What is the Best Natural Sleep Aid? and why we use it?
Around one-third of U.S adults are not getting their recommended seven-nine hours of sleep per night. We all know how important sleep is and we know how horrible it feels to be sleep deprived.
Chronic lack of sleep can contribute to a host of health illnesses, such as depression, weakened immune system, and maybe even Alzheimer's disease.
There are many natural remedies you can try before switching to natural sleep aids. You can try herbal teas, aromatherapy, and herbal tinctures. If these all fail then you can move on to natural sleep aids that you can buy from the drugstore with no prescription required.
NOTE: A good night's sleep definitely sets you up for the next day.
What is a natural sleep aid?
Natural sleep aids are supplements you get over-the-counter with no prescription, intended to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep through the night, and overall just have a better sleep quality.
Natural sleep aids are generally plant-based, vitamin or mineral that is already present in our diets, or supplemental amounts of something produced by the body. The guidelines surrounding the use of the word "natural" for supplements are not strong and many supplements, including melatonin supplements, tend to be synthetically derived.
Natural sleep aids tend to have fewer side effects than prescription sleep aids, which is why people prefer natural sleep aids. They are also more appealing to people who prefer natural products or are worried about the addictive potential of prescription sleep aids.
What to look for in natural sleep aids
Sleep aids have different strengths, formulations, and ingredients. It may take trial and error to find the correct product for you but you will find it because there is a sleep aid that suits each individual out there. Teas, tinctures, essential oils, and powders are good choices if you do not want pills or tablets.
Form and Dose
We need sleep for our health and well-being. Natural sleep aids might not be strong enough to ease insomnia or chronic sleep disturbances.
It is important to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional if nothing changes after taking natural sleep aids, you may need something stronger.
The ways essential oils, minerals, herbs, and melatonin work to support our sleep vary. Some products may help you stay asleep and others might help you fall asleep. Consider the dosage when looking for new sleep aids. A dose that is too high could result in unwanted side effects, even with natural sleep aids.
It may be worth spending a little more on a product from a company that puts quality and purity at the forefront of what they do. Never buy a product because it is cheap. Not all supplements, essential oils, or herbal blends are created equal.
When you are looking for sleep aid, make sure to check they have certifications from independent, third-party testing companies like ConsumerLab, and NSF international.
These organizations provide a security around quality and testing and allow products to display a seal of quality assurance that indicates the product contains the ingredients listed on the label.
Always check the ingredients list for potential allergens. Even though they are generally safe and low risk you should always talk to a doctor or health professional before taking a new herbal supplement.
Benefits of going natural
Why should you consider going natural with your bedtime routine?
Even though there are many effective OTC sleep medications, designed to help people sleep, there are some unique benefits to switching to natural sleep aids.
- Natural sleep aids are considered safer than prescription sleep aids because they tend to have fewer negative side effects. This is not always the case some OTC sleep medicine can leave you feeling drowsy the next day and give you headaches and dizziness.
- They are more affordable, most natural sleep aids are around the 10$ mark.
- Many of these remedies have been around for centuries and the fact they have been around for a very long time speaks volumes of their effectiveness.
Are natural sleep aids safe?
Natural sleep aids are generally safe.
Many natural sleep aids when taken in the correct dosage by healthy adults, have very few side effects.
Always make sure you speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking them though. Adults should stop taking natural sleep aids if they notice anything abnormal with their health.
Some natural sleep aids may be safe for kids, but sleep hygiene should be encouraged before sleep aids are considered. Research suggests we cannot properly evaluate the safety or efficacy of sleep aids in children.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding women
Women that are pregnant or breastfeeding should be cautious when using a natural sleep aid.
Many ingredients have not gone through proper testing in pregnant and breastfeeding women, so little is known about their potential effects on their children.
Some products may be safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, but just to be extra careful speak to your doctor before taking any natural sleep aids.
Are natural sleep aids expensive?
