Trouble Sleeping or Anxiety, Try One of These
Sleep and sleep anxiety are common problems affecting many adults especially those living in urban areas. All epidemiological studies identified that insomnia is a growing public health concern and that it may be linked to rising diagnoses of psychological diseases. The drug and supplement market for sedatives is quite huge and choosing the right sleep aid can be difficult. This article discusses some of the most popular natural sleep aids available and determines whether they are effective or not. Read on to find out what makes an excellent natural sleep aid and why some are to be avoided.
There are thousands of natural sleep aid supplements on the market today. Common over the counter sleep aids contain antihistamines, as they are known for their drowsy-inducing side effects. However, antihistamines can cause dependency, and may also interfere with daytime activity or even cause nightmares and daydreams, all of which are not something most of us want to deal with on a regular basis.
Because traditional over the counter remedies for sleep can be risky, or may not work at all, many naturally-minded people have turned to natural supplements to fight nighttime insomnia and daytime sleepiness. We’ve taken the top supplements from online shoppers and examined their ingredients, effectiveness, and possible interactions with other medications so you can make a better-informed choice when it comes time to pick your natural remedy for insomnia. Find our results below:
FemMed Sleep is a sleep aid formulation in the female-focused femMed natural health product line.
This supplement is presented in bottles of 30 tablets and the usual dose is 1 tablet taken at night before bedtime.
The active ingredients in femMed include regular and Chinese herbs as well as other natural supplements known to improve sleep.
Magnolia bark is an herb used in Chinese medicine for its ability to help relieve anxiety and induce sleep.
Amur bark is also derived from a tree native to China. This herbal extract is taken from the bark of cork tree and its sedative effect is due to the alkaloid, berberine.
Passionflower, lemon balm and skullcap are all mild sedative and anti-anxiety herbs. Besides their calming effects, these herbs are also known to improve mood.
Because these 3 herbs are gentle sedatives, they do not cause “hangover” effects. Therefore, they are not only safe and well-tolerated but also do not affect cognitive and physical performance during the day.
L-theanine is a phytochemical extracted from green tea. Studies show that it acts on the GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) pathways of the brain and increases alpha wave activity.
5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid that is derived from another amino acid, tryptophan. It is an intermediate in the syntheses of serotonin and melatonin. While serotonin improves mood, melatonin is important to the circadian cycle and the quality of sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone released from the pineal gland. It is secreted during darkness and its main role is to signal the brain to enter sleep phase. When melatonin production falls, getting to sleep can become difficult.
FemMed Sleep contains all the right ingredients to help you sleep, improve mood and relieve anxiety.
By combining multiple herbs, plant extracts and natural supplements with overlapping therapeutic effects, femMed Sleep is an effective sleep aid. It is also safe and highly regarded by its users.
Breathe Right is a family of nasal strips made from flexible, spring-like bands. Each Breathe Right nasal strip is a drug-free device for improving air flow through the nostrils.
Breathe Right is manufactured by GSK and available as a non-prescription device for reducing resistance to air flow in the nostrils. Therefore, it can be used to help breathing when the nose is congested. Since it is not a medication, a Breathe Right strip can be used at any time.
How does it work? The strip is placed across the bridge of the nose and over the flare of each nostril with the adhesive underside stuck to the flesh.
Since this strip is made from a springy band, it will try to return to its original shape by straightening itself.
This produces a lifting force that pulls up the flares of the nostrils. The pull-up action increases the diameters of the nostrils and reduces restriction to air flow.
In this way, Breathe Right strips reduce nasal congestion and can help relieve snoring and improve sleep.
Therefore, Breathe Right is not really a sleep medication or supplement. It is a drug-free medical device (except Breathe Right Menthol that release vapors of menthol formulated as microencapsulated beads).
Rather, Breathe Right works by relieving the some of the conditions that may interrupt sleep (nasal congestion, snoring and sleep apnea). In this way, it can improve sleep quality especially among people suffering sleep apnea and breathing difficulties at night.
How effective is Breathe Right as a sleep aid? Four out of five users gave it favorable reviews.
Quietude is a homeopathic sleep aid formulation from Boiron. It is formulated as quickly dissolving tablets and each box of the product holds 60 tablets.
