Natural Sleep Aids

IMAGE Maybe you have just crossed a few time zones, or you work the night shift, or you are just stressed out and it's interfering with your sleep. A natural remedy may help you get some restful sleep. In some cases, insomnia may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as sleep apnea . Talk with your doctor about this possibility. However, if there does not appear to be a condition that interferes with your ability to snooze, some of these natural options may help you get quality sleep.


For centuries, people have turned to the herb valerian to help them sleep. The particular plant species that is used to counter insomnia is Valeriana officinalis . Like other orally administered sleep aids, valerian is recommended for occasional insomnia only. Though it is unclear exactly how valerian works, some research suggests that, like sleeping pills, valerian affects the neurotransmitter GABA. The evidence is mixed if valerian actually aids in sleep. The FDA categorizes valerian as GRAS—generally recognized as safe. A few people experience mild gastrointestinal distress when taking valerian, and there have been rare reports of people developing a paradoxical mild stimulant effect from valerian. Valerian does not appear to impair driving ability or produce morning drowsiness when it is taken at night, though it is recommended that you do not drive immediately after taking valerian. There have been some reports, however, of dangerous side effects from products containing valerian in combination with other potentially toxic herbs or medications, like benzodiazepines.

How to Use It

For insomnia, the standard dosage of valerian is 2 g to 3 g of dried herb, 270 mg to 450 mg of an aqueous valerian extract, or 600 mg of an alcohol-based extract, taken 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. If you are interested in valerian, be sure to inform your doctor before taking it.Note: Do not take valerian root if you are taking drugs like benzodiazepines that sedate you. It is also not recommended for use in children under 3 years old. Consult your physician for advice before taking any medication.

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