Over-the-Counter Supplements that Promote Sleep
Trouble sleeping is a common problem in our hurried, stressful, modern lives. According top the DSM-5, about 1 out of 3 adults reports some form of insomnia symptoms. As many as 1 in 10 meet the clinical criteria for an insomnia disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Insomnia frequently presents in one of four ways. People who suffer from these symptoms report having difficulty falling asleep, remaining asleep throughout the night, waking up earlier than desired or sleeping through the night but waking up feeling unrested. Last month I discussed the importance of a proper sleep environment. Sometimes, more help is required to get a good night’s sleep than following the rules for “sleep hygiene”.
There are many additional sleep-promoting supplements on the market. However, not all are supported by strong scientific research. The list below describes a few additional supplements that may be beneficial to sleep, but more scientific study is warranted.
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces naturally that signals your brain that it’s time to sleep. This hormone’s cycle of production and release is influenced by time of day — melatonin levels naturally rise in the evening and fall in the morning. Melatonin supplements have become a popular sleeping aid, particularly in instances where the melatonin cycle is disrupted, such as jet lag. Additionally, studies report that melatonin improves daytime sleep quality and duration. This is particularly beneficial for individuals whose schedules require them to sleep during the daytime like shift workers. Moreover, melatonin may improve overall sleep quality in individuals suffering from sleep disorders. Specifically, melatonin appears to reduce the time people need to fall asleep and increase the total amount of sleep time Those that did observe beneficial effects generally provided participants 3–10 mg of melatonin before bedtime. Melatonin supplements are safe when used for short periods of time, but not much is known about long-term safety yet. Melatonin supplements may improve sleep quality. They seem to be especially helpful if you have jet lag or are doing shift work. Melatonin is easy to find, it is at most supermarkets and pharmacies.
Melatonin should be avoided in people who suffer from Depression, Glaucoma, or Liver disease. Melatonin interacts with some medications, so check for interactions before taking melatonin.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of processes in the human body and is important for brain function and heart health.
In addition, magnesium may help quiet the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep. Studies show that magnesium’s relaxing effect may be partly due to its ability to regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that guides your body’s sleep-wake cycles.
Magnesium also appears to increase brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain messenger with calming effects). Studies report that insufficient levels of magnesium in your body may be linked to troubled sleep and insomnia. So, increasing your magnesium intake by taking supplements may help you optimize the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Magnesium has a relaxing effect on the body and brain, which may help improve sleep quality. Supplements come in many forms, magnesium can be taken as a capsule or as a powder than can be mixed with food. Magnesium oil can also be applied topically to the soles of the feet with similar effects. You can find magnesium in specialty markets, health food stores, in pharmacies and by the mail.
Doses of 350mg or less are generally considered safe for adults. Magnesium can interact with many common medications, so it is important to check with your family doctor before taking magnesium orally, if you are taking any other medications.
Lavender is a plant that can be found on almost all continents. It produces purple flowers that, when dried, have a variety of household uses. The fragrance is believed to enhance sleep. In fact, several studies show that simply smelling lavender oil for 30 minutes before sleep may be enough to improve the quality of sleep. This effect appears particularly strong in those suffering from mild insomnia, especially females and young children.
Moreover, a small study in elderly people reports that lavender aromatherapy may be as effective as conventional sleep medications, with potentially fewer side effects.
4. CBD Oil with or without THC:
CBD can be taken in a few ways. Oil is probably the most popular, but it can also be taken in capsule form, or even as a chocolate or gummy. It is especially helpful for racing thoughts. Research shows CBD may increase overall sleep amounts and reduce insomnia. CBD has also been shown to improve sleep in people who suffer from chronic pain. There are many sources for CBD without THC (supermarkets, pharmacies, internet) but with THC you will need to visit a dispensary.
1 cup tart cherry juice
1 cup white grape juice
1/2 dropper valerian root tincture
Preferred dose of CBD oil
CBD should be avoided if taking the blood thinner warfarin or coumadin, amiodarone, levothyroxine, or medications for seizure disorders because of potentially dangerous interactions.
Kava is another plant that has been linked to sleep-promoting effects in some studies. It originates from the South Pacific islands and its root is traditionally prepared as a tea, although it can also be consumed in supplement form.
