The need for natural sleeping pills (and their chemical counterparts) is relatively new in terms of how long humans have been around. With the advent of light, people could start working later into the night and the natural circadian rhythm our ancestors lived with was crushed.
There are two problems. Without bright light during the daytime (office lights do not count, you need sun exposure), your body delays melatonin production.
Once it starts getting dark, melatonin production goes into fifth gear and you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. But since we watch TV, look at mobile phones and leave the lights on, our bodies never know when to kick into proper melatonin production mode.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a pill for that. Or several natural sleeping pills.
Sleep is central to good health. The benefits can impact your entire life – as well as the lives of those around you.
So whether you’re here for your own health or the health of those closest to you, you’ve made a terrific decision.
Here’s a quick reminder of the benefits of sleep before we really dig into this. By getting the proper amount of sleep (somewhere in the range of 7-9 hours), you can:
Before you go and grab the nearest sleeping pill, your first step should be to try the natural remedies for How To Fall Asleep Naturally as presented by our sleep expert, Anandi. It’s best to rely on your own body to help get you the sleep you need.
Some of the methods are relatively simple.
Like avoiding drinking caffeine, and too much water too close to your bedtime. One won’t allow you to go to sleep and the other will make you get up in the middle of the night.
There are a lot of less obvious tips and tricks you can use to get to sleep faster. It’s a pretty in-depth and valuable article, so it’s really better to read it there than to try and cram it into this article.
If you’ve tried all/most/some of those tips and you’re still not getting quality sleep, then this is the place for you. Because sometimes you need a little outside help. Sometimes you need to find the best natural sleeping pills out there and you need to find them fast.
There are primarily two ways that natural sleeping pills work. They either support melatonin production, or serotonin production.
Melatonin probably makes more sense to you because you’ve likely heard about it and how it relates to sleep because it’s called the sleep hormone. However, melatonin pills can only be obtained with a prescription in the UK and most of Europe as melatonin is classed as medicine.
Serotonin is the hormone linked with your mood, often called the feel good hormone. It helps with anxiety so your mind is more at ease by affecting neurotransmitter systems and is a driver of the sleep/wake cycle. Foods and supplements high in the amino acid L-Tryptophan can help maintain healthy serotonin levels.
Tryptophan & 5-HTP
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. Your body doesn’t make it, so you’ve got to get it from outside sources via food or supplements.
Tryptophan converts to 5-HTP in your body. By taking 5-HTP, you’re essentially skipping a step in the process. The process for conversion to serotonin is:
Tryptophan --> 5-HTP --> Serotonin
The biggest benefit of 5-HTP (from griffonia seeds above) is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This increases its effectiveness in creating serotonin. However, large doses of 5-HTP have been linked to stomach problems and nausea.
As tryptophan will still eventually be converted to serotonin you can combine tryptophan and 5-HTP so you need lower levels of 5-HTP. This will reduce the risk of side effects, but the combination will still increase the necessary production of serotonin, but in a more sustained way.
The precursor to melatonin is serotonin. So the full process from above looks like this:
Tryptophan --> 5HTP --> Serotonin --> Melatonin
So you could skip all the various stages and go directly to a melatonin supplement. The biggest problem occurs if you don’t have enough time to sleep it off. It can cause daytime drowsiness and irritability if you have had a high dose and it is still in your system.
However, as explained earlier pure melatonin must be obtained with a prescription in the UK and most of Europe as it is classed as medicine. There are natural forms of melatonin you can take that are not classed as medicine. Montmorency cherries (also known as tart cherries) and grape skin naturally have melatonin in them and can help with your sleep/wake cycle.
Valerian is one of the oldest remedies for sleep. What scientists don’t fully understand, however, is exactly how valerian works. Some speculate it increases inhibitory neurotransmitters, reducing anxiety and may even have a sedative effect. Valerian also prevents an enzyme from inhibitory neurotransmitters. However, it may have an effect on other areas of the brain.
Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body. It’s also one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the Western world. So even if you don’t use it to help you sleep, you should either eat more leafy greens or take a magnesium supplement anyway.
One of magnesium’s primary roles in your body is to relax your muscles. So it should come as no surprise that it’s an effective solution for sleep. It also helps reduce cortisol (a key stress hormone).