The manufacturer recommends dissolving 2 tablets of Quietude in the mouth 3 hours before going to bed and then dissolving another 2 tablets in the mouth when going to bed.
Hyoscyamus niger is also known as henbane. It is a homeopathic remedy for relieving anxiety and restlessness. Homeopaths also prescribe it for those experiencing restless sleep.
Nux moschata is also known as nutmeg. As a homeopathic remedy, it is also used to treat restless sleep caused by nervousness. Stramonium is another homeopathic remedy for restless sleep.
Passiflora incarnata or passionflower is a mild sedative herb. It encourages sleep by increasing GABA activity in the brain. This is the only ingredient of Quietude proven to improve sleep. However, this ingredient is prepared as a homeopathic remedy and not an herbal remedy.
Therefore, it is unlikely to be as effective as passionflower the sedative herb used in herbal medicine.
Quietude is an effective homeopathic sleep aid but it is mostly effective for those suffering from restless sleep caused by nervousness. Therefore, it may be ineffective for those whose insomnia are caused by other factors besides nervousness.
Quietude is not a very effective sleep aid and this is because it contains only one (and a weak one) sedative ingredient.
Sleep ‘N Restore is a highly regarded sleep supplement from Natrol. Its recommended dose is 1 tablet before bedtime.
Although there are 6 active ingredients in this supplement, only 2 of them directly improves sleep. These are valerian root extract and melatonin.
While valerian root extract promotes sleep by enhancing GABA activities in the brain, melatonin is responsible for easing the body into the sleep phase of the circadian cycle.
The calcium present in this supplement may stabilize nerves as they transmit electrical signals and this effect can reduce the “noise” signals coursing through the neurons of the brain. This means that calcium has a calming effect on these neurons. It can, therefore, reduce anxiety and promote sedation.
The other active ingredients in this supplement include vitamin E, L-glutamine and grape seed extract.
These are potent antioxidants (melatonin and some of the phytochemicals in valerian also have antioxidant effects) that can help the body fight the negative effects of stress and poor lifestyle choices.
While the formulation of Sleep ‘N Restore does not lean heavily on sedative supplements, it contains the most effective ones (melatonin and valerian root extract) and these are backed with broad antioxidant support.
The majority of users find this supplement effective for their sleeplessness even though there are better formulated sleep aids available.
Sleep Relax Formula is a sleep supplement from Natural Factors. Each bottle of the supplement contains 90 capsules and the recommended dosage is 1 capsule taken 1 – 3 times per day.
Sleep Relax Formula contains 4 of the 5 major sedative herbs. These are valerian, passionflower, hops and skullcap. The only omission is kava which the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has warned may cause liver toxicity.
The root extract of valerian has been proven to increase the concentration of GABA in the brain as well as the activity of the neurotransmitter. Therefore, valerian is a potent sedative and anxiolytic herb.
In fact, some European countries recognize valerian root extract as a non-prescription sleep medication.
In Sleep Relax Formula, the valerian extract used is standardized to contain 0.8% valerenic acids. Most studies show that valerian products standardized to this concentration of valerenic acids are the most effective.
The inclusion of passionflower, hops and skullcap is also supported by good research that shows that better sedative and anxiolytic effects are obtained by combining valerian with these herbs.
Both passionflower and hops also act on the GABA pathways in the brain. Therefore, their activities overlap with those of valerian.
This sleep supplement from Natural Factors contains the right ingredients to help your sleeping and anxiety problems. Because the combination of the herbs in the formulation can be potent, care should be taken with doses to avoid daytime sleepiness, hangover effect in the mornings and vivid dreaming at night.
Sleep Tonight! is a stress relief supplement that may also provide relief for anxiety and induce sleep.
Each bottle of this supplement manufactured by Enzymatic Therapy contains 28 tablets. The recommended dose is 1 - 2 tablets per day.
The formulation avoids sedative herbs and instead uses anti-stress herbs such as ashwagandha and magnolia bark. Also included is L-theanine and phosphatidylserine.
This supplement is ideal for treating stress-induced insomnia. While it may cause drowsiness, the chief mechanism by which it works is to relieve stress by reducing the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.
