This story is part of 12 Days of Tips, helping you make the most of your tech, home and health during the holiday season.
When you think of sleep aids, melatonin is one of the most popular and commonly taken. Like so many others, I've tried it out in an effort to get better rest at night, but the end result wasn't what I expected.
The few times I've taken any amount of the supplement, I've felt groggy and "hungover" for hours the next morning. My body's negative reaction to melatonin seems to defeat the purpose of taking it in the first place: to feel more rested during the day. So, I decided melatonin's not the best sleep aid for me.
Here are top alternative sleep supplements to try in the new year.
Read more: 3 Sleep Hacks to Fall Asleep in 10 Minutes or Less
Below, Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, shares the best alternatives to melatonin if you decide it's not for you. Plus, he breaks down why melatonin can make you feel hungover -- and how to prevent that effect if you choose to keep taking it. (For better sleep, also check out our rundown of the best mattresses, the best pillows and the best alarm clocks of the year.)
3 sleep supplements to try instead of melatonin
If you have a similar reaction to melatonin, how do you find a natural sleep aid that doesn't make you feel groggy? Axe recommends the following sleep supplements next time you want help catching Z's.
- Adaptogenic herbs: "Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and kava help your body cope with stress and support your nervous system. They can also lower cortisol release, which is a stress hormone that can disrupt sleep," says Axe.
- Magnesium: "Magnesium is an electrolyte mineral that can have calming effects and can reduce muscle tension and headaches," he says.
- CBD or CBN: "CBD oil, made from the hemp plant, is nonpsychoactive but has calming and pain-soothing effects," says Axe. CBN is a type of cannabinoid that is being used in more sleep supplements since it's the most sedative compound found in cannabis, according to Sandland Sleep.
Why does melatonin make me feel hungover?
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.
Nature Made is one of the most well-known supplement brands out there. This melatonin supplement contains 5 mg of melatonin and 80 mg of calcium. One bottle will help you sleep for 90 days.
Ways to prevent a melatonin hangover
If you experience side effects like next-day drowsiness when you take melatonin, does that mean you should never take it? According to Axe, you might be able to try a few adjustments first. To start, he says to avoid taking it in the middle of the night. "After you take melatonin it starts working within about an hour and lasts for about 5 hours in your body, so taking it in the middle of the night isn't the best idea if you want to wake up with energy," he explains.
"Try taking a low dose to start, taking it about 60 minutes before sleep and skipping continuous release melatonin if this seems to apply to you," he advises. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a low dose is generally considered 0.5 mg and 5mg is on the higher side.
For those who do take melatonin daily, Axe says it doesn't hurt to take a break from it every now and then. "It's typically intended to be taken for short periods of time, such as several weeks or months, but not continuously forever (unless you're working with a doctor)," says Axe.
"That being said, it isn't known to cause dependency, so taking it for longer may not be a problem unless you experience side effects," he says.
More from health tips
- Restful Sleep: What Is It and How to Know if You're Not Getting It
- Here's How a Coffee Nap May Be the Ultimate Hack to Boost Your Energy Levels
- Science-Backed Tips to Become a Morning Person
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.
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