Sleep Aids

Sleep Aids

What You Should Know About Sleep Aids

One-third of Americans don't get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation's 2020 Sleep in America Poll[1]. Most people understand the need for sleep and the pain of sleep loss. Chronic sleep loss may cause immune system weakness, depression, and Alzheimer's disease, according to study.

However, pharmacies are full of bogus sleep aids. Supplement makers are also exempt from FDA claims and efficacy restrictions. Many nutritional supplements overpromise and underdeliver, according to severe insomnia doctors.

"Numerous supplements have some data to support their use to improve certain aspects of sleep, but it's usually a subtle effect," says Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., director of the behavioral sleep medicine clinic at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, Arizona. If you have persistent sleep issues, consult a doctor.

Natural Sleep Aids

Biomolecules and Therapeutics says natural sleep aids can treat mild to moderate insomnia and sleep issues. Over-the-counter vitamin, mineral, plant, and naturally occurring sleep aids like melatonin are included.

Natural sleep aids have little negative effects, unlike barbiturates, which can cause addiction. Due to their safety, chronic insomniacs and mild insomniacs may prefer natural sleep aids. However, natural sleep aid mechanism, efficacy, and side effects research is needed.

Effective Natural Sleep Aids

Since the FDA does not approve or regulate natural sleep aids, it is difficult to evaluate their safety and efficacy. Melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, CBD, tryptophan, THC, valerian root, and lavender are popular natural sleep aids. Your sleep issues and preferences determine the best natural sleep aid. (falling asleep, staying asleep, etc.). Talk to your doctor about how to improve your sleep.


GABA modulates brain cell communication and sends chemical messages throughout the brain and nervous system. GABA inhibits neurons. GABA supplements may assist anxiety and sleep because many prescription sleep aids raise brain GABA levels. Passiflora Extract is known to increase GABA levels before bed.


GABA: Is It Worth Trying?

Brain GABA sedates. Oral GABA as a supplement is different.

A 2020 review of studies on GABA supplements and GABA-rich foods such brown rice and oolong tea found modest evidence for GABA's sleep effects, but further study is needed[2]. Grandner says GABA doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier. We wouldn't need sleeping drugs if GABA supplements affected brain GABA.

Worth a try?

GABA pills may help you sleep.



Melatonin signals your circadian rhythm to sleep. Human pineal glands release melatonin when light decreases, signifying sleep.

Synthetic melatonin is sold over-the-counter in the US, while it requires a prescription elsewhere.

Melatonin: Is It Worth Trying?

Melatonin can help people sleep, according to peer-reviewed research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and Journal of Sleep Medicine Reviews, but many people misunderstand how it works.

Melatonin regulates sleep time, not induces it, according to Grandner. Taking a half milligram to three milligrams of melatonin one to two hours before bedtime (just before your body starts manufacturing it naturally) will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Grandner warns that earlier loss of consciousness may result in quicker awakening.

"The more, the merrier" does not apply.  He says too much melatonin can irritate your stomach and even interrupt your sleep pattern. You want to regulate your body's melatonin levels to make it sleep. The body can counteract high melatonin levels as system errors.

Does it work?

Melatonin may help occasional sleeplessness. Melatonin's safety and efficacy for persistent insomnia are unproven, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American College of Physicians.




Tryptophan, an important amino acid, helps to the maintenance of nitrogen balance and the formation of niacin, which is necessary for the synthesis of serotonin. (also known as the "feel-good" or relaxation neurotransmitter). Only serotonin can make the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

Tryptophan causes Thanksgiving turkey tiredness in the US. Beef, cheese, turkey, chicken, eggs, yogurt, and fish are high in this important amino acid.

Tryptophan is available as a nutritional supplement despite being banned in the US in the late 1980s because of an epidemic of EMS, a potentially fatal muscle and nerve disorder. In 2005, the ban was lifted because the disaster was caused by a single manufacturer's shady production procedures, not tryptophan.

Tryptophan: Is It Worth Trying?


Most tryptophan studies from the 1970s and 1980s show that mild sleep disruption sufferers who take at least 1 gram feel sleepier and fall asleep faster.

Grandner cautions that it is not a sleep aid and cannot treat severe insomnia. Like melatonin, too much good is bad. Tremors, nausea, and vertigo increase at greater doses. These negative effects may occur with tryptophan or a serotonin-boosting medication. (like RX antidepressants).


Does it work?


Consult your doctor before taking tryptophan with other drugs.




5-HTP, like tryptophan, produces serotonin. Some think it works better because serotonin is produced before tryptophan. After the tryptophan ban, it became a sleep aid and antidepressant.

5-HTTP: Is It Worth Trying? 

5-HTP may induce sleep. In a 2010 American Journal of Therapeutics study, participants who took GABA and 5-HTP had longer, better naps[3]. 5-HTP pills raised serotonin levels in rodents in 2004.

Does it work? 

Due to the low risk of side effects and short duration, Grandner does not oppose 100 mg of 5-HTP. Vertigo and constipation may occur. Despite the scientific community's longtime interest in 5-HTP, there are not enough peer-reviewed research to suggest it to patients.CBD/THC




The most studied cannabis sativa phytocannabinoids are CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. (THC). These phytocannabinoids affect the endocannabinoid system. This system controls cell-to-cell communication, metabolism, and immune response.

