what is the most effective natural sleep aid?

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Last Modified: 12 Aug 2021

Is the most effective natural sleep aid safe?

One-third of adults in the United States sleep less than seven hours per night, and many of them rely on drugs and sleep aids to get the rest they require.

More people have resorted to natural sleep aids in recent years, with an approximate 20% of adults have tried a natural sleep treatment in the previous year.

Natural sleep aids, which are sold over-the-counter or online, do not go through the same testing and review process as prescription medications, leaving many people wondering whether they are safe and which ones are worth taking.

Most natural sleep aids have a scarcity of high-quality studies on their usefulness and safety. As a result, many questions about natural sleep cures remain unanswered, which is problematic for those who have sleep issues.

Learning more about the different types of natural sleep aids, their possible benefits and drawbacks, and how they’re regulated might help you make more informed decisions about whether or not to use and buy them.

What Are the Benefits of Natural Sleep Aids?

Natural sleep aids have no official definition. Because there are no criteria or consensus for labeling natural sleep aids, it’s best to break the word down into its two parts:

Natural: There are no laws or regulations regarding the usage of the term “natural” in the context of these products. Natural can refer to a substance obtained from plants in various circumstances. In other circumstances, it’s used to refer to compounds that are synthesized in a lab but found in the body (such as melatonin), in meals (such as tryptophan), or in plants.

Sleep Aids: These goods are designed to help people with sleep issues ranging from insomnia to sleep anxiety to jet lag and other issues that influence a person’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. However, there isn’t enough data on the majority of natural sleep aids to know if or how they improve sleep in most people.

Is the government in charge of natural sleep aids?

Natural sleep aids are usually unregulated by the US government and do not require FDA approval3 before being sold.

Dietary supplements are the most common form of natural sleep aid. Dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription and OTC medications are.

Dietary supplement manufacturers are not required to disclose the same level of detail regarding their products’ safety and effectiveness as drug manufacturers do. Claims concerning health advantages are accompanied by a disclaimer that the FDA has not examined those statements. Supplement manufacturers who breach these restrictions may face charges of false advertising.

Reduced regulation makes it easier to bring nutritional supplements to market, which explains why there are so many brands and products on the market. Lack of regulation also explains why “natural sleep aids” have no standard definition and why accessing thorough information about these items can be difficult at times.

Are There Any Negative Consequences of Using Natural Sleep Aids?

Natural sleep aids might have negative side effects, potentially significant ones. The fact that these items are classified as natural does not rule out the possibility that they are dangerous.

Due to a paucity of studies, even professionals are unsure of the potential hazards or the optimal or safest dosage for many natural sleep cues.

Side effects vary depending on the substance, as they do with other medications and nutritional supplements. Natural sleep aids, on the other hand, can have a variety of side effects, including:

Allergic reaction: Some people are allergic to compounds found in natural sleep aids, just as they are to pollen or certain foods.

Adverse effects: Some natural sleep aids can cause difficulties such as stomach troubles and headaches. There are worries about more serious liver-related side effects for some drugs.

Excessive drowsiness: Natural chemicals that cause drowsiness, especially when used in excessive amounts, can have a long-lasting effect, making people feel foggy, fatigued, or unable to concentrate the next day. Natural goods can alter how other medications are metabolized or processed in the body, making them more or less powerful. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs may be linked to these potentially harmful drug interactions.

Inadequate dosage: The lack of research on natural sleep aids makes it difficult to determine the optimum amount and timing for use. A dose that is too high, even with natural chemicals, can have unpleasant side effects.

Another issue linked to the ineffectiveness5 of natural sleep aids and a higher risk of negative effects is mislabeling:

In one study, a lab examined 31 melatonin pills available in supermarkets and discovered that 71% of them were not within 10% of the dosage6 specified on the container. A person may not take enough to be effective if the reported dosage exceeds the actual dose. Overdosing is more likely if the reported dosage falls short of the actual dose.