However, simply helping the body relax may not be enough to induce sleep. High levels of cortisol is only one cause of insomnia. For those suffering from insomnia due to other causes, this supplement may not be effective.
Knock-Out is a sleep support supplement from Schiff. Each bottle contains 50 tablets and 1 tablet is the recommended daily dose.
The active ingredients in Knock-Out are vitamin B6, calcium, glycine, GABA, valerian, melatonin and theanine. All of these ingredients can induce sleep to different extents.
Vitamin B6 is an essential cofactor in the syntheses of sleep-inducing brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is the neurohormone that signals the brain to enter the sleep phase of the day.
Theanine and valerian root extract enhance GABA activities in the brain. Besides GABA, glycine is another inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and it can also produce a calming effect in the brain.
With such potent sedative ingredients, it is no wonder that Knock-Out is an effective sleep aid for most of its past users.
Rescue Sleep is a homeopathic sleep aid from Bach Original Flower Essences. It is formulated as an aerosol spray. The manufacturer recommends applying 2 sprays onto the tongue at bedtime.
There are 6 homeopathic remedies in Rescue Sleep. These include the extracts of horse chestnut, rockrose, Old man’s beard, Copper tops, cherry plum and grass lily.
According to information provided on the product’s label, this sleep aid promotes sleep by reducing stress and anxiety.
The sedative and anxiolytic effects of these homeopathic remedies are not properly studied. Therefore, it is difficult to fully determine the efficacy of this sleep aid. However, most past users are happy with the results.
Even then it is difficult to recommend this sleep aid not only because the unproven efficacies of these pseudo-homeopathic remedies but also because this product contains 27% alcohol.
Alcohol may promote drowsiness but it disrupts sleep by preventing deep sleep and promoting restlessness.
NutraSleep is the sleep aid from Source Naturals. Each bottle of the supplement contains 100 tablets and the recommended dose is 2 – 4 tablets taken 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime.
Unlike the other products reviewed above, NutraSleep is as much an herbal supplement as it is a nutritional supplement. NutraSleep contains saturated fats and carbohydrates as well as sodium, calcium, magnesium, inositol, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, taurine and GABA.
The herbs included in this supplement are valerian, chamomile, skullcap and passionflower.
All of the herbs in NutraSleep can help reduce anxiety and relieve insomnia. In addition, calcium, magnesium, GABA and the B vitamins can contribute to the sedative effects of the supplement.
The unique blend of natural supplements in NutraSleep gives it broad sedative and anxiolytic properties that are guaranteed to soothe and relax the body. The efficacy of this formulation is highlighted by the 100% positive reviews submitted by past users.
By far the most popular natural supplement for insomnia, many companies produce melatonin capsules. One of the most popular formulations is manufactured by Now Foods and contains 3 milligrams of melatonin.
According to research, melatonin is a hormone that is released in the brain about 9PM which encourages sleep and rest. The hormone production is triggered by darkness, and extending daylight can interfere with the production of melatonin. Artificial light will prevent the body from producing the correct levels of melatonin. If you suffer from insomnia, melatonin production may also drop.
Melatonin supplements can help regulate the production of melatonin in the body, but taking them at the right time of day matters. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a supplement of 3 milligrams may cause melatonin levels to rise far beyond normal levels, which could bring problems of its own. Additionally, taking melatonin too early or too late could interfere with the healthy rise and fall of the hormone during the day, which could contribute to daytime sleepiness.
However, no overdosing effects or toxicity have been reported from taking supplements of melatonin. Research from Psychology Today has indicated that taking melatonin supplements for longer than three months at a time can interfere with your body’s natural wake/sleep cycle and may even cause dependency on the melatonin supplement.
Typically, when you take a melatonin supplement, your body produces less natural melatonin. And although melatonin is often taken to prevent insomnia, it can do nothing to prevent insomnia except regulate the sleep/wake cycle. It does nothing to prevent night wakings or help you sleep better through the night.
