“Sleep is the most important lifestyle factor to promote healing… We need a good amount of sleep, and if we’re not getting enough, our body doesn’t have a chance to heal and recover.”

P. 133, “From Doctor to Patient” by Dr. Diva Nagula

Your eyes are heavy, you can’t concentrate, and you find yourself getting annoyed at the tiniest inconvenience. You didn’t get enough sleep last night. In fact, you can’t even remember the last time you got a full 8 hours of rest. Can you relate? 

According to research by Harvard Medical School, chronic sleep loss (not enough or poor quality sleep over an extended period of time) can decrease learning and memory, immune function, and concentration, as well as increase weight gain, irritability and moodiness, and heart rate, hypertension, and stress hormone levels (Harvard Health Publishing, 2006). In author Dr. Diva Nagula’s case, lack of sleep contributed to his cancer diagnosis. His particular type of cancer, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, develops as the body’s cells divide and mutate. Without enough sleep, his body was not healthy enough to destroy these mutated cells, which accumulated and eventually developed into cancer.

In order to promote better sleep, Dr. Nagula recommends a combination of melatonin and magnesium supplementation. Read on for more information about these two sleep-promoting supplements.

  • Melatonin. Melatonin primarily works to regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle (aka Circadian Rhythm). Specifically, when melatonin levels are higher, you feel less alert and awake. When using melatonin supplements to increase sleep, Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Luis Buenaver suggests taking 1-3 mg about 2 hours before bedtime (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2012). Along with supplements, Dr. Nagula suggests naturally increasing your melatonin levels by spending time in the sun, as well as eating certain foods such as flax seeds, orange bell peppers, tart cherry juice, walnuts, tomatoes, almonds, and raspberries.
  • Magnesium. Magnesium helps the body relax by increasing the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. It also regulates production of melatonin, which is why Dr. Nagula recommends taking both supplements together. Like melatonin, you can increase magnesium by eating nutrient-rich foods such as broccoli, peas, bananas, tofu, almonds, and cashews (Mattheis, 2015). In addition, you may also take 200-400 mg of magnesium supplements daily to ensure you consistently have enough magnesium in your body (West, 2019). 


Harvard Health Publishing. (2006, January). Importance of Sleep : Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2012). Melatonin for Sleep: Does It Work? Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/melatonin-for-sleep-does-it-work.

Mattheis, C. (2015, May 29). 13 Magnesium-Rich Foods. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://www.health.com/nutrition/13-foods-that-are-high-in-magnesium.

West, H. (2019, March 7). Magnesium Supplements: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-supplements.