celebrities alike are buzzing about the importance of sleep. You can buy sleep-tracking devices, go on wellness retreats aimed solely at catching more ZZZs, and you can even hire a sleep coach to try and get more of that sweet, elusive slumber. But does it really need to be that complicated?

Getting the rest your body needs is one of the best things you can do for physical and mental wellbeing, and we’re excited that more people are realizing how important it truly is—but getting enough sleep should be simple. If you’re among the 40 million Americans who sleep less than 6 hours a night, certain science-backed sleep ingredients can help.1

Three of the best sleep supplements are gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), melatonin and valerian root. Here’s what they are, the science behind how they work, and why we’ve combined all three into an innovative, new sleep formula that works with your body’s natural sleep progression.

What is GABA?

GABA is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that are naturally produced in the brain and they handle communication between nerve cells and the brain.

GABA is a unique neurotransmitter because its role is inhibitory—meaning it decreases activity and blocks certain signals in the brain.2 And studies suggest that low levels of GABA may be linked to stress, occasional anxiousness and mood concerns.3

What Does GABA Do?

Through its role in calming activity in the brain, GABA supports relaxation and stress reduction while also promoting a balanced mood, all of which are factors that can impact sleep. After all, if you’re lying in bed with your mind racing at night or feeling stressed when it’s time to go to bed, it can be hard to unwind or relax enough to fall asleep.

Study results have indicated that taking GABA supplements can lead to better sleep and less stress or occasional anxiousness since it can have a mellowing and relaxing effect on the nervous system. 2,3

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain that signals your body when it’s time to sleep.4 Your body should naturally release more melatonin in the evening and overnight to help you rest, and your melatonin production should start to drop off in the morning hours when it’s time to wake up.5

However, natural melatonin production can decline with age, and other factors can also contribute, such as exposure to blue light from electronic devices before bedtime, traveling across time zones, or having an irregular work schedule. If your melatonin levels are impacted, your sleep schedule can get off track, and taking a melatonin supplement can help.

What Do Melatonin Supplements Do?

Melatonin is one of the most popular sleep supplements out there, and for good reason. If you’re having trouble sleeping, research shows that taking a melatonin supplement may offer the help you need by mimicking natural melatonin in the body to help get your sleep schedule back on track.6,7

And a timed-release supplement that releases melatonin in stages may be even better. Our new Comprehensive Sleep Formula provides an initial dose of 5 mg of melatonin, followed by another 5 mg later in the night to more closely mimic the body’s natural melatonin production.

Read How Much Melatonin Should You Really Be Taking? For a deeper dive into the benefits of melatonin, how it works, and how much studies say you should take.

What is Valerian?

Valerian is an herb that has been used for at least 2,000 years for health purposes, and its roots are used for relaxation and improving sleep quality. Valerian root contains a number of compounds, including valerenic acid and isovaleric acid, which may promote sleep and reduce occasional anxiousness.9,10

What Does Valerian Do?

Valerian has a calming effect on the brain and nervous system and interacts with GABA. Valerenic acid inhibits the breakdown of GABA in the brain, promoting feelings of tranquility, which is why valerian root is often used as a sleep aid and to reduce occasional anxiousness and stress.9

Research on valerian root for sleep has shown promising results, with participants perceiving a significant improvement in sleep quality after taking valerian root right before bed.6,11

Swanson Ultra Comprehensive Sleep Formula

Featuring all three of the science-backed, sleep-supporting ingredients mentioned above—GABA, melatonin and valerian root—our innovative new Comprehensive Sleep Formula was created with a unique tri-layer approach.

This non-habit-forming sleep supplement releases ingredients in stages throughout the night, to more closely mimic your natural stages of sleep, giving your body the right support at the right time to help you fall asleep and rest soundly.

When you don’t sleep well, the impact goes beyond just leaving you feeling tired. It can lead to a weaker immune system, more irritability, lower productivity, and it can even impact your food choices since you’re more likely to reach for sugary snacks for quick fuel.

If you have trouble getting a good night’s rest, Swanson Ultra Comprehensive Sleep Formula may help you get back on track so you can wake up feeling well-rested and ready to conquer your day.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in 10 Sleep Supplements & The Science Behind Them and Sleep Better with Trendworthy Sleep Essentials.

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Lindsey Bristol, Swanson Health Products

About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products

Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.

Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.


1 Short Sleep Duration Among Workers in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6116a2.htm

2 What Does Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Do? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gamma-aminobutyric-acid

3 What is GABA? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/qa/what-is-gaba

4 Melatonin: What does it do? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232138.php

5 Melatonin: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin

6 9 Natural Sleep Aids That Are Backed by Science. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-aids#section1

7 Is Taking a Melatonin Dietary Supplement Safe? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview#1

8 ScientificWorldJournal. 2012; 2012: 640389. Published online 2012 May 2. doi: 10.1100/2012/640389

9 Valerian. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-870/valerian

10 How Valerian Root Helps You Relax and Sleep Better. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/valerian-root

11 Bent, Stephen, et. al. Am J Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Apr 13. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.