Supplements tainted with compounds not mentioned on the label: The FDA has observed an increase in the number of cases of tainted sleep aids7 that include measurable quantities of substances not indicated on the label. Supplements may contain prescription drugs8 such as anticoagulants and anticonvulsants, which can cause serious health hazards to those who take them without realizing it.

Because natural sleep aids are not required by the FDA to be pre-approved, mislabeled or tainted products may be used and sold for a long time before problems are discovered.

Is it Safe to Take Natural Sleep Aids as an Adult?

Natural sleep aids aren’t always safe or dangerous for grownups. When used at the proper quantity by healthy adults, many natural sleep cures have few side effects. This does not, however, imply that all-natural sleep aids are risk-free.

Before taking a natural sleep aid, people should consult with their doctor or pharmacist. Adults should discontinue using natural sleep aids if they experience any unusual health changes or negative effects.

Is it Safe for Children to Use Natural Sleep Aids?

Some natural sleep aids are safe for children to use; however, there is often inadequate study in children to accurately assess their safety or efficacy.

Short-term usage of certain natural sleep aids, such as melatonin, is usually deemed safe for most youngsters, but long-term data is limited.

Parents should use caution when choosing natural sleep aids for their children to ensure that any drug or sleep aid does not adversely influence their child’s health and development.

First, they’ll consult with their pediatrician.

Ascertaining that the dosage is appropriate for youngsters rather than adults

Paying attention to the ingredients list and label

To decrease the possibility of tainted or mislabeled supplements, look for high-quality goods that have been evaluated by third parties.

Are Natural Sleep Aids Safe for Women Who Are Pregnant Or Nursing?

Natural sleep aids should be used with caution by pregnant and lactating women. Many ingredients haven’t been thoroughly tested in pregnant or breastfeeding women, so nothing is known about their child’s possible impacts.

Although certain products may be safe, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should always contact their doctor before using natural sleep aids.

Is It Necessary to Consult a Doctor Before Using Natural Sleep Aids?

Before beginning to use any natural sleep aid, it is important to consult with a doctor. Despite the fact that these products do not require a prescription, your doctor may be able to assist you in numerous ways:

  • Examining your other prescriptions for the possibility of interactions with a natural sleep aid.
  • Examining your medical history and the possibility of negative side effects from natural sleep aids.
  • Understanding your sleeping issues and determining whether they are caused by an underlying sleep disorder can be treated with a more targeted approach.
  • Examining the potential benefits and drawbacks of several natural sleep aids.
  • Giving advice on how to take natural sleep aids and when to take them.
  • Giving advice on how to tell if a natural sleep aid is effective or generating side effects.

What Are the Best Ways to Find Safe Natural Sleep Aids?

Given the vast array of brands and products on the market, finding reputable natural sleep aids can be difficult. Being a conscientious shopper9 can help you avoid taking supplements that are mislabeled or contaminated.

Begin by scrutinizing the product’s ingredient list. Keep in mind that phrases like “natural,” “verified,” and “certified” may be used on product labels in ways that aren’t clearly defined or regulated.

Customers who want to learn more about a natural sleep aid can contact the company and request paperwork on testing and safety. In some circumstances, information concerning quality assurance in the production process might be instructive.

Supplements that have been evaluated may receive seals of approval from third-party organizations. This does not imply that a product is safe, but it does imply that it has been subjected to more inspection. ConsumerLab.com, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and the NSF International Dietary Supplement Program are just a few of the most well-known certifications.

What Are the Best and Safest Natural Sleep Aids?

Which natural sleep aids are the best and safest is a question that no one can answer definitively. The bulk of natural sleep aids haven’t been thoroughly studied in people10. Many of the chemicals in natural sleep aids are studied in trials that are tiny, poorly conceived, or tested on animals when data is available.

