While may turn to over-the-counter (OTC) products designed to make you sleep better such as Tylenol PM (really Benadryl) or other name branded “PM” products, none are really proven to help you sleep. Benadryl based products suffer from drowsiness as a side effect, which when taken at night seem that they would help in this matter. Drowsiness is one part of the falling asleep equation, but not the whole picture, and unfortunately many are not helped by this. While OTC products often promote the idea that they are a sleep aid, many fall short. Here are two products that don’t promote sleep that do support your body’s effort to get to sleep:
Melatonin is the “darkness hormone” made by a gland in your brain responsible for your body’s biologic clock. Its secretion should be in sync with your life’s daytime schedule, but isn’t always. If you want to go to bed, but your body’s clock thinks you should be up later, you will have trouble falling asleep. Use of melatonin can help to better sync your life/work schedule to your biologic clock. Despite being found over the counter, you should always consult with your doctor before starting a supplement like this, especially if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, kidney disease or history of stroke. If the reason you’re having trouble falling asleep relates to this hormone, taking it about 30 minutes before you go to sleep will help. You must keep a regular bedtime for this to be effective, and taking it at the “wrong” time can potentially worsen things. Ask a sleep specialist for help if you are uncertain.
A reputable vitamin brand, Nature Made, produces this and it can be found online or in your local pharmacy. While any company can make it, be sure to purchase from a company that you trust, as the FDA doesn’t regulate these products like prescription drugs. The typical dosage is 1-3mg, but there is no definite data on the most appropriate dose, however, DO NOT take more than 3mg once per night. MORE WILL NOT make you fall asleep faster or sleep more soundly, and don’t take any additional doses in the middle of the night if you wake up and can’t fall asleep. It does not make you fall asleep, it helps regulate your “sleep clock”. If it is not helping your sleep after a weeks trial, I would recommend stopping it and seeking professional guidance. Side effects could include nausea, dizziness and “hangover” sensation.
L-theanine is an amino acid, a building block of protein, that is found in very small amounts in tea. It is one of the active ingredients thought to give Green Tea is beneficial qualities. When taken in tea, it may act synergistically with caffeine for its effects. It has been shown to increase alpha-wave activity in the brain, an activity which is maximal in meditation and deep relaxation. Supplementation with L-theanine has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve mood, memory and mental calmness. Research in Japan has shown that 200mg improved patient identified sleep quality compared to placebo in males.
Interested? Try both! Remember these are not sleeping pills, but will setup your brain for sleep and relaxation.
As always, consult your physician before starting any new over-the-counter supplements.
WARNING: DO NOT take more than once before sleep. Taking additional doses in the middle of the night will not help you fall back to sleep faster and can leave you with a hangover effect the next morning.
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