Best Natural Sleep Aids Which Ones Are Safe?

As for most things in life, it's fine to try out and even better to find cures, but the best natural sleep aids will always be the ones that are safe from unpleasant side effects.

Think you know the best natural sleep aids? You might be wrong. Even in a normal year, sleep hygiene for the holidays is important. But 2020 was anything but ordinary, and more than ever, people are having trouble falling and staying asleep. The most common response for many is to turn to over-the-counter sleep aids or prescription medication. But there are natural solutions without the potential side effects.

Many Things Happen While You Sleep and De-stressing is One of Them

It’s hard to deal with all of the day-to-day stresses that one can encounter in their lives without adding insomnia to the list. In fact, lack of sleep can make stressful situations feel almost unbearable. That is why it is so important to deal with insomnia as soon as you notice that it is present. Having a bad night of sleep once in a while is normal. It’s when it starts to happen night after night that something needs to be done.

How do you know if you have a true case of insomnia?

This may seem like a silly question, but it’s common that most people experience some form of insomnia, known as acute insomnia, without it truly being a chronic problem. Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and is often considered chronic if it happens at least three nights per week for three months or longer. The question remains: how do you know if you have insomnia that requires treatment?

If you’ve been trying to catch a wink for 20 minutes and nothing is happening, it’s best to get out of the bedroom and do something quiet and relaxing. You can read a good book, color, or knit in another room. You might also want to meditate and channel positive energy, as well as facilitate positive thinking.

The more you force yourself to sleep by tossing and turning in bed, the more you will feel anxious. However, if you do leave the room to find something else to do, make sure it’s not work-related. You will only spark and stimulate your brain if you read reports, emails, and data.

Should You Take Supplements or Sleep Aids?

When making our rankings of the best sleep aids on the market, we looked for supplements that offered a combination of ingredients that would both help you fall asleep and stay asleep but without feeling groggy in the morning. Based on a review of the scientific literature on supplements for sleep, we came up with a list of ingredients that have good evidence supporting their use in a sleep supplement. This list included melatonin, GABA, 5-htp, chamomile, and valerian root, among others. Supplements that didn’t have any ingredients that were on this list were eliminated.

If you lay awake endlessly staring at the ceiling or find yourself tossing and turning into the wee hours of the night, a supplement may be exactly what you need to get your sleep-and-wake cycle back into functioning gear. As noted by Men’s Journal, one of the most popularly used sleeping aids is melatonin, a neurohormone that your body naturally makes on its own. Melatonin supplements are especially useful for resetting sleep patterns that have been thrown off by a case of insomnia or acute jet lag. L-theanine, on the other hand, is a supplement that actively works to calm and soothe your body and mind, making it an ideal option for those who find themselves preoccupied (stressed out) before bed. Finally, per sleep and biological rhythms, the supplement glycine promotes REM sleep helps to stave off daytime fatigue, and works to make your eyelids feel heavy quicker.

The Most Effective Natural Sleep Aids

How should you treat sleep with supplements and natural remedies? Over the years, I’ve written in-depth about some of the best-studied, most effective natural sleep aids. As we head into the new year with a focus on prioritizing sleep, I thought I’d share a quick review of some of my top suggestions for natural sleep therapies. These are the supplements that I most often discuss with my patients, and in some cases use for myself and my family.

Before we get into my picks, let’s chat a bit about why you might want to consider going “natural” with your bedtime routine. Though there are a lot of effective OTC medications designed to help folks slumber, there are some unique benefits to be found in switching to an organic sleep aid. First and foremost, the best natural sleep aids are generally considered safer than prescription drugs, mostly because they tend to have fewer negative side effects. Though not always the case, many common OTC medications can cause next-day drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

The Best Sleep Aids of 2021

Over-the-counter sleep aids can be quite helpful in solving short-term insomnia such as those induced by anxiety, a temporary change in your work shifts, or jet lag. But like any other drug, these over-the-counter sleep aids may also have side effects depending on their ingredients and formula. It’s always safe to get your doctor’s opinion before using any sleep aids, especially if you are on any prescription drugs or even painkillers, as drug interactions may occur. Since such products are not regulated by the FDA, they may contain more or less of certain ingredients.

