Trouble sleeping is one of the most common conditions that first world citizens deal with today. For some hopeful sleepers, prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs for sleep aid can be intimidating. There is always potential for dependency, withdrawal, and the risk of getting a little bit too drowsy.
This might be the reason why so many people with sleeping troubles prefer to try more natural solutions to calm their restlessness. Natural remedies seem to be much more gentle on the body, won’t cause any type of physical dependency, and could perhaps add a few side benefits for your health.
One of the most popular natural sleep alternatives is melatonin. However, is that your best bet for a natural sleep aid, or are there better options out there?
Is Melatonin to be Avoided?
Melatonin is the natural hormone that your brain produces in response to your senses experiencing darkness. During the sunlit morning, when you go outside and expose your eyes to the daylight, which signals your brain to produce serotonin, a similar chemical to melatonin.
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps calm your mood by giving you feelings of safety, comfort and directed focus. It helps you wake up in the morning, which is why doctors recommend that you get a few minutes, of unfiltered sunlight in your eyes. If you do this, your day will be boosted with a better mood and feelings of confidence and comfort. Getting sunlight in your eyes is a great natural and free treatment for depression and anxiety as well.
Once the sun goes down, your brain converts the serotonin it created during the day into melatonin, which helps you to relax into lowered brain wave states. So when you are in the darkness, melatonin starts to naturally be produced from what was previously serotonin. This is the natural way that animals fall asleep in nature every day.
Melatonin can be taken directly in supplement form, but there is much controversy surrounded by this. Some say that melatonin gives them headaches and does not actually improve the overall quality of your sleep. That is what we are trying to achieve in the first place, right?
Many health experts advise against taking melatonin because it can be considered glorified hormone therapy. That’s because these sleep chemicals actually are hormones. Administering these compounds to your body in an unnatural way could affect negative feedback loops that could have long-term effects.
Therefore, it is probably better to manage your brain’s hormone system naturally by allowing your senses to be exposed to the appropriate level of natural light during the day. In the morning, try to get some naked sunlight in your eyes to wake up and feel good. You can read our guide here on how to kickstart your circadian rhythm.
When it’s almost time for bed, make sure that only low-light sources can reach your eyes so that natural melatonin can be produced for quality and restful sleep.
While you are doing that, you can supplement with nutrient and herbal foods to further assist your body in falling asleep and resting the way it is supposed to.
The Best Melatonin-Free Sleep Aids
Below we'll dig into the best sleep aids that are free of melatonin. These are natural herbs that you can find in quality supplements.
1. Lemon Balm Leaf Extract
A member of the mint family, lemon balm is a versatile herb that can be used in cooking or taken as a supplement. In both cases, consumption of lemon balm will promote better sleep and relieve anxiety. Many believe it to be a natural pain killer and a digestive aid as well.
Lemon balm has been used since the Dark Ages to help heal wounds and insect bites. But it was also preferred because it helped to relax and sedate patients who needed to rest and rejuvenate.
The most useful component of lemon balm is called eugenol, an oil-like substance found it many other plants like basil and cloves. When consumed whole or in a tea, eugenol can soothe the nervous system and drift you away into restful sleep.
Its effects on the nervous system can be seen in the way it can prevent muscle spasms. If restless leg or twitching seems to be causing your insomnia, perhaps lemon balm would be the ideal treatment for you. You can simply take its leaf in a capsule before bed, or steep the whole leaf in boiling water for ten minutes to make a tea.
2. Valerian Root
Prescription drugs for anxiety like Xanax or Valium can also increase GABA in the brain, but they work in a more direct way. It’s as if these drugs force the existing GABA out into your brain
For insomnia, it is best to stay on a valerian root supplementation regimen for at least two weeks to see how it can work for you. Two hundred to five hundred milligrams seem to be ideal concentrations for those looking to get asleep soundly. You can take the herb directly within a capsule or brew one to four grams of dried herb in one cup of water for about 12 minutes to make a tea.
3. Passion Flower
A plant native to both North and South America, the passion flower has been appreciated for millennia because of its ability to have a unique calming effect. The Native Americans and Aztecs have used this herb to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures and hypomania.
Like lemon balm, it seems to be a nervous system relaxant that can promote feelings of comfort while reducing muscle spasms. Also like with L-theanine, alpha brain waves are facilitated, but in a more subtle way. This may be all you need for treating your insomnia, however.
Passion flower can be taken as an extract in a tincture or liquid, as well as capsules with the dry herb. It can also be made into a tea, because this is another natural herb. You can boil the dry leaf or flower directly for a few minutes and then enjoy an hour before bed.
Are There Any Side Effects of These Natural Sleep Aids?
Compared to those of prescription drugs or OTC medicines, side effects will be much less risky for the natural sleep aids. Of course, you shouldn’t take too much of anything, even if it is a nutrient that occurs naturally in your body. Everything should be taken in moderation.
If you accidentally overdose with one or more of these natural ingredients, you are most likely to experience mild to moderate nausea, intense or vivid dreams, or impaired judgement. It is also possible that each individual ingredient could cause an allergic reaction, so make sure that you are not allergic to any of them before you supplement.
At Utzy, we fully understand what you are going through when it comes to struggling to sleep at night, as well as obtaining restful and good quality sleep. Our experts put forth extensive efforts to understanding each individual ingredient in our sleep support products to maximize benefits and quality.
Utzy will be here every day working towards researching better ways to understand and solve your potential health problems so that you can feel excellent all day, every day.