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Natural Nootropics to Improve Sleep Quality

Sleep is an essential component of our daily lives, impacting our health, cognitive function, and overall well-being.

More than one-third of adults sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night, significantly affecting their daily functioning and health risks.

Understanding the intricate mechanisms of sleep, from its biological rhythms to the neurochemical changes it involves, can enlighten us on its critical role in our health.

This blog explores the fundamental aspects of sleep, explores various sleep cycles, and discusses the profound effects of sleep on both the brain and the body.

Additionally, it examines common sleep disorders and provides practical advice on managing these conditions with both behavioural strategies and prescription medicine.

If you're looking to start taking Nootropics as a supplement, you can learn more about our Mood & Wellbeing Nootropic Supplement at nooroots. If you have any questions after reading this post, you can either visit our support resources or simply contact us via our online form.



  • What is Sleep?
  • What is the Circadian Rhythm?
  • Understanding Sleep Cycles
  • The Importance of Sleep for Health
  • How Sleep Affects the Brain and Body
  • The Science of Sleep: Neurobiology and Neurotransmitters
  • Common Sleep Disorders and Their Symptoms
  • Managing Sleep Disorders: Prescription Medicine
  • What is a Nootropic?
  • The Best Natural Nootropics for Better Sleep
  • Techniques for Improving Sleep Hygiene: Creating an Optimal Environment


Natural Nootropics to Improve Sleep Quality


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What is Sleep?

Sleep is a fundamental physiological process that every human requires for optimal health and functioning. It's a complex, dynamic state involving multiple systems in the brain and body, crucial for restoration, consolidation of memory, and various other metabolic processes.

At its core, sleep can be understood as a recurring, natural state of rest for the mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity, and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

It is distinguished from wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, but is more easily reversible than other states such as hibernation or coma​​.


What is the Circadian Rhythm?

The concept of the circadian rhythm, or the biological clock, is foundational to understanding how living organisms adapt and synchronize to the 24-hour day-night cycle. These rhythms are endogenous and built-in, modulated by external cues like light and temperature, enabling organisms to perform at optimal levels during the most suitable times of day.

The term "circadian" comes from the Latin words circa, meaning "around," and diem, meaning "day." These rhythms are nearly but not exactly 24 hours long, and they persist even in the absence of typical daily cues, such as light and dark, demonstrating their internal and self-sustaining nature.

Circadian rhythms are orchestrated by a group of genes and their protein products that interact in feedback loops, involving turning on and off genes that control an organism's biological processes across the day. This genetic control makes circadian rhythms resilient to fluctuations in external conditions, like temperature changes, which might otherwise affect the timing of the clock.

In humans and other mammals, the primary circadian clock is located in the brain within the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The SCN receives direct input from the eyes, allowing light to reset the clock daily, aligning the organism’s physiology with the external environment. This entrainment ensures that our internal clocks are precisely synchronized with the local time, which is crucial for regulating sleep patterns, feeding behaviors, hormone release, and other vital functions.

Disruptions to this rhythm, such as those caused by shift work, jet lag, or irregular sleeping patterns, can lead to significant health problems, impacting mental health, cognitive functions, and overall physiological wellbeing



Understanding Sleep Cycles

Human sleep is organized into repetitive cycles, each composed of distinct stages that play different roles in overall health and brain function. These stages are categorized into two primary types: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

NREM Sleep

NREM sleep is further subdivided into three stages:

  • Stage N1 - This initial phase of sleep is a light sleep where one can be easily awakened. It features a reduction in muscle tone, and the transition from wakefulness to sleep begins.
  • Stage N2 - This stage represents deeper sleep as consciousness of the external environment diminishes, and is characterized by the presence of sleep spindles and K-complexes in the EEG patterns.
  • Stage N3 - Often referred to as deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS), this stage is crucial for physical restoration, immune function, and hormonal regulation. It features high-amplitude, low-frequency delta waves.

REM Sleep

  • Following NREM sleep, the sleep cycle reaches REM sleep, notable for rapid eye movements, almost complete muscle paralysis, and vivid dreaming. The brain activity during REM sleep resembles that of being awake. This stage is essential for emotional regulation, memory consolidation, and brain development.
  • The cycles between NREM and REM sleep repeat approximately every 90 to 110 minutes. The proportion of NREM to REM sleep changes as the night progresses, with more NREM sleep occurring in the first half of the night and an increase in REM sleep towards the morning.

Each sleep cycle plays a vital role in brain health and function:

  • NREM sleep is predominantly involved in physical recovery, memory consolidation, and information processing.
  • REM sleep supports cognitive functions such as learning, problem-solving, and emotional regulation.


