Are Natural Sleep Aids Effective
Some research shows that certain natural sleep aids, such as melatonin, are effective. Other herbal supplements, such as valerian root and passionflower, have shown mixed results.
While some studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that natural sleep aids may be helpful, more research is needed to say for sure.
Can I Take A Sleep Aid Every Night
Sleeping pills can cause side effects, and certain medications, such as antihistamines may not be suitable for long-term use.
A person should work with a doctor to determine what is causing their insomnia before taking sleep medications every night. A doctor will be able to advise on the best and most sustainable way to treat insomnia.
Does Valerian Root Work
Some clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of certain valerian root supplements for improving sleep quality and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, according to the American Botanical Council.
Although valerian root is a popular natural sleep aid, studies have not yet shown which chemical components cause its potential sleep-promoting and sedative effects. However, one theory being studied is that valerian potentially releases GABA in the brain and may block the enzyme that destroys GABA, which may cause sedative effects in either case.
Try it or skip it? The results of existing studies regarding valerian roots effectiveness as a sleep aid are inconsistent, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. However, some research suggests that valerian root may effectively improve the quality of sleep and reduce sleep latency without problematic side effects.
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Do Otc Sleep Aids Cause Side Effects
While the side effects of OTC sleep aids depend on certain factors such as dose and the person taking them, these medications are associated with the following:
|OTC Sleep Medication|
|Dizziness, drowsiness, thickening of mucus in nose or throat, and dry mouth, throat, and nose||31 major interactions, including acetaminophen and aspirin|
|Valerian||Headache, upset stomach, cognitive dysfunction, dry mouth, feelings of excitement or unease, strange dreams, and daytime drowsiness||3 major interactions, including sodium oxybate and buprenorphine|
Those with insomnia and other sleep issues can potentially benefit from taking one of these medications. However, as with other medications, you should exercise caution and speak with your doctor before taking any sort of OTC sleep aid. The physician will help you understand the potential side effects and drug interactions, as well as alternative treatment options that may serve you better.
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How We Select Supplements
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.
We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products.
It’s important to note that the FDA does not review products for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.
Make Sure You’ve Tried Behavioral Solutions
Medication should only be a last case resort after you have tried lifestyle and behavioral solutions to manage your symptoms. Implementing a bedtime routine, going to bed at the same time every night, exercise, reducing caffeine, and managing stress are all examples of changes that may improve sleep.
Where Else To Buy The Sleep Aids
In the US, Ive seen several of the sleep aids in this article sold in stores such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Duane Reade, Acme, Walmart, and Target, as well as smaller independent pharmacies.
The sleep aids containing melatonin might not be available in your country. I bought them when living in the US, but have been unable to find them when Im in the UK because melatonin isnt sold over the counter in the UK.
In the UK, you can find a range of sleep aids in some supermarkets and chemists, such as Boots. They tend to stock herbal sleep aids, and sometimes antihistamine sleep aids.
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What To Look For In Sleep Products
I ingested quite a few products that seemed like nothing more than candy, and many sleep aid ingredients our experts warn against.
Only use Benadryl or diphenhydramine sparingly as it’s safe in one-off instances but can reduce your REM sleep in the long term, Dr. Dimitriu says. Also, approach melatonin with caution .
Instead, consider looking for products with high concentrations of lavender. Lavender is a common ingredient that is touted for its effects on the nervous system, which include sedative and mood-stabilizing properties, which Keller explains make it ideal for tackling insomnia caused by stress. Dr. Dimitriu also recommends products with chamomile and valerian root.
A weighted blanket can be beneficial mainly for someone who is suffering from physical manifestations of stress, or for children who need soothing or sensory regulation. Outside of those individuals, you may not reap the benefits of sleeping with an extra 10-plus pounds weighing you down at night.
For those who need to force themselves out of habits that impact their sleep, managing light exposure can mean the difference between going to bed when the sun is rising or waking up feeling unsatisfied. These habits could include late-night TV watching, or using your phone or computer too close to bedtime.
If you do have prolonged difficulty falling or staying asleep, all experts recommend paying a visit to your primary care physician to rule out any medical conditions.
Risks And Side Effects Of Sleeping Pills
All prescription sleeping pills have side effects, which vary depending on the specific drug, the dosage, and how long the drug lasts in your system. Common side effects include prolonged drowsiness the next day, headache, muscle aches, constipation, dry mouth, trouble concentrating, dizziness, unsteadiness, and rebound insomnia.
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Types Of Sleep Aids: Otc Vs Natural Vs Prescription Drugs
Sleep aids fall into three main categories: over-the-counter, natural or herbal supplements, and prescription drugs.
- Over-the-counter sleep aids are typically antihistamines. Theyre designed to address short-term sleeplessness, not insomnia. Their side effects are typically mild, such as drowsiness the next day, which is why they can be sold over the counter. However, there are instances where these can be unsafe for people.
