Any doctor will tell you that a good night's sleep is the cornerstone of optimal health, yet many of us fall short of getting consistently decent rest each night.
Sleep is responsible for numerous bodily and brain functions, including improving memory, reducing stress, repairing cells, balancing hormones, regulating metabolism, and minimizing the risk of disease, to name a few  .
However, people with insomnia know all too well how getting a good night's sleep is much easier said than done, and sometimes it takes more than simply better sleep routines and habits to get there.
In fact, poor-quality sleep is a phenomenon that affects around 70 million Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ; that's a whole lot of people who are left feeling cranky, in desperate need of a caffeine fix and, quite frankly, a nightmare to be around the following day.
It's no surprise, then, in 2022, almost 20% of the U.S. adult population reported using prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids to help with their problematic sleeping patterns .
So if you're struggling to remember the last time you slept like a baby, you've come to the right place. Read on to discover the best sleep aid products that can help turn the idea of a good night's sleep from a dream into reality.
Natural sleep aids are over-the-counter products that promote better-quality sleep by helping you to fall asleep faster and potentially eliminate sleep disturbances throughout the night.
Sleep aids come in various forms, including plant-based, vitamin, or mineral supplements, as well as substances with sleep-inducing properties naturally produced by the body.
Such products are a viable alternative to prescription sleep medications for people with mild to moderate insomnia or other sleep issues who don't want to experience unwanted side effects or the possibility of addiction to pharmaceutical drugs.
Although these products are marketed as 'natural', it's best to take them with a pinch of salt (figuratively speaking, of course) as the FDA treats such dietary supplements as food rather than medication; hence they aren't subject to the same standard of regulations. Ultimately, supplement manufacturers don't have to prove their products are safe or effective before selling them to consumers.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body in response to darkness to alert the brain when it's time to sleep. Levels naturally increase in the evening and fall in the morning, in line with the body's sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm.
Therefore, melatonin supplements are a popular sleep aid for people whose circadian rhythm is disrupted, for example, due to jet lag, artificial light exposure from screens, or night shift work.
In fact, one 2022 study by Duffy et al. concluded that melatonin supplements increase sleep duration during the day in older adults; additionally, they decrease the amount of time it takes for a person to fall asleep, referred to as sleep latency .
Another 2022 study published in the Journal of Neurology found that as little as a 3mg serving of melatonin a few hours before bedtime improved sleep quality in people with sleep disorders .
Melatonin supplements seem safe for adults when used for a short time (preferably three months or less); however, there isn't enough research into their long-term safety. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also take precautions due to the lack of research into their safety and efficacy.
As mentioned before, melatonin supplements are unregulated, so they can vary considerably in dosage and ingredients. For this reason, it's best to stick with one brand to avoid undesired effects like headaches, nausea, or sleepiness during the day.
It's also important not to take more than the required dose as too much melatonin can not only lead to an upset stomach, but it can also cause the body to counteract these excessive levels, subsequently further exacerbating sleep issues.
Although it's native to Asia and Europe, valerian root is one of the most popular herbal supplements for sleep in the United States, showing promising results in menopausal women suffering from sleep disturbances . Yet, despite its popularity, several systematic reviews on the herb found contradictory and inconsistent results on its effectiveness as a sleep aid .
Much of the success of valerian root as an effective sleep aid comes from anecdotal evidence rather than objective measurements. For example, participants of a 2021 study noticed a marked improvement in sleep latency and duration after taking a 530mg dose of valerian root for a 30-night period .
Despite the lack of measurable evidence on valerian root as an effective sleep aid, there's no harm in trying the herb out for yourself to see if you reap the sleep-inducing benefits many others have attested.
Valerian root is safe and well-tolerated among the general population when used for a period of 4-6 weeks. However, more research is needed into its effects in long-term use, as well as in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Any side effects from the herb appear to be mild and include headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and difficulty concentrating.
Magnesium is a mineral that regulates hundreds of bodily functions, making it essential to overall health; yet, half of the adult population in the United States has a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium induces sleep by relaxing the muscles, regulating melatonin production, and increasing levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that has calming effects on the brain.
Several studies indicate that low levels of magnesium correlate to sleep disturbances and insomnia  ; therefore, increasing magnesium levels in the body through supplementation could have a positive effect on sleep quality and duration.
This theory has been confirmed by multiple studies, including a 2011 study in which participants who took 225 grams of magnesium slept better than the placebo group . However, the supplement also contained melatonin and zinc, making it challenging to identify whether magnesium alone was attributed to the sleep-inducing effects.
