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Women's Health

Natural Sleep Aids and Remedies

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If you're searching for a natural sleep aid to put an end to your insomnia, here's something to keep in mind. Some sleep aids and herbal remedies may help induce sleepiness. But natural products and dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. That makes it difficult to judge their safety and effectiveness. That's why it's important to know as much as you can about sleep herbs before you try a product.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in the center of your brain. Melatonin regulates the body's circadian rhythms. Those are daily rhythms such as your sleep-wake cycle. The levels of melatonin in the blood are highest prior to bedtime.

Can melatonin help me sleep?

Melatonin may improve sleep. Scientific findings show that melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep ("sleep latency"), increases feelings of "sleepiness," and may increase the duration of sleep.

Melatonin has been used successfully for sleep enhancement in healthy individuals, as well as to reduce feelings of jet lag during global travels. This natural hormone is also being tested as a sleep aid with the elderly and other populations. In addition, studies are focusing on whether or not melatonin can help improve sleep patterns in individuals with depression.

Are there risks associated with taking melatonin?

Melatonin, like all natural dietary supplements, is unregulated and untested for long-term use in humans. Some people find that melatonin causes grogginess and depression. Others report falling asleep quickly with melatonin only to awaken in the middle of the night. Still, studies show that melatonin is safe with short-term use (three months or less).

How much melatonin does it take to help increase sleep?

A host of studies show that as little as 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams may be enough for most people. Experts suggest that the fast-release melatonin is possibly more effective as a sleep remedy than the slow-release formulas.

Is valerian a helpful sleep remedy?

Valerian is an herbal extract. It is one of the leading natural supplements for managing anxiety and insomnia. Some limited findings show that valerian may reduce the time needed to fall asleep and may improve sleep quality. Unlike the benzodiazepines, most people feel no morning grogginess after taking valerian. Other findings were not as promising. They showed that when compared to a placebo, valerian didn't relieve anxiety or insomnia any better than the placebo.

There is some support for the idea that using valerian over a period of time (such as over four weeks) may be more effective than taking it one night only. People who are poor sleepers may find more benefit that those who are normally good sleepers.

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