Nootropics for better sleep

Nootropics for Sleep | Ultimate Guide

In this article, we uncover the efficacy of Nootropics for Sleep to understand whether they are a good or bad option.  I will be discussing the pros and cons of every supplement mentioned. As well as the evidence behind their effects. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

How many nights have you spent staring at the ceiling? Attempting to count sheep and distract your mind from the pressuring thought of having to be up early tomorrow. The sad reality is that Western civilization is plagued by insomnia.

Take Japan for example. After one train ride, you quickly realize how they may experience an easier time sleeping. This is a trait of many other Asian countries as well and suggests that our sleeping problems may arise from the construct of our everyday life.

When considering an option for your sleeping disturbances, you should always address your everyday behaviors before attempting any supplements, particularly nootropics for sleep.

Let’s first discuss common hormonal disturbances that may hinder relaxation and sleep. 


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Mechanism Behind Ideal Nootropics for Sleep? 

Often the body is compared to a seesaw. Fight or flight is also a common term used. No matter what you call it, the stress and relaxation, the yin and yang, is a key part of being a balanced human. 

The problem is many of us lose this balance. The question then becomes how can we regain it.

To do this let’s discuss 

The Biochemistry of Stress

Cortisol is a steroid hormone released from the adrenal glands. The release is in response to events that are stressful or are perceived as stressful.

Without going into any further detail it is clear to already note that if one changes how they perceive an event, they can ultimately change the physiological outcome. Nevertheless, the outcome of continuously experiencing threats will affect your life and sleep in detrimental ways. 

Nootropics for Sleep and Stress

One of the more common nootropics for sleep renowned for its affects on cortisol management for is…

#1 Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Nootropics for sleep ashwaghanda

As we discussed, cortisol travels in response to an event (real or thought) and will begin to dilate blood vessels in an attempt to prime the body for action or escape. The physiological procedure for which this is performed can be understood simply as a “lock and key” mechanism. 

The signal (cortisol) fits into the target cells (digestive organs, blood vessels, etc.), initiating the beginning of the response action.

Ashwagandha is what is known as an adaptogen, which is defined as a supplement that acts to increase the body’s tolerance to this cortisol response.

This has been found to have significant effects on lowering perceived levels of “stress”.

Ashwagandha – Evidence for Stress Relief and Sleep

Ashwagandha has prevailed as a herbal remedy to treat the effects of cortisol imbalance in the body. Researchers have experimented on these effects and reveal some of the following findings:


Dosage & safety 

Ashwagandha has experienced rigorous testing and is deemed of low toxicity to humans. 

Those wishing to try ashwagandha should first start at a lower dosage of around 1000 mg per day. This has been shown to positively impact stress in daily life. 

However, dosages can be slowly elevated to around 2000 mg per day – it should be noted that it takes several weeks ashwagandha full effect to take place.

After observing this it is very apparent that ashwagandha can be of benefit to not only those with higher stress levels but interestingly,  also those with lower levels of cortisol – appearing to additionally act as a remedy for those struggling with cortisol induced energy difficulties.

An interesting point of ashwagandha is that if taken with black pepper, the effects become significantly stronger as the active ingredients increase in bioavailability. Because of this, some supplements now include Black Pepper extract as an ingredient.

Ashwagandha is not the only adaptogen available. Similar benefits and more have been found in our next herb.


Check out our: Nootropics for Motivation guide

#2 Rhodiola Rosea

Nootropics for sleep rhodiola

Is a plant that grows in the wild arctic regions of Europe and Asia. This one has been found to have significant effects upon the response to stress also.It has additionally been recognized for its capacity to increase feelings of well being and relieve depression. 

Studies on Rhodiola Rosea 


  • 576 mg found to positively impact  fatigue levels and attention, compared to the placebo [10]
  • 400 mg daily, eight weeks resulted in significant improvements in stress symptoms, fatigue, life quality, temperament, and focus [11
  • 200 mg of Rhodiola extract significantly improved stress in daily situations after three days. After four weeks, all subjects reported significant improvement [12]
  • 400 mg daily found to significantly improvement stress and mood following one week [13]

Best Nootropics to Increase Melatonin

So I get it right, you want to be mentally sharp but still want to be able to sleep at night? That is why many are hacking their physiology with natural supplements. The following nootropics that enhance the construction of melatonin may be your solution.

To understand the ideal nootropic for sleep that may increase melatonin, we should first understand the mechanism behind how melatonin is formed in the body.

