Whether you have a restless mind, noisy environment, or you just can’t get comfortable, sometimes it is just difficult to fall asleep. It’s annoying enough when it just happens every once in awhile. However, if it becomes a regular problem, loss of sleep could lead to sleep deprivation, loss of focus and motivation, or even manifest into physical symptoms such as Central Nervous System Fatigue which mimics the flu. If you’re like most people, the thought of taking a medication may make you uneasy. Luckily, there are other options than pharmaceuticals. These are some natural sleep aids that will help you sleep without many of the unwanted side effects.
Natural Vs Synthetic Sleep Aids
Natural sleep aids are supplements that usually contain an herb and limited manufactured chemicals. Synthetic sleep aids and medications are man made substances that are often based on natural remedies but are augmented at a molecular level to produce stronger or longer lasting effects. It is important to note that natural supplements are not completely safer than synthetic medications. Often times, herbal remedies are not evaluated by food safety administrations.
Natural remedies can also interact with other medications. For example, fenugreek, a popular breast milk and blood sugar supplement, can have very terrible interactions with blood thinners and diabetic medications. So before taking any natural or herbal supplement, it is advised to talk to a medical professional.
Best Natural Sleep Aids
If you are trying to stay away from prescription drugs to help you sleep first try some relaxation exercises. If none of these methods work these are some of the top rated natural sleep aids:
- Food: The best way to ingest a sleep aid with minimal side effects is by choosing foods that contain substances that can help you sleep. A popular example of this is tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in turkey meat and has a direct effect on serotonin levels. Tryptophan can also be found in carbohydrates such as whole wheat foods.
- Valerian Root: This herbal supplement has been used by humans to treat insomnia for hundreds of years. Today it is available in a pill form. Valerian root affects the neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA directly relaxes nerve cells. Valerian root has also been shown to treat anxiety and high blood pressure. Short term use of valerian root has shown to be very safe. However, valerian can interact with medications such as benzodiazepines, CNS depressants, and alcohol. Valerian can also slow the chemical process involved in the liver that converts some medications to their useful form.
- Melatonin: A hormone that naturally occurs in the body, melatonin can be taken as a pill or sublingually by the user. Melatonin has been shown to help in all kinds of sleep disorders including insomnia and REM sleep behavior disorder. It is also used for many other problems such as COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, and cerebral palsy. However, melatonin can also have undesired effects. Individuals who have problems with depression are advised to take melatonin as it may make depression symptoms worse. Melatonin may also affect blood sugar in diabetics and people who are taking beta blockers.
- Passion Flower: Available in several different forms including pills, extract, and oil. Passion flower has been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and help with opioid addictions. It can interact with other sleep aids as well as sedative medications.
One of the reasons why herbal supplements are sometimes frowned upon in the medical community is because of the inability to know how much of the sleep aid you get in each dose. It is difficult to accurately have a set dose of a herbal supplement, unlike synthetic medication. What does this mean to you? Start slow. If you have never taken a sleep aid take the smallest recommended dose at the recommended time and observe the effects before you fall asleep. Also, take note of how you feel after waking up.
Again, it is important to consult a medical professional and do research on any type of supplement or medication before you take it. These substances are meant to improve your life, not make it worse.
Sarah Diniz Outeiro