How To Avoid Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are not right for everyone. They can interact with other drugs. If you are pregnant, they may harm your unborn baby.
You may also be concerned about the potential for addiction. Or, you may dislike the side effects.
Fortunately, there are other ways to manage insomnia. You may find it helpful to simply change your sleep habits.
Start by keeping a regular bedtime and wake time. This will help reinforce your natural circadian rhythm.
Avoid naps during the day. Naps can reduce your bodys natural desire for sleep.
It can also help to reduce the time you spend awake in bed. This is called stimulus control. Use your bed only for sex and sleep. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something else until you feel sleepy.
Other alternatives for treating insomnia include:
- Biofeedback, a therapy that uses sensors to measure your body’s functions
- Aromatherapy, a form of sleep therapy that uses scents
- Guided imagery, a relaxation technique
- Progressive muscle relaxation
A psychologist may also be able to help. Therapy can help you learn to manage any stress and negative feelings associated with insomnia.
You Have High Stress Levels
“Stress, in general, can suppress the hypothalamic sleep control center,” says Teitelbaum. “If adrenal stress hormones are too high at bedtime, it will keep your mind racing, making it difficult to sleep. Similarly, if cortisol levels drop in the middle of the night, your blood sugar will fall with it. This causes those middle-of-the-night wake-ups.”
Does Melatonin Work For Shift Workers
Shift work that involves night shifts may cause people to feel sleepy at work and make it difficult to sleep during the daytime after a shift ends.
According to two 2014 research reviews, studies on whether melatonin supplements help shift workers were generally small or inconclusive.
- The first review looked at 7 studies that included a total of 263 participants. The results suggested that people taking melatonin may sleep about 24 minutes longer during the daytime, but other aspects of sleep, such as time needed to fall asleep, may not change. The evidence, however, was considered to be of low quality.
- The other review looked at 8 studies , with a total of 300 participants, to see whether melatonin helped promote sleep in shift workers. Six of the studies were high quality, and they had inconclusive results. The review did not make any recommendations for melatonin use in shift workers.
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What Are The Health Benefits Of Taking Melatonin
Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.
Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. With jet lag, you may not feel well overall and you may have disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning, and digestive problems.
Research suggests that melatonin supplements may help with jet lag. This is based on medium-sized reviews from 2010 and 2014.
- Four studies that included a total of 142 travelers showed that melatonin may be better than a placebo in reducing overall symptoms of jet lag after eastward flights. Another study of 234 travelers on eastward flights looked at only sleep quality and found low-quality evidence that melatonin may be better than placebo for improving sleep quality.
- Two studies that included a total of 90 travelers showed that melatonin may be better than a placebo in reducing symptoms of jet lag after westward flights.
Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder
People with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning. They typically have difficulty getting to sleep before 2 to 6 a.m. and would prefer to wake up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Some sleep disorders in children
Because of these uncertainties, itâs best to work with a health care provider if youâre considering giving a child melatonin for sleep problems.
Are Sleep Aids Safe During Pregnancy
Sleep can be difficult during pregnancy and expecting parents may be tempted to reach for natural remedies, like 5-HTP, or melatonin, that helped them sleep prior to becoming pregnant. However, theres not enough evidence to claim that natural sleep aids are safe during pregnancy, and some could even pose risks. Very few human trials regarding the safety of using sleep aids during pregnancy exist.
If you are pregnant and suffering from poor sleep, speak with your doctor to discuss options that may be available to help.
A Bedtime Routine Like No Other
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Try An Essential Oil Patch
Another great way to promote sleep naturally is through essential oils. One of the most direct ways for your body to benefit from this is by putting on a sleepy patch that is infused with all the essential oil scents that naturally calm your body and brain down. Not only will it be easier to fall asleep, but you will wake up feeling super refreshed too. The smell is so important when it comes to winning the bedtime battle and can have a real impact on calming our entire nervous system! The patch doesnt take more than thirty minutes to really work either.
Behind The Melatonin Hangover
Melatonin is a hormone that’s produced naturally in the body, and it helps tell you when to sleep and when to wake up. Taking melatonin is thought to improve sleep because it can help your body produce more of the hormone.
“Melatonin is generally thought to be safer to use than other sleep medications and less likely to cause side effects such as daytime grogginess the next day. That being said, taking too much and taking it too late at night or in the middle of the night might cause its effects to linger into the next day,” says Axe. “Continuous release melatonin tablets might also linger in someone’s system and lead to side effects in some cases.”
Even though melatonin is different from sleep medications and considered generally safe, some people simply may not be able to tolerate it well. “For reasons related to people’s metabolisms and possibly genetics, some might be more prone to experiencing side effects from melatonin, such as nausea or low energy,” says Axe.