THC and CBD are accessible in pills, meals, entrees, liquid tinctures, and more. They're interchangeable. CBD and THC, according to certain hypotheses, compliment one another and become more potent when consumed together.

CBD and THC: Is It Worth Trying? 

Despite CBD and THC users' claims, evidence advises skepticism. A 2021 Addictive Behaviors study found that "Users have increased expectations of cannabis as a sleep aid, but there are few associations between cannabis use and sleep outcomes[4]." A 2019 Permanente Journal study found that CBD reduced anxiety, which may help some people fall asleep[5].

Does it work? 

Scientists are unsure. Given the growing popularity (and legalization) of cannabis in many states, experts expect a rapid increase in peer-reviewed, high-quality research on the issue.


Valerian root


Valerian root is a perennial herb from North America, Asia, and Europe. A research in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine[1] found that the Roman Empire utilized it to treat sleeplessness and anxiety.

Valerian supplements are made from plant stems, roots, and rhizomes. The dried herb makes pills, while the roots produce drinks or tinctures.

Valerian: Is It Worth Trying?


Clinical investigations have demonstrated that valerian root supplements increase sleep quality and reduce sleep time, according to the American Botanical Council.

The sedative and sleep-inducing effects of valerian root, a popular natural sleep aid, are unknown. Valerian may release GABA in the brain and inhibit the enzyme that degrades it, causing sedation.

Does it work? 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found no evidence that valerian root helps people sleep. However, valerian root may improve sleep quality and duration without side effects.


Thirty Lavandula species grow in the Mediterranean. (but now widely cultivated). Purple blossom spikes distinguish English lavender from French lavender.Roman baths have long used lavender. Lavender is often eaten or used in aromatherapy to assist sleep.


Lavender reduces minor insomnia in numerous trials. Aromatherapy with lavender oil proved as helpful as pharmaceutical medicines for insomnia in four elderly individuals who had stopped taking benzodiazepines.

However, most lavender sleep research is modest, requiring larger, well-organized clinical trials.

Lavender: Is It Worth Trying?

Lavender oil is safe for oral use and aromatherapy, although its effects during pregnancy are unknown.

Does it work?


Due to a lack of large, peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials, CBD, valerian root, and lavender are difficult to evaluate as sleep aids. Natural sleep remedies may work better depending on your sleep issues.

Consult your doctor to choose the best natural sleep aid for you. Natural sleep aids may interact poorly with other medications or be contraindicated depending on your medical history. Medical specialists can also recommend sleep aid dose and administration schedules.


Sleep aids safe?

Herbal sedatives, like any drugs, can cause side effects. Because nutritional supplements are regulated less than medicines, their active ingredients may vary from batch to batch. To ensure quality control, Grandner advises testing supplements with significant supplement companies.

If you take prescription drugs or have a medical condition, ask your doctor before taking dietary supplements.


Are sleep aids during pregnancy safe?

Pregnant women may utilize 5-HTP or melatonin to relax. Natural sleep aids may be dangerous during pregnancy due to a lack of data. Pregnancy-safe sleep aid studies are scarce.

Ask your doctor about sleeping aids if you're pregnant.


Five Sleep Improvement Tips

Sleep hygiene and lifestyle habits affect many people's sleep. Grandner's top sleep advice:

  1. Be consistent. Sleeping regularly benefits the body. Even on weekends, stick to the same bedtime and wake up schedule.
  2. Avoid stimulants six hours before bed. Late afternoon and evening caffeine consumption is not advised. Chocolate can also stimulate. Certain blood pressure drugs are stimulants. Ask your doctor if you can take these drugs early.
  3. Turn off all screens an hour before night to reduce light exposure. (or two hours for patients who are sensitive to sleep problems). Blue light from phones and other devices further limits melatonin generation. Reduce illumination. A study found that blue light-blocking eyewear enhances melatonin production and sleep.
  4. Avoid late-night drinking. If you're digesting a big meal before bed, you're less likely to fall asleep. Reflux can keep people awake if they eat too late. Consuming less reduces night time bathroom breaks.
  5. Stimulation control therapy (SCT). Grandner claims stimulation control therapy is the most affordable treatment. 1970s SCT research began. It outperforms doctor-prescribed sleeping pills. First, establish a sleep pattern and a cool, quiet, dark bedroom. Always sleep on your bed. (and perhaps sex). Leave bed after 10 minutes. Rest again. Avoid daytime naps and wake up at the same time every day, regardless of sleep. Grandner claims that folding laundry on your bed will make you asleep.

James Freeman


Liam Marshall, the friendly fitness coach, has spent 14 years sharing his love for sports and fitness. With degrees in sports science, he crafts workouts that fit like your favorite jeans. Beyond the gym, he organizes sports clinics and tech-savvy fitness apps that motivate people worldwide. He's all about making fitness doable for everyone, and it's not just about bodies – it's boosting confidence. In 2019, he scored the "Virginia Fitness Coach of the Year" award. Outside the fitness world, he loves family time and hikes in Shenandoah National Park. Liam's journey from a small-town fitness fan to a big-time coach is all about passion, inspiring people to see fitness as a body-and-mind thing. Catch him on Instagram to stay in the loop!