The Importance of Sleep for Health

Sleep is essential for maintaining both physical and emotional well-being. It significantly impacts numerous health aspects, from brain function to physical health. Here's a breakdown of why sleep is so vital:

Physical Health

  • Healing and Repair: Sleep allows the body to heal and regenerate, particularly the heart and blood vessels. Insufficient sleep is linked to serious health issues like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
  • Hormone Balance: Sleep helps regulate the hormones that control hunger and satiety. Lack of sleep can disrupt these levels, leading to increased hunger and potential obesity.

Mental Health

  • Cognitive Function and Emotional Regulation: Adequate sleep supports essential brain functions, including memory formation, decision-making, and emotional stability. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase susceptibility to anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Learning and Memory: During sleep, the brain processes new information and consolidates memories, crucial for learning and cognitive health.

Sleep Disorders and Risks

  • Health Risks: People with sleep disorders or irregular sleep patterns face a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions like obesity and diabetes. These disorders can also impair daily activities, affecting memory, learning, and logical reasoning, which diminishes overall productivity and quality of life.

Prevention of Chronic Conditions

  • Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels: Proper sleep helps regulate insulin, the hormone that controls blood glucose levels. Inadequate sleep can lead to higher blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of diabetes.


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How Sleep Affects the Brain and Body

Sleep is more than just a period of rest—it's a complex, essential function that impacts nearly every system in our bodies and brains, playing a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. Here's how sleep benefits both the brain and body:

Effects on the Brain

  • Memory Consolidation: Sleep helps solidify new memories for long-term storage. During REM sleep, the brain processes and organizes information, making memory retrieval easier.
  • Neurotransmitter Regulation: Sleep modulates neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are crucial for mood and motivation. This regulation helps maintain mental and emotional well-being.
  • Brain Detoxification: The brain clears out waste products that accumulate during waking hours, particularly during deep sleep stages, which is vital for cognitive health.

Effects on the Body

  • Metabolic Health: Sleep regulates glucose metabolism and appetite control. Hormones like ghrelin (which increases hunger) and leptin (which signals satiety) are adjusted during sleep to help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Inflammatory Responses and Immunity: Adequate sleep enhances immune function and reduces inflammation, which can prevent a range of health issues from the common cold to chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity.

Restorative Functions

  • Physical Repair: During deep sleep, the body undergoes muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and hormone release—all essential for physical health and recovery.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Sleep helps regulate blood pressure and heart function, which is crucial for overall cardiovascular health.

For anyone, especially athletes and those undergoing physical rehabilitation, sleep is a foundational component of recovery and performance. Ensuring quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body's health and resilience.


The Science of Sleep: Neurobiology and Neurotransmitters

The science of sleep encompasses an intricate system of neurobiological processes and neurotransmitters that regulate the cycles of sleep and wakefulness. This complex interplay is crucial for overall health, affecting everything from cognitive function to emotional stability.

Neurobiology of Sleep

Sleep is regulated by various structures within the brain, which coordinate to switch between the states of sleep and wakefulness. This regulation involves several key areas, including the hypothalamus, the brainstem, and the basal forebrain. These areas contain specific groups of neurons that produce neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which promotes sleep by inhibiting wake-promoting neurons in the cortex.

The transition between wakefulness and sleep involves a network of wake-promoting neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, histamine, and orexin/hypocretin, each playing a unique role in the arousal system. For instance, acetylcholine enhances cortical activity and is heavily involved during wakefulness and REM sleep phases, while norepinephrine and serotonin are known for their role in arousal and mood regulation.

Function of Neurotransmitters

GABA's role in promoting sleep is significant, particularly through its action in the anterior hypothalamus where it helps deactivate the parts of the brain responsible for wakefulness. Conversely, neurotransmitters like histamine and norepinephrine play vital roles in maintaining wakefulness, with histamine directly involved in arousal and norepinephrine influencing attention and stress responses.

Neurotransmitters are not only pivotal in regulating the sleep-wake cycle but also in linking sleep to memory consolidation. During sleep, particularly in REM sleep, there is a high activity of acetylcholine, which supports brain functions related to learning and memory.

Interactions Among Neurotransmitter Systems

The various neurotransmitter systems do not work in isolation but interact complexly to maintain balance between sleep and wake states. For example, the orexin system, which promotes wakefulness, interacts with nearly all other neurotransmitter systems to modulate sleep architecture and ensure stability in sleep-wake transitions.


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Common Sleep Disorders and Their Symptoms

Sleep disorders are varied and can significantly disrupt sleep quality, timing, duration, and efficiency, affecting not only physical and mental health but also the overall quality of life. Below are some common sleep disorders and their typical symptoms:


  • Symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep, frequent night awakenings, waking up too early.
  • Consequences: Leads to daytime fatigue, mood disturbances, decreased productivity, and can worsen mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Sleep Apnea


  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Airway obstruction during sleep.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: Lack of respiratory effort.
  • Symptoms: Loud snoring, restless sleep, sudden awakenings, excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Health Risks: Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

  • Symptoms: Irresistible urge to move legs, often accompanied by crawling, tingling, or throbbing sensations.
  • Impact: Occurs mainly during rest and at night, severely impairing sleep quality and leading to daytime impairment.


