Natural Sleep Aids
Last Modified: November 19, 2010
Many people turn to herbal sleep aids such as chamomile tea or valerian root when they have trouble sleeping. These herbs for sleep seem to encourage a good night’s rest, and doctors may suggest patients try natural sleep aids before prescription medications are used. However, herbal sleep aids may come with certain risks; it’s important to review possible side effects of natural sleep aids and talk to your doctor before you start using herbs to help you sleep.
Considering Herbal Sleep Aids
Most herbal sleep aids lack extensive clinical testing. While there is evidence that valerian root helps resolve sleep issues, most other herbs for sleep disorders are traditional home remedies whose effectiveness has not been backed up by scientific research.
Many herbs for sleep exist. A partial list of popular herbal sleep aids includes:
California poppy: This herb may help induce sleep, in addition to easing pain and anxiety.
Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea works as a gentle sleep aid, and also soothes upset stomachs and nausea.
Chamomile tea is generally considered a safe natural sleep aid, but there is some evidence to suggest that it can cause internal bleeding if combined with anticoagulants.
Passionflower: This calming herb is sometimes used for sleep disorders caused by chronic pain, muscle conditions and anxiety.
St. John’s wort: St. John’s wort is sometimes used to treat mild depression and anxiety, as well as insomnia.
St. John’s wort can be an ingredient in natural sleep aids or taken alone. Side effects include increased sensitivity to sunlight. Avoid taking St. John’s wort if you already take antidepressants.
Valerian root: One of the most popular herbs for sleep, valerian root is also an herbal treatment for nerve and muscle disorders. Like chamomile tea, valerian root is generally consumed in liquid form. Side effects of valerian root can include headache, upset stomach and insomnia.
Many other herbs are sometimes used to promote sleep, including:
Side Effects of Herbs for Sleep
While many herbs for sleep are harmless, natural sleep aids should be used with caution. Herbs for sleep can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medication. Always consult a doctor before trying natural sleep aids, especially if using sleep herbs to treat children. Herbal sleep aids can have potentially serious side effects, such as St. John’s wort, which can interact with a range of medications, including blood thinners and birth control pills.
Health Media Ventures, Inc. (2010). Using valerian as a sleep aid: The pros and cons of natural remedies. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20189495,00.html.
Holistic Online. (2007). Herbs and herbal therapies. Retrieved October 11, 2010 from http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/Sleep/sleep_insomnia_herbs.htm.
McGill University (2006, April 27). Chamomile tea and lotion causing internal bleeding in patient on anti-coagulant medication. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060427161856.htm.
Robinson, L., Kemp, G. & Barston, S. (2010). Sleeping pills, natural sleep aids and medications: What’s best for you? Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_aids_medication_insomnia_treatment.htm.