What The Body Needs to Make Melatonin…

To create melatonin, the body needs serotonin. However, if you’re someone who suffers from stress you may also be suffering from low levels of serotonin.

Serotonin receptors are found throughout the whole body. The effect of serotonin activation will induce different actions depending on the location. Take the prefrontal cortex receptors for example. They relate to mental processing and awareness, whereas hippocampal receptors assist with learning and memory.

Scientists are not exactly sure about the mechanism, but findings suggest low serotonin to be associated with decreased feelings of happiness and may additionally express itself as symptoms of OCD.

So when it comes to increasing melatonin production, it makes sense to first attempt to regain normal levels of serotonin.

So the question becomes which Nootropics to can be used to increase serotonin?

To indirectly increase levels of melatonin, we can use nootropics that raise serotonin levels to our advantage.

Nootropics for Serotonin and Sleep l-tryptophan 

  • Tryptophan supplementation significantly increases melatonin production reducing time to sleep [56].
  • L-tryptophan supplementation improved average total sleep amongst healthy individuals. Drowsiness was a common immediate side-effect [7].
  • Tryptophan supplementation significantly improved sleep for manic patient subjects. Total sleep after L-tryptophan increased dramatically [8].
  • L-tryptophan (250 mg) increased stage 4 deep sleep [9].

Through its role as a precursor to serotonin and therefore melatonin,  tryptophan is considered as an appropriate nootropic for sleep.

It can be used to increase serotonin and melatonin which has been shown to increase sleep quality and reduce time to fall asleep.


Check out our guide: Top Nootropics For Social Anxiety

Additional ways to increase melatonin

 Nootropics for sleep light therapy

Light therapy

Like therapy consists of regulating your body around sunrise and sunset.

Those looking to restore circadian rhythm with this method should avoid LCD phone, laptop, and TV screens for at least 3 hours before bed. This decrease in blue light radiation has been shown to increase melatonin’s natural release from the pineal gland.

The Bottom Line 

Trying to achieve peak mental performance without disturbing sleep is challenging. However, there is increasing evidence to suggest that improved cognition does not have to be a result of just stimulant type medications that many all too often rely on. 

Supplementing with compounds known to increase key neurotransmitters to sleep and relaxation is the crux of being mentally sharp and calm. As we discussed, nootropics that are useful for sleep are the ones that promote the production and use of neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA. Reducing the effects of cortisol in the body similarly can relieve the tension that prevents many from sleep. Ideal Nootropics for Sleep may include; Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha, phenibut, and L-tryptophan.

What do you think? Do these compounds have the potential to replace harsh sleeping medication? Let me know in the comments down below   ⬇⬇


[1] Panossian A, Wikman G (2010). “Rosenroot (Roseroot): Traditional Use, Chemical Composition, Pharmacology, and Clinical Efficacy”. Phytomedicine. 17 (5–6): 481–493. DOI:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.02.002. PMID 20378318.


[3] Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. DOI: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022. PMID: 23439798; PMCID: PMC3573577.

[4] Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract. Medicine. 2019;98:37(e17186)

[5] Szczepanik M. Melatonin and its influence on the immune system. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007 Dec;58 Suppl 6:115-24. PMID: 1DOI2405.

[7] Wyatt RJ, Engelman K, Kupfer DJ, Fram DH, Sjoerdsma A, Snyder F. Effects of L-tryptophan (a natural sedative) on human sleep. Lancet. 1970 Oct 24;2(7678):842-6. DOI: 10.1016/s0140-6736(70)92015-5. PMID: 4097755.

[8] Murphy DL, Baker M, Goodwin FK, Miller H, Kotin J, Bunney WE Jr. L-tryptophan in affective disorders: indoleamine changes and differential clinical effects. Psychopharmacologia. 1974 Jan DOI(1):11-20. DOI 10.1007/BF00421216. PMID: 4593517

[9] Hartmann E, Spinweber CL. Sleep induced by L-tryptophan. Effect of dosages within the normal dietary intake. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1979 Aug;167(8):497-9. PMID: 469515

[10] Olsson EM, von Schéele B, Panossian AG. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med. 2009 Feb;75(2):105-12. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088346. Epub 2008 Nov 18. PMID: 19016404.

[11] Llekomtseva Y, Zhukova I, Wacker A. Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial. Complement Med Res. 2017;24(1):46-52. doi: 10.1159/000457918. Epub 2017 Feb 17. PMID: 28219059.pp

[12Edwards D, Heufelder A, Zimmermann A. Therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola rosea extract WS® 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms–results of an open-label study. Phytother Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):1220-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3712


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