Counting Sheep Isn’t The Answer
Approximately 70 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep problems. While certain lifestyle changes and prescription medications can help, many people have turned to natural relief solutions. Melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) are over-the-counter (OTC) remedies that have shown promise for treating various sleep issues.
More melatonin maybe
Perhaps the best-known natural solution for sleep is melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain that regulates circadian rhythm. Melatonin is produced naturally in the body, with levels highest in the evening, but can also be taken in supplement form. Supplemental melatonin is thought to be most beneficial in treating jetlag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD), and certain sleep problems in children. Short-term use of melatonin is likely safe for most people. However, concerns about the amount listed on the label being different than what is contained in the product have arisen, so caution is warranted with more frequent use.
A necessary mineral
Magnesium is a mineral that can be found in many foods and is also available in supplement form. A recommended dietary allowance (RDA) exists for magnesium in all life stages, but some people may benefit from taking more to help with sleep. Some studies have found that extra magnesium might help improve sleep quality, make falling asleep easier, and calm restless leg syndrome symptoms. Data is limited at this time and more studies are needed.
Rooted in sleep
Valerian is a tall flowering grassland plant, and the processed root is the part that has been most well-studied. This herb is thought to help people reduce the total time to fall asleep and sleep better overall. However, valerian root may not be completely risk-free as side effects including headache, dizziness, stomach problems and sleeplessness, have been reported. Another limitation of the existing data is that the exact dosing regimen that is most effective for sleep is unknown.
5-HTP, serotonin and sleep
Tryptophan, an amino acid derived from food, is converted to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in the body. 5-HTP then works to increase the production of serotonin in the brain, which helps regulate sleep. Some people choose to skip this conversion process altogether and opt just to take a 5-HTP supplement to increase serotonin levels. Small studies have found that this supplement may be effective in helping adults fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply. Remember 5-HTP takes time to work, and most effects are seen after taking the supplement for at least 6 weeks.
Rest up with these OTC solutions
Not getting enough sleep can be a serious problem. Injury, mental illness, chronic disease, poor quality of life, and lower productivity at work have all been associated with lack of sleep. While there are many treatment options available, these OTC solutions from the drug store may help those who prefer a natural route.