Another popular remedy for nighttime insomnia is l-tryptophan supplements. One popular brand is manufactured by Source Naturals and contains 500 milligrams of l-tryptophan. According to Source Naturals, l-tryptophan is an amino acid that is used to support restful sleep, relaxation, and a happy mood. The amino acid is used to synthesize serotonin (the happy chemical) and melatonin (the hormone that tells you when to sleep). l-tryptophan may also be able to convert to B vitamins in the body, which are important for regulating the nervous system in addition to a few other systems.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, l-tryptophan might just be able to do what it claims. According to the University, research indicates that a supplement of 1 gram of l-tryptophan (double the dose contained in the Source Naturals formula) can encourage sleep by directly raising levels of the relaxing chemical serotonin. The university reports several side effects and drug interactions with l-tryptophan, including SSRI antidepressants, MAOIs, and a few other medications that change how the body uses serotonin.
Supplementing with too much l-tryptophan can lead to the development of EMS (eosinophilia myalgia syndrome), which is an autoimmune disease with symptoms including weakness, hardened skin, muscle pain, cramps, and tingling in the extremities. L-tryptophan can be of benefit for insomnia, but should be taken under direct supervision of a medical professional.
Amino acid supplements taken to fight and discourage insomnia are popular in the natural health world. But are they better than medications and do they really have fewer side effects? L-theanine is a common product offered as a natural alternative to sleep medication. Now Foods makes a popular version containing 200 milligrams of l-theanine.
In its natural state, l-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea. The amino acid promotes a feeling of relaxation and fights stress without side effects. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that l-theanine can be taken at a dose of 200 milligrams up to three times a day to promote healthy sleep patterns and a feeling of rest and relaxation. The university does not list any side effects of taking l-theanine and there are no warnings on overdosing, although there is little benefit to taking more than recommended by health researchers.
The university lists no drug interactions, making l-theanine one of the safest natural supplements for insomnia.
In addition to single-ingredient supplements, several natural sleep aids contain numerous ingredients designed to maximize your sleep cycle and prevent insomnia. Moderex is manufactured by Progressive Health Nutraceuticals and is sold on the Progressive Health website. The sleep aid contains all of the ingredients that have been suggested to help as sleep aids by scientific studies. The herbal formula contains a blend of inositol, valerian root, GABA, lupulin, kava kava, passion flower, 5-hydroxy tryptophan, glutamic acid, magnesium, vitamin B3, and vitamin B1.
The mixture of vitamins and supplements are designed to work synergistically together for regulating brain hormones, structuring the proper sleep/wake cycle, creating a feeling of rest and relaxation, and providing mild sedative effects.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, many of the ingredients in Moderex are known to have sleep-inducing effects. The university suggests a blend of 5-hydroxytryptophan, l-theanine, B vitamins, kava kava, valerian, and chamomile is an effective natural sleep remedy. Of the recommended ingredients, Moderex lacks only chamomile.
Somnapure is a sleep-promoting supplement manufactured by Peak Life. The supplement formula contains several sleep-promoting supplements, including a blend of valerian, lemon balm, hops, chamomile, l-theanine, passion flower, and melatonin. This blend of ingredients is designed to promote feelings of sleepiness and help individuals with insomnia wake less often at night.
Clinical trials and studies have found that the ingredients in Somnapure are effective at promoting sleep. In one double-blind, randomized study from 2008, it was found that a liquid supplement of valerian and hops was able to improve sleep quality of study participants with just one dose. Possible drug interactions with Somnapure include conflicts with medication that already promotes drowsiness, as the main function of the formula is to increase sleepiness. Unlike some other formulas that work on the chemical level,
Somnapure mainly works from the outside in to promote a feeling of sleepiness and to extend the time a person with insomnia is asleep before waking, which is largely controlled by the number of mild sedatives included in Somnapure.
Not all insomniacs are adults. Millions of children also suffer from insomnia, due to medical issues, hormone imbalances, or simple personality differences. However, treating insomnia in children is different than treating it in adults. The popular children’s sleep supplement from Zarbee’s aims to provide a sleep-inducing formula that is both safe and effective for children to take. Zarbee’s sleep aid for children contains a blend of melatonin at a dosage level of one milligram.
Zarbee recommends offering one tablet to children between the ages of three and five, two to children between the ages of six and 12, and three to anyone older than 12. However, the University of Maryland Medical Center and Psychology Today do not recommend melatonin supplements of any kind for children under the age of 18. The package dose for three year olds is the maximum recommended dose for adults from the University of Maryland.
