Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the
sleep/wake cycle, an internal pacemaker that controls the timing and our drive
for sleep. It causes drowsiness, lowers body temperature, and puts the body
into sleep mode.
Research on melatonin in people with sleeplessness
is mixed. Some research shows that taking it restores and improves sleep in
people with sleeplessness. Other studies show that melatonin does not help
people with sleeplessness stay asleep.
Melatonin might be of benefit to people with issues
such as jet lag or shift work. It is not regulated by the FDA and can have
problems with purity. You should only use it under close supervision by a
You can put a tasty spin on your grandmother’s
natural sleeplessness remedy by sipping warm milk before bed. Almond milk is an
excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin. Plus, warm
milk may spark pleasant and relaxing memories of your mother helping you fall
The best sleep-inducing foods include a combination
of protein and carbohydrates, says Shelby Harris, PsyD. She’s the director of
the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at
Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.
Harris suggests a light snack of half a banana with
a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a whole wheat cracker with some cheese. Eat
one of these snacks about 30 minutes before hitting the hay.
Magnesium apparently plays a key role with sleep.
Research has shown that even a marginal lack of it can prevent the brain from
settling down at night. You can get magnesium from food. Good sources include
green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. Check with your
doctor before taking magnesium supplements. Magnesium can interact with many
different medications, and too much of it can cause serious health issues.
Lavender oil is calming and can help encourage sleep
in some people with sleeplessness, research shows. “Try taking a hot bath with
lavender oil before bed to relax your body and mind,” Harris says.
This medicinal herb has been used to treat sleep
problems since ancient times. “Valerian can be sedating and may help you fall
asleep,” says Tracey Marks, MD, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist.
Research on the effectiveness of valerian for sleeplessness
is mixed. Marks says if you try valerian as a sleep remedy, be patient. It can
take a few weeks for it to take effect. Talk to your doctor before taking
valerian and follow label directions.
This amino acid found in green tea leaves may help
combat anxiety that interferes with sleep. A 2007 study showed that L-theanine
reduced heart rate and immune responses to stress. It’s thought to work by
boosting the amount of a feel-good hormone your body makes. It also induces
brain waves linked to relaxation. Talk to your doctor before taking it.