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What The Experts Do Lower The Light To Prep For Sleep
Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M., keeps the lights low in the evening to help his mind and body prepare forsleep. But if he has to work in the evening or answer emails, he usesfilters to screen out the blue and green wavelengths of light emitted byhis smartphone and computer. Your brain associates this light withdaytime, and it can interfere with melatonins sleep-promoting effects. Afilter can help. Many types of blue-light filters are available online andin stores.
Who Should Take Melatonin And Who Shouldnt
If youre interested in taking melatonin, or if you think you might have a sleep disorder, you should see your healthcare provider who can help diagnose and treat the problem.
If you take too much melatonin, or take it too late in the evening, you can cause yourself to be drowsy, sluggish or have delayed reaction times during the day when you should be more alert. Some common side effects of taking melatonin can include:
- Abdominal cramps.
- Temporary feelings of depression.
Its also important to note that some sleep disorders, like insomnia, can gradually worsen when you take melatonin, especially if youre taking higher doses .
A person who has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep no matter what time it is wont benefit much from melatonin, says Dr. Roth.
Melatonin works differently for everyone, and doctor recommendations vary based on your diagnosis and sleep history. With chronic conditions like insomnia or other similar sleep disorders, its best to see a sleep specialist to get a correct diagnosis and consider cognitive behavioral therapy or other treatments.
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Does Melatonin Affect Our Dreams
Far and away, the most common side effect that I have patients report to me is that their dreams just become much more vivid, Dr. Abbott said. Scientists arent sure why that happens.
Dr. Kolla has also seen patients who have nightmares or disruptive dreams, which are also common with sleeping pills. In that case, you want to try to lower the dose, he said. Or, if its too problematic, stop.
Relieving Anxiety That Keeps You From Falling Or Staying Asleep
If sleep worries are getting in the way of your ability to unwind at night, the following strategies may help. The goal is to train your body to associate the bed with sleep and nothing elseespecially not frustration and anxiety.
Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. With many of us working from home now, it can be difficult to avoid, but if possible dont work, use your computer, or watch TV in your bedroom. The goal is to associate the bedroom with sleep alone, so that your brain and body get a strong signal that its time to nod off when you get into bed.
Move bedroom clocks out of view. Anxiously watching the minutes tick by when you cant sleepknowing that youre going to be exhausted when the alarm goes offis a surefire recipe for insomnia. You can use an alarm, but make sure you cant see the time when youre in bed.
Get out of bed when you cant sleep. Dont try to force yourself to sleep. Tossing and turning only amps up your anxiety. Get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing, such as reading, meditating, or taking a bath. When youre sleepy, go back to bed.
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When Does Melatonin Work
To understand when melatonin can be beneficial, its important to know more about its role in the sleep-wake cycle.
Side Effects of Melatonin
- Confusion or disorientation
Many consumers are familiar with the bottled version of melatonin around 6 million U.S. adults reach for it. But melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone the brain produces in response to darkness to help our bodies know when its time to go to sleep and when its time to be awake.
When melatonin hits the bloodstream , it reduces alertness and facilitates our ability to fall asleep, explains David Neubauer, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine. It also helps cool off the brain and the body, which helps you sleep better, says James K. Wyatt, director of the Section of Sleep Disorders and Sleep-Wake Research at Rush University in Chicago.
Because melatonin doesnt have the same sedating effect that many sleep aids provide, taking it in pill form is less helpful on those nights when you cant seem to fall asleep or stay asleep.
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How To Use Melatonin Properly
Dr. Andrefsky offers these tips for using melatonin:
Timing is key. Dont take melatonin right before bed because it takes several hours for it to become effective.
If you are a night owl who normally stays up past midnight, but would like to nod off around 11 p.m., take melatonin at 6 p.m. Conversely, if you go to bed at 8 p.m. and rise at 4 a.m., its better to take melatonin in the late morning or early afternoon.
Dont overdo it. More isnt better. Just 0.3 mg to 1 mg is sufficient, although many over-the-counter preparations may be upwards of 5 mg each. Overusing melatonin has consequences, including:
- Losing effectiveness over time because brain receptors get desensitized to it
- Worsening insomnia
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Melatonin Dose For Adults
Since melatonin is considered a supplement, its not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . But if youre still interested in using the supplement, in most cases, Dr. Goldman suggests using the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time to achieve your desired outcome. In general, melatonin can be used in two ways.
Taking melatonin as a sleep aid
This method is meant to help you fall asleep faster in a very short amount of time. Dr. Goldman suggests starting with 1 mg, and then increasing that amount by 1 mg every week until youve reduced the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. But you should know, this method isnt super effective because you can easily interrupt the melatonin process.
Its important to note that its really easy to overcome the effect of melatonin, says Dr. Goldman. If you take it and then get on your phone, go on social media, play video games or if you have an overactive mind thats racing or worrying, you will likely overpower the effect of melatonin.
