Are you tired of fixing a time to sleep every day and then finding yourself awake at 2 AM binge-watching Netflix or liking memes on Instagram?
Do not worry! You’re not alone in this. A recent Harvard study suggests that globally, one in four adults have reported suffering from mild insomnia.
Insomnia refers to a condition where you cannot fall asleep and can’t stay asleep for the required time. It can leave you tired throughout the day and cause a sense of restlessness. It takes a heavy toll on your physical and mental health; if you lack that proper 7 hours of sound sleep, it can adversely affect your concentration power and mood balance.
High risks of diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity are linked to sleeplessness.
Well, insomnia can arise for various reasons, and while most of its effects are only transitory, we all experience a tiny dosage of it at some point in our lives. This may be the case for you if you are taking drugs, are stressed, or have a hectic job schedule that has disrupted your daily routine (including eating habits), causing your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) to be disrupted.
Insomnia, on the other hand, can be a long-term problem. Depression, anxiety, and even certain significant underlying medical disorders can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Why Sleeping Pills Are a Big No?
There are a plethora of ‘sleeping pills’ on the market that promise to restore the sleep you’ve been missing.
Sleeping pills will provide you with speedy results and are widely available throughout India. However, there is a catch; most of the easily accessible sleep-inducing medications on the market are a combination of sedative-hypnotics.
The most popular medication for sleep disorders is sold under the brand names Xanax, Ativan, Librium, and Valium. They all contain the same composition (with minor differences) of a class of medications known as benzodiazepines.
Other over-the-counter medications are frequently prescribed by doctors, including brand names such as Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta.
Adverse Effects of Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills may cause you several after-effects, some mild and some serious
- Gastric problems
- Problems with attention and memory
- Fluctuations in appetite
- Burning sensation in hands and legs
Moreover, to top it off, they are addictive, with dose-dependent ‘rapid results.’
Allergic Reactions to Prescription Drugs
Medication allergies can manifest, and the majority of the time, it is due to the composition of the drug itself. As a result, you should attempt to avoid taking any drugs that may cause allergic reactions if you have a known history of allergic to any specific drug, including sleeping pills.
There is evidence that impaired vision, pain in the chest, hoarseness, itching, nausea, and rashes are early signs of an allergic reaction to these sleeping medications.
Dependence on the Prescribed Sleeping Drugs
There is no disagreement about a person’s heavy reliance on these prescription drugs.
If you use sleeping pills on a regular basis, they may cease to function, forcing an increase in dose, and the cycle continues to worsen. Building a tolerance to these tablets isn’t the only issue you’ll face; they’re also habit-forming (except for sleeping pills like Belsomra, Rozerem, or Silenor).
You will find it difficult to sleep in the absence of sleeping pills, establishing a psychological reliance; it may make you more anxious and compel an emotional and mental craving for them.
Alternative to Prescribed Sleeping Drugs
You may have considered while reading this article that instead of forcing ourselves to sleep, we should boost the effectiveness of our natural sleep mechanism. Yes, that is a possibility.
The vast majority of over-the-counter sleep aids are classified as natural. They boost your metabolism quantitatively and subjectively, allowing us to sleep naturally. They will also aid in digestion and act as a natural pain reliever.
Because these commonly used natural sleep aids are generally not regulated, you should use them with caution.
Ginseng is a natural herb that may be found across Asia, and Chinese people highly acknowledge its nutritional value.
A 2013 study focused on red Ginseng and found favorable effects on patients who suffer from sleep difficulties. In general, a daily intake of 800mg to 2g is advised. Although known for its sleep benefits, Ginseng also.
- Enhances sexual behavior
- Raises energy levels
- Helps in overcoming stress
- Keeps low blood sugar levels
Ginseng Side Effects
- However, long-term use of this herb has shown some side effects like:
- Menstrual problems
- If any of these symptoms appear, then you must consult your doctor.
Blocking melatonin production by watching a movie or accessing the internet during your sleep hours is a direct outcome. Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in reaction to darkness, and its primary role is to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin pills and food items containing a large quantity of melatonin were found to be effective in giving a night of excellent sleep in a study published in 2019.
A recommended dose of 1mg to 5mg once a day before night can work wonders for two weeks. Consult your doctor if the condition persists.
- Boost the functioning of your immune system
- Inhibit cell death
- Overcome jet lag
Melatonin Side Effects
- Stomach cramps
The use of melatonin as a natural aid for sleep disorders is a hot research spot, and its long-term use is still a topic of debate. If you encounter any of the above symptoms, consult your doctor.
Chamomile is a blooming plant native to Europe, having significant populations in Germany and England. Chamomile tea is well-known for its health advantages, one of which is that it is a great sleep aid.
Chamomiles have potential as a mild tranquilizer and sleep inducer was proposed in a 2010 study.
- It provides relief to people with osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Helps in fighting anxiety and seizure
- Provide relief in sore throat
- Suppress blood sugar level thus helping in the treatment of diabetes (more study is required in this field)
Chamomiles Side Effects
- You must be cautious while using chamomile if you have an allergy to any member of the daisy family. It may also cause:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eye irritations
- Skin reactions
- If you contact any of these symptoms or show an allergy to chamomile, consult your doctor.
Another herb on our list is valerian, native to Europe and Asia. Although the herb was utilized in ancient times, the benefits of valerian can now be found in a dietary supplement capsule. According to a study published in 2020, valerian improves sleep quality and aids in anxiety management.
- Relief in stomach cramps
- Relief in Headache
- Helps in overcoming depression
Valerian Side Effects
- One must be careful of these side effects:
- If these symptoms persist after stopping the use of valerian, consult your doctor.
The Bottom Line
Natural sleep aids are still a hot issue of debate, and their long-term effectiveness and adverse effects are currently being researched. Before utilizing these sleep aids, keep the following in mind:
- Consult your doctor: ask your doctor if these medicines will have any adverse effects in combination with other medications you’re taking and what dosage is sufficient for your case.
- Precautions to be kept in mind: if you already have asthma, liver diseases, glaucoma, then you have to be extra careful with the use of these medicines.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid most of these products.
- Go slow with them: over-the-counter sleep aids are not supposed to be used for more than two weeks; they act as a temporary solution to sleep disorders.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking: not just sleeping pills; you must not mix alcohol with any sleep aid.
- If the symptoms mentioned above are consistent, you should seek medical advice or consult a physician.
In a nutshell, insomnia may appear to be a common problem on the surface, but we all have our unique set of reasons for losing something so crucial. The first step must be to identify “the exact problem you are facing.” Making sleep habits and balancing work and naps will help you become more accomplished in a day.
- Han HJ, Kim HY, Choi JJ, Ahn SY, Lee SH, Oh KW, Kim SY. Effects of red ginseng extract on sleeping behaviors in human volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Sep 16;149(2):597-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.07.005. Epub 2013 Jul 16. PMID: 23872254.
- Pereira, N., Naufel, M.F., Ribeiro, E.B., Tufik, S. and Hachul, H. (2020), Influence of Dietary Sources of Melatonin on Sleep Quality: A Review. Journal of Food Science, 85: 5-13. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.14952
- Srivastava, J. K., Shankar, E., & Gupta, S. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895–901. https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2010.377
- Shinjyo, N., Waddell, G., & Green, J. (2020). Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/2515690X20967323
Devendra S Sengar is a budding biotechnologist and a research enthusiast. He is currently perusing a master’s degree in molecular biology and biotechnology. He is planning to join the doctoral program after his post-graduation and participate in research projects focusing on molecular genetics.