Best Natural Sleep Aids

There are case studies, and science backing people benefiting from taking a magnesium supplement before bedtime, and some short time benefits with zinc. The caution with supplements is always that you should consult your doctor first to ensure there is no reason for you not to take them. I’d like to mention that I have had a surprisingly good result with fennel tea. It extended my usual 3-hour sleep to 6 hours. I came across this quite unexpectedly so there was no placebo effect working. It was simply another herbal tea that I tried in place of standard tea which I can’t drink. It took it about an hour before putting my head down. I am a sleeper who goes to sleep quickly but always wakes up about 3 or three and a half hours later. It may be that the fennel tea only works for people with my sleep pattern, but it seems worth trying by others. A serious caution though is that fennel oil can adversely affect some people with gastric and duodenum inflammation so again you should consult your doc if you fall into this category. It would be interesting to know of any benefits we insomniacs might get and what sleep patterns it overcomes.

How to sleep better?  Think you know the best sleep aids? You might be wrong. Even in a normal year, sleep hygiene for the holidays is important. But 2020 has been anything but ordinary, and more than ever, people are having trouble falling and staying asleep. The most common response for many is to turn to over-the-counter sleep aids or prescription medication. But there are natural solutions without the potential side effects.

Aromatherapy has been used for centuries as a natural sleep remedy. Lavender, roman chamomile, neroli, orange, and petitgrain essential oils are all potent sleep aids. Why? Aromatherapy works on emotional, psychological, and biochemical levels to induce calm. Essential oils act directly on the brain and the central nervous system to
release natural chemicals and feel-good endorphins. Our sense of smell is very powerful and also builds an ‘association’ with sleepy calm if we use it consistently before nap time.

Do I need a sleep aid?

It’s always safe to get your doctor’s opinion before using any sleep aids, especially if you are on any prescription drugs or even pain killers, as drug interactions may occur. Since such products are not regulated by the FDA, they may contain more or less of certain ingredients.

This one may seem obvious, but a friendly reminder: less sleep equals more anxiety. Get your zzzs (hopefully with the aid of oil diffusing) and rest up from the working out you’ve been doing; you’ll feel the benefits in no time.

What is the Best Sleep Aid?

Stressing about work, your late-night wine with friends, your love of coffee, your schedule – basically most things in your life – could be disrupting your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. If you have occasional insomnia or find yourself tossing and turning all night, we reached out for some advice. We talked to doctors about natural sleep aids to help you get those important zzz's. Of course, insomnia could be an indicator of an underlying health condition, so you should always talk to your doctor about your sleep concerns. Still, there are behavioral changes and some over-the-counter natural supplements that work as sleep aids and can get you off to dreamland.

From over-the-counter sleep aids to prescriptions and alternatives, sometimes it feels like almost everyone is taking something to help them sleep. Not everyone needs a sleep aid – even the best sleep aids are generally unnecessary if you’re keeping to a fairly consistent sleep schedule and waking up feeling rested and energized. Another important note: sleep aids are just that; an aid. Helpful for occasional bouts of insomnia, or short term sleep issues like jet lag, any sleep aid or sleep prescription should not be used long term unless directed by a doctor.

Aside from conventional treatments for ASD and ADHD, often medications are prescribed to address various aspects of behaviors and to manage symptoms. Medications commonly used for autism include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIS), antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medicines, and sleep aids. For ADHD symptoms, most medications fall into two categories: stimulants, and non-stimulants. While these medications can be very helpful for managing some of the core symptoms that affect academic, behavioral, and social elements, finding the right medication and titrating dosage can be time-consuming and bring unwanted side effects.

How do I find these sleep aids?

Most of these sleep aids you can find through a natural health food supplier or on Amazon. You may also be prescribed magnesium or melatonin through a doctor. A formula combining melatonin, magnolia bark, magnesium, and valerian root can help with the occasional restless night. For short term sleep issues, try a natural solution before you resort to over-the-counter or pharmaceutical solutions – just make sure you find the one that’s right for you, and get a sleep check up if problems persist.

Because there are so many ingredients used in sleep supplements, the price range is large, but as a general rule, these aren’t expensive products. You’ll find many effective sleep aids in the $5 to $20 range for a month’s supply.

Ranking the best sleep aids of 2021

When making our rankings of the best sleep aids on the market, we looked for supplements that offered a combination of ingredients that would both help you fall asleep and stay asleep but without feeling groggy in the morning. Based on a review of the scientific literature on supplements for sleep, we came up with a list of ingredients that have good evidence supporting their use in a sleep supplement. This list included melatonin, gaba, 5-htp, chamomile, and valerian root, among others. Supplements that didn’t have any ingredients that were on this list were eliminated.