For this reason, its best if you take melatonin when you start feeling tired and make sure you allow your body to be at full rest when you take it.
Taking melatonin to adjust your circadian rhythm
For these more chronic cases, Dr. Goldman suggests working with a sleep medicine physician or behavioral sleep medicine specialist to create a sleep-wake schedule that may include the use of melatonin.
Skip Melatonin For Sleep If
Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder or depression. Talk to your health care provider if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Melatonin supplements may also raise blood-sugar levels and increase blood pressure levels in people taking some hypertension medications.
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Work With Not Against Melatonins Sleep
Melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime, Buenaver says. Create optimal conditions for it to do its job by keeping the lights low before bed. Stop using your computer, smartphone or tabletthe blue and green light from these devices can neutralize melatonins effects. If you watch television, be sure youre at least six feet away from the screen. Turn off bright overhead lights too. Meanwhile you can help program your body to produce melatonin for sleep at the right time of day by getting exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. Take a walk outside or sit beside a sunny window.
Try A Different Type Of Sleep Supplement Altogether
Try a sleep-promoting complex in a multi-ingredient formula like the science-backed ingredients magnesium, jujube, PharmaGABAÂ®, and/or L-theanine.* Magnesium will not cause drowsiness or make a person feel groggy, which is an effect commonly attributed to melatonin. Magnesium can help muscles relax, which in turn can help calm and bring on a better state of mind for sounder sleep.*
Ferira divulges that, “melatonin is, in fact, not my go-to sleep-centric supplement for clients. It’s more of a last resort or personalized approach for certain individuals. For starters, melatonin is a hormone, so tread lightly. Secondly, there are loads of ways to optimize sleep hygiene that naturally support circadian rhythm syncing. Lastly, I strongly prefer nutrients, botanicals, and nonhormonal bioactives when it comes to supplements, for sleep or otherwise.”*
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What Melatonin Is Used For
“The most popular use of melatonin is for people who have trouble falling asleep,” says Alex Dimitriu, M.D., who is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and is the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in Menlo Park, California.
“Melatonin is also referred to as the ‘hormone of darkness,’ because it’s produced by the pineal gland in response to low light, like the evening sunset. It works to help us prepare for sleep and enter those deep sleep stages,” he says.
Those with a healthy circadian rhythm should naturally secrete enough melatonin to send the signal for bedtime. However, factors like stress, excess light from screens, and caffeine can all inhibit its production. Taking melatonin in supplement form is one way people try to get levels of the hormone back on track, but this is also tricky .
Melatonin has other nighttime perks, too, adds Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., a board-certified internist in integrative medicine and sleep expert. “Research has shown that melatonin is a potent antioxidant,” Teitelbaum explains, and it can promote digestive health to help people sleep better and more comfortably.
What Is Melatonin And How Does It Work
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms and with sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production.
Research suggests that melatonin plays other important roles in the body beyond sleep. However, these effects are not fully understood.
Melatonin dietary supplements can be made from animals or microorganisms, but most often theyâre made synthetically. The information below is about melatonin dietary supplements.
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You Can Probably Improve Your Sleep Naturally
Melatonin doesnât work in the same way traditional sleep aids do. Instead of putting you to sleep straight away, it tricks your brain into thinking itâs sunset, priming it for sleep a few hours later. While some people feel drowsy 20 minutes after taking melatonin, it can take a few hours to feel the effects. So, if youâre tossing and turning at 1 a.m., melatonin isnât the answer.
Plus, if low melatonin levels are the reason you struggle to fall asleep, there are natural ways you can boost your brainâs production of the hormone, instead of turning to external sources. Weâll cover those below.
Habits That Cause Insomnia And Disrupt Sleep
While treating underlying physical and mental issues is a good first step, it may not be enough to cure your insomnia. You also need to look at your daily habits. Some of the things youre doing to cope with insomnia may actually be making the problem worse.
For example, maybe youre using sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep, which disrupts sleep even more over the long-term. Or maybe you drink excessive amounts of coffee during the day, making it harder to fall asleep later. Other daytime habits that can negatively impact your ability to sleep at night include having an irregular sleep schedule, napping, eating sugary foods or heavy meals too close to bedtime, and not getting enough exercise or exercising too late in the day.
Not only can poor daytime habits contribute to insomnia, but a poor nights sleep can make these habits harder to correct, creating a vicious cycle of unrefreshing sleep:
Oftentimes, changing the habits that are reinforcing sleeplessness is enough to overcome the insomnia altogether. It may take a few days for your body to get used to the change, but once you do, youll sleep better.
If youre having trouble identifying insomnia-causing habits
Some habits are so ingrained that you may overlook them as a possible contributor to your insomnia. Maybe your Starbucks habit affects your sleep more than you realize. Or maybe youve never made the connection between that late-night glass of wine and your sleep difficulties.
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