- Natural sleep aids include dietary and herbal supplements containing ingredients like melatonin, valerian, or chamomile. Like over-the-counter sleep aids, these have not proven effective as a treatment for long-term insomnia. Natural sleep aids may come in the form of herbal teas, pills, or ointments.
- Prescription drugs target different parts of the brain to induce sleep. Doxepin blocks histamine receptors, enabling the person to stay asleep throughout the night, while zolpidem help induce sleep by activating the neurotransmitter GABA and binding it to GABA receptors. Prescription drugs require a prescription because these are designed to help treat chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders like sleepwalking. These drugs are stronger and have stronger side effects which can cause extreme drowsiness, sleep-driving, or more if not taken as prescribed.
What Is The Best Substitute For Ambien
Ambien is a non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic, central nervous system depressant used to treat certain sleep problems, such as insomnia. There is no substitute for Ambien that will be best for everyone, as each person has distinct needs. When an individual is prescribed Ambien, it is done so because it is considered the best possible option. Should Ambien be ineffective for any reason, there are a variety of alternatives that may prove to be more effective, including over the counter medicines, and prescription medications. As is true with any substance, there are risk factors and potential unwanted side effects associated with taking sleep aids which exponentially increase when the substance is abused.
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Five Tips For Better Sleep
Drink up. No, not alcohol, which can interfere with sleep. Gamaldo recommends warm milk, chamomile tea and tart cherry juice for patients with sleep trouble.
Though there isnt much scientific proof that any of these nighttime drinks work to improve your slumber, theres no harm in trying them, Gamaldo says. She recommends them to patients who want treatment without side effects or drug interactions.
Warm milk has long been believed to be associated with chemicals that simulate the effects of tryptophan on the brain. This is a chemical building block for the substance serotonin, which is involved in the sleep-wake transition, Gamaldo says.
Chamomile tea can also be helpful. Its believed to have flavonoids that may interact with benzodiazepine receptors in the brain that are also involved with the sleep-wake transition, she says.
Plus, chamomile tea doesnt have caffeine, unlike green tea or Earl Grey. Finally, tart cherry juice might support melatonin production and support a healthy sleep cycle.
Exercise . Physical activity can improve sleep, though researchers arent completely sure why. Its known that moderate aerobic exercise boosts the amount of nourishing slow wave sleep you get. But you have to time it right: Gamaldo says that aerobic exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that keep people awake.
The Best Natural Sleep Aids
Natural sleep aids are neither approved nor regulated by the FDA, which means it can be difficult to know which products are safe and effective. Several of the most popular natural sleep aids include melatonin, GABA, tryptophan, 5-HTP, CBD and THC, valerian root and lavender. Which is the best natural sleep aid for your sleep needs depends on a variety of factors, including your specific sleep struggles . Speak to your health care provider to determine which of these options might help you get the quality sleep you need.
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Can Melatonin Help You Sleep
Even though a lot of people think a simple melatonin supplement will help them sleep better, our experts say it’s kind of a gimmick. According to Dr. Cacho, “Melatonin is a tricky one. Most people don’t need extra supplementation of melatonin, as it is a natural hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness.”
The hormone can help phase shift your circadian rhythm, which is why doctors do recommend it for jet lag and for people with other circadian rhythm disorders like delayed sleep phase syndrome. But if neither of these is the issue, melatonin probably won’t help.
Keller also explains that some people may be sensitive to extra melatonin. More important than supplementing with extra melatonin is working to fix the underlying problems that are destroying your natural melatonin production, Dr. Gould adds.
Melatonin Receptor Agonist Hypnotic Sleeping Pills
Ramelteon is the newest type of sleep medication and works by mimicking the sleep regulation hormone melatonin. It has little risk of physical dependency but still has side effects. It is used for sleep onset problems and is not effective for problems regarding staying asleep.
Ramelteon’s most common side effect is dizziness. It may also worsen symptoms of depression and should not be used by those with severe liver damage.
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When To Try Sleeping Pills
Consider these drugs if the sleep problems are affecting your quality of life and nothing else has helped. But your health-care provider should watch you carefully to make sure that the drug is helping and not causing bad side effects.
This report is for you to use when talking with your healthcare provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Use of this report is at your own risk.
Benzodiazepine Sedative Hypnotic Sleeping Pills
Benzodiazepines are the oldest class of sleep medications still commonly in use. Benzodiazepines as a group are thought to have a higher risk of dependence than other insomnia sedative hypnotics and are classified as controlled substances. Primarily used to treat anxiety disorders, benzodiazepines that have been approved to treat insomnia include estazolam , flurazepam , quazepam , temazepam , and triazolam .
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How To Choose The Best Sleeping Pill
The best type of sleeping pill for a person will depend on the cause of sleep issues and a persons sleep patterns. People with insomnia may benefit from one medication, while those with jet lag can experience the best results from another.