It should also be noted that studies confirming the beneficial effects of magnesium on sleep quality were performed on older adults with a pre-existing magnesium deficiency; whether these results can be replicated in people with sufficient magnesium levels remains unclear.
Taking 400 mg or less of magnesium a day is considered safe. It is important not to exceed this dose unless instructed by a healthcare professional, as it could produce harmful effects.
High doses of magnesium can cause nausea, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea and, in some cases, could even be fatal. Such supplements may also interact with other drugs. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you're on any medication or have diabetes, intestinal disease, heart disease, or kidney disease.
The number of studies to confirm the beneficial effects of lavender supplements on sleep quality is insubstantial, although some improvements were noted in mild cases of insomnia; additionally, orally ingesting lavender has commonly been linked to nausea, belching, and diarrhea.
While more research is needed on lavender supplements and sleep quality, aromatherapy, on the other hand, has been proven to enhance sleep, owing to the soothing properties of the plant's fragrance.
This method involves smelling lavender essential oil shortly before bedtime to promote better quality sleep. Participants of a 2017 study by Takeda et al. had improved sleep duration and fewer disturbances after lavender aromatherapy .
Using lavender oil in aromatherapy for up to 12 weeks appears to be safe with minimal risk of adverse side effects. However, more research is needed into the oral effects of using the oil.
Furthermore, very little is known about the effects of lavender during pregnancy or breastfeeding and on people who suffer from allergies. So, it is best to proceed with caution and always speak with your healthcare provider before use.
Use the lowest effective dose to start with and increase if necessary while paying attention to any symptoms of lavender oil poisoning, including burning throat pain, rashes, diarrhea, confusion, and blurred vision.
A 2019 study published in the Food Science Nutrition Journal found that the fruit and leaves of the passionflower decreased GABA receptors and increased melatonin levels in rats, thereby inducing sleep. Results showed increased total sleep duration and latency and decreased disturbances throughout the night .
However, the benefits of passionflower in treating insomnia were noted when taken in tea form rather than as a supplement.
With that said, another 3-week study conducted on humans found no improvements in sleep quality after drinking passionflower tea, based on objective measurements. However, participants did rate their quality of sleep higher on a subjective basis during the experiment .
Passionflower is safe and non-toxic when taken as a tea for seven consecutive nights or as an 800mg dose of medicine for up to eight weeks; however, it may cause daytime drowsiness, confusion, and uncoordinated movement in some people. It is not recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
While chamomile is widely touted for its calming and relaxing properties, which can help prepare a person for sleep, there is insufficient evidence that it's an effective treatment for insomnia.
Despite limited research, there is some evidence to suggest that chamomile can induce sleep due to the abundance of an antioxidant called apigenin, among other compounds, which bind to GABA and benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, thereby producing a sedative effect .
Notably, a 2013 study found that older people who drank chamomile tea reported better quality sleep than participants who did not .
There is a consensus among experts that chamomile in tea form is safe to drink on a daily basis; taking the herb for medicinal purposes for a short period is also okay, although its long-term safety remains unknown.
Precaution is recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children under 12, as well as people who are allergic to plants in the daisy family, and those with liver or kidney disease.
Glycine is an amino acid responsible for several functions, including creating the hormone serotonin, which induces sleep and is proven to improve sleep latency and enhance the overall quality of sleep in people experiencing poor sleep.
Although its mode of action is unknown, glycine is thought to act by lowering body temperature in preparation for sleep time and decreasing the time it takes to move into a slow wave, deep sleep.
In a 2006 study, participants were administered either a 3-gram dose of glycine or a placebo before bedtime. The glycine group reported feeling less fatigued the next day compared to the placebo group .
Similarly, another study conducted the following year found that glycine improved sleep quality and latency in participants based on both objective and subjective measures .
Clinical trials of glycine indicate that a 0.8mg dose per kilogram of body weight is safe, with most study participants taking 3 grams per day for up to four weeks without serious side effects, although more research is needed.
Some mild side effects reported from glycine supplements include upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. Although glycine isn't harmful to pregnant or breastfeeding women, always ask your doctor for the correct dosage to avoid potential side effects.
5-HTP is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan and a precursor for serotonin. There is some evidence to suggest that 5-HTP is effective in regulating sleep cycles. For example, one 2010 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that participants who ingested GABA and 5-HTP experienced improved sleep latency, duration, and overall quality .
With that said, due to the lack of evidence into 5-HTP as an effective sleep aid, more research is needed before experts can reach a solid conclusion on its benefits.