It’s difficult to tell which natural sleep aids are the safest, which are the most effective, and how and when they should be used due to a lack of clear research. As a result, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises against using natural sleep aids to treat chronic insomnia.

Melatonin and valerian are two of the most well-studied and extensively utilized natural sleep aids12. However, research on these substances has yielded mixed results.

The parts that follow go on melatonin, valerian, and other compounds used in natural sleep aids, as well as what is known about their possible advantages and drawbacks.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces in reaction to the darkness. It aids in the regulation of sleep and the maintenance of a healthy circadian rhythm.

Melatonin is a hormone that can be synthesized and taken as a supplement. This form of melatonin has been shown to aid with jet lag13, which happens when a person travels across many time zones quickly, as well as other circadian rhythm issues.

Melatonin appears to have benefits14 for increasing sleep in general, according to some studies. When taken in the evening, it may make it easier for some adults to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.

When taking melatonin, most people experience no noticeable adverse effects. The most common15 adverse effects include daytime sleepiness, headaches, and dizziness. Melatonin is not suggested for dementia patients above the age of 65.

Melatonin is usually believed to be safe16 in children when used in small doses and under the supervision of a doctor. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), restricted use of melatonin may be beneficial17 in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to establish a consistent bedtime, reset sleep routines, or treat sleep issues (ADHD).

Melatonin supplements have uncertain long-term consequences in youngsters. Some researchers believe that long-term use may impact the onset of puberty, however, investigations to date have yielded mixed results.

Valerian

Valerian is a plant extract with a long history dating back to the ancient Greeks19. The outcomes of studies on how to deal with sleeping issues in adults have been mixed.

Short-term valerian use is quite safe for most adults. Headaches, sluggish thinking, stomach issues, cardiovascular dysfunction, and sensations of discomfort or excitability are all possible adverse effects.

Additional Natural Sleep Aids

Other natural sleep aids have extremely limited data, which means that there is no clear research to verify their safety or effectiveness.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is usually derived through diet and has a role in a variety of biological functions. Its significance as a natural sleep aid is unclear, but some evidence suggests that whether given alone21 or in conjunction with melatonin and zinc22, it may help older persons with insomnia.

Magnesium supplementation isn’t necessary for many people because they get enough magnesium from their diet. Magnesium supplements with high amounts might cause stomach pain and diarrhea. Magnesium poisoning can have more serious side effects at exceedingly high doses. Magnesium interacts with a wide range of drugs, including proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is mostly found in food. Tryptophan is used by the body to help make melatonin, and tryptophan is typically connected with tiredness after eating turkey on Thanksgiving, which is high in tryptophan.

Despite tryptophan’s reputation for causing tiredness, there is relatively limited evidence that it improves sleep. Tryptophan is not recommended as a therapy for insomnia by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

To fully comprehend the role of tryptophan in sleep, more research is required. The effects of tryptophan, for example, may vary depending on whether it is eaten alongside carbs or other nutrients.

Kava

The herb kava is native to the Pacific islands. Kava has been found in studies to lower anxiety, which could also contribute to sleeping issues, but no significant improvement in sleep was shown.

Some persons who take kava supplementation have developed a serious liver condition that can be fatal. Kava can also make you feel sick, give you headaches, and make you dizzy. When used for a lengthy period of time, it might cause the skin to become yellowed, dry, and flaky.

Passionflower

The vine Passionflower28 is grown in both the United States and Europe. Though this substance has shown some promise in the reduction of insomnia29, research is mixed. There is no solid proof that passionflower works as a sleep aid in humans.

Adults who use passionflower for a short period of time are regarded to be safe, however some people report tiredness, disorientation, or a loss of coordination. It is not suggested for pregnant women since it can trigger uterine contractions.

Chamomile

Chamomile is a plant that is commonly used in teas and has been promoted as a natural cure for a variety of ailments.

There is no conclusive evidence from scientific studies that chamomile helps with sleep. To date, studies have been small and yielded inconsistent outcomes.

