It doesn’t take long for most people to realize that their prescription sleep aids cause unwanted side effects. The search for a natural sleep aid can be tough and there aren’t many ways to determine a product’s effectiveness until you try it out first. Sleep is an important part of staying healthy and most people don’t have time to try a variety of products before they find the right one. Here’s why you may want to try a natural sleep aid to combat your sleeping disorder and how to pick the best one.
Insomnia occurs when a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Occasionally, they can both occur. Acute insomnia is short-term and is usually caused by stressful events, such as pressure at work, problems in your personal life, or when a tragic event occurs in your life. Acute insomnia may only last for a few days or even weeks.
Chronic insomnia occurs when a person doesn’t get effective sleep for a month or longer. It can be due to a serious medical condition, a sleep disorder, certain medications, or substance abuse. Other common causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, chronic pain, some medications, gastrointestinal symptoms, sinus or upper respiratory problems, neurological symptoms such as Parkinson’s disease, and endocrine or thyroid problems.
When you fail to get a good night’s sleep, you’re putting yourself at an increased risk for many health issues, including obesity, depression, stroke, heart attack, hypertension, and diabetes. Adults who sleep less than seven hours per night were shown to have higher BMI’s. They were also found to have higher levels of ghrelin, or a peptide that signals hunger, and lower levels of leptin, which is a hormone produced in the adipose tissue that suppresses appetite. Obesity may also prevent sleeping nightly by contributing to obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when fat accumulates in the airways and causes them to narrow.
Several studies have linked impaired sleep to glucose intolerance, which is a precursor for diabetes. According to one study, middle aged adults who slept five hours or less at night were 2.5 times more likely to develop diabetes compared to those who slept seven to eight hours at night. The same study found that those who sleep six hours a night were 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes.
The relationship between lack of sleep and diabetes was tested in a small study of 11 healthy males who were restricted to four hours of sleep for a total of six nights. The study found that the sleep loss led to impaired glucose intolerance when compared to a full night’s sleep. The study also found that glucose clearance was 40 percent slower with sleep loss than it was with a full night's sleep.
Sleep loss is a common symptom of those who have suffered a heart attack. Several large studies have linked stroke to sleep loss. Sleep loss may also increase the risk of depression, anxiety and alcohol use. A large study showed that sleep deprivation affects mood to a greater extent than it does cognitive function. Sleep loss is also associated with higher risks of depression, anxiety, alcohol use, and even suicide attempts.
Lastly, sleep loss increases the overall risk of deadly diseases. Collective studies have shown that deaths were more prevalent in groups of people who slept less than seven hours a night. Those who slept five hours or less had a 15 percent increased risk of death from all causes. Other studies have linked sleep loss to heart attack deaths. Although not fully understood, the link between death and sleep appears to be contingent on a person’s total sleeping time each night over an extended time of not sleeping.
Natural aids work by promoting sleep without the use of prescription pills or harsh chemicals. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to determine the best product. A natural sleep aid helps promote sleep by relaxing the nervous system, reducing anxiety and depression while providing a mild sedative effect. A properly working sleep aid should help you wake up feeling refreshed and clear headed without any drowsy side effects.
Melatonin naturally aids in helping people with insomnia get a solid night’s sleep and is considered one of the most effective nutrients for that purpose. For a product to be considered one of the best natural sleep aids, it should contain a combination of several safe and effective ingredients. Look for one that contains an average of six milligrams of melatonin to effectively aid sleep by reducing the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. One study showed that melatonin helped subjects fall asleep faster and reduced the amount of time it took them to fall back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night.
In addition to melatonin, the best natural sleep aid should contain a few other proven ingredients to enhance natural sleeping time. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that has been shown to improve sleep conditions. A 2015 study on the recovery of professional athletes found that eating a diet high in foods that enhance l-tryptophan production helped them sleep better at night and recover faster. But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to reap the benefits of recovery at night. Even modern day life stresses require recovery time, and sleep is how your body repairs and recovers for the next day.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to sleep loss while valerian root is best known for its sedation and relaxation properties. Most of the time, it is used in combination with chamomile and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) to calm the nerve cells in the brain and block brain signals that cause anxiety.
Natural sleep aids contains ingredients that go beyond relaxation. Products that are 100 percent natural may also help fight depression, ease anxiety, and naturally detox the body. Toxins accumulate in the body due to stress, improper diet, lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle. A superior natural sleep aid should contain at least a few of the following ingredients:
Encapsulation should be just as natural as its ingredients. Some capsules contain gluten, soy, dairy and other inferior ingredients. Look for a product with capsules that are free of sugar and have easily digestible ingredients, such as rice flour and hypromellose, which helps ensure the herbs make it past the stomach’s harsh acid where they can be effectively absorbed into the bloodstream.
A natural sleep aid should contain 100 percent natural ingredients without added chemicals, and free of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, refined sugars, or other irritants. The formula should contain precise measures of only the highest-quality herbs and be safe enough for children, the elderly, and those with sensitive systems.
A natural sleep aid is best used as part of a healthy bedtime routine. You may choose to follow a few of these tips for the best sleep possible.
Most people think dinner should be the biggest meal of the day, but eating too much food late at night can keep you awake. Instead of eating three large meals, focus on eating smaller meals throughout the day so you won’t overload your digestive system, which can cause problems while you are trying to sleep.
Heavy meals mean that your digestive system has to work harder through the night to break down the food. Try to eat lighter meals every two to three hours to improve digestion. Your day should look something like this: breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. A chicken salad and an olive oil and vinegar dressing with a large glass of water is a light and filling meal that can help you sleep. Especially late at night, stay away from fast food, alcohol, and caffeine.
Eating a heavy dinner and watching television for a few hours before bed may seem relaxing, but it’s one of the worst things you can do at night. Be sure to power down all electronics two hours before going to bed. If you have some down time after dinner, go for a relaxing walk, take a bath, or read a book. Stay away from any blue light or stimulating technology.
Approximately one hour before going to sleep, take your sleep aid as directed. By the time you crawl into bed, your mind and body should be relaxed and well rested enough so you can get a full night’s rest without feeling drowsy the next morning.