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Are Herbal Sleep Aids Safe?

Posted On February 15, 2014
February 15, 2014

You crave sleep. Despite your valiant efforts, nothing seems to help or do the trick. The effects of insomnia are constantly chasing you down: You can’t fall asleep, you can’t stay asleep. What can you do? Your physician volunteered to write you a prescription for a small quantity of sleeping pills. But even for a short duration of time, it’s a second too long in your book to take sleeping pills as you hate taking prescription medication. But what if there were natural supplements that could help you in the interim get a good night of sleep, would that option float your boat? Yes, but then again you worry: Are herbal sleep aids safe?

A Look at Herbal Sleep Aids

As far as herbal sleep aids are concerned, safety falls into a bucket like most other natural supplements. Research, to determine effectiveness and safety, is scarce. Add to the mix the issue that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor production of herbs and natural supplements in the same manner as pharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, there are a number of herbal sleep aids that are lifesavers for thousands of people who cannot seem to achieve a solid night of sleep in any other way.

Valerian Root

Since ancient times, this flowering grass plant has be used to help people fall asleep. It is unclear how valerian works to induce sleepiness but it’s thought to act similar to traditional sleeping pills but without addictive potential or the ability to cause next-day fog. Unfortunately, valerian is often combined with other substances and in varying amounts. Read the label as only the Valeriana officinalis variety of this herb is believed to contain the most active components.

The proper dosage to take in order produce an effect is also sketchy and it is believed that it takes 2 to 3 weeks to even get to the point of achieving solid and consistent sleep. In addition, valerian root does produce side effects such as headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness and mild stomach upset.


Not classified as an herb, melatonin is actually a hormone secreted by the brain’s pineal gland. This substance is thought to help regulate our body’s internal time clock or circadian rhythm based on perception of sunlight. When taken as a supplement, a synthetic version of the hormone is produced and used to help individuals having trouble sleeping soundly. There actually have been research studies that investigated the use of melatonin for people who suffer from jet lag.

Unlike valerian root, melatonin doesn’t cause sleepiness 30 minutes after taking. Instead, it should be taken a few hours before heading to bed to help trigger the body into thinking sleep is imminent and just around the corner.


As with valerian root, chamomile has been known and used for centuries to combat the symptoms of insomnia. In most instances, this traditional herb is used as a tea, or extract as a sleep aid, but also has the added benefits of reducing anxiety, relieving muscle aches and calming the digestive tract. For chamomile, there are actually some animal studies that have demonstrated its safety as an herbal sleep aid but none performed using human test subjects.

Even though herbal sleep aids and supplements can be purchased over-the-counter at your local health food store and grocery, you should consult your physician about taking any of them as many can adversely interact with prescription medications.

If you believe that you might have sleep apnea and would like to discover your best treatment option, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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