Six dietary supplements that may interfere with your sleepI subscribe to a newsletter from ConsumerLab, a watchdog company that tests and reviews dietary supplements. Last week a question in the newsletter caught my eye:

“Could my CoQ10 supplement be causing my insomnia?”

I’ve written about common medications that can cause insomnia. But less is known about the side effects of supplements. They’re unregulated in the United States and not required to undergo rigorous testing. But investigators at ConsumerLab, after reviewing the results of tests that have been conducted, say there’s evidence that 6 supplements may interfere with sleep. Here’s a summary of the findings:


Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone, is an antioxidant compound that cells use to produce energy. The body usually manufactures enough CoQ10 on its own, and small amounts can be gotten from beef and chicken. But CoQ10 production may fall off with age or because of heart disease. CoQ10 supplements are used for congestive heart failure and to reduce the risk of heart problems after a heart attack. They may also lessen the muscle pain associated with taking statin drugs and help to prevent migraines.

The typical daily dose is 100 to 300 mg. Yet taken in the evening, doses of 100 mg and higher reportedly cause mild insomnia in some people. Doses of 300 mg taken in the daytime may also interfere with sleep.

St. John’s Wort

The leaves, flowers, and stem of this herbaceous plant are used to treat major depression of mild to moderate severity. Two chemicals found in St. John’s wort–hypericin and hyperforin—are believed to be responsible for the herb’s antidepressant effects. They act on chemical messengers in the nervous system that regulate mood.

The typical dose varies depending on whether the product is made from an extract or the whole herb and how much hypericin or hyperforin it contains. Stomach upset is the most common side effect. Rarer side effects include anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia.


This essential trace mineral is important for insulin function and helps move glucose from the bloodstream into cells for use as energy. The body needs just a little bit, and because chromium is found in so many foods—from meat and potatoes to whole-grain bread and fresh fruit—most people get enough in their daily diet. Adequate intake for adults is low: 20 to 45 micrograms (mcg) daily.

Chromium helps decrease fasting blood glucose levels and regulate insulin. Chromium deficiency is associated with type 2 diabetes, and people with diabetes may be prescribed two 500-mcg tablets daily. However, doses of 200 to 400 mcg daily have caused insomnia and sleep disturbance in some users.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (try to pronounce that one!) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that the body converts into other steroidal hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. DHEA production peaks when we’re in our 20s and declines with age. Dietary supplements—which are manufactured from chemicals in soybeans and wild yams (DHEA cannot be gotten directly by eating these foods)—are believed to have anti-aging effects. For example, DHEA may improve bone density, skin elasticity, and mood.

The prescribed dose varies widely. Rare cases of insomnia have been reported with daily use.


Garlic in its various forms—whole, powdered, and liquid—has been shown in studies to lower serum total cholesterol by 4 to 5 percent. So it’s used to lower cholesterol and may slow the progress of atherosclerosis.

Garlic is believed to be safe even at high doses. But some people taking high doses have experienced insomnia as a side effect.


Policosanol is a cholesterol-lowering supplement made from sugarcane, beeswax wheat germ, or rice bran wax. Some studies show it helps prevent heart disease.

Clinical doses range from 10 to 40 mg daily. But subjects have reported a wide range of side effects, including insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

Have you used any of these supplements? If so, did they interfere with your sleep?

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.


  1. hi & thx for the post,

    re your comment on Chromium supps; “However, doses of 200 to 400 mcg daily have caused insomnia and sleep disturbance in some users.”

    do you happen to have any refs/links to specifics on this,
    google is just giving me some general stuff.
    & was hoping you may have more…even a study perhaps.




    1. Hello,

      You’re welcome! The best (and sometimes the only) source of unbiased information about supplements is ConsumerLab. But you have to be a subscriber to access their reviews. I just checked the cost. It’s $39 for a year and $64 for 2 years.

      Good luck in finding the information you’re after.



  2. chromium(chromium chelate especially) is a potent copper antagonist at cellular level and because copper toxicity is a silent epidemic this could easily explain why some suffer insomnia after supplementing chromium because insomnia is a symptom of copper detoxification.

    chromium is also a calcium antagonist and a calcium deficiency is linked with insomnia.

    supplementing with 600-800 mcg chromium chelate for just 3 days healed my very sensitive molar after causing the tooth to ache considerably for some days until the chromium was out of my system….tooth decay is linked with of copper toxicity.



  3. Have been taking only 30mg per day of Co enzyme Q10 alongside DHEA and numerous other tablets for Panhypopituitarism. I have been experiencing severe itching and insomnia. I really wanted to be able to take the Co enzyme Q10 as I feel I have had more energy but can’t stand the intense itching any more!



    1. Hi Kim,

      I’ve taken 10 mg of DHEA daily for years now and haven’t found that it interferes with my sleep. As for the CoQ10, I have no personal experience with it. But any supplement that causes itching and insomnia should be avoided!

      Best of luck in finding another way to get the energy you’re looking for.



  4. My problem is not falling asleep – it is staying asleep. I take dozens of supplements, each for a bonafide, specific purpose, and with the approval of primary care doctor and cardiologist (many of the supplements are specific to a nutritional support program for people with heart failure such as I have). The regimen requires very high levels of CoQ10, divided. And I can as easily fall asleep any given time during the day as at night (sometimes far easier, in fact). Going without my supplements for a time does not help, either. Yet, many times I have been, simultaneously, on multiple meds that were supposed to make me drowsy, which has never happened. For example, benadryl does nothing to me, fortunately – because I do have seasonal allergies which prescription antihistamines do absolutely nothing for.



    1. Hello John,

      Your situation sounds complicated because more than one health problem is involved. But the sleep problem you have—trouble staying sleep—is quite a common one. And sleep problems can sometimes be caused or exacerbated by medications and supplements taken to control other health conditions.

      I’m not a doctor so I can’t offer any help in diagnosing your sleep problem. But what I can recommend is that you see a sleep specialist, especially if you haven’t yet been evaluated for possible obstructive sleep apnea. Frequently nodding off in the daytime and awakening frequently at night can be a sign of sleep apnea. And the cessation of breathing that occurs in people with apnea is nothing to play around with.

      As for medications and how they work, I know from all I’ve read and from personal experience that a medication that makes one person feel drowsy can make another person feel anxious, or feel nothing at all. There’s sometimes no way of knowing what effect a particular medication is going to have until you try it yourself.

      Good luck in finding the right medical professional to help you improve your sleep.



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