Melatonin is actually a hormone which is produced by the body. It helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, or the natural cycle of sleeping and waking. Supplemental melatonin can help to correct sleep patterns and help to make a person feel awake and rested in the morning. Sleeping disorders can increase with age, and melatonin has been shown in research to help. In one study of participants over 55 years of age, those who took 2 mg. of time release melatonin experienced better sleep quality and were more alert in the morning.
Valerian is one of the most well known herbs for sleep. It’s used as both a tranquilizer and a calmative. Its benefits are particularly effective for women experiencing menopause. Research has shown that it can increase sleep quality and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. There have even been studies which found it to be as effective as a number of different prescription sleep aids. Valerian is most beneficial for people with chronic insomnia instead of those with temporary or sporadic sleeplessness.
Passionflowers are gorgeous if you’ve ever seen them. They also are great for sleep and have been used as a sedative for over 200 years. It helps to reduce anxiety and relieve muscle tension. Passionflower is especially helpful for nervous insomnia.
L-theanine is an amino acid that’s present in small amounts in green tea. It’s often used during the day because it reduces anxiety without tiredness. Even though it doesn’t cause sleepiness, it has been shown to be an effective sleep aid. One interesting study conducted in Japan found that those who took theanine were more alert on wakening and reported, “a significant absence of feeling exhausted and a reduced need for sleep” when interviewed in the mornings. The majority reported improved sleep efficiency and also a reduction in nightmares. Another study on children (ages 8-13) found that those who consumed theanine had a significantly higher sleep percentage and sleep efficiency scores.
Many of the above sleep aids are available in formulas which have several supplements combined together, since while they work well alone, they often have impressive benefits when combined.