In an era where Americans are trying to reduce stress and improve their health without resorting to prescription drugs, effective natural sleep remedies are worth their weight in gold.
Our culture struggles with sleep.The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in three Americans do not get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep has often been considered a badge of honor in our workaholic culture. Only recently have we begun to recognize how detrimental sleep deprivation is to our health, our productivity and our basic safety (underslept workers are 70 percent more likely to be involved in accidents than those who get adequate rest). And with studies showing serious health problems may result from long-term use of prescription drugs for sleep, it’s no wonder many people are trying to ascertain what is the most effective natural sleep aid.
Why Natural Sleep Remedies?
There are plenty of over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs available for insomnia and sleeplessness—but unfortunately many of these are accompanied by side effects, like next-day grogginess. Prescription drugs also carry the risk of addiction, and overuse of these medications can have serious long-term health consequences, from memory problems to behavioral disorders and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when discontinued. Most physicians agree that these medications should not be used indefinitely.
Natural sleep aids have grown in popularity because they are typically gentler, not habit-forming, and can be used long-term with fewer side effects. (Check with your doctor to ensure that any natural sleep remedy you try won’t conflict with any medication you might already be taking.)
What is the Most Effective Natural Sleep Aid?
The short answer: it depends. Everyone is different, and the remedy that works for you might not work for someone else.
Here are the natural sleep remedies we find most effective:
- Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is often cited as a pain reliever, but it’s also garnered attention as a natural sleep aid. Research indicates that CBD actually addresses sleep problems by reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Sleeplessness can have many causes, but insomnia is frequently been connected to our increased stress and anxiety. Worry is particularly good at keeping our brains awake, and anxiety can make us feel that it’s actually not safe to let down our guard and fall asleep. An in-depth 2015 study concluded that “evidence from human studies strongly supports the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders,” which is why many people have started incorporating CBD into their end-of-day routine.
- Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the human body that signals the brain when it’s time to sleep. The production cycle of melatonin is influenced by light: Melatonin levels naturally rise in the evening and fall in the morning. Adding a dose of melatonin at night can promote sleep, and is considered safe by medical professionals.
- Lavender. This popular herb is known as the Swiss Army knife of essential oils, because it has so many beneficial properties—and aiding with sleep is one of them. Lavender is a low-stakes, easy-to-try herb—simply add a quality lavender oil to a diffuser or bath. (Lavender oil can be used on the skin as well, but needs to be diluted with another oil.)
- Suanzaoren decoction. Suanzaoren decoction is a plant compound derived from the seeds of a shrub called wild jujube. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have used this remedy to treat insomnia for millennia, and recent research shows that it increases sleep activity.
When it comes to determining what is the most effective natural sleep aid, the answer is whatever remedy works best for you. Though natural sleep remedies do involve some trial and error, many people feel more comfortable using a natural sleep aid, especially if they may need long-term help getting to sleep. But keep in mind that any sleep remedy is going to be more effective if you practice good habits that help your body sleep naturally: evaluating your caffeine intake, avoiding phone and computer screens close to bedtime, creating a wind-down routine in the evenings that allows you to truly relax. Lifestyle changes geared to help you get good sleep will increase the chance that the natural sleep aid you choose will be more more effective.