For temporary sleep problems caused by stress, discomfort, travel, over-the-counter sleep aid products may help you gain a more restful night's sleep, so that you can wake up feeling more rejuvenated.
Melatonin is available as a dietary supplement for temporary insomnia. Melatonin is also naturally produced by the body and helps to regulate the body's internal clock. When the darkness of nighttime sets in, the body begins to produce more melanin to prepare you for sleep. In some people, melanin production is not sufficient, leading to sleep problems. Scientists are now beginning to study whether or not age has an effect upon melanin production.
Some researchers believe that taking a melatonin supplement can help individuals who do not produce enough melatonin. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists melatonin as possibly effective for addressing insomnia, and most studies conclude that melatonin works best when it is only taken for a few days or weeks at a time. Melatonin does have side effects such as drowsiness, vivid dreams, and small changes in blood pressure. Caution should be utilized when driving or operating dangerous machinery. Pregnant or nursing women as well as children should check with their physician prior to taking melatonin supplements.
A natural herb, valerian has been used as a sedative since the ancient times, and today, researchers are beginning to study the science behind this traditional folk remedy. Some scientists speculate that chemicals in valerian root increase the availability of a brain chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid or GABA, which helps to inhibit or block nerve signals. This may help the body to relax.
A few clinical trials have confirmed that valerian assists with relaxation and makes it easier for those with insomnia to fall asleep; however, the National Institutes of Health cautions that most of these studies had scientific flaws. As a result, some people do experience a reduction in insomnia symptoms when using a valerian root supplement.
There are many other sleep supplements on the market that contain ingredients that may help encourage rest and relaxation but that have not been formally studied. Some products contain the traditional folk remedy chamomile, which some say eases stress and allows the body to relax.
Other formulas feature l-tryptophan, the amino acid that is present inside of turkey, milk and other foods and drinks that are sometimes used as home remedies for insomnia. Products may also use a derivative of l-tryptophan called 5-HTP to assist with sleep. Side effects associated with taking tryptophan may include drowsiness and fatigue, blurred vision, dizziness, hives, nausea, head-twitching, palpitations, hives, nausea, tremor, sweating and muscle stiffness or loss of muscle coordination.
It is very important to note that l-tryptophan supplements may interfere with medications that you may be taking. Consult your pharmacist or physician regarding potential drug interactions. Do not take l-tryptophan if you are taking antidepressant medications in the class called “selective serotonin uptake inhibitors” or “SSRIs”. Doing so may lead to a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of serotonin symptom include delirium, severe muscle spasm, increased body temperature and coma.
Although sleep aid supplements can be highly effective, they are not meant as a long-term treatment for insomnia. If you are having sleep problems that persist, you should talk to your physician before continuing to address the problem with supplements alone. Those who take prescription medications or who have chronic health concerns should consult their doctors before taking any sleep aid supplement. back to top »
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