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  • Writer's pictureMartha Lewis

Why the sleep aids aren’t working: Magnesium, melatonin, CBD and cannabis

Updated: May 31, 2022

If you can’t sleep, I’m sure you’ve tried so many supplements to help. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that none of them have really worked.

I’m going to explain why.


Melatonin is going to help you sleep if the reason you aren’t sleeping is because you don’t have enough melatonin.

Most of my clients actually don’t have low melatonin. This is why it doesn’t help them sleep.

I use the DUTCH test (sex hormone and cortisol test) to look at melatonin. For my clients who are low in melatonin, I may recommend that they supplement with it for a few months because it can immediately help with their sleep. I recommend a low dose (max 3 mg) so that they don’t get the side effects of grogginess the next morning.

However, the reason melatonin is low is from poor gut health; 90% of melatonin is made by the good bacteria in your gut. So I also help them restore their gut health by dealing with pathogens, supporting the lining of the gut wall and supplementing with beneficial bacteria if necessary.

Many of my clients also have high cortisol at night which suppresses melatonin and makes you wired even if you’re tired. So I also focus on lowering cortisol by finding what’s causing stress and inflammation and then addressing those things. The common causes of high cortisol are stress, pathogens in the gut, food sensitivities, and an unhealthy liver.

I don’t suggest taking melatonin unless you know you need it. It hasn't been shown to be all that effective and it hasn't been shown to be safe to take long term.


Most of my clients are deficient in magnesium. Since magnesium helps our muscles and nerves relax, it’s important for sleep. So why doesn't it help you sleep?

To absorb magnesium, your other minerals need to be in balance. If calcium, sodium, potassium and boron are too high or too low then magnesium won’t be in balance. You also need vitamins to absorb magnesium.

Also, if you gut isn’t healthy then you won’t absorb magnesium from foods or supplements.

Many of my clients need magnesium but they also need other nutrients and a healthy gut to absorb it. That’s why magnesium by itself hasn’t solved your sleep problems.


Studies show that CBD can help with insomnia but it doesn't help everyone.

CBD affects your endocannabinoid system. So if you’re lacking in these feel-good compounds, then they may help you relax and sleep. But if this isn't why you aren’t sleeping, then it’s not going to help.

Even if you need CBD, if you have an unhealthy gut that isn’t producing its own cannabinoids and you have a gut infection that is destroying your gut, then all the CBD in the world isn’t going to help. You have to start with treating the gut infection and then repairing the gut. Only then will your body be able to fully use a CBD supplement or, even better, make its own endocannabinoids.

Another reason why it works for some people is because CBD helps lower inflammation. Inflammation is a main cause of insomnia so this makes sense.

However, CBD doesn’t address where the inflammation is coming from. So it’s a Band-aid; it’s not solving the problem. You want to find out what’s causing inflammation and address that to truly get better so you don’t need to take pills.


Many people I talk to who have struggled with sleep for a long time have tried cannabis to help them sleep. Like anything, for some people it works. For others it doesn't. Many people don't like how it makes them feel groggy and spacey the next day.

Like anything you ingest, smoke or put into your body, cannabis changes how your body functions. It especially affects the hormones in the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands and the reproductive system in a negative way.

Cannabis also affects your cortisol levels, thyroid hormones and sex hormones. You can read more about how cannabis affects hormones here.

Herbs and other supplements

Herbs like ashwagandha, turmeric and holy basil are in many sleep supplements. This may help your body deal with stress better or lower inflammation but they too are just Band-aids.

This is the truth about all of these supplements: they will help if your body is missing that substance and that’s why you can’t sleep. Melatonin will help if your body isn’t producing enough melatonin. Magnesium will help if the only reason you aren’t sleeping is because you’re deficient in magnesium. Same with CBD; if you’re lacking cannabinoids, CBD or cannabis mayl help.

If your body isn’t lacking those nutrients, those supplements aren’t going to help. That’s why there’s no magic pill for sleeping that works for everyone.

Taking these supplements is not getting to the root cause of why you have insomnia.

If you aren’t sleeping, that means your body is out of balance and it’s manifesting as insomnia. Getting your body back in balance is key. That’s exactly what I can help you with. I do lab testing so we know exactly what will help you sleep. Book a free Zoom consultation to get started.

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