This supplement is made from stress-reducing and cortisol-lowering ingredients. Does not contain melatonin, so no worry about dependency. Safe for nightly use. Used by some people for daytime stress relief.
One of the more expensive sleep aids on the market.
Owners rave that each capsule contains more melatonin, a natural hormone that helps regulate sleep, than usually found in store brands. Tends to make you sleepy within 20 minutes. Most people don't experience any side effects. Excellent value.
Like all sleep aids, this brand didn't work for some people.
Manufactured by one of the most trusted supplement brands. Bonus points for including calcium, too. Fast release – should work within an hour. No preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.
Some reports that while it helps people fall asleep, it doesn't help when it comes to staying asleep.
Safe sleep booster for kids over age 3. Contains only 1 mg of melatonin. Only a few complaints about taste. Works on most kids in under an hour. Available as a chewable tablet or gummy.
Not for kids who are vegans or keep kosher.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A good night of sleep is crucial to your well-being. Chronic lack of sleep, or poor sleep quality, is linked to many health conditions, including reduced immune function, weight gain, depression, high blood pressure, and even diabetes.
Unfortunately, just about everyone suffers with insomnia at one point or another, leading to foggy-brained days when it’s tough to get anything done. To combat difficulty in sleeping, many people turn to prescription drugs, but those tend to have side effects – some quite serious.
If your insomnia is an occasional problem, it’s worth trying some of the many over-the-counter sleep support supplements before turning to prescription medications. For many people, an OTC supplement is all they need for a smooth trip to dreamland.
Here’s what you need to know about choosing and using a sleep support supplement.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, around a third of American adults have at least occasional bouts of sleeplessness, while ten percent have chronic insomnia. You undoubtedly know that insomnia means interrupted sleep, but sleep doctors define it in a bit more detail.
While all insomniacs struggle to get enough sleep, there are different versions of the difficulty. Your insomnia might manifest itself as trouble falling asleep, difficulty in remaining asleep, or waking up too early. If you suffer from any of these on occasion or for less than three months, you have acute insomnia. Sleep doctors diagnose chronic insomnia when the patient does not get enough sleep – despite trying – at least three times per week for at least three months.
Insomnia can have many causes. The most common, experienced by just about everyone at least on occasion, is too much stress or worry preventing you from relaxing into sleep. Other common causes of sleep disruption include the following:
Tame your stress hormone
Cortisol – sometimes called the “fight or flight” hormone, surges when you’re under stress, leaving you tense and struggling to sleep. Cortisol Manager to the rescue! This blend of known stress-busting herbs and amino acids, including L-theanine and ashwagandha, help you relax into a good night’s sleep.
There is a dizzyingly wide array of insomnia busters on the shelves of your local drugstore or favorite online health shop. These are some of the most common ingredients.
Antihistamines: If you purchase an OTC sleep aid, the active ingredient is usually an antihistamine, such as Benadryl. While antihistamines do indeed make most people drowsy, they don’t promote a truly restful or refreshing night of sleep, and can have side effects such as dry mouth and eyes, increased blood pressure, and medication “hangover.” It’s best to only use antihistamines for infrequent insomnia and only for a few nights at a time.
Melatonin: Probably the best-known natural sleep supplement, melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland inside your brain. Normally, levels of melatonin increase in the evening, triggering a desire to sleep, and then decrease in the morning. Exposure to artificial light before bedtime, particularly the blue light emitted by cell phones, computers, and other tech devices, suppresses the natural surge of melatonin and can leave you sleeplessly staring at the ceiling. Levels of melatonin also tend to decrease with age, which is one reason insomnia is a common complaint of the elderly.
You’ll find melatonin supplements in doses ranging from one milligram to ten milligrams, but for most people, it’s best to stick with three milligrams or less per day. While melatonin side effects aren’t generally serious, high doses can cause headaches, irritability, stomach pain, dizziness, and nightmares.
If you get tired on schedule but have trouble falling asleep once you’re in bed, take your melatonin supplement half an hour before bedtime. If your insomnia has turned you into a night owl and you’re trying to break a pattern of late-night alertness, take the supplement two hours before your desired bedtime.
Valerian root: Used for centuries as an herbal treatment for anxiety and insomnia, valerian root has a strong odor, but it is quite effective at inducing drowsiness. Some people drink valerian root tea, but because of its odor and somewhat unpleasant taste, most people prefer a capsule form. Side effects aren’t common but can include headaches and dizziness. For most people, a dose of 300 to 600 milligrams of valerian root per day is safe.