  • Symptoms: Overwhelming daytime drowsiness, sudden sleep attacks, disturbed nighttime sleep, abnormal REM sleep.
  • Unique Features: May include cataplexy (sudden muscle tone loss triggered by emotions), sleep paralysis, and hallucinations.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

  • Symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep and waking up at socially appropriate times.
  • Impact: Causes sleep deprivation and excessive sleepiness or insomnia at inappropriate times.


  • Examples: Sleepwalking, night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder (acting out dreams).
  • Consequences: These behaviors can disrupt sleep and pose safety risks.


Managing Sleep Disorders: Prescription Medicine

Effective management of sleep disorders often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and prescription medication. Pharmacological treatments can be crucial for individuals suffering from persistent sleep disorders, where other interventions alone have proven insufficient.

Benzodiazepines and Non-benzodiazepine Hypnotics

For insomnia, benzodiazepines such as temazepam and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics (commonly known as Z-drugs), including zolpidem and eszopiclone, are often prescribed. These medications are effective for reducing sleep latency and nocturnal awakenings, thereby increasing total sleep time. However, they are generally recommended for short-term use due to risks of dependence, tolerance, and other side effects such as cognitive impairment​​.

Melatonin and Melatonin Receptor Agonists

Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and its synthetic analogs like ramelteon are used for managing insomnia and other circadian rhythm disorders. These agents are particularly useful for patients who have difficulty initiating sleep and are considered safer for long-term use compared to benzodiazepines and Z-drugs​​.

Orexin Receptor Antagonists

Newer pharmacological options like suvorexant and lemborexant target the orexin system, which plays a central role in regulating wakefulness. These drugs inhibit the activity of orexin neurons, thus facilitating the onset of sleep and improving sleep maintenance without significant risk of dependency​​.

Antidepressants and Other Agents

Certain antidepressants, such as trazodone and doxepin, are also used to treat insomnia, especially when it's associated with depression. These medications may help improve sleep quality and duration but can carry their own side effects, including daytime drowsiness and weight gain​​.

Considerations and Cautions

While prescription medications can be effective in managing sleep disorders, they must be used judiciously. Long-term use can lead to dependence, and abrupt discontinuation can result in withdrawal symptoms or rebound insomnia. Physicians often recommend starting with the lowest effective dose and gradually tapering down to minimize withdrawal risks​​.



What is a Nootropic?

Nootropics, often referred to as "smart drugs," "brain boosters," or "memory enhancing drugs," are compounds known for their cognitive enhancing effects. These substances are designed to improve mental functions such as memory, motivation, concentration, and attention. Nootropics can be categorized into synthetic and natural types, each with distinctive mechanisms and benefits.

Synthetic Nootropics

These are lab-created compounds like Piracetam, which are well-known for their ability to enhance cognitive functions. Synthetic nootropics typically work by modifying neurotransmitter levels in the brain, improving neural activity, and facilitating better communication between neurons.

Natural Nootropics

Natural nootropics include herbs like Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng. These substances improve brain function while also contributing to overall brain health. They often act as vasodilators against the small arteries and veins in the brain, which enhances blood circulation and, by extension, increases the oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain. This can lead to improved mental functions and a reduction in brain inflammation.

Mechanisms of Action

Nootropics influence cognitive function through various pathways. For instance, they may alter neurotransmitter concentrations, stimulate neurotransmitter release, or enhance the receptor's sensitivity to neurotransmitters. These changes help in improving synaptic plasticity, which is crucial for learning and memory. Natural nootropics, in particular, are also involved in promoting neuronal health and protecting against neurodegeneration and cognitive decline associated with aging.


The Best Natural Nootropics for Better Sleep


  • History/Origin: Naturally produced by the pineal gland during the dark, melatonin is critical for regulating sleep-wake cycles.
  • Mechanism of Action: Melatonin supplements enhance sleep by mimicking the effects of natural melatonin, helping to adjust the body's internal clock.
  • Benefits: It is shown to improve sleep quality, reduce sleep onset latency, and enhance overall sleep efficiency without significant side effects​​.


  • History/Origin: Found primarily in green tea leaves, L-Theanine has been a part of traditional tea drinking for its relaxation benefits.
  • Mechanism of Action: L-Theanine promotes relaxation without sedation, primarily by modulating aspects of brain function.
  • Benefits: Studies suggest it improves sleep quality and efficiency, particularly in populations with ADHD by reducing anxiety and promoting calmness​​.

