By Jennifer Lang, Natural Solutions
Americans spend billions on prescription sleep aids each year, even though the drugs produce a number of unwanted side effects. Natural sleep remedies, on the other hand, are generally side effect-free. For the most part, they help you fall and stay in deep sleep without relying on sedatives. And because they’re muscle relaxants, they also help alleviate pain and may even improve libido. Some to consider:
L-theanine, an amino acid (protein) derived from green tea, improves deep sleep and helps people maintain a calm alertness during the day. It also plays a role in the formation of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s critical for sleep. Take 50 to 200 mg at bedtime; L-theanine can also be used for daytime anxiety.
Hops reduce hot flashes in menopausal women, studies show, and they also reduce anxiety and help muscles relax enough for you to fall asleep. Take 30 to 120 mg at bedtime. Often used in combination with valerian and lemon balm, hops have to be dried to have any medicinal effect–the hops in beer, however tasty, provide no sleep benefit.
Passionflower (Passiflora) is an herb commonly used as a calming agent. Take 90 to 360 mg at bedtime.
Valerian helps reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep you get–without next-day sedation. Take 200 to 800 mg at bedtime. (Valerian causes wakefulness in some people; if that’s the case for you, take it during the day to reduce overall anxiety.)
5HTP (hydroxytryptophan) is what your body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin. One downside: It can take up to six weeks to start working. Take 200 to 400 mg at bedtime. If you also take serotonin-raising medications (for example, antidepressants), make sure your holistic practitioner supervises the use of the 5HTP to keep serotonin levels from going too high.
Melatonin retrains your circadian rhythm so you become sleepy when the lights dim and wake up more alert at morning light. Take 3 mg at bedtime for three nights and gradually increase to 6 mg if necessary. Melatonin is not recommended for teens, however.