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The 5 Best Natural Sleep Aids That Will Help You Overcome Sleep Issues

If you have trouble sleeping, you may be looking for natural sleep aids. Here are our top picks.

Prescription bottle turned on its side with sleeping pills coming out forming Zs
dturphoto/Getty Images

Our bodies need to sleep in order to do almost everything -- consolidate memory, restore tissues and boost performance the following day. Not getting enough can be detrimental to your health. Sleep deprivation is linked to depression, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. I know what you're thinking, something so important shouldn't be so hard to get. 

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as deciding you're going to sleep well at night. Whether from anxiety or insomnia, many people struggle with falling asleep at night. If you've tried all the lifestyle tips like taking a bath, reading a book or adding yoga into your nightly routine and still aren't sleeping well, you're probably considering a natural sleep aid

Let's dig into the best natural sleep aids, which ones you should buy, and their safety and effectiveness. 

What are the best natural sleep aids?

Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that the body makes to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production naturally ebbs and flows with the sun -- during the day, melatonin production stops. That way, we are awake and alert. As the sun goes down, the brain is flooded with melatonin and we get sleepy. The natural melatonin process of the body can be interrupted by things like blue light or inconsistent work hours, which confuse the body. Essentially it doesn't know when it should go to sleep.

Melatonin sleep aids are about as close to natural as it gets. That's why they are one of the best sleep aids on the market. Melatonin sleep aids are a great choice for people experiencing circadian rhythm-related sleep disturbances like jet lag or shift work variations. 

Ways melatonin can help you sleep better:

The dosage for melatonin products ranges from 1 to 10 milligrams. Melatonin is safe for short-term use, but it's not recommended for long-term use. More research is needed to investigate the long-term effects of taking high doses of melatonin. Note that pregnant women and those who are nursing should not take melatonin as there has not been enough research to confirm safety.

We recommend Pure Encapsulations Melatonin supplement.

Magnesium 

Magnesium is an important nutrient your body needs to perform essential tasks, like supporting muscles and nerve function. It also supports the immune system and healthy bones. Magnesium is one of those minerals that does it all. However, the average American doesn't get enough magnesium from their diet. A magnesium deficiency can lead to insomnia and sleep disturbances. 

Magnesium is a popular natural sleep aid that can help you reduce stress and relax. It does that in a few ways. 

Magnesium sleep aids can help you maximize the sleep you get. Magnesium's Tolerable Upper Intake Level, or the amount of a supplement that won't cause negative health effects, is 350 milligrams. Taking too much magnesium supplement can cause nausea, diarrhea and cramping. 

We recommend Nature Made's Magnesium Citrate natural sleep aid. 

Glycine

Glycine is a naturally-occurring amino acid that allows the body to build essential proteins for maintaining and growing tissues. It is also vital for making the antioxidant glutathione, which fights free radicals that would stress and damage the cells. 

Research has found glycine can help you sleep by reducing insomnia symptoms and improving overall sleep quality. It also reduces daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Essentially, it can help you bounce back from poor sleep more quickly.

There isn't as much research on the effectiveness of glycine as a sleep aid compared to melatonin and magnesium. However, it is considered safe to take as a supplement for sleep. Existing research testing glycine for sleep gave participants 3 grams or 3,000 milligrams. Glycine sleep aids are available in both capsule and powder forms. 

We recommend Now Sport's Glycine natural sleep aid supplement. 

Woman dropping lavender essential oils on her wrists
Anastasiia Krivenok/Getty Images

Lavender

Lavender is a well-known natural sleep aid which has a fragrance that can enhance sleep and relax the body. Several studies support the effectiveness of smelling lavender before bed to reduce insomnia symptoms and improve sleep quality.

It may also increase the time you spend in deep sleep -- the stage where your body releases growth hormones and repairs itself. 

Lavender sleep aids are typically essential oils that are diffused in your bedroom or diluted and sprayed on your bedding. You can also rub a drop or two of lavender on your temples. It's important to remember that you should never ingest lavender essential oils. There are also capsule lavender sleep aids on the market.

If you're looking for a natural sleep remedy that will help you sleep, you can try brewing dried lavender leaves into a tea. Herbal tea natural sleep aids typically feature a mixture of lavender, chamomile and passionflower -- all of which have been linked to better sleep. Drink your tea one to two hours before bed for the best results. 

We recommend Nature's Way CalmAid Lavender Softgels 

Valerian root

Valerian root is used to ease the symptoms of a number of conditions, such as depression and anxiety. It also is commonly used to aid sleep. Available research suggests that it's a particularly good choice for menopausal or post-menopausal women who have difficulty sleeping, as it can make it easier to fall asleep and improve sleep quality

The research into valerian root as a natural sleep aid is limited, with many studies relying on participants' perceptions of their sleep quality after taking it. Still, it's a low-risk natural sleep aid that some people swear by. The most popular way to take it is through tea, ingested at least an hour or two before bed. You can find valerian in many herbal teas for sleep.

We recommend Hanan Valerian Root Tea.

What are the risks and side effects of sleep aids?

Most natural sleep aids are considered safe to take for short periods. You should not take sleep aids or over-the-counter sleep medications for long periods as they can worsen sleep symptoms, affect your memory or interact with your medications

It's important to talk to your doctor before you begin taking natural sleeping aid or any over-the-counter supplements. 

There can be side effects of natural sleep aids if you take too much, including stomach cramping, nausea or drowsiness. Taking melatonin regularly can cause side effects like headaches, disorientation, dizziness or irritability. The side effects associated with valerian root are nausea, headaches and diarrhea. More seriously, it can lead to heart palpitations in some people. 

Woman in bed, drinking water and preparing to take a sleep supplement.
Panuwat Dangsungnoen/Getty Images

Natural sleep aids FAQ

Do natural sleep aids work?

Studies have shown that natural sleep aids -- like melatonin and magnesium -- are effective at improving the quality and duration of sleep. Other sleep aids like herbal teas with passion flowers or valerian have less research behind them, though many people swear by them

Are natural sleep aids safe?

Natural sleep aids and over-the-counter sleep aids are safe for short-term use; if used long-term, they may worsen sleeping troubles. While natural sleep aids are considered safe, they can have side effects like nausea or headaches. 

Like over-the-counter sleep aids, pregnant people and those nursing should avoid natural sleep aids. 

Are over-the-counter sleep aids safe?

Make sure to thoroughly read the potential side effects of the medication. Some allergy or cold medications can make you drowsy, making driving unwise. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and doxylamine succinate (Nyquil) are over-the-counter antihistamines that can make some people feel groggy and confused. 

You should not use over-the-counter sleep aids regularly; they are only recommended for short-term use when you're sick and experience allergy symptoms. Ongoing use can lead to dependence. If you need to use these medications regularly, you should talk to your doctor to find the root of your insomnia. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.