Alaska Sleep Education Center

Sleep aides promise restful nights; but can they deliver?

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Feb 21, 2019 10:32:00 AM

A lot of products promise you a better night sleep. A comfortable pillow, the correct mattress, a zen bedroom, or an unplugged nightstand are a few simple solutions. But natural and medical interventions may be the right options to ease your body to better sleeping habits.

Some people do not realize normal routines and medications can affect their sleep as well as some antihistamines, beta blockers, birth control, or asthma medications containing caffeine. For those who have eliminated the normal conditions that surround a lack of sleep, many start with traditional solutions.

Sleep Solutionsmelatonin

Melatonin supplements are the first place many people start. As a hormone that is produced naturally by your body, it signals the brain that it is time to sleep. Melatonin levels naturally rise towards the end of the day with levels falling in the morning.

A disruption in sleep such as jet lag, unusually levels of stress, or an illness may see improvements in sleep quality with a small dose of regular melatonin while transitioning back to a normal sleeping pattern.

Melatonin has been proven in studies to increase the total amount of sleep time and reduce the time individuals fall asleep outside their normal sleep patterns; but it should not be a long-term solution to sleep ailments.

Many start sleep aids because they have a hard time staying awake during class or work. But turning to caffeine pills should be avoided. When your adenosine levels decrease, your body think it's getting ready for sleep. “Caffeine mostly targets the A1 receptor, and it takes about 5 to 6 hours for your body to process it, meaning that's coffeethe time you're going to stop feeling the effects of the caffeine you consumed.”

Trying over the counter approaches long-term can cause a hangover effect when one feels groggy or moody the next day. You'll feel caffeine's peak effects around an hour after taking a pill.

However, caffeine can affect sleep depending on your body composition:

  • It's a diuretic, so it will cause you to urinate more.
  • It increases stomach acid, which can lead to a stomachache or heartburn.
  • It increases your blood pressure.
  • It could inhibit your body's absorption of caffeine.


Valerian root is a better option to this effect as it is an herb commonly used as a natural treatment for symptoms of anxiety, depression, and menopause. Valerian comes in the form of pill, liquid, or tea. Though some populations of lactating or pregnant women should avoid valerian.

Reading side effects on any medicine either behind or over-the-counter is an important step to take before trying any medicine. Other options are available outside medicinal.


Other Approaches to a Good Night's Sleep

Behavioral approaches are common practices ranging from limiting the time spent in bed to “making a stronger mental connection between bed and sleep” called stimulus control. “Stimulus control focuses on the association between your bed and sleep. Do you find yourself balancing a checkbook or writing a letter in bed? In this way you link bedtime with alerting activities rather than sleeping. The stimulus control approach helps you think more about your bed as a place for sleeping.”

Many have heard of the natural wellness remedy of adding oils to the bedroom, but do not know where to begin. Just as different options aid the sense of smell, an oil lasts throughout the night enjoyed for you and your partner.

Lavender is a good place to start. “Several studies show that simply smelling lavender oil for 30 minutes before sleep may be enough to improve the quality of sleep.” With its relaxing scent, the aroma is pleasant and easy to combine with other oils to achieve the perfect mix.

camomilleChamomile is mistakenly seen as the next best treatment for insomnia. But as Essential Oil Haven recommends, Roman Chamomile is specifically used as a natural sleep aid.

Using these oils together can be tricky so make certain to NEVER ingest but dilute your oils with water in a carrier or diffuser.

Before using any type of sleep aid, you should consult your medical provider to find out if the product is right for you. “Fortunately, a large body of research has been conducted regarding both the effectiveness and the minimal side effects of using natural sleep aids to relieve temporary insomnia. However, we don’t yet have evidence on the effects of long-term use of natural sleep aids. 

Natural sleep aids are classified as dietary or herbal supplements; so they’re not regulated by the FDA in the same way medications are. That means manufacturers are under no obligation to meet safety or effectiveness regulations, or that a word used on one label means the same thing as when it’s used on an another.” It is important to stay in the care of a physician to journal your insomnia issues.

You may even need to consider a sleep study to cure long-term insomnia. Our specialists here at Alaska Sleep Clinic are more than experienced in the treatment in all things sleep related, from insomnia to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you live in the Anchorage, Alaska area, then be sure to call today for a free 10-minute consultation.

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Topics: medication, remedies

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