Natural Sleep Aids can be Hit or Miss
Another issue is that no natural sleep aids are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Thus there is not little scientific documentation of effectiveness or safe doses. Also the purity of the natural sleep aid products is not regulated and can be a problem.
A lot has been written about melatonin as a sleep aid. People have natural melatonin in their systems as a hormone. Increasing melatonin levels are found when people are asleep.
The natural rise in the body of melatonin levels is triggered by darkness. Studies, however, have not found melatonin supplements any more effective at treating insomnia than sugar pill placebos. Some positive study results were found for helping jet lag and night shift workers.
Some people say that the tryptophan in roasted turkey is what puts everybody to sleep after Thanksgiving. Actually, there is many foods ranging from bananas to cod (which has more tryptophan than turkey).
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used in making the chemical serotonin in your brain. You may have heard about how serotonin levels are low in people with depression. Serotonin also is the chemical used by the brain to tell the body to sleep.
Many people say that tryptophan supplements help them with sleeping problems. The results of clinical research, however, are mixed with normal patients. There is some indication that tryptophan aids sleep in people with disorders such as seasonal affective disorder or premenstrual problems.
Herbs as Sleep Aids
The herbs that are thought by some to be helpful with insomnia include chamomile, St. John’s Wort, valerian. lemon balm, kava kava, passionflower, and lavender. Many people like chamomile tea because of its gentle sedative properties and it is generally safe, except for people who have plant or pollen allergies.
One serious problem with St. John’s Wort is that it can make many prescribed medications less effective, including prescription blood thinners, birth control pills and some anticancer medications. Evidence about the usefulness of valerian is inconclusive. The problem is that valerian can cause vivid dreams, blurred vision, changes in heart rhythm, and excitability if taken in inappropriate doses.
Kavais a natural substance from the western Pacific that is marketed as being good for anxiety and stress as well as insomnia. Some studies have concluded that kava kava is more effective than a placebo for treatment of short-term anxiety.
While kava kava roots are considered safe, some supplements contain kava kava stems and leaves, which have reported bad effects on the liver. Lemon balm is considered to have a mild relaxing effect and is generally safe. However, lemon balm inhibits the absorption of thyroid drugs so should be avoided by people taking that medication.
One variety of the passionflower, known as Maypop, has long been used by Native Americans. The US colonists learned to make a tea with the herb for medicinal purposes, including insomnia. A study on the use of Maypop for anxiety found that it was as effective as a prescription drug, but with less side effects. The use of Maypop for treatment of insomnia has not been studied.
Lavender is often used for relaxation and insomnia. Sometimes people make a drink with lavender flower heads and boiling water for a bedtime drink. People with have plant allergies should avoid lavender. Pregnant women should not take lavender internally.
Hit or Miss Effectiveness
None of the natural sleep aids have been proven in studies to be generally effective. Natural sleep aids may help some but not the majority of people who take them. The effectiveness of natural sleep aids are definitely hit or miss.