When sleep doesn’t come easily, we sometimes need a bit of help drifting off. However, many medications commonly prescribed to aid in sleep come with numerous side effects some of which can be downright dangerous. If you are struggling to get to sleep and you are wanting to try a natural sleep aid option before turning to a doctor to seek prescribed medication, then we have a few options for you here.
*If you are already taking prescribed medication we do suggest speaking to your doctor before getting off of it or trying any of these natural sleep aids.
Natural Sleep Aid Ingredients:
There are loads of different sleep aids on the market and with so many different ingredients it can get confusing on what they all do, how they work, if they are safe to use or not. So we are going to go through some of the most most commonly used ingredients in natural sleep aids. All to show you what they are, how they work, and what you need to know about them. This way when you need to find the right sleep aid for you, you’ll be able to detect which will work best for you simply by looking at the back of the label.
One of the most well known of the sleep supplements, melatonin is typically made by your body naturally.
Your body takes in external signals like the sunrise and sunset to set it’s circadian rhythm. Then it produces the hormone melatonin to regulate when you sleep. Some people either struggle to produce melatonin on their own, or at the proper times.
This can be caused by something as small as watching TV or being on your phone at night. The blue lights can confuse your circadian rhythm because it computes the light from electronics as daylight.
Typically naturally harvested from what we eat and stored within our own bodies, magnesium is a mineral commonly found in many foods.
We typically get enough magnesium out of the food we eat and then store it in our bones. Magnesium helps us to sleep by calming our busy minds and helping to relieve stress.
Magnesium is an incredibly useful mineral, it has a way of helping our bodies absorb other vitamins and minerals, while also opening GABA receptors. We will talk more about the benefits GABA has on sleep a little further down.
Want to know more about foods that naturally contain magnesium? Check out our post Foods High in Magnesium for Sleep to learn more.
Commonly used to treat insomnia for quite a while in America and Europe. It is said to help relax the mind and induce feelings of being sleepy.
Although in studies it has not been shown to induce feelings of sleepiness universally. Whether it is merely a placebo effect or not has yet to have been proven. You can find valerian root in a supplements form as well as in many sleepy time teas.
Don’t worry, supplements containing hops are not out to get you drunk. In fact when they are used primarily as a sleep aid, they do not need to contain alcohol at all. Hops were originally studied for their potential sleep aiding qualities when the workers picking in the fields were falling asleep on duty much more often than in any other field.
You may find that in a lot of teas and supplement blends that hops is used along side valerian root. Hops is most commonly used in beer, however it is not the alcohol that provides the sedentary effects. Studies have been done with supplements and non-alcoholic beers showing that it is a natural sleep aid.
CBD the seemingly magical ingredient that everyone is currently obsessing over. It is growing in popularity so fast in the medical industry. It seems there are claims that cannabidioil (CBD) can cure just about everything. While it is not a magical ingredient in seems to help greatly with stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
CBD oil that is derived from hemp has very little to no THC present. Which means you can use CBD oils without any psychoactive effects. This makes it much more safe to use than other cannabis derived products.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
You will find as you proceed further into this page that many of the herbal supplements work by increasing the ability to produce or open up GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter.
So how does it help you sleep? It reduces the activity of neurons in your brain and central nervous system. Which in turn has a broad effect on the body and mind. Including increased relaxation, reduced stress, balances mood, calms, alleviates pain, and most importantly promotes sleep.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that relieves anxiety and promotes relaxation. All of which is conducive to a better nights sleep and even getting to sleep faster. One common thread you will find in many of these supplements is that many of them relieve stress and anxiety more than those that cause sedative effects.
So many of these products will be helpful to relax and calm which gets you in the mood to sleep. This makes them more safe to use then getting knocked out by sedentary effects.
That good old post Thanksgiving dinner nap could potentially be caused by the high amounts of tryptophan in turkey. Or it could be from stuffing yourself full of mashed potatoes and wine. That will make you a it sleepy as well.
Tryptophan is found in a lot of the foods we eat from milk, eggs, nuts, and even salmon. Tryptophan is an amino acid that the human body can not synthesize itself. Which means it is an essential amino acid that must be extracted from the food we eat or from supplements.
What is really important to know is how/why it makes us feel sleepy. Tryptophan is a precursor for the chemical serotonin in the brain, which is associated with healthy sleep. The body uses serotonin to synthesize melatonin. So you see everything is all interconnected in order for our bodies to function and work properly.
Herbs & Extracts:
Smells lovely, calms irritability, and promotes sleepy vibes. Chamomile is a staple when it comes to herbal sleep aids. A gentle yet effective ingredient that has little to no complications with other ingredients. You will find this in just about everything. If you want to go the extra gentle directions, simply grab a cup of chamomile tea.
Also known for its relaxing scent, lavender is likely the most popular herbal sleep aid out there. The scent is known to relax and calm nerves. You can find a lavender from bath and body products, to candles and essential oils blends. This is a favorite among many and for good reason. It smells lovely and brings peace and relaxation.
Remember the amino acid GABA from earlier? Well, Passion Flower helps boost GABA levels in the brain. This slows down your brains processing and promotes sleep and relaxation. All so you can sleep better. Some people report sensations of dizziness when using passion flower, so we suggest only using right before bed.
This is a citrusy scented herb that is actually from the mint family. It has been used to cure all sorts of ailments including insomnia and anxiety since the Middle Ages. Typically found in teas alongside many of these other herbs as a calming sleep aid. You can also find lemon balm essential oil.
Very high in antioxidants, Ginkgo Biloba is a plant derived supplement that is used to cure many ailments. People often use it to reduce stress and induce feelings of calm and promote sleep. It can also improve cognitive function.
Like so many other ingredients on this list Kava is known to help reduce stress and anxiety. It is this effect that helps induce stress based insomnia. It is also known to reduce pain, so if you also have little aches and pains keeping you awake, kava might help.
St. John’s Wort
Known primarily for its antidepressant qualities, St. John’s Wort is an herb that stimulates GABA receptors in the brain. This helps to facilitate calmness and sleep. Often you will find that St. John’s Wort need Magnesium in order to better used and absorbed by the body. This combination is great for sleep promotion.
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Our Sleep Guide: Natural Sleep Aids
When it comes to finding the right natural sleep aid for you, it is simply not a one size fits all sort of thing. It really depends on what is causing you to stay awake. If it is stress or anxiety, then you will have a large number of options to choose from on this list. However, if you have a diagnosed sleep disorder then it may be more difficult to find a natural supplement that will be able to help give you relief. (Although, the supplements with true sedative effects, melatonin, or the amino acids like GABA may work for you.)
Again we want to stress that many of these natural sleep aids have side effects with different medications and have potential health risks for different people. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting to use any of these supplements even though they are not prescription, they can be strong and can create complications or have unwanted side effects.
Have more questions for us on any natural sleep aid? Simply go over to our Contact Us page and send us an email, we would love to help you out in anyway we can.