Sleep supplements can be an effective way to improve sleep. They vary a great deal. They can come, for example, from wholly natural organic sources and centuries old folk medicine or result from the latest in cutting-edge science. The thing they have in common is a promise to help you fight insomnia and enjoy healthy sleep patterns.
The tradition of sleep aids, tablets and other supplements is long. Herbal remedies, including teas from Teabox, are thought to go back millennia. Today, they go by various labels including hypnotics, sedatives and tranquillisers. Some require a medical prescription but many can be bought over the counter at chemists, health food shops and supermarkets. It’s never been easier to find help to drift off to the Land of Nod.
What Are Sleep Tablets, Pills & Supplements?
Under the broad ‘sleep medicines’ label, supplements treat the causes and symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia itself is a broad term to describe problems sufferers have falling and staying asleep at night. Experiencing poor sleep is relatively common. It happens at various points in our lives often related to life events, such as children, work stress or anxiousness. To help, many turn to pills, tablets and supplements to help.
It is worth noting that chronic sleep deprivation, left untreated, can lead to serious health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and heart failure. In these cases, it is always worth seeking a professional medical opinion.
To address short periods of insomnia and other minor sleep issues, many people turn to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements to help them drift off at night. There are countless options and combinations. The important thing is to find the right approach for you.
How Do Sleeping Pills and Supplements Work?
Many over-the-counter sleeping supplements rely on antihistamine effects to cause drowsiness and induce better sleep. Antihistamines work by binding to histamine receptors in the body and brain and are widely used to treat allergic reactions and inflammation. Antihistamines that readily cross the blood-brain barrier, however, such as diphenhydramine and doxylamine, have a neurological calming effect that can help counter insomnia.
Alongside antihistamines, the Benzodiazepine drug group often form the basis of prescription sleeping pills. These medications act on brain receptors to slow down the nervous system and actively promote sleep. Non-benzodiazepine prescription drugs have been developed that operate on the same areas of the brain. Ramelteon (Rozerem) is a new form of intervention that mimics the sleep regulation hormone melatonin. These are strong controlled drugs that should only be taken with medical supervision.
Herbal remedies are less controlled and more accessible. It is often where most of us start when we look for help sleeping. There is an incredibly broad range of options but to help, we have listed common ingredients below.
Valeria is a sedating herb that has been used for thousands of years. Although not well studied by modern science, it is believed to work by increasing levels of the calming chemical GABA in the brain.
Melatonin is a hormone that triggers our response to light and dark and day and night. It’s what makes us sleepy when the sun goes down. Taking additional melatonin has been shown to help short-term issues such as jet lag or the requirements of shift work. It is not, however, particularly useful for more chronic issues.
Another solution that has been practised for centuries, drinking chamomile tea has a proven track record of causing drowsiness. This is because it contains apigenin, a chemical compound that calms the brain by binding to GABA receptors.
Tryptophan is a common amino acid involved in the creation of the body’s messenger, serotonin. Some studies have shown that it has an antidepressant, calming and sleep-inducing effect although evidence is mixed.
Kava is a supplement extracted from crushed plant roots that have long been used for its hypnotic, intoxicating effects. Kava-based treatments for insomnia work by calming the central nervous system and reducing stress.
Other herbs with a calming or sedating effect include lemon balm, passionflower and lavender. They are often blended into natural sleep remedies.
Who Should Take Sleeping Aids?
There is a need to differentiate between two types of problem sleep. Short-term insomnia and chronic lack of sleep require different approaches.
Short-term insomnia based on travel plans, work schedules or family circumstances can often be treated by sleep supplements and herbal remedies available over the counter. New parents, for example, often alternate taking herbal remedies as part of their routine until things quieten down. Sleep supplements can help those kept awake by jet lag too.
Supplements may not, in themselves, help a chronic sleep problem. Chronic insomnia has a more profound negative effect on sufferers’ mental and physical health. It has been linked to heart disease and diabetes as well as depression and anxiety. In such cases, supplements should be considered as part of a wider treatment plan.
Taking supplements for sleep problems brings a range of benefits. It is important to find the right product and routine for you. Take your time, do your research and we’re sure you’ll find something to help.
How Effective Are Sleeping Pills and Supplements?
Research into sleep patterns has become big news in recent years. Our understanding of neurology has grown exponentially over the last twenty to thirty years. That said, the details of sleep remain mysterious. There is still a lot to learn about how and why our brains sleep and what happens when they don’t.
This means the scientific jury is still out on the effectiveness of sleep supplements despite strong anecdotal evidence. We know some pills and supplements definitely lead to drowsiness for example which, in turn, can lead us to our beds. Other interventions “zonk” us out with a more direct effect on our brains. The level of effectiveness will depend on your circumstances, so there is inevitably an element of trial and error involved in finding a solution that works for you. If the issue remains chronic, consulting with your doctor is always advisable.
What Are The Side Effects Of Sleep Supplements?
Medicines for sleep, like all treatments come with the risk of side effects. These vary from mild jetlag-like symptoms to, in rare cases, more serious physical and mental health issues.
Things to look out for include burning and tingling sensations in the limbs, dizziness, changes in appetite, constipation or diarrhoea, dehydration, headaches and heartburn. You might find yourself feeling mentally lethargic and forgetful. Your attention to detail and ability to focus may be affected too.
The effects of sleeping tablets and other interventions can become addictive too. It’s important to use them with care and ask for medical advice at any point you’re worried about your wellbeing.
Where to Get Sleep Supplements
Many sleep supplements are available over the counter at your local chemist or health food shop. There are also a myriad of online suppliers, including the experts at Teabox, meaning you can get them delivered to your door. If your sleep problems are serious and chronic, you may need prescribed medicines. These require consultation with your doctor.
Wherever you get help, we wish you a good night’s sleep.