Valerian Root

  • History/Origin: Used for thousands of years, Valerian root is known for its sedative qualities and its utility in the treatment of sleep disorders.
  • Mechanism of Action: Valerian root enhances GABA receptors in the brain, which induces calmness and facilitates sleep.
  • Benefits: Clinical studies indicate it improves sleep quality, decreases sleep latency, and helps in maintaining sleep throughout the night​​.


  • History/Origin: An essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
  • Mechanism of Action: Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
  • Benefits: Supplementation with magnesium has been shown to improve sleep quality, particularly in the elderly, by increasing sleep time and sleep efficiency​​.


  • History/Origin: Traditionally used as a herbal treatment for anxiety and insomnia.
  • Mechanism of Action: Works by boosting levels of GABA in the brain, which helps to reduce anxiety and improve the quality of sleep.
  • Benefits: Studies show that passionflower can improve sleep quality, reduce nighttime awakenings, and help manage sleep irregularities​​.


  • History/Origin: Ashwagandha has roots in Ayurvedic medicine, serving as a remedy for various conditions over 3,000 years. It's renowned for stress relief, energy enhancement, and concentration improvement.
  • Mechanism of Action: As an adaptogen, it modulates neurotransmitter and stress hormone balance, notably cortisol, reducing physiological stress responses.
  • Benefits: Research demonstrates Ashwagandha's significant impact on stress and anxiety disorder symptoms, enhancing resilience to stress and indirectly supporting cognitive functions like memory and focus compromised by anxiety​​.


  • History/Origin: Kava is a beverage derived from the roots of a plant native to the Western Pacific and is traditionally consumed by Pacific Ocean cultures.
  • Mechanism of Action: Kava contains kavalactones that affect the brain and other parts of the central nervous system.
  • Benefits: Kava is particularly effective in reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality without affecting REM sleep​​.


  • History/Origin: An essential amino acid found in many protein-based foods and dietary supplements.
  • Mechanism of Action: Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can be converted to melatonin, influencing sleep.
  • Benefits: Supplementation has been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality, particularly in doses over 1 gram​​.


  • History/Origin: A traditional herb used for numerous ailments including sleep disorders.
  • Mechanism of Action: Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in the brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.
  • Benefits: Chamomile has been shown to improve overall sleep quality and is particularly effective in individuals with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder​​.


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Techniques for Improving Sleep Hygiene: Creating an Optimal Environment

Improving sleep hygiene involves adopting practices and habits that are conducive to sleeping well at night. An optimal sleep environment can significantly enhance the quality and duration of sleep. Here are some effective strategies to create such an environment:

Consistent Sleep Schedule
    • Maintaining a regular sleep routine is crucial. This means going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, even on weekends. A consistent schedule helps regulate your body's internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more naturally​​.
    Ideal Sleep Environment
      • The bedroom should be conducive to sleeping. This means cool, quiet, and dark. Using blackout curtains, eye masks, earplugs, or white noise machines can help block out light and noise. Ensuring your mattress and pillows are comfortable is also vital for good sleep hygiene​​.
      Wind Down Routine
        • Establish a pre-sleep routine that helps you relax and signal to your body that it's time to wind down. This could include reading, listening to soft music, or practicing relaxation exercises. Avoid stimulating activities before bed, such as working or using electronic devices that emit blue light​​.
        Mindful Eating and Drinking
          • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. These can disrupt sleep or make it difficult to stay asleep. Instead, opt for light snacks if you're hungry to avoid going to bed on an empty stomach​​.
          Physical Activity
            • Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. However, timing is important. Try to finish any vigorous activity a few hours before bedtime so your body has time to unwind before you turn in​​.
            Manage Stress and Anxiety
              • Stress and anxiety can have a profound impact on sleep quality. Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective at managing these feelings and improving sleep. Additionally, keeping a worry journal can help clear your mind of stressors before bedtime​​.
              Limit Daytime Naps
                • While napping can be a good way to catch up on missed sleep, long naps or napping late in the day can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit it to about 20 to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day​​.



                Through this comprehensive exploration of sleep, it is evident that sleep is not merely a passive state but a dynamic process crucial for rejuvenation and health.

                Effective management of sleep involves understanding its biological underpinnings, recognizing symptoms of sleep disorders, and employing appropriate interventions to improve sleep hygiene.

                Embracing good sleep practices and addressing sleep disorders proactively are vital steps toward enhancing our health and maximizing our daily functioning. By prioritizing sleep, we not only improve our physical and mental health but also our quality of life.

                For those considering natural nootropics, starting with a well-researched and trusted product like our Mood & Wellbeing Nootropic Supplement at nooroots is an excellent first step.


                Learn more about the vitamins, minerals and natural nootropic plant extracts we use to give your brain a daily boost 



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