Sleep is vital for overall good health, yet many individuals struggle to get adequate restful slumber. Lack of restful slumber has been linked to depression, weight gain and substance abuse – three serious health concerns that require immediate action.
There are various safe sleep aids, but finding the most appropriate one depends on what keeps you awake.
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Lavender, the fragrant purple flower that gives many sleep products their distinctive fragrance, is well-known as an effective natural sleep inducer with none of the harmful side effects associated with sleeping pills. Lavender can relax muscles and soothe stressors alike – ideal for stress or insomnia sufferers alike!
Lavender oil can also serve as an antidepressant by lowering blood pressure and slowing heart rate to help relieve anxiety and depression. Studies have revealed that its active ingredient linalool can act on GABA pathways of the brain to inhibit nerve cell excitation and promote restful states. Furthermore, lavender can act as a sedative by increasing slow wave sleep frequency while decreasing rapid eye movements (REMs) associated with dreaming.
Oil of lavender can be applied topically or diffused through an aromatherapy diffuser for best results before bedtime, especially on wrists, temples or neck where your olfactory system is most active. You could also try lavender-scented pillow spray or misting it onto sheets as an additional method of indulging its therapeutic benefits. Incorporating lavender into bath and shower time also gives great therapeutic advantages!
Lavender oil can be easily mixed with water for use in spray bottles or bath bombs, or combined with carrier oils like almond or coconut oil for an aromatic massage experience. When choosing essential oils, always opt for pure and natural varieties over synthetic ones as the latter can be toxic when taken internally; generally speaking lavender oil should be safe for infants and children but always consult a pediatrician before giving to infants or young children.
Create your own sleep sanctuary by lighting lavender candles, placing dried flowers in an attractive bowl or adding a sachet of lavender to your pillow. Or for something truly luxurious: add one drop of lavender oil into a bowl of warm water, drape a towel over your head to inhale its steam, or try our Sleepy shower gel, which combines lavender with soothing tonka bean and caramelly benzoin resinoid for an enjoyable silky clean that leaves skin feeling relaxed and balanced.
People having difficulty sleeping may turn to alcohol or caffeine-based remedies for relief, but hops may provide just as effective solutions. Hops is an herb derived from Humulus lupulus plants which produce flowers with sedative qualities when consumed; similar effects have also been noted from cannabis. Hops has long been used medicinally as an effective natural sleep aid and anxiety treatments. Hops is known as 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol (MB), found within hops, to relax both body and mind making it easier for people to fall asleep faster; scientists believe MB acts as mild sedative by binding to melatonin receptors in brain and slowing activity before sleep-inducing sleep-inducing action before sleep sets in.
Studies have demonstrated that consuming hops or taking hop extract can aid sleep, yet some have conflicting findings and remain under research. Still, evidence of its efficacy for those having difficulty falling asleep or who wake during the night remains strong enough for clinicians to recommend using hops as a sleep aid, particularly when combined with valerian root – according to one research project conducted on people taking both treatments together helped people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than either drug alone.
Hops have long been used as a natural way to calm nerves and ease stress, making them especially beneficial for people suffering from insomnia or other sleeping disorders. Hops do not contain addictive properties and can safely be taken in small doses; in fact, it can even supplement other sedative medications, like antidepressants.
Recent research published in PLOS ONE discovered that drinking non-alcoholic beer with hops at dinnertime led to improved sleep quality among participants. Scientists speculated that hops could work by increasing GABA inhibition in the brain and thus leading to better restfulness for sleepers. They also discovered that MB from hops outcompeted caffeine for binding with the adenosine receptor and improving overall quality.
Antihistamines are an integral part of treatment for hay fever and other allergies, as they work by blocking or reducing histamine function to alleviate symptoms like sneezing, itching, runny nose and watery eyes. Unfortunately, however, they also have a sedative effect which makes them popular sleep aids; the American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not endorse their long-term use due to a lack of scientific proof regarding effectiveness or safety.
Antihistamine sleeping pills work by blocking histamine’s action at its H1 receptor, which regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Once histamine has been blocked, your brain recognizes it’s time for restful slumber – thus inducing drowsiness and leading to restful restful slumber. First-generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or hydroxyzine (Atarax) don’t discriminate which receptors they affect; second-generation antihistamines do.
Many OTC sleep aids, like Tylenol PM, contain antihistamines along with other ingredients to help treat insomnia. Unfortunately, some such as doxylamine (found in NyQuil) and pseudoephedrine (used in decongestants with names ending “D”) may be harmful if someone has heart conditions or is taking prescription heart medications as these substances narrow blood vessels and reduce circulation.
Melatonin is another natural OTC sleep aid available without a valid prescription, working by mimicking the body’s own natural melatonin to regulate circadian rhythm and aid shift workers and jet-lag sufferers, but has not been proven effective against chronic insomnia. Unfortunately, taking too much can result in side effects like morning grogginess, unsteadiness or headache; or worsen your insomnia if taken too frequently.
OTC and prescription sleep medications may interact negatively with other medicines and herbal supplements, posing serious risk. Furthermore, these can have dangerous repercussions when taken by those suffering from certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, liver disease or glaucoma; furthermore some could pose harm to children or elderly patients through disorientation issues or increase risks for falls from their sedative effects.
Benzodiazepines like Valium may help people suffering from insomnia to sleep better; however, they can be addictive and cause side effects such as memory impairment, depression and ataxia (staggering gait). Furthermore, these drugs reduce deep restorative and REM sleep significantly as well as increasing risk for car accidents, falls, fractures in older adults as well as hospitalization and death; additionally they impair thinking and reaction time with immediate results and cause fatigue the next day; additionally they interact with various medications used during pregnancy as well as present risks as potential for their use during this stage.
Use of benzodiazepines may also induce coma. They may interfere with breathing and increase the risk of pneumonia; long-term use increases dementia and depression risk significantly; therefore benzodiazepines should only be taken in short bursts for as short a duration as possible.
Recent research explored the relationship between benzodiazepine use and sleep quality among residents of residential aged care facilities. Researchers investigated categories (short or long-acting), prescription frequency (PRN only or regular), sleep quality measurements and napping behavior between those taking benzodiazepines and those who did not take any.
Researchers found that PRN short-acting benzodiazepines were associated with poorer night-time sleep quality than regular long-acting benzodiazepine use, possibly due to shorter half-life of medication. Furthermore, researchers discovered that long-term use was linked to higher risks of death and dementia; consequently they recommend discouraging its use within RACFs.
Prior to taking any sleep aids, even natural ones, it is vital that you consult with a physician first. Any supplement may interact with certain medical conditions or have unexpected side effects; and reading labels of over-the-counter supplements closely as many are unregulated and contain variable quantities of active ingredients. Furthermore, always adhere to the recommended dosage; sudden increases or decreases can cause withdrawal symptoms that could last 4 – 6 months and need tapering off over time as suggested by experts.