Granted the side effects of prolonged use of sedatives, people deprived of sleep for a long time often rely on sleep supplements as safer alternatives to the pharmacological tranquilizers. Nonetheless, before taking supplements for promoting sleep, it is always advisable to consult your physician about the benefits and risks of consuming these natural sedatives.
Effective Sleep Supplements
The circadian rhythm that control the sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the hormone melatonin. Melatonin secretion peaks in the night, helping a person to enjoy a sound nighttime sleep. If the circadian rhythm is disturbed due to some reason, such as during air travels across several time zones, melatonin supplements can help to improve the duration as well as the quality of sleep. These sleep supplements may even benefit people suffering from insomnia or sleeping difficulties for a prolonged period.
People who have difficulty in falling asleep can take immediate release melatonin supplements. Extended release supplements are recommended for people who cannot stay asleep throughout the night and tend to wake up in the middle of the night.
Although safe for short-term use, melatonin supplements may causes daytime drowsiness, headaches and dizziness. It might interact with anticoagulants, immunosuppressant drugs, oral contraceptives and diabetes medications.
Sold as a supplement in chemist stores, valerian is widely used as a mild sedative for improving sleep. The therapeutic uses of valerian root have been described in ancient medicine texts of Greece and Rome. The effectiveness of valerian as a sleeping aid has been documented in some studies. The sedative effect of the valerian root is primarily attributed to valerenic acid, valeportriates and their derivatives. Researchers speculate that valerian promotes sleep by increasing the level of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain by inducing GABA secretion from the nerve endings of the brain and preventing reabsorption of GABA.
Valerian supplements are considered safe when taken for a short time. Common side effects of the supplement include dizziness, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.
Chamomile can be taken in the form of tea to promote sleep. The hypnotic activity of chamomile has been documented in an animal study conducted by Japanese researchers. Nonetheless, better research and clinical trial is necessary for proving the efficacy of this herbal supplement in improving sleep. People who want to experience the sedative effect of chamomile tea should brew two to three bags of chamomile tea bag for about 15 to 20 minutes. Cover the lid of the pot to trap the volatile oil in the tea. Only by drinking properly brewed chamomile tea can you expect to enjoy a sound sleep.
Chamomile tea is considered safe for long-term use. However, people allergic to ragweed and plants of the daisy family should avoid chamomile. This sleep supplement in also not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
The root of kava kava, traditionally used for preparing an intoxicating drink in religious ceremonies in the Pacific Islands, is currently a popular sleeping aid for sleep-deprived people.Kava kava owes its sedative activities to compounds called kavalactones. In animal studies, researchers have found that these active components of kava kava root promote muscles relaxation and improve sleep.
However, this sleep supplement should be taken under medical supervision. Several incidents of liver damage and liver failure have been reported after taking this herb.