Are Natural Sleep Aids Safe?

There are countless prescription medications that can be used to treat insomnia or other sleeping disorders. Popping a pill every night before bed may seem like the perfect way to resolve sleep issues, but there are serious downsides to taking these medications.

People who take prescription medication to help them sleep often experience a number of unpleasant side effects. It’s common for adults who take sleeping pills to wake up feeling dizzy, light-headed, and more tired than they were the night before. Some users even report sleepwalking or temporary memory impairment as a result of taking these pills on a regular basis. Sleeping pills can also be addictive, which means your body might start to depend on them to fall asleep.

Fortunately, there are alternative options available. Natural sleep aids are sold over-the-counter at drug stores, grocery stores, and natural food stores. But are they safe? Here’s what you need to know:

What Are the Most Popular Natural Sleep Aids?

There are a slew of different supplements and herbal medicines that are considered natural sleeping aids. One of the most popular? Melatonin. We bet you saw that one coming. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in your brain that’s best known as the primary regulator of your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain releases Melatonin in response to a decrease in environmental light. As dusk falls, it begins to work its magic making you feel drowsy and ready for bed. As dawn approaches, Melatonin levels start to decline so your body is ready to wake up in the morning. Because melatonin promotes rest, many adults choose this option before bed.

Chamomile is another popular natural sleeping aid. Drinking chamomile tea before bed can increase your levels of glycine, which is an amino acid that promotes relaxation. Having a cup of chamomile tea won’t knock you out cold for the night, but it can help relieve stress and anxiety that might be keeping you awake.  

Adults who are not getting enough sleep sometimes take valerian root, which is another well-known natural sleeping aid. Consuming valerian root can lead to an increase in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation, so having higher levels of it in your system can help calm your brain and make it easier to fall asleep.  

This is clearly not an all-inclusive list of natural sleeping aids. There are far too many to name, so it’s important to remember that other options are available. These are simply the natural options that tend to be most popular.

Are Natural Sleep Aids Approved By the FDA?

Every medication — whether it is prescription only or available over-the-counter — is heavily regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before a medicine ends up on store shelves, it must be thoroughly tested to ensure it’s safe and that it produces the desired results. Natural sleeping aids are classified as dietary supplements, which means that the FDA has to approve each individual ingredient.

Dietary supplements are comprised of dietary ingredients, each of which must pass a comprehensive safety review by the FDA. It’s important to never assume that a supplement is a good fit for you just because it’s on store shelves, but rest assured supplements are not permitted to make claims that are not backed by scientific evidence.

Side Effects of Natural Sleep Aids

Everyone’s body is different. Just because a sleeping aid is natural doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be side effect-free. That being said, these side effects are usually far less intense than those caused by prescription medications.

Are Natural Sleep Aids Safe?

Safety should always come first. Using a natural sleeping aid responsibly means taking the right amount of it and getting approval from your doctor prior to incorporating it into your routine. Your doctor will be able to advise as to whether a specific supplement is a good fit for you, as well as how much of it to take at once.

Natural sleeping aids are great alternatives to potentially dangerous and addictive prescription sleeping pills. Thanks to these natural options, sleep-deprived adults can finally get the rest they need without putting harmful chemicals into their bodies.

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