Getting a good night’s sleep is extremely important for your health. Sleep can improve your memory, concentration and critical thinking skills. It can even boost your mood and help you avoid psychological issues like anxiety and depression.
More importantly, sleep helps your body function properly in repairing cells and tissues. Lack of sleep can lead to physical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Despite the fact that sleep is so critical to our health, close to 50% of people in the U.S. suffer from occasional insomnia. It generally affects women more than men, and is more commonly seen in people over 65. While persistent insomnia requires medical treatment, most people just need a little extra help to get decent sleep. But what options do you have?
What are over-the-counter sleep aid options?
While over-the-counter sleep aids may be effective here and there, you should be aware that much remains unknown about their safety and effectiveness. Over-the-counter supplements include:
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces naturally and signals to your brain when it is time to sleep. It helps to regulate and maintain the sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). If you are struggling to get quality sleep or if you are suffering from jet lag, melatonin supplements may help. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and before giving melatonin to children or elderly people.
Valerian root is an herb commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. It promotes sleep by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which has a calming effect on the body and helps it relax. The herb can also shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. Valerian root can be consumed as a tea, or as an extract or tablet.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in regulating sleep, mood, heart health, bone health and metabolism. Similar to valerian root, it promotes sleep by increasing the GABA levels in your body. Aside from supplements, magnesium can also be naturally consumed in foods such as nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables, avocado and dairy products.
Chamomile, which is a popular herbal tea, has a calming effect and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also reduce inflammation in the body.
Commonly marketed under the brand name Benadryl, diphenhydramine is generally recommended for short-term use to manage a lack of sleep. It may cause daytime sleepiness, so avoid driving and operating heavy machinery while using it.
Can I get better sleep through lifestyle changes?
Not everyone needs sleeping aids, and you may want to avoid the potential side effects of over-the-counter supplements. Some people benefit from just making a few lifestyle changes, including:
- Getting in and out of your bed at the same time every day
- Avoiding the use of electronic devices at least 1 hour before sleep
- Wearing comfortable clothes before going to bed
- Avoiding caffeinated drinks at least 4 hours before bedtime
- Avoiding alcohol a few hours before bedtime
- Avoiding a heavy dinner
- Having dinner at least 2-3 hours before going to bed
- Keeping the room at a comfortable temperature
Talk to your doctor about prescription sleeping pills
If none of the options above help, you should consult with your doctor. They can assess whether you have underlying health conditions that may be interfering with your sleep. As a last resort, they may prescribe sleeping pills such as:
- “Z” drugs
- Kids With Autism Face Higher Odds of Vision Issues, But Many Don't Get Screened
- Mental Health Woes Double Women's Odds for Cervical Cancer
- Million-Person Study Finds Genes Common to Many Addiction Disorders
- Too Much Social Media Could Raise Risk for Eating Disorders
- Weaker Bones, Weakening Brain? Study Makes the Connection
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Choosing Wisely. Insomnia and Anxiety in Older People. https://www.choosingwisely.org/patient-resources/treating-insomnia-and-anxiety-in-older-people/
Top What Is the Best Sleep Aid? Related Articles
Insomnia SlideshowWhat is insomnia? Insomnia by definition is trouble falling or staying asleep. Insomnia causes are varied. Learn 10 tips on how to get a good night's sleep and avoid sleep disorders such as insomnia.
20 Tips to Beat InsomniaGood sleep hygiene leads to better sleep. Avoid insomnia and sleep better by minimizing stress, exercising, and taking proper naps. Learn the health benefits of good sleep. Discover how pets, allergies, electronics, and other distractions can rob you of a good night's sleep.
Are Sleeping Pills Bad for You?Sleeping pills are sedatives that may help people who are suffering from transient sleeping troubles. These medications are meant to be used for short periods. However, the overuse of sleeping pills has many side effects. It can lead to addiction, which is a major concern. There are multiple types of sleeping pills that work in different ways.
What Sleep-Disordered Breathing Conditions Are Treated With a CPAP Machine?A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine treats the following sleep-disordered breathing conditions including obstructive sleep apnea and Snoring.
How Do You Fall Asleep as Soon as You Hit the Bed?Insomnia or lack of sleep is a frustrating experience. It makes you irritable and dull, as well as affects your physical and mental performance. Poor sleep can cause depression, body pain, heart disease, and diabetes.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation?How do you know if you are deprived of sleep? Learn the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Sleep Disorders (How to Get a Good Night's Sleep)A number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best. Sleep needs vary from individual to individual and change throughout your life. The National Institutes of Health recommend about 7-9 hours of sleep each night for older, school-aged children, teens, and most average adults; 10-12 for preschool-aged children; and 16-18 hours for newborns. There are two stages of sleep; 1) REM sleep (rapid-eye movement), and 2) NREM sleep (non-rapid-eye movement). The side effects of lack of sleep or insomnia include:
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Concentration or memory problems
Lack of sleep and insomnia can be caused by medical conditions or diseases, medications, stress, or pain. The treatment for lack of sleep and insomnia depends upon the cause.
Insomnia Treatment (Sleep Aids and Stimulants)
Insomnia is difficulty in falling or staying asleep, the absence of restful sleep, or poor quality of sleep. Insomnia is a symptom and not a disease. The most common causes of insomnia are medications, psychological conditions, environmental changes and stressful events. Treatments may include non-drug treatments, over-the-counter medicines, and/or prescription medications.
Sleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and MoreLearn about the different types of sleep/wake disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. Explore the symptoms, causes, tests and treatments of sleep disorders.
Sleep QuizTake our Sleeping Quiz to learn which sleep disorders, causes, and symptoms rule the night. Trouble falling or staying asleep? Find out which medical treatments fight sleep deprivation, apnea, insomnia, and more!
Sleep: The Best and Healthiest Sleeping Positions for Your HealthWhat is the best and healthiest sleeping position? Learn ways to say good night to back pain, neck pain, snoring, arthritis, and airway obstructions like sleep apnea. You may sleep on your side, stomach, or back. What does your sleep position have to do with chronic pain? Find out how to sleep for a more restful and comfortable night.
What Is the Best Music to Listen to When Sleeping?As per studies, slow music or classical music is more relaxing that can help you sleep. Classical music or instrumental music can help slow the pulse and decrease levels of stress hormones. Relaxing music triggers changes to the body and, in many ways, mimics a sleepy state.
Which Way Should You Face Your Bed? Rules for a Better SleepThere is a lack of convincing scientific evidence to say that you should face your bed in a “particular” way or direction. However, as per the ancient Chinese practice, feng shui, you should face your headboard toward the south.
Why Am I Having Trouble Sleeping at Night?Having repeated difficulty with sleep initiation, maintenance or poor quality of sleep that occurs despite adequate time and opportunity for sleep, resulting in some form of daytime impairment is called insomnia.
Why Is Blue Light Bad for Sleep?Blue light is a visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelength and highest energy. Exposure to blue light affects the sleep-and-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, by altering the synthesis of melatonin in the brain.