Lack of sleep is a serious issue. About 30% of Americans don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Studies show a chronic lack of sleep can lead to many health issues, including a weak immune system, depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Insomnia is difficulty falling, staying, or obtaining restful sleep, even in an ideal sleep environment. When you don’t sleep well, it can affect your memory, ability to concentrate, and overall well-being.
Natural sleep aids are over-the-counter supplements that help with sleep issues. Supplements include plants, vitamins, minerals, and substances found within the body, like melatonin.
Natural sleep remedies aren’t habit-forming and have fewer side effects than prescription drugs. People often choose natural sleep aids due to the lower risks.
Natural sleep remedies aren’t approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration like medications. That makes it difficult to know which products are safe and effective.
Here are the five best natural sleep aids and the research supporting them:
Melatonin is one of the most popular natural sleep remedies. It’s a natural hormone that tells your body it’s time for sleep.
Several studies prove melatonin assists with falling asleep earlier and improving sleep quality. However, if you fall asleep earlier, you’ll likely wake up earlier.
More melatonin isn’t better. Small doses of 0.5 to 3 milligrams are enough to tell your body it’s time to sleep. Large doses often cause stomach upset and may even keep you awake.
For occasional sleep issues, melatonin is fine. For long-term insomnia, there isn’t enough proof of the safety and efficacy of melatonin supplements to advise their use.
L-tryptophan is needed for the body to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts mood and sleep. Serotonin works with enzymes to create melatonin, the hormone which makes you feel tired at bedtime.
Try taking a dose of 1,000 or 2,000 grams of L-tryptophan before bedtime to fall asleep faster.
Because L-tryptophan raises serotonin levels, avoid using it if you are taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
Tart Cherry Juice or Extract
Tart or sour Montmorency cherries have recently become popular as a natural sleep aid. Studies confirm that tart cherry juice leads to better and longer sleep.
Researchers think tart cherries’ naturally high melatonin levels are responsible for their sleep-enhancing effects. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states there are no safety issues with taking a capsule of 480 milligrams of tart cherry extract or drinking 16 ounces of tart cherry juice daily.
Many studies show that magnesium improves sleep by calming the mind, relaxing muscles, and balancing melatonin levels. Magnesium bis-glycinate or citrate are the forms most easily absorbed by the body.
In high doses, magnesium can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Only take up to 350 milligrams daily unless advised by your healthcare provider.
Experts don’t know the best L-theanine dosage as a natural sleep aid yet. Research suggests taking 200 milligrams of L-theanine before bed may promote restful sleep.
There isn’t one sleep aid that is effective for everyone. How well they work largely depends on what’s causing your sleep issues.
Consult with a pharmacist or healthcare provider to find your best natural sleep aid. Remember, natural sleep remedies can interact with certain drugs or medical conditions.
When choosing a natural sleep product, a healthcare provider or pharmacist considers your medical history and current medications.
Researchers haven’t studied most sleep aids in pregnant or breastfeeding people, so safety and efficacy are unknown. Talk to your healthcare provider about safer options if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and not sleeping well.
Natural sleep aids offer support for quality sleep. They make it easier to fall asleep and help you stay asleep longer. While supplements help to get restful sleep, they work best with good sleep habits and a healthy lifestyle.
Although I am a pharmacist by profession, I am not your pharmacist. All content and information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Before making medical decisions, consult your healthcare provider for your specific needs and circumstances.