Despite the claims of Zarbee that the supplement is safe for children, their statements have not been evaluated or tested and it is not recommended to give children melatonin supplements unless directly advised by a physician and used under doctor supervision for short periods.
Formula 303 Maximum Strength Natural Relaxant
Formula 303 Maximum Strength Natural Relaxant is an herbal blend of supplements designed to promote relaxation and relieve stress. Manufactured by Dee Cee Laboratories, the supplement contains a blend of passion flower, valerian root, and magnesium.
Specifically, the formula is designed to fight muscle aches and pains that can prevent sleep and cause restless nights. The blend of passion flower, magnesium, and valerian has been shown in studies to help reduce feelings of insomnia and promote healthy sleep.
Valerian is used to relieve pain, promote relaxation, and calm nerves. Magnesium regulates brain hormones, fights minor aches and pains, and stabilizes nerve cells. Passion flower has mild sedative effects and can help fight frequent night waking. The sedative effects of Formula 303 may interfere with medications that also make you drowsy, making your daytime sleepiness worse. However, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports few side effects from these three ingredients.
The Better Nights sleep supplement is a blend of natural ingredients and manufactured by Maxi Nature Supplements. Better Nights contains a blend of 5-HTP, melatonin, GABA, l-theanine, phellodedron, mucuna pruriens, and magnesium. The melatonin in the supplement is supplied in 1 milligram doses, which is about as much as you should take at one time.
In addition to the chemical-balancing ingredients of 5-HTP, GABA, magnesium, and l-theanine, the other ingredients are also formulated to offer a good night’s sleep.
According to a 2013 study, phellodedron bark was able to reduce signs of stress and anxiety when study participants supplemented with the bark for four weeks. This indicates that the formula could help relieve stress-induced insomnia. Some studies have also indicated that mucuna pruriens may fight feelings of anxiety. Studies have not found any negative side effects from the ingredients in Better Nights, but as it does contain melatonin, sleep experts recommend using it for short-term use only, as the risks of continued melatonin use are unknown and the chance for dependency is present.
Calms Forte is yet another multi-blend ingredient that is popular among natural supplement users. Calms Forte is manufactured by Hyland’s and uses homeopathic remedies to fight insomnia. According to the Hyland’s website, the Calms Forte blend contains a mixture of oats, chamomile, hops, passion flower, and phosphates to promote sleep. With the mixture of oat, chamomile, hops, and passion flower, the supplement has a sedative effect. The phosphates work to counteract nervous energy and “racing” thoughts that might prevent healthy sleep.
Since Calms Forte contains sedatives (even though they are mild), it could interfere with other medications. Do not take Calms Forte without consulting your doctor first. You should not mix the supplement with alcohol. The mild sedative effects in the supplement could temporarily promote sleep, but it will not address the true cause of insomnia, but rather mask the symptoms for a short time.
SleepWell is a natural sleep supplement manufactured by Vitafusion. The supplement is in gummy form and contains 3 milligrams of melatonin along with extracts of white tea, passion fruit, lemon balm, and chamomile. The mixture of melatonin and the relaxing herbs are designed to tell your body when to sleep and to promote relaxed, healthy sleep. The mixture does contain a much higher dose of melatonin than recommended by health experts.
Additionally, due to the melatonin content, it is not advised to use this formula for more than a few days at a time to avoid dependency risk. It is unlikely that supplementing with SleepWell would interfere with other medications.
Just because a supplement is labeled “natural” does not make it safe. Even in the top 10 natural supplements for insomnia we found some safety risks. The best way to protect your health is to be an informed consumer and read all labels and safety precautions before taking any supplements. Consult with your doctor if you suffer from insomnia and work together to find a natural solution that will fix your specific reason for insomnia. Not all sleep aids will fix all sleep problems, so it is important to find the right solution for the true reason behind your insomnia, whether it is a chemical imbalance, stress, nutritional deficiency, or something else entirely.
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Moderex, a natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia, contains natural neurotransmitters that have been shown to help combat anxiety and insomina.