Natural sleep aid is not really that expensive, certain natural sleep aids may be more cheap or more expensive than others but generally, they are reasonably priced. This is why many people choose them rather than sleep medicine.
Reasons people struggle to sleep at night
Normal reasons why people struggle to sleep
There could be many reasons you cannot sleep at night, it is hard to shut your brain off at night which can cause poor sleep and sleep problems.
Main reason why many struggle to sleep include:
- Concerns about work
- Worries and fears
- Family or friend problems
- Stressful life events or trauma
- Job loss
- Your room is too cold or too hot
- Anxiety or depression
- Uncomfortable bed
- Alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine
- Jet lag
- Recreational drugs like cocaine and ecstasy
- Shift work
There is a long list of reasons you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during the night.
Sleep disorders are common reasons we struggle to sleep.
Here are some different sleep disorders:
It is the inability to sleep or sleep well at night, it can be caused by health conditions, stress, jet lag, medications you take, or too much coffee intake.
Insomnia can be caused by other sleep disorders or mood disorders like depression or anxiety. Mild insomnia may turn into chronic insomnia, go to a doctor as soon as you see signs. OTC sleep aids can be good at treating insomnia.
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which you temporarily stop breathing in your sleep, that awakens you frequently.
If you have sleep apnea you may not remember these awakenings, but you might feel exhausted during the day, irritable and depressed, or see a decrease in your productivity.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
This is a sleep disorder that causes are irresistible urge to move your arms and legs during the night. The urge to move usually occurs when you are lying down and is generally due to feeling uncomfortable, tingly, aching, or creeping sensations.
This sleep disorder involves excessive, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. Caused by dysfunction of the brain mechanisms that controls sleeping and waking.
Sleep disorder symptoms
- Feeling irritable or sleepy during the day
- Have difficulty staying awake while sitting still
- Fall asleep or feel very tired while driving
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Told by others that you look tired
- React slowly
- Have trouble controlling your emotions
- Feel like you need to have a nap every day
- Require caffeine to keep yourself going
If you are showing any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor.
Best natural sleep aids
Lemon is a member of the mint family, which has been used to help anxiety, improve moods, and help sleep since the middle ages.
This herb is still a popular calming agent mostly used in balms and teas.
It has stayed a favorite because there has been a lot of research done to support the relaxing hype. It has been recently found that it helps anxiety and restlessness.
You should steep your tea bag in water for at least five minutes, then drink 30 minutes before you go to bed. Lemon tea has a subtle calming effect, which helps quiet your mind at bedtime.
It is another ancient herb that goes back hundreds of years in history.
Chamomile is a member of the daisy family, the flowery plant is packed with flavonoids that help the body relax and encourage sleep. It is usually seen in teas and is highly accessible, you can get it in grocery stores or pharmacies.
Steep your tea bag for five minutes in boiling water and drink it 30 minutes before bedtime.
Tart cherries are rich in natural sources of melatonin, a hormone that is shown to include sleep. Your body produces melatonin on its own, specifically in the pineal gland of the brain but adding an outside source of melatonin can help support and improve sleep quality.
A study shows that in 2010 tart cherry juice was associated with improvements in self-reported sleep among older adults with insomnia.
You could either drink cherry tart juice or take a cherry tart supplement. Some people prefer supplements over juice as they are less sugary and work more quickly. You need to take the supplements every night for a week before you see results.
Kava Kava is a crop of the Pacific Islands and has been regarded as an effective natural sleep remedy for a long time.
The medicinal benefits are derived from the bitter root of the plant, which has sedating effects. Research is limited but suggests that the herb may be useful for managing stress and reducing anxiety.
It is mostly available in pill form, which can be taken either during the day or at night. It is not strong enough to knock you out but it will make you feel calmer.
This has been used since around the time of Ancient Greece and Rome. It has been taken for many reasons over the years including cough-reducing teas, mood stabilizers, and as a sleep aid.
Most people take it in the form of tea to reduce anxiety and relax the body. Valerian root may help calm and decrease the electrical activity in the brain.
