Sleep medication is effective but comes with the danger of addiction or overdependence. In addition, some prescription or over-the-counter sleep drugs may cause side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness and dry mouth. There are natural sleep remedies available. But the question is—how safe and effective are natural sleep aids?
What are Natural Sleep Aids?
Natural sleep aids don’t rely on drugs to help you sleep. An alternative to drugs or medication, they may come in the form of a sleep supplement, natural sleeping pills or an herbal sleeping remedy.
Natural sleep aids aren’t regulated by the FDA, making it hard to determine whether the best natural sleep aid is even effective. Doing your research about the sleep aid or herbal sleeping remedy is the key to finding what works best for you.
The Best Natural Sleep Aid (Remedies)
If you’re in need of some help transitioning into a restful night sleep, consider the following natural sleep remedies:
Sleep supplements work by boosting natural levels of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and other substances in the body that promote sleep. Some of the most effective sleep supplements include magnesium and B vitamins. B vitamins are like building blocks, boosting the body’s production of tryptophan, an amino acid known to help the body produce sleep-regulating melatonin.
- Supplementation can boost other important body functions
- Can be combined with other methods
- Effect may be slow
- Must be taken regularly
Natural Sleeping Pills
To avoid the addictive nature of sleep drugs, there are natural sleeping pills available as an alternative. The best natural sleep aid (and most well-known) is melatonin. Your body produces the substance naturally. Taking melatonin in the evening a couple of hours before bed replicates the body’s production to create the calm, restful state that leads to sleep.
- Melatonin is already naturally occurring in your body
- Creates a sense of relaxation and wellbeing before bed to promote good sleep
- Should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women
- May raise blood pressure or blood sugar levels
Herbal Sleeping Remedy
Some herbs have been known for centuries to help you get a good night’s sleep. Herbs such as valerian, chamomile and valerian can help you relax and fall asleep. You can take an herbal sleeping remedy in a few ways—as an essential oil, a tea or as an oral supplement.
- No side effects
- Several methods available
- Promote a sense of relaxation
- Mild effectiveness
- Does not provide a long-lasting effect
Are Natural Sleep Remedies Safe?
Natural sleep remedies are gentle enough and safe for most people with mild sleep issues to use. However, some groups need to exercise extra caution.
Healthy adults can benefit from sleeping aids. However, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as long-term insomnia, high blood pressure or diabetes should consult with a physician before taking natural sleeping aids.
Parents should consult with a pediatrician before giving sleep supplements to kids. Natural sleep aids typically provide dosage information for adults, which needs to be adjusted for a child. Some lavender oil in a bath before bed or an occasional chamomile tea may be a harmless alternative to sleep medication, but it’s always safe to check with a doctor first.
Elderly adults should talk with their doctors before they use a natural sleep aid. Many older people take a variety of medications. Natural sleep supplements and aids could interfere with the effectiveness of the drugs they’re taking.
Women during pregnancy
As with most medications and supplements, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid supplements and herbal remedies unless they’ve been prescribed or recommended by a healthcare practitioner.
What are the Side Effects from Natural Sleep Aids?
Although natural sleeping aids are safer than many of the drugs available, you may still experience side effects. They include:
- Grogginess: The tired feeling a sleep aid may induce could last longer than you’d like. Use caution if you plan on driving in the following few hours or the next day — you may not be alert enough to drive safely.
- Allergic reaction: Hives, headaches, and hay fever may be an allergic reaction to the natural sleep remedy ingredients.
- Adverse reactions: Mixing natural sleep supplements and remedies with alcohol or prescription medication could cause strong reactions.
What Is the Most Effective Natural Sleep Aid?
Of the natural sleep aids mentioned, melatonin may be the most effective. Your body produces the hormone before bed or when it’s dark to encourage the body to wind down before bed. Taking melatonin is a natural way to adjust or improve your sleep cycle for optimum sleep.
Melatonin works. A medical review compiled information from over 5,000 studies on melatonin. Reviewers found that the supplement works to encourage sleep as well as regulate the natural sleep cycle.
Natural sleep aids are a safer alternative to prescription and over-the-counter sleep medication. They work best for individuals who occasionally have trouble falling asleep. Natural sleep remedies may or may not be effective against long-term or severe insomnia. And even though they’re natural, they could still produce adverse side effects for some individuals, such as pregnant or nursing women, elderly adults or people with other medical conditions. Before trying natural sleeping remedies, consult with a physician for advice.