However, kava use has also been linked to severe liver damage, potentially due to low-quality production or adulteration. For this reason, it’s best to buy only supplements that have been certified by a reputable third-party organization.
Do not use if you are pregnant, might be come pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Do not use if you have any history of liver disease.
Do not use if you regularly consume alcohol or the over-the-counter medication acetaminophen.
Consult with family doctor before use if you are taking any other medications as the risk of liver damage with Kava is increased when taking other drugs that are metabolized in the liver.
6. Valerian Root
Valerian is an herb native to Asia and Europe. Its root is commonly used as a natural treatment for symptoms of anxiety, depression and menopause.
Valerian root is also one of the most used sleep-promoting herbal supplements in the US and Europe. For instance, two recent reviews reported that 300–900 mg of valerian taken right before bedtime may improve self-rated sleep quality.
Nevertheless, all the observed improvements in these studies were subjective. They relied on participants’ perception of sleep quality rather than on objective measurements taken during sleep, such as brain waves or heart. Regardless, short-term intake of valerian root appears to be safe for adults, with minor, infrequent side effects such as dizziness. Valerian root is a popular supplement that may improve sleep quality, at least in some people. More studies are needed on the safety of long-term use.
Do not use if you are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Do not use if you are taking Buprenorphine or use Ketamine or GHB.
Consult with your family doctor if you take any prescription medications or suffer from depression or anxiety.
Valerian reacts with many medications, so check for interactions before taking valerian.
7. Herbal Teas
Catnip is part of the mint family and contains a compound called nepetalactone which calms the central nervous system. A mild sedative, it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which causes feelings of tranquility. Catnip ids best mixed with tea such as chamomile.
Lemon balm: evidence shows that lemon balm increases GABA levels in mice, indicating that lemon balm may act as a sedative. Although heavily researched, one study showed a 42% reduction in insomnia symptoms after participants received 600 mg of lemon balm extract per day for 15 days.
Passionflower: is made from the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the Passiflora plant It has been used to alleviate anxiety and improve sleep.
More recently, studies have examined the ability of passionflower tea to improve insomnia and sleep quality. One study in 40 healthy adults found that those who drank passionflower tea daily for 1 week reported significantly better sleep quality, compared to participants who did not drink the tea. Another study compared a combination of passionflower and valerian root and hops with Ambien, a medication commonly prescribed to treat insomnia. Results showed that the passionflower combination was as effective as Ambien at improving sleep quality, without the parasomnias associated with Ambien.
Chamomile: This is one of the most common teas used as a sleep aid.
There have been two studies have examined the effects of chamomile tea or extract on sleep problems in humans. In one study of 80 postpartum women experiencing sleep issues, drinking chamomile tea for two weeks led to improved sleep quality and fewer symptoms of depression. Another study in 34 patients with insomnia found marginal improvements in waking up during the night, time to falling asleep and daytime functioning after taking chamomile extract twice a day. Additionally, chamomile may not just be useful as a sleep aid. It is also believed to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and liver-protecting effects.
Adding a tablespoon of honey may also increase the relaxation properties of the tea. Honey can promote relaxation and help ease you to sleep at night. The natural sugar found in honey raises our insulin slightly and allows tryptophan, the compound famous for making us sleepy after eating turkey at Thanksgiving, to enter our brains more easily. Taking a spoonful of honey before bed can help you get restful sleep.
When to See Your Family Doctor
Adequate amounts of quality sleep are necessary for good physical and mental health. While many sleep problems are easily managed with proper sleep environment, or over the counter or herbal sleep remedies, it is important to understand that some sleep problems can signal more serious medical conditions. There are times when it is best to contact your family doctor. If you experience one or more of the following you should contact your family doctor for an evaluation.
· If you have been having sleep problems 3 or more times a week for 4 or more weeks.
· If you are experiencing mood changes like depression, anxiety, or overly excited moods.
· If you suspect that medications you are taking may be the cause of your symptoms.
· If you wake up gasping for air, or your partner complains about you snoring excessively.
· If you are awakened by severe pain or have a recurrent sensation that something is crawling on your legs.
· If you have tried to manage your symptoms with these recommendations, but still are not improving.
If you have found this advice helpful, please check back soon for my next entry. Until then, sleep well!