It is strong and works very fast too. Note that the tea has a slightly bitter taste.
Check out our Slumber chews packed with valerian root.
Lavender is one of the most popular natural sleep remedies, it can help treat all different things including topical burns, joint pain, bug bites, body tension, and poor sleep. It is able to react with the nervous system to relax and quiet the mind.
You can use it as a spray, creams, lotions, or teas, or take a big sniff of it before bedtime. It can be very relaxing.
Passionflower is native to Central and South America, it has been used for centuries to treat stuff including skin boils, ear infections, restlessness, and stress-related fatigue. In modern days, passionflower extract is used to treat anxiety and insomnia.
To use simply put a dropper of passionflower extract into a glass of water, stir and enjoy. It is found to be quite calming but it has a bitter taste like valerian.
Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone produced from the pineal gland in the brain. It organizes the circadian rhythms, including the 24-hour natural sleep-wake cycle that governs when a person sleeps and wakes up.
What is the most common natural sleep aid?
The most common natural sleep aids include chamomile, lavender, and valerian root. All of these about been used for centuries and are readily available online and in-store.
What is a good herb for sleep?
There are multiple good herbs for sleep. Some of the most popular ones are lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, and valerian.
You should always consult with a healthcare professional or your doctor before starting any herbs or OTC medications.
Let your doctor know if your sleep troubles last longer than a couple of weeks.
Many OTC sleep aids cause minor side effects but it is essential to be cautious because there is not a lot of research on the long-term side effects.
Different side effects are related to each sleep aid. These side effects were only reported in a few studies or by someone who had taken a high dose.
Minor side effects include dizziness, nausea, and headache
Diarrhea, nausea, heart palpitations, and headache
Belching, diarrhea, and nausea
Dizziness and confusion on rare occasions.
Dry mouth, diarrhea, and dizziness
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding women should speak to their doctors before taking any supplements. It is best if you are pregnant or breastfeeding to stay clear of sleep supplements because there is insufficient research on the safety and side effects of pregnant and breastfeeding women taking them.
Are natural sleep aids better than prescription sleep aids?
Natural sleep aid is generally safer than prescription aid because they have fewer side effects.
It is still important to choose a quality product from a reputable brand.
Look for products that have been tested by an independent lab for toxins, heavy metals, and contaminants to ensure safety. You should also consider purchasing supplements produced in third-party certified facilities.
Always keep in mind natural sleep aid are only supposed to be a short-term solution. If you are struggling with your sleep, you are best to talk to a healthcare professional to find out if you have any underlying issues.
Are natural sleep aids effective?
Certain natural sleep aids are more effective than others. Melatonin is seemed to be a more effective natural sleep aid than valerian root and passionflower because melatonin has more research on it and valerian root and passion flower show mixed results.
Should I speak to a doctor before taking any sleep aids?
It is advised to speak to a doctor before you start to use a natural sleep aid. Even though they are available without a prescription, your doctor may still help with:
- Access your health
- Reviewing your other medications and the potential for interactions between them and the natural sleep aid
- Discussing the potential benefits and side effects of natural sleep remedies
- Understanding your sleep problems and evaluating if they might be caused by an underlying sleep disorder that may be resolved with a more specific treatment
- Providing guidance on whether the natural remedies are working or giving side effects
- Offering suggestions about the dosage and timing
Different methods to help you sleep
Lower the temperature
Your body temperature changes when you fall asleep. Your body cools down when u lay down and will warm up when you get up.
A warm room may affect you falling asleep. Set your thermometer to a cool temperature, between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6-19-4 degrees Celsius). This could help.
Your preferences will be different from other individuals. So you will need to find the correct temperature for you.
Having a warm shower or bath could can speed up the rate that the body changes temoerature. As your body is cooling down after your bath or shower, this sends a signal to your brain to go to sleep.
Taking a warm shower or bath prior to bed could improve certain sleep metrics, such as sleep quality and sleep efficiency.
