Iowa Sleep Blog

Melatonin and other natural sleep aids

Monday, January 25, 2016

Getting ready for bed each night should be something you look forward to after a long day. But for many people, getting ready for bed means tossing and turning while sleep eludes them. In fact, 48 percent of Americans report occasional insomnia, while 22 percent experience insomnia every, or almost every night, and women are twice more likely to experience insomnia than men. To combat insomnia, many people turn to natural sleep aids.

Arguably the most popular sleep aids today, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and helps promote sleep and that drowsy feeling. The gland sits inactive during the day, and begins to produce melatonin in the evening, making you less alert and feeling ready for bed as the night wears on. As we get older, our melatonin levels begin to drop. You might find it easier to sleep each night by adding a melatonin supplement, especially if you’re a shift worker, experience seasonal affective disorder or chronic cluster headaches.

There are a variety of other natural sleep aids, besides melatonin, that can help you sleep better. We’ve listed a couple below:

  • Tart cherry juice – While it might pucker your mouth, a serving of tart cherry juice is full of tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, then melatonin, as it is digested.
  • Mindful meditation – A study from Harvard University shows the use of mindfulness meditation can help you fall asleep and fight insomnia. This type of meditation focuses your breathing while bringing your mind’s attention to the present without thinking of other stressful concerns. One of our favorite guided meditation videos by Deepak Chopra can get you started.
  • Herbal tea – If you like to enjoy a warm, cozy treat before bed, consider trying herbal tea within 90 minutes of bed. One of our favorites is chamomile, which contains substances that act as a sedative and helps relax the body.
  • Mantram – This is the practice of repeating certain syllables, words or phases in the mind over and over again to help unify consciousness and counteract a negative mental state. People with restless minds find this practice helps center their mind, relax and fall asleep.

If you experience insomnia more than a couple nights a week, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about any underlying medical conditions, such as depression, chronic pain, stress or anxiety that might be affecting your sleep habits. Then, call one of the doctors at Iowa Sleep to learn more about how we can help you sleep well each night, or send us a sleep question through our convenient online form.

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