People may want to start with a low-dose melatonin product or a valerian root supplement. If they do not experience improved sleep, they can look into a higher dosage.
The best way to determine the most suitable sleeping pill or dosage is to consult with a doctor for personalized recommendations.
Websites With More Information About Over The Counter Sleep Aids
There are many medical sites that cover different sleep aids. Here are three I recommend:
Mayoclinic they keep it very brief, but usually have current general guidance about OTC sleep aids.
Healthline they cover some of the natural ingredients found in sleep aids, and highlight key studies where applicable.
NHS the UK National Health Service has lots of information about sleep and sleeping pills. For example, Ive linked the name here to their page about diphenhydramine as a starting point so you can learn more about one of the antihistamines used in some sleep aids.
Very Well Health they have a useful article about one of the other antihistamine ingredients, doxylamine.
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Sleep Strategies That Work
If you have an occasional sleepless night, over-the-counter sleep aids can be a helpful short-term fix. But if insomnia is a regular thing, there are better strategies.
Dr. Goldman offers these tips to set yourself up for slumber success:
- Practice good sleep hygiene: Maintain a regular bedtime and wake time routine. Get out of bed if you arent sleepy. And avoid alcohol, tobacco, stimulants and electronic devices before bed, he says.
- Get regular exercise: A better nights sleep is yet another benefit of exercise.
- Find the light: Get outside for a dose of sunlight, especially in the morning.
- See a counselor: Therapists can teach cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia , a drug-free treatment to improve sleep.
- Keep a diary: Dr. Goldman recommends keeping a sleep journal so you and your doctor can look for patterns to better understand when you sleep and when you struggle. Armed with information, you can find the right path forward for a good nights rest. Its always a good idea to talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist before trying new sleep aids or supplements, Dr. Goldman says.
It might take some effort to turn your insomnia around. But itll be worth it when you wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a deep, restful slumber.
Some Words Of Caution
Its always a good idea to check in with your doctor before adding a medication or supplement to your regimen. This is especially important if youre pregnant, breastfeeding, have any other co-occurring medical conditions, or are having surgery in the near future. Its also crucial to note that many of these medications and supplements can cause a range of side effects, including next-day grogginess, so its advisable to proceed with caution, especially if youre planning to drive or operate heavy machinery. Last but not least, active ingredients that cause sleepiness may interact with other medications and supplements , so its worth speaking with a medical professional to ensure optimal safety and effectiveness.
With that said, the most effective over-the-counter sleep aids come in a range of forms, from dissolving tablets to liquid capsules to chewable gummies, so you can find an option that works best for you without having to deal with a prescription.
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Dr Howard Samuels Psyd
Founder & CEO The Hills Treatment Centers, Inc.
I have been clean and sober for 32 years from heroin and cocaine addiction. My dedication to recovery and my commitment to making sure that women are afforded a safe, non-judgmental space within which to transform their lives has led to me directly serving on the Board of Directors for Peggy Albrecht Friendly House for it is only from this seat that I feel I have the opportunity to truly make a difference.
Get On A Routine Schedule
Every human body has a built-in internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. This clock regulates our sleep patterns and controls the release of certain hormones that affect things like hunger, temperature, and emotions. Many things can disrupt these patterns, including going to bed at different times every day.
One of the easiest ways to reset this internal clock is to get on a routine schedule of going to bed and waking at approximately the same time each day.
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S To Try Before Turning To Pills
Before turning to pills, it is always wise to try lifestyle and behavioral changes that could improve sleep naturally. Many habit changes could even improve sleep without needing a prescription or over the counter sleep aid. It is important to be patient and consistent when making these changes since it can take time for your body to adapt and sleep to improve.
Zzzquil Nighttime Sleep Aid
Diphenhydramine antihistamine similar to Benadryl
Not to be confused with Pure Zzzs, which is also made by Vicks, the ZzzQuil nighttime sleep aid contains diphenhydramine HCL .
Diphenhydramine is a different kind of antihistamine than found in Kirland and Unisom. And interestingly, Benadryl has the same ingredient. So in this case, its the side effect of the famous Vicks cold medicine which is put to use as a sleep aid instead.
When I took it, it seemed to help increase my total sleep time. And on the times that I woke up in the middle of the night, I found it relatively easy to go back to sleep again.
Right from the first morning, however, I noticed that Id wake up with a fuzzy head. And that hangover effect increased in strength and duration over the next few mornings. It was particularly strong when I took the full dosage of 50mg, and better when I only took 25mg.
It comes as liquicaps, which need to be swallowed rather than chewed. But they are small and smooth, so considerably easier to take than standard pills.
On the whole, I personally seem to tolerate doxylamine succinate anti-histamine sleep aids better. But it might be a different case for you, and I can at least say that Zzzquil nighttime does appear to have a sedative effect.
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