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Melatonin for Sleep continued...

Also, "melatonin supplements can be effective in treating certain sleep disorders, including jet lag," says Avidan. But studies suggest you must time the melatonin you take carefully to help with jet lag. On the day you depart, take melatonin when it is bedtime at your destination. Continue taking it for several days. It works best when traveling eastward -- and when crossing four or more time zones.

A few cautions: Melatonin is considered generally safe for short-term use. However, there have been concerns about risks of bleeding (especially in people taking blood-thinners like warfarin). There also is increased risk of seizure, particularly in children with brain disorders.

Valerian for Sleep

Valerian root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment for more than 2,000 years.

A review of 16 small studies suggests that valerian may help people fall to sleep faster. It also may improve the quality of sleep. Valerian becomes more effective over time, so it's best to take it every night for a short period of time.

Some people have stomach upset, headache, or morning grogginess with valerian. Taking valerian with sleeping medications or with alcohol can compound its effect, so don't use it with other sleep aids. Start with the lowest dose, then increase over several days' time. Valerian is considered safe to take for four to six weeks.

Kava for Sleep

The Kava plant is a member of the pepper family, and has been shown to help relieve anxiety. One review of six studies showed reduced anxiety among patients who took kava, compared with those who got a placebo. Another small study showed that both kava and valerian improved sleep in people with stress-related insomnia.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says that short-term use of kava is okay for patients with mild to moderate anxiety -- but not if you use alcohol or take medicines metabolized in the liver, including many cholesterol medicines. In fact, the FDA has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk for severe liver damage. Before taking kava, ask your doctor if kava is safe for you.

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