The risks associated with consuming 100 milligrams of 5-HTP are relatively low and short-lived. These include nausea, heartburn, gas, and constipation. With that said, large doses of the substance are considered unsafe, increasing the likelihood of developing serotonin syndrome-a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves and works to induce sleep by increasing levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine in the body-neurochemicals that are essential in regulating the sleep cycle.
A 2015 study found L-theanine effective in inducing a relaxed state in participants by boosting alpha brainwaves, thereby helping them to fall asleep quickly and more efficiently, without the risk of addiction or undesired side effects associated with sedative drugs .
Research confirms that L-theanine is a safe and effective option for people with sleep issues, without the addictive effects often associated with conventional sleep inducers.
Taking a daily supplement of up to 200mg is considered safe when used short term; however, there is insufficient research into whether it is safe to use for more extended periods. Mild side effects may include headaches, nausea, and irritability.
CBD may be one of the easiest and most effective ways of harnessing the sleep-inducing properties of cannabis. CBD is a cannabinoid-part of the chemical compounds found in cannabis-and can help boost sleep because of its calming and stress-reducing abilities.
As well as reducing depression and anxiety, CBD has also been proven to decrease insomnia symptoms and increase overall sleep duration, according to a 2018 study published in the Medicines journal .
Despite these findings, evidence remains inconclusive; however, with the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis in numerous states, the scope for more comprehensive research into the plant looks promising.
While CBD is considered safe in the long term when taken in low amounts by most people, it can cause side effects such as dry mouth, low blood pressure, and lightheadedness.
Doses of up to 200mg daily have been used safely for up to 13 weeks. Liver injury has been reported with high doses of prescription cannabis.
The most effective natural sleep aid is based on individual symptoms and sleep concerns. Each product is different in terms of strength, dosage, and ingredients, and it may take a process of trial and error before finding a sleep aid product that best works for you.
There are many different types of natural sleep aids to choose from, whether in the form of teas and tinctures or powders, pills, and essential oils.
Before trying a sleep aid product, take the time to evaluate your sleep goals first: are you looking for a product that helps you fall asleep, stay asleep for longer, reduce sleep disturbances, or all of the above? It would help if you made your decision based on these answers.
Quality and purity should take precedence when choosing a product; after all, not all sleep aid products are created equal, and ultimately, you get what you pay for. Look out for a certificate of authentication to verify the product has undergone rigorous independent testing to assure quality.
Always check the ingredients list before taking a sleep aid product to ensure it doesn't contain any ingredients you may be allergic to or that may interact with other medications you're taking. If in doubt, always consult your doctor or healthcare provider first.
Above all, be extra cautious not to take more than the recommended dose as it can cause serious side effects in some instances, and that's the last thing anyone needs in their quest for a good night's sleep.
If you're pregnant or nursing, it's best to speak with your doctor before trying any new supplements, as many of them aren't tested for safety among this group. Your healthcare provider can discuss safer alternative options that may be available to help with your sleep issues.
When taking sleep aid supplements, be mindful that the majority of them are only designed for short-term use; taking them for longer than the intended period can bring about adverse health problems, giving you another thing to worry about on top of your sleep issues. As a rule of thumb, take it one day at a time.
While this goes without saying, we'll say it anyway: Never mix alcohol with sleep aid supplements, as they can increase the medication's sedative effects.
In desperate times, sleep aid supplements can seem like the only viable option in getting rid of your dreaded sleep issues. Still, it's essential to take a holistic approach in waving goodbye to your bedtime woes by adopting good sleep hygiene and improving lifestyle habits. Here are some effective changes you can make:
The Pzizz app was developed using credible science-backed technology that is proven to treat insomnia and its various causes using the same techniques as those used in clinical sleep studies.
So how does it work, we hear you ask? Well, sequences of sound, known as Dreamscapes, are specifically tailored to each stage of the sleep cycle using a combination of voiceovers, sleep-optimized music, and sound effects to induce deep relaxation.
With this unique combination of science, music, and technology, the Pzizz app has helped millions of people get the best night's sleep, and now you could also be one of them.
Countless people already swear by the benefits of Pzizz, so if sleepless nights have left you worse for wear, give Pzizz a go on your iPhone or Android device today. You've already lost your sleep, so what else have you got to lose?
Why can't I sleep at night even when I'm tired?
If you're finding it hard to sleep at night, despite being tired, then it's an indication that your circadian rhythm is off. Possible causes of this imbalance include poor napping habits, anxiety, depression, excessive caffeine consumption, blue light exposure, sleep disorders, and diet.
What causes a lack of deep sleep?
There are a number of possible causes of a lack of deep sleep, including:
There are numerous ways you can help increase the amount of deep sleep you get each night, including these tips: