We have all heard that a good night’s restful and restorative sleep is essential to every aspect of our health, happiness and productivity. But some of the over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids come with their own share of potential problems. Here are some highly-recommended non- prescription better alternatives for a great night's sleep that can help you relax deeply enough, both psychologically and physiologically, so that you can get that crucial seven hours of shuteye.
About 1 in 3 Americans has trouble sleeping at least one night per week. When you are sleep- deprived, you may feel fatigued or irritable, and you may have trouble concentrating.
Furthermore, chronic insomnia increases the risk of health conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain neurological diseases. You may have tried basic sleep hygiene practices such as setting a regular sleep schedule, avoiding screens before bed, limiting caffeine, and keeping the bedroom cool and dark. Still, if your sleep issues have persisted, you may be considering a sleep aid.
Common OTC sleep aids often contain antihistamines, which cause drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth or throat, and blurred vision. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam) are some of the most commonly prescribed sleep aids. Still, these drugs are habit- forming and are known to cause issues with memory and attention.
Other prescription sleeping pills such as Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta may also cause physical dependence. These drugs carry a host of potential side effects, including daytime drowsiness, unusual dreams, diarrhea, and weakness. A less likely but disturbing side effect of some prescription sleeping pills is parasomnia, characterized by behaviors over which the sleeper has no control, such as sleep eating, sleepwalking, or even sleep driving.
When it comes to prescription and OTC sleeping pills, the costs often outweigh the benefits. Fortunately, there are several supplements for a great night’s sleep that can help you feel rested in the morning without those nasty side effects.
While magnesium occurs naturally in common foods such as dairy products, legumes, avocados, bananas, leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains, almost half of Americans do not meet their magnesium requirements through diet alone, and poor sleep is a symptom of deficiency.
Magnesium supplements help you to sleep better with their calming effects on your central nervous system (CNS). This helpful nutrient activates the parasympathetic nervous system, binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, and regulates serotonin. GABA is a neurotransmitter that quiets nerve activity, and serotonin boosts mood naturally. While magnesium is an important supplement for a great night’s sleep, it may also help to alleviate anxiety and depression.
Hello.Health, a United States-based supplement company founded by CEO Pamela Wirth, offers a magnesium glycinate supplement called Happy Calm. Happy Calm is vegan, gluten-free, and lab-tested. Hello.Health focuses on holistic solutions and education, offering supplements for both children and adults.
Reishi mushroom, also called the ‘mushroom of immortality,’ is known for its anti-inflammatory effects, benefits to immune function, and effects on longevity. Classified as an adaptogen, Reishi helps your body balance its response to stress. This medicinal fungus promotes better sleep by helping you to relax, regulating cortisol levels, and working with neurotransmitters to calm the central nervous system. Reishi must be taken consistently for 10-14 days before you start to notice an effect, but this supplement for a great night’s sleep helps you relax without unpleasant side effects like daytime drowsiness.
While Reishi is edible, it has a bitter, earthy taste, so many people prefer to take it as a supplement. Troop, a California-based supplement brand, offers a delicious berry-flavored Reishi gummy that can help you feel calm at night and energetic during the day. CEO Stephanie Moyal focuses on ethically sound business practices, offering packaging made from 100% post- consumer recycled plastic. Troop products are vegan and organic.
Native to India and Southeast Asia, ashwagandha is an adaptogen that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. While the roots and fruit of this evergreen shrub are said to confer the power of a horse when consumed (‘ashwa’ means ‘horse’ in Sanskrit), ashwagandha is also known for its capacity to promote healthy rest. As it reduces stress and lowers cortisol, this popular natural supplement produces a calming effect similar to benzodiazepines like Lorazepam, but without the addictive potential or unpleasant side effects. While it may take several weeks of supplementation before you notice ashwagandha’s positive effects on sleep quality, this stress-fighting plant product ranks among the best supplements for a great night’s sleep.
Founded just two years ago, Medicine Man Plant Co. is a notable supplement company that can often be heard singing the praises of plant-based medicine. Founded by Steve Skiff and Dr. Mark "Merriwether" Vorderbruggen, Medicine Man Plant Co. offers health solutions that combine the precision of science with the wisdom of our ancient ancestors. This company offers a calming product called The Serenity Pill, with ashwagandha, passion flower, nutmeg, and green tea extract.
Melatonin is one of the most popular and widely accepted sleep aids, and it occurs naturally in the body as a neurohormone produced by the pineal gland. Rising melatonin levels in your system cause your body temperature and blood pressure to drop as neuronal firing slows down in your brain, preparing you to sleep. The brain produces melatonin in response to darkness, helping to regulate your natural sleep-wake cycle to correspond with patterns of night and day.
This supplement for a great night’s sleep has been especially helpful for shift workers, people with jet lag, and the visually impaired.
Luma by Laura is a Florida-based luxury cosmetic and health supplement brand that offers an affordable melatonin supplement for a great night’s sleep. Luma Snooze is non-habit forming and contains melatonin, L-tryptophan, lemon balm powder, and hops. This product is vegan, gluten-free, and manufactured in a GMP-certified facility in the United States.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found naturally in foods like poultry, shrimp, eggs and crab. As it is not produced naturally in the body, it must be consumed as food or as a supplement. The body converts tryptophan to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which is then used to produce serotonin and melatonin. A dose of tryptophan taken at bedtime can help you fall asleep faster without causing drowsiness the following day. This supplement is nonaddictive with mild side effects that typically occur only at very high doses.
BrainLuxury, a rising supplement maker founded in 2020, offers a sleep supplement containing tryptophan, glycine, essential fatty acids, and vitamins to help you fall asleep naturally without the side effects of common prescription and OTC drugs. DELTA is a unique drinkable product that calms the mind and supports your body’s natural melatonin production. BrainLuxury is a New York-based company that supports science-based innovation to help its customers enjoy optimum health.
First identified by Japanese scientists in 1949, L-Theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in green tea. A modest dose of L-Theanine may induce an ‘alpha state,’ or a state of relaxed alertness often associated with creativity and focus. L-Theanine boosts GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, elevating mood and producing a sensation of calm without being sedating.
Som Sleep is a unique sleep supplement that combines L-Theanine with melatonin, magnesium, vitamin B6, and GABA to help you fall asleep naturally. Founder Abdul Khan envisioned a bedtime answer to the energy drink, producing a product with healthy ingredients found naturally in the human body, a healthy diet, and green tea. This unique product is formulated to address the problem of sleep from several different angles.
If you suffer from insomnia, then you may want to seek a medical evaluation to rule out any potential underlying causes. Sometimes treating the underlying cause of a sleep issue is more effective than any supplement or drug.
If you decide to try a sleep supplement, many healthy options promote a great night’s sleep without the unpleasant side effects of OTC and prescription drugs.
We spend about 30% of our lives sleeping, and quality rest is critical to the healthy functioning of the physiological systems that support our brains, cardiovascular system, and metabolism. Not only will you feel healthier with regular, restorative sleep, but you will also find the focus and energy to perform at your best.
Forbes: Best Natural Sleep Aids: What Works, What Doesn’t
GQ: The best sleep supplements for a restful night
Consumer Reports: Supplements That Might Help You Sleep
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet, fitness regimen, or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.