Sleep may be one of the least-understood bodily processes, but its importance to our disposition, vitality, and healthy brain function is universally acknowledged. The importance of sleep to one’s physical and mental health cannot be overstated.
Chronic sleep loss, irregular sleep schedules, or sleep deprivation severely impairs one’s cognitive and physical abilities. Depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia are just a few examples of the many health problems that have been linked to poor sleep quality.
Sleep is essential for the proper removal of harmful chemicals from the body (especially the brain), and it also recharges the energy within our cells. However, the full extent of sleep’s benefits is still a mystery. Maintaining a healthy immune system also requires sufficient deep sleep.
It’s important to understand the role that deep sleep and dreaming play in a healthy lifestyle before making any recommendations about sleep aids.
Best sleep aid supplements
The most widely used natural sleep aid is melatonin. The sleep-inducing and -sustaining properties of melatonin have been extensively studied in both children and adults. Most notably, it helps people get to sleep when melatonin levels are low. People over the age of 40 are more likely to have low melatonin levels, so supplementing with melatonin may help them sleep better. 4,5
Adults can safely take a dose of 3–5 mg before bed without any adverse effects. A range of 1–3 mg is appropriate for children aged 6 and up. There is little evidence of harm from taking melatonin at the recommended doses, but taking too much of the supplement could throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm of hormone secretion. Therefore, take only the prescribed amount unless your doctor tells you to.
Serotonin, produced when 5-HTP is broken down in the brain, is a key sleep-inducing hormone. It’s a more stable and reliable sleep aid than l-tryptophan, and it’s one step closer to serotonin. 10,11 5-HTP has been shown to increase rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (by about 25%) and deep sleep stages 3 and 4 (by about the same amount) without increasing total sleep time. Stages 1 and 2 of non-REM sleep, which are less crucial, are sacrificed to make up for the increases. Take 50–150 milligrams of 5-HTP 30–45 minutes before bedtime to experience its sleep-inducing effects; if its mood-lifting or weight-loss-promoting properties are sought, consider taking 50–100 milligrams of 5-HTP three times daily before meals instead. Before increasing from the lower dose, wait at least three days.
Without a doubt, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is the most well-known and researched sleep aid in the world of herbal medicine. Clinical research has shown that valerian not only helps people fall asleep faster, but also keeps them sleeping soundly all night long. All of this can be enjoyed by those over the age of 13 without fear of a “hangover” the next day.
Take 150–300 milligrams of valerian extract (0.8% valeric acid) 30–45 minutes before bed as a mild sedative. Dosage should be lowered if morning sleepiness persists. If the current dose isn’t working, try removing sleep-disrupting variables like caffeine and alcohol before upping the dose.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for proper nerve and muscle function as well as heart and brain health.
Magnesium may also help calm the body and mind, making it simpler to nod off.
The ability of magnesium to control melatonin production has been linked to its calming effects. Muscles can be calmed by magnesium, and it can help you nod off.
There are a variety of magnesium supplements on the market, including those that combine magnesium with glycine or melatonin to aid sleep.
One study found that treating insomnia with magnesium, melatonin, and vitamin B was successful regardless of the underlying cause.
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a brain messenger with calming effects, and magnesium appears to increase its levels.
Researchers have found a link between low magnesium levels and sleep disturbances and insomnia.
However, research suggests that supplementing your diet with magnesium may help you get the best possible rest.
A meta-analysis of three studies on magnesium supplementation and sleep in older adults found that it was more effective than a placebo at reducing the time it took to fall asleep.
Those who took a magnesium supplement containing 225 milligrams slept better than those who took a placebo in another study from 2011. It’s hard to pin the supplement’s effects solely on magnesium because it also contained 5mg of melatonin and 11.25mg of zinc (30Trustworthy Source).
Both studies included only senior citizens, who may have naturally lower blood magnesium levels. Whether or not these results would hold true for people whose diets included more magnesium is unknown.
Maypop, or passionflower, is a common herbal treatment for sleeplessness.
North American species of the passionflower have been linked to beneficial effects on sleep. In addition to Australia, they are now cultivated in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Animal studies have shown that passionflower helps people sleep better. However, it appears that the form consumed makes a difference in how it affects humans.
In one older human study, passionflower tea was compared to a parsley leaf tea used as a placebo.
Each participant drank one tea for a week before bed and then rested for a week before starting the other tea. After steeping the tea bags for 10 minutes, the study participants’ sleep quality was evaluated objectively.
After three weeks, participants did not show any signs of improved sleep, according to the study’s objective measures.
Subjectively, they reported better sleep after the passionflower tea week than after the parsley tea week, by about 5 percentage points.
Insomnia sufferers who took passionflower extract for two weeks slept better than those given a placebo, according to a recent study.
They were as follows:
- duration of sleep
- efficiency in sleeping, or the ratio of time spent asleep to time spent in bed
- When you wake up after falling asleep
Intake of passionflower is generally safe in adults, though more research is needed to confirm this. At this time, it appears that passionflower may be most beneficial when taken as a tea or extract rather than as a supplement.
Glycine, an amino acid, is crucial to the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Sleep quality may also improve, according to the research.
Although the exact mechanism by which glycine induces sleep is not known, it is thought to involve the reduction of core body temperature just before bed.
In a study conducted in 2006, people who had trouble sleeping were given 3 grams of glycine or a placebo to take before bed.
Those who were given glycine in their overnight supplements reported less fatigue the following day. They also reported feeling more energized, alert, and focused when they woke up the following day.
The effects of glycine on people who had trouble sleeping were also studied in 2007. The participants’ brain waves, heart rates, and breathing were all monitored by the researchers as they slept.