Sleep efficiency is the amount of time you spend asleep versus lying awake.
People that take a hot shower or bath between 104-108.5 degrees Fahrenheit one to two hours before bedtime has experienced positive results. They have reported improvement even if their bath only lasted 10 minutes.
Use the 4-7-8 breathing method
The "4-7-8" breathing method helps calmness and relaxation. It may also help you to unwind before bed.
It consists of a breathing pattern that calms the nervous system, a breath control technique learned from yoga.
The steps are:
- Behind your upper front teeth place the tip of your tongue.
- Inhale through your mouth and make a "whoosh" sound.
- Close your mouth, and inhale through your nose while counting to 4 in your mind.
- Hold your breath, and mentally count to 7.
- Open your mouth and exhale, making a "whoosh" sound, while mentally counting to 8
- Repeat this at least 3 times
This technique may promote sleep and relax you.
Get on a schedule
Setting up a schedule for your sleep helps you fall asleep faster.
Your body has its own regulatory system, called the circadian rhythm, the internal clock that cues your body to feel awake during the day and sleepy at night.
If you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day it will help your internal clock keep a more regular sleep schedule.
When your body adjusts to a schedule, it will be easier for you to get to sleep and wake up at a similar time every day.
It is important to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Give yourself 30-45 minutes of wind-down time before you go to sleep. This gives your body time to relax and prepare for sleep.
Experience daylight and darkness
Light may influence your body's internal clock, which might regulate sleep and wakefulness.
Irregular light exposure may disrupt circadian rhythms, making it harder for you to fall asleep and stay awake.
Exposing yourself to bright light during the day tells your body to stay awake. Both natural daylight and artificial light have this effect on alertness.
Darkness at night promotes feelings of sleepiness. Darkness boosts the production of melatonin, which is an essential hormone for sleep. The body secretes very little melatonin during the daytime.
Go out and expose yourself to sunlight or artificial light during the day and at night if possible use blackout curtains to make the room dark.
Practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness
When you are stressed, you may find it more difficult to sleep.
Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are ways to calm your mind and body. They are also used for improving sleep quality.
Yoga practices breathing patterns and body movements that release stress and tension in your body.
Yoga has a positive effect on sleep parameters including sleep quality, sleep efficiency, and sleep duration.
Meditation may enhance melatonin levels and help the brain in achieving a certain state where it is easy to sleep.
Mindfulness may help you focus on the present, worry less while you are falling asleep and function better during the day.
Practicing all three of these or even just one will help you have a good night's sleep and help you feel more energy in the morning.
Avoid looking at your clock
It is normal to wake up through the night, but not being able to fall back asleep can ruin a good night's sleep.
People that wake up during the night tend to stress they cannot get back to sleep and obsess with watching their clock.
Clock-watching is common for people with insomnia. This may cause anxiety about sleeplessness.
If wake up during the night every night, your body can develop a routine. You might find yourself waking up all the time through the night.
Remove any clocks from your room, if possible. If you need an alarm, set your alarm and turn your clock the other way around to avoid watching it in the middle of the night.
Avoid naps during the day
People with insomnia tend to be very sleepy during the day because of the poor sleep they had at night, which usually leads to daytime napping.
Short-duration naps have been linked to improvements in alertness and well-being.
Naps that are long and later at night, may lead to poor night-time sleep quality and sleep deprivation.
To find out if your nap is affecting your sleep at night, try cutting them out completely or cut them shorter, around 30 mins or less during the day.
Watch what you eat and when you eat it
The foods you eat before bed may affect your sleep. High-carb meals may affect your sleep.
Even though high-carb diets may make you fall asleep faster, it will not be a restful sleep. High-fat meals may promote a deeper more restful sleep.
If you want to still eat a high-carb meal for dinner, you should eat it 4 hours before bedtime.
If you do decide to try natural sleep supplements check out our Slumber Chews.
Before taking medications, try to incorporate good sleep practices into your routine. Always speak to a doctor or healthcare professional beforehand.