The end result is that you’re able to get to sleep quicker, and sleep longer.
However, there are about a dozen different forms of magnesium. You want the ones with the highest absorption rates or a combination that are designed for sleep support.
Different ingredients affect our sleep in different ways. To make a specific claim about a benefit that an ingredient has, it first should be approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
To make a claim that a sleeping pill is effective it should either be making a claim about the individual ingredients, or quoting results of customer surveys or clinical trials.
Importantly the amount and quality of the ingredient determines its effectiveness. So for example, the EFSA approves the claims that “magnesium contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue”; but only if there is enough magnesium to meet the EFSAs requirements that has been proven to have this effect.
Are natural sleeping pills safe?
The answer is, “it depends.” As with any supplement, you really need to be mindful of these two things:
1) The potency of the ingredients
2) The quality of the ingredients
What you’re looking to do is replicate a process that your body already does naturally. Even though it might not be all that efficient at it, you’re still affecting a process that ultimately affects your brain. So high strength, or “highest potency” isn’t always the best.
5-HTP has been considered safe at dosages up to 400 mg per day when taken for an entire year. Although, some people have experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, heartburn, muscle problems and even nightmares. Generally, you’ll find that high strength pure 5-HTP supplements are in the 200 mg range.
However, when you’re affecting your hormones, you want to use the lowest dose that gives you the benefits you’re looking for. Remember that with a high dosage formula, you’re unable to lower the dose and you could experience side effects. So if you’re looking for a supplement, you should aim for 80 – 100mg of 5-HTP (plus tryptophan).
The reason is simple: to reduce the risks of any side effects of high 5-HTP, you can combine the effective levels of 5-HTP with the synergistic ingredient of tryptophan which also contributes to the production of serotonin.
Just as importantly, however, is the quality of the ingredients. Most of the time, the supplement will still be safe. But there are certain locations, like China, for instance, which have heavily polluted soil and waterways. The leaves, fruit and seeds of plants produced in these environments will be contaminated and potentially harmful to your health.
It’s been said that you are what you eat. If the plants and herbs that are in your natural sleeping pills were eating lead, you are now eating lead.
For the vast majority of natural sleeping aids, the only side effects are mild: grogginess, nausea, or dizziness; but all are pretty rare.
To learn your own tolerance to any supplements you should always start off on a lower dose and let the body get used to it. If taking 5-HTP for the first time your body will have to get used to converting an external substance into serotonin.
So to reduce any side effects try half the dose for the first few nights and then increase the dosage. This is easier said than done if you are sleep deprived and need a solution, but even half dosages of good natural sleeping pills will help.
It depends. You need to be mindful of sleeping pills that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan, like so many other sleep aids, helps produce melatonin so it can definitely help you get to sleep quicker and sleep deeper.
The good news is there are several excellent sources of tryptophan that are vegan. The best sources are whole grain oats, brown rice and quinoa.
The bad news is there is an extremely prominent source of tryptophan that’s eaten at Christmas every year – turkey. Responsible for many sofa naps during the festive period, turkey is most definitely not vegetarian at all. If you see tryptophan on a product’s label, be sure to enquire about the source before ingesting it.
You should avoid prescription medication sleeping pills whenever possible. If you’ve got insomnia, you will probably have little choice in the matter – not because herbal sleeping aids are worse, but because your doctor will prescribe you these artificial chemically created nightmares.
In general, prescription sleeping pills can be hard to get off once you start using them. Not only will you build up a tolerance to them quickly, they also become an addiction.
Herbal sleeping pills (plant and vitamin based) are far safer. You can still build up a tolerance and you should ideally cycle yourself on and off them, but because they are created by nature they do not have nearly as many side effects. In addition, you’re also able to control the dosage a lot easier.
The key with any sleep supplement is to find the lowest dose you need to get to sleep. It will save you money and it won’t have much of an effect on your body’s normal functioning.
See our Neuro Rest natural sleeping pills reviews to see how others have benefitted from using this natural sleep aid for a restful night’s sleep. Utmost Me is a UK natural supplement and sleep support company. Find out more about Utmost Me.