Compared to the placebo group, participants who took 3 grams of glycine before bedtime slept better. Supplementing with glycine also aided sleep duration and quality.
One 2012 study found that glycine helped people who were temporarily sleep-deprived function better during the day.
For three nights in a row, participants’ sleep was severely disrupted. They took 3 grams of glycine or a placebo right before bedtime every night. The glycine group saw the greatest improvement in their levels of fatigue and drowsiness during the day.
Glycine can be purchased as a powder that can be dissolved in water, or as a pill. However, more research is necessary to confirm this before recommending doses higher than 0.8 grams per kg of body weight per day. The average daily dose for many people in the sleep studies was only 3 grams.
Lavender has been used for centuries for its calming and sleep-inducing properties, making it a staple in both gardens and kitchens. Some of these traditional claims appear to be supported by current research. Good sleep hygiene, like the use of lavender oil, has been shown to increase sleep quality among postpartum women. It has been found that lavender oil has a calming effect and helps alleviate feelings of nervousness and restlessness.
While lavender essential oil has been the primary focus of sleep aid studies, the dried herb has also been used in teas and pillows. Even lavender oil contains toxic compounds, so it’s best to avoid ingesting essential oils unless under a doctor’s care. For topical use, the oil should be diluted in a neutral cream or oil or diffused into the air.
People who have trouble sleeping due to anxiety or racing thoughts may find lavender to be the most appealing. People who prefer not to take anything internally in order to help them sleep also use it frequently. Dried lavender or lavender essential oil may be used safely for short periods of time, but there is a risk of skin irritation and allergic reaction from topical application.
Since ancient Egypt, people who had trouble sleeping turned to German chamomile.
. Despite its obvious benefits, there has been surprisingly little study of it. Evidence from meta-analyses and smaller studies suggests that German chamomile may be effective for relieving anxiety.
and lead to better sleep overall, though the reasons for this effect are still being investigated. However, it does not seem to help those who suffer from insomnia.
German chamomile is most frequently consumed as a tea, tincture, or supplement capsule. Most studies have involved the German variety, but there is also a Roman chamomile variety.
When consumed in tea form or by mouth, chamomile is generally considered safe. It’s not entirely clear if it’s safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and it could interact with other medications like blood thinners. Mild nausea and dizziness are about the worst that can happen, but allergic reactions are possible, especially in those who are sensitive to ragweed and other related plants.
The flowers of the hops plant are used by some as a natural sleep aid, in addition to being the primary flavoring in beer. Hops, like many other natural sleep aids, lacks the requisite research to say with any certainty whether or not it actually improves sleep quality. Preliminary research suggests, however, that taking hops supplements may help stabilize circadian rhythms and reduce shift work disorder symptoms. The effects of hops may be due, in part, to the relationship between the acids humulone and lupulone found in dried hops flowers and the GABA receptors found throughout the body.
Hops is commonly mixed with valerian and other herbal sleep aids. It can be consumed as a non-alcoholic beer, a tea, or an extract in its dried form. All three approaches have been used in various studies, but so far there is no conclusive evidence that any of them are superior to the others.
Hops in non-alcoholic beer or tea are probably safe to consume, but supplemental use is only possibly safe at this time due to a lack of research. When compared to other natural sleep aids, hops may cause more adverse reactions. Hops is not safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have hormone-sensitive cancers or other conditions, due to its weak effects similar to estrogen, which can alter the menstrual cycle. Hops have been linked to an exacerbation of depression. Most people only experience mild adverse effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness.
What Is a Natural Sleep Aid?
Biomolecules and Therapeutics state that natural sleep aids are products that may help with mild to moderate insomnia and other sleep problems. OTC sleep aids can range from plant, vitamin, or mineral supplements to naturally occurring substances like melatonin that may help you nod off.
Natural sleep aids have fewer negative side effects than pharmaceutical drugs like barbiturates, which are frequently prescribed for insomnia. Due to the lack of side effects and risks, natural sleep aids may be preferred by people with chronic sleep issues or mild insomnia. However, it is crucial to continue studying the mechanism, efficacy, and side effects of different natural sleep aids.
Are natural sleep aids safer than prescription sleep aids?
There are fewer reported side effects with the nine natural sleep aids discussed in this article compared to prescription sleep aids.
Even though herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as prescription drugs, it is still important to select a high-quality product from a reliable brand.
To avoid potential health issues, purchase goods that have undergone third-party testing for toxins, heavy metals, and other contaminants. You should look for dietary supplements made in certified facilities.
Keep in mind that any sleep aid, natural or otherwise, should only be used as a stopgap measure. It’s best to consult a doctor if you have chronic sleep problems so that any underlying causes can be identified and treated.
Are OTC sleep aids safe?
Antihistamines like diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate can be purchased without a prescription from a pharmacy. Their primary function is not to help people fall asleep, but this is not always possible. There isn’t much proof that they’re effective sleep aids, and there are potential negative effects.
Diphenhydramine is not safe for older adults, especially those with kidney or liver disease.
Regular use of over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids is not recommended due to the risk of addiction. Use them sparingly, and never for longer than two weeks at a time. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep on a regular basis, you should see a doctor.
Most of these supplements are available in various forms on the internet and can be purchased there if you’re interested in giving them a try.
In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, a good night’s sleep is crucial to your health.
However, many individuals struggle to get to sleep, awaken frequently during the night, or simply do not feel rested upon waking. This makes it difficult to enjoy the highest possible state of health and happiness.
Good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine after 2 p.m. and keeping electronics out of the bedroom, should be tried before resorting to medication.
The aforementioned supplements can help you get a better night’s sleep, but they work best when combined with other methods for improving your sleep hygiene.