Let's face it—our lives today are more hectic than ever. Work, family, and busy social calendars keep our schedules jam-packed, with little time for self-care. Unfortunately, while these responsibilities are part of everyday life, they often come at the expense of our sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 50 and 70 million Americans have ongoing sleep disorders, and a third of adults don't consistently get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep required for optimal health.
"Unfortunately, we just aren't built for the 21st century and our 'always on' society," says Mahmud Kara, MD, founder and CEO of KaraMD. "The prevalence of sleep disorders among adults has reached epidemic levels. One approach to solving the problem is to use certain sleep-promoting supplements."
If a lack of sleep is affecting your life, read on for five natural sleep aids can help you get some shut-eye and reclaim your health.
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More Americans than ever are turning to melatonin to get a good night's sleep. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that melatonin use has "significantly increased" from 1999 to 2018 for all demographics. This is because the pineal gland naturally produces melatonin to signal to your brain that it's time to sleep.
"Melatonin is the sleep hormone, meaning it's one of the most critical for starting the sleep process," Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and sleep expert, tells Best Life. "If you have a melatonin deficiency, are experiencing jet lag, or are a shift worker, [supplementing with melatonin] can be quite helpful in keeping your circadian rhythm in sync."
While there's no official dosage recommendation for melatonin, the Sleep Foundation recommends taking 0.5 to 5 milligrams one hour before bedtime as a safe and effective method for inducing sleep.
A powerful nutrient that's essential for staying healthy, magnesium is involved in several critical bodily processes, such as regulating muscle and nerve function, balancing blood sugar levels, and managing blood pressure. Magnesium occurs naturally in many foods, and is often found in supplement form. It's also a widely used natural sleep aid that helps the body relax by reducing stress, prolonging restful sleep, and calming restless legs syndrome.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends a magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate supplement that provides at least 200 milligrams of this essential nutrient. In general, magnesium is safe to take, but it could potentially interfere with some medications or cause stomach upset if you exceed the recommended amount.
To enhance magnesium's effects on your sleep, Kara recommends trying a combined magnesium-calcium supplement, "Magnesium makes people tired and can cause gut spasming, which leads to diarrhea," he cautions. "[Take] magnesium with calcium—a safe combination—that will resolve your upset stomach."
Valerian root is a safe and effective herbal sleep aid that's been used for thousands of years as a natural sedative. Today, valerian root is found in many sleep aid supplements—and it's easy to see why. This potent herb has been shown to help you fall asleep faster, increase the time spent getting restorative sleep, and reduce anxiety, according to a meta-review of 60 studies published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine.
If you're wondering whether valerian root has any side effects, Vanessa Osorio, a sleep health content specialist at Sleepopolis, says, "The majority of people who take valerian root to treat insomnia or sleep-related problems have reported little to no negative side effects. However, reported side effects include headaches, drowsiness, upset stomach, and dry mouth." As for how much and when to take valerian root, the experts at American Family Physician recommend taking 300 to 600 milligrams 30 minutes to two hours before sleep.
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A traditional herb that's been used as a sedative for centuries, passionflower is used for anxiety, pain management, heart rhythm problems, and sleep disorders. The most common method of taking passionflower is in capsule form, or mixed into tea. "Taking a passionflower supplement 30 to 90 minutes before bed may reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increase the amount of time you are in deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep," explains Osorio.
The NIH reports that up to 800 milligrams of passionflower can be safely consumed for eight weeks. However, exceeding the recommended amount may cause confusion, mobility issues, and drowsiness.
Talk to your doctor before taking any sleep supplement or natural sleep aid. If your insomnia persists, visit a specialist who can help you get to the root of your sleep problems.