Who should buy a sleep aid?

It seems like every article about natural remedies for sleeplessness mentions valerian root. And for good reason. According to natural health expert Dr. Josh Axe, valerian root increases the amount of GABA , a neurotransmitter that helps with relaxation/sedation, in your brain. It also helps ease anxiety, which makes it an extra powerful natural sleep aid. Most tea brands have valerian root tea, but you can also buy extracts in capsule form. Valerian is also a common ingredient in many natural sleep supplements.

To prepare this sleep aid:  pour 8 oz of water into a teapot, fill an infusion device with valerian root, bring the water to a boiling point, pour the water in a kettle over the valerian root, cover it and let it steep for approximately 15 minutes.  Pour into a glass and enjoy the benefits. Herbal sleep aids have been popular for hundreds of
years and the valerian root sits at the top of the list when talking about natural, organic, healthy sleep aids. As long as not abused, valerian tea has a great reputation as a natural relaxing agent and should help with finding a
natural balance within ourselves, as we glide through the stressful patterns life leads us on.

Natural sleep aids contain different ingredients, which may or may not be particularly helpful to you if you’re using them to help you sleep. Read through the following buyer’s guide to understand more about how natural sleep aids work.

How Does Serotonin Affect Sleep?

We know that inadequate sleep is associated with changes in diet – people tend to eat worse – but what about the opposite question: can food affect sleep? In a study on kiwifruit, this seemed possible, but the mechanism the researchers suggested for the effect – the serotonin levels in kiwifruit – doesn’t make any sense, since serotonin can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. We can eat all the serotonin we want and it shouldn’t affect our brain chemistry. A different brain chemical, though, melatonin, can get from our gut to our brain.

Folate is a B vitamin which, contributes to the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. All three neurotransmitters can affect anxiety/depression. Folate can also help aid in improving sleep, as it helps to produce melatonin naturally. If you are low in folate this could be affecting your melatonin production, causing issues with sleep.

Foods that help to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are good for helping you fall asleep faster. Scientific research has revealed that serotonin is important in regulating the sleep/wake cycle. Serotonin promoting foods affect sleep because they help initiate sleep and maintain peaceful sleep. The journal of psychiatry and neuroscience reported that certain foods can increase serotonin levels in the brain. Doctors from WebMD say that foods that boost serotonin include complex carbs like oats, fruits, whole-grain foods, and nuts. You should also avoid foods that contain caffeine because they may suppress serotonin levels.

Role in Sleep Cycle

For many people who struggle with falling asleep, rumination can contribute to the difficulty of getting a good night’s sleep.  Unwanted thoughts can play a big role. Instead of drifting off peacefully, your mind slogs through the day’s events, embarrassing moments from years past, or tomorrow’s to-do list. One way to break the rumination cycle or disperse unwanted thoughts before bed is to practice visualization or imagery, similar to daydreaming.

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in many different bodily processes. It’s also important for heart health and brain function. It appears that magnesium increases brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a brain messenger that has calming effects. Studies have shown that trouble with sleep and insomnia may be linked to lower-than-normal levels of magnesium in the body. Part of the effect that magnesium has on one’s sleep cycle may be partially due to the fact that magnesium helps to regulate the body’s melatonin levels.

When it gets dark outside, the brain produces a hormone called melatonin. This regulates the sleep-wake cycle by telling the body that it is almost time for bed. The brain makes less melatonin when it is light out and more when it is dark, such as during the winter. Age also plays a role – the older a person gets, the less melatonin they produce. Many sleeping aids contain melatonin. They tend to be most effective for people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders, which are problems with the timing of sleeping or waking up.

Role in Sleep Disruption

Sleep is an essential component to maintaining health. In children, sleep is also vital for growth and development. Ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk for some chronic health problems. In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to correlate with both increased susceptibility to illness and slower recovery times from illness. In one study, people with chronic insufficient sleep, set as six hours of sleep a night or less, were found to be four times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who reported sleeping for seven hours or more a night. Due to the role of sleep in regulating metabolism, insufficient sleep may also play a role in weight gain or, conversely, in impeding weight loss. Additionally, in 2007, the international agency for research on cancer, which is the cancer research agency for the world health organization, declared that “shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans,” speaking to the dangers of long-term nighttime work due to its intrusion on sleep. In 2015, the national sleep foundation released updated recommendations for sleep duration requirements based on age and concluded that individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.