Chamomile has few side effects, especially when ingested in the proportions found in teas. The most prevalent side effects are nausea and dizziness. Chamomile has the potential to interact with a number of medications.

If a person has allergic reactions to ragweed, daisy, or marigolds, allergy symptoms to chamomile are more likely.

Ginkgo Biloba

The leaves of the Ginkgo biloba31 tree have been researched for potential medical advantages. So far, there hasn’t been any evidence that taking it helps you sleep. It appears to lower anxiety, which can interfere with sleep, according to some data.

Ginkgo leaf supplements are generally safe to ingest, although some people report gastrointestinal issues, dizziness, and heart palpitations after using them. Ginkgo may interact with other medications, and its safety for pregnant women is a concern.

Magnolia

The bark of the magnolia tree has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries, and preliminary molecular studies suggest that it may help ease anxiety and promote sleep32. However, further human studies are needed to fully comprehend magnolia’s potential advantages and adverse effects.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is a cannabinoid derived from the Cannabis plant, although it lacks the euphoric effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD has mostly been tested for sleep in persons who have other medical issues. People who consume CBD generally report better sleep in these studies33. More research is needed to confirm these findings and look into the effects of CBD in persons who have sleep disorders that aren’t related to other health problems.

CBD has fewer side effects than THC, and when used correctly, CBD is generally considered harmless. When taking CBD, some people experience daytime tiredness and diarrhea, and a tiny percentage of people may experience liver problems.

Lavender

Lavender is a natural sleep aid that is utilized as an aromatherapy treatment rather than consumed. The scent of lavender essential oils has been reported to have a soothing effect that aids sleep34 in a number of investigations.

Other aromatherapies, including rose oil, Jasmin, or chamomile, may help you sleep, but they haven’t been studied as thoroughly as lavender.

GABA

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that works in the brain. GABA may be derived from certain plants and used as a dietary supplement, and preliminary evidence suggests that it may aid with sleep35. To evaluate GABA supplements for sleep, more research is needed.

Most participants using GABA showed no negative effects in one small research, however, several persons complained of abdominal pain and headaches.

L-Theanine

Green tea contains L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid. L-theanine supplements have been shown to provide possible sleep benefits36 in preliminary research, but more research is needed37 to determine the compound’s potential advantages and hazards.

Glycine

Glycine is an amino acid that, based on how it affects the body temperature, has been demonstrated in early-stage studies to have sleep-promoting advantages in rats and humans38. To determine the safety and efficacy of supplementary glycine, larger-scale, controlled research trials are required.

Some Foods and Beverages

In addition to supplements, some people ingest foods or beverages that can help them sleep naturally. There is a lack of strong evidence showing which foods enhance sleep because diet and nutrient intake are multidimensional, but tart cherry juice, kiwi, and malted milk are among the most promising foods and drinks in study so far.

Natural Ingredient Blends

Natural sleep aids that are a combination of diverse components are prevalent. On the one hand, combining multiple chemicals may have a synergistic effect that improves sleep quality. On the other hand, adverse effects or unforeseen interactions with other medications may have a similar impact.

There are few studies on single-compound natural sleep aids, and this paucity of research is exacerbated by the vast variety of possible combinations.

As a result, customers should carefully read the label of any dietary supplement to determine exactly what ingredients are present, and consult with their doctor to determine whether the supplement is appropriate for their unique circumstances.

How to Get the Most Out of Natural Sleep Aids

It’s rare for a sleep aid to fix all of your sleeping problems on its own. If you decide to use a natural sleep aid, it’s a good idea to assess and enhance your sleep hygiene as well.

This entails examining your sleeping patterns and bedroom setting to see if they are conducive to good sleep. Taking this step will help you maintain a more consistent sleep pattern, remove impediments to restorative sleep, and maximize the sleep benefits that a natural sleep aid can provide.