Chamomile: Another herb long used to treat sleep disorders, chamomile has mildly sedating properties that help calm your racing mind so you can drift off to sleep. Chamomile makes a very pleasant tea, and it also comes in capsule form.
Magnesium: Magnesium is found in many foods and is also naturally produced by the body, but many people are deficient in this crucial mineral, which helps relieve tension in the mind and body. Supplements with 100 to 350 milligrams of magnesium are safe for most people. High doses can cause diarrhea or an upset stomach.
Lavender: This pleasant-smelling flower has proven sleep-inducing and stress-reducing properties. Lavender essential oil is most often used in aromatherapy to treat insomnia, but you’ll also find lavender tea and capsules.
L-theanine: An amino acid found in both green and black tea leaves, L-theanine helps you relax and improves sleep quality. It’s often found in capsule or tablet form. The effective dose for most people is between 250 and 400 milligrams.
Glycine: Another amino acid with sleep-inducing properties, take up to five milligrams of glycine daily to improve your mood and your sleep.
While melatonin is the most popular natural sleep aid, there are many other ingredients that can help soothe you into sleep.
While occasional insomnia is easily treated with sleep support supplements, if your insomnia is very severe, chronic, or greatly interfering with your daily functioning, it’s time to seek your doctor’s help.
When choosing a sleep supplement, don’t fall for the hype. Look for a product made by a reputable manufacturer and research the ingredients.
Because there are so many ingredients used in sleep supplements, the price range is large, but as a general rule, these aren’t expensive products. You’ll find many effective sleep aids in the $5 to $20 range for a month’s supply.
Insomnia is often the result of sleep-busting habits and lifestyles. Here are some tips to speed your travels to the land of Nod.
Forgo caffeine after lunchtime. Caffeine lingers in the body longer than you may realize. While its effects peak within an hour, half of the caffeine you consume lingers in your body for as long as six hours, which can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
Keep your bedroom completely dark, quiet, and around 65°F to 68°F at night.
Stick with a set bedtime and waking time, even on weekends. Irregular schedules throw off your sleep cycle and lead to unrefreshing rest. Following a regular bedtime routine isn’t just for children; it helps people of every age wind down for sleep.
Say goodnight to social media, web surfing, and video gaming at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by tech devices reduces melatonin production.
Avoid heavy, spicy, or greasy bedtime snacks. You don’t want an upset stomach to keep you awake. Instead, have a small snack that combines protein and carbohydrates, such as cereal in milk, fruit and a small piece of cheese, peanut butter on toast, or a glass of warm milk.
Quickly and peacefully drift off to dreamland
While lower doses of melatonin are effective for most people, some require a higher dose to reliably reap the benefits of this sleep-inducing hormone. For them, Puritan’s Pride Super Strength Melatonin, containing ten milligrams per rapid-release capsule, is a sure ticket to a great night of sleep.
While we think our five picks are all excellent products, there are other good choices out there. Genius Sleep Aid has the smallest recommended dose of melatonin – 0.5 milligram – but combines it with sleep promoters glycine, L-theanine, and rutaecarpine, an herbal extract that helps remove caffeine from the body. If midnight waking is a problem, you’ll find sweet relief with Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets. No need to get out of bed for water – just pop a strawberry-flavored tablet under your tongue, let it dissolve naturally, and reap the benefits of one milligram of melatonin quickly entering your system.
Q. Are sleep supplements regulated by the FDA?
A. Other than OTC medications, such as antihistamines, the FDA does not regulate most sleep supplements. That means some products might be ineffective or may not actually contain the doses or ingredients the manufacturer claims. It’s always wise to purchase supplements made by established and well-regarded manufacturers, as well as to read plenty of reviews from legitimate websites before making your purchase.
Q. Is it better to use a single-ingredient sleep supplement or a product that combines several sleep aids?
A. An excellent question because each side has pros and cons. While combined ingredients can strengthen each other’s effects, if you have side effects, you won’t know specifically which ingredient caused them. Single-ingredient formulations make it easy to tailor the dosage to your specific needs, but they might not be as effective as a mixed product. The solution? Start with a single-ingredient product or sleep aid with only a few ingredients and see how your body reacts.
Q. Are sleep supplements safe?
A. The majority of sleep supplements sold in the United States are safe, but because they are not regulated by the FDA, bad reactions and side effects are often not reported. Research ingredients before making a purchase, stay away from megadoses, and only take the supplement as directed to reduce the admittedly already low chances of having a bad reaction to a sleep aid.
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