Effects of Serotonin on the Body

Research showed that CBD oils are very useful in relieving anxiety and pain both of which can have a bad effect on our sleep quality. It can lengthen sleep that will help a person to get more rest each night and it is a great alternative to marijuana because it does not contain THC (or in a very small percentage) and it will not worsen the symptoms of medical conditions or various disorders like ones related to sleep. Let’s see how CBD oil may effect most common disorders of insomnia – since CBD oil is known to prolong sleep and has a soothing effect, this will help people struggling with insomnia.  If you take it in small dosages, it can help you feel more awake during the day and it can be used as a boost if you feel extremely tired due to lack of sleep.

Restless leg disorder is a disorder that involves an urge that you can’t resist and that is to constantly move your legs no matter day or night. This can be really troublesome when you want to get a good night's rest. Few studies showed that CBD helped to resolved it in six patients, however more studies are needed to confirm how it worked in these cases. People who suffer from RBD act their dreams out in the physical world that could in some cases lead to possible injury. CBD oils are helpful to ease symptoms of RBD and symptoms that could lead to it as well.  In order to make you feel relaxed, you need something that will release serotonin that has a soothing and calming effect that will make you sleep at ease. CBD oils help in serotonin activation.

The endocannabinoid system found in our body is a key factor that manages and regulates pain, so it would be good to use CBD that can work as a supplement because it boosts the adenosine that our brain needs. When the adenosine is released, it helps with inflammation that is a painful and cardiovascular function by easing all of the pain.  In cases of severe epilepsy, CBD products like epidiolex, might be prescribed. CBD oils can also be helpful to ease and alleviate seizures. It provides the relieving effect without side effects like the common medicine do.

Schizophrenia is a disorder that is strongly connected to a distorted way of thinking and perceiving the world. Usually, it includes hearing voices and hallucinating. These symptoms can cause a person to have a lack of interest in their favorite hobbies and depression is, unfortunately, their companion. Because most CBD oils do not contain THC, they will reduce the symptoms that cause psychotic behavior. In addition, CBD helps ECS to function properly, improving mood and even the way traumatic memories are processed. It will not erase the symptoms, but it will alleviate them. Please note that it is always best to consult your licensed doctor before implementing these pieces of advice. Even though patients that have used CBD oils say that it was helpful for them, we do need more studies, trials, and research to give a final conclusion with solid pieces of evidence on why the improvements happen and how do they benefit individual case. As nothing in this world has a solely positive effect, we will consider some risk factors when consuming CBD oils and products.

The minerals and amino acids in a banana help relax your body. Bananas contain the minerals potassium and magnesium which serve as muscle relaxants, which in turn helps your body feel ready to fall asleep. Banana also contains tryptophan and is also a source of serotonin which has general sedative effects. A small scientific study published in the journal of pineal research found that blood levels of melatonin (sleep-promoting hormone) rose significantly about two hours after eating a banana.

Passionflower (passiflora incarnata), used by the Aztecs as a sedative, has a calming and sleep-inducing effect. This is a gentle, non-habit-forming herbal sleep aid. This is a very safe herb and has been used by both adults and children to counter the effects of stress and tension. It helps to relax the mind and body to induce restful sleep. The active ingredient, harmine, and related compounds help inhibit the breakdown of serotonin. This herb can be taken as a tea, tincture, or as capsules. The only noted side effect of this herb is sleepiness, which in this use is a very positive effect.

How to Increase Your Natural Melatonin Production

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the human body and helps to regulate sleep and circadian rhythms in the body. When production decreases as you age, supplementing your natural supply of this hormone with a melatonin supplement can help to aid sleep.

Melatonin is the so-called “sleep hormone” your brain naturally produces in the evening, as a signal for your body to start falling asleep. However, because we spend so much time flooding our brains with artificial light (through indoor lighting and tech devices), exercising late at night, and doing other, non-sleep-promoting activities, our natural melatonin production can become delayed. This is a particular problem for shift workers, who have to sleep during a time their brain recognizes as daytime. Delayed melatonin production is a common side effect of jet lag, too, as we travel across time zones and our body becomes out of sync with our external environment.

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