Researchers have taken a renewed interest in figuring out the mysteries behind human sleep. Why, exactly do we sleep? Why does poor sleep or insufficient sleep make us feel terrible? And what can we do to get more and better sleep?
Some of these questions we now have answers to. For example, on the question of how to get more and better sleep: avoid sleeping pills! This may seem counterintuitive, but trust us, there’s a very reasonable explanation. Once you learn why prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids are so bad for you – and why natural sleep aids are far superior in nature – you’ll never pick up a bottle or a box of synthetic sleeping pills ever again!
The Dangerous Facts About Sleeping Pills (That Most People Don’t Know)
Most prescription sleeping pills fall into one of two classifications: benzodiazepines, or hypnotics. Regardless of which type of pill you take, one fact remains clear: these pills can knock you out and make you feel sleepy, but they cannot mimic or reproduce natural, restorative rest. That’s why so many people still feel sleepy, hungover, or groggy the next day after taking one.
In the short-term, these pills will ruin the quality of sleep you get, even if you end up sleeping your recommended 8 hours or more. In the long-term, their effects are more devastating. With hypnotics like Ambien, it shuts off your brain so that you think you’re asleep but you may still be partially conscious and do things like eat, sleep walk, or even drive while technically unconscious. Benzodiazepines, although they induce drowsiness, are actually anti-anxiety medications. One of the most common side effects when you discontinue a benzodiazepine is rebound anxiety. This can often lead to rebound insomnia, which is why taking them for sleep is so problematic.
Here’s Why Natural Sleep Aids Are Better
Natural sleep aids, on the other hand, are much more effective at helping you get restorative rest. This is because they contain natural ingredients which help mimic the sleep state that the human body is used to. This helps your body cycle through all of its sleep stages in a normal, healthy way – which is what it is supposed to do in order to recharge itself on a nightly basis.
One of the first things your body does during natural sleep (which it doesn’t do under the influence of a sleeping pill) is to perform a form of “neurological triage”. This necessary for optimal brain health. During this process, your brain prunes away the neurological connections it doesn’t need while strengthening and reinforcing the connections it does. This helps maintain healthy memory and protect you from each related brain disease.
But natural, high quality sleep is also important for your waking hours. Getting too little sleep, poor quality sleep, or a mix of both can cause dangerous levels of drowsiness once you wake which are akin to being drunk. If you have to drive a car to work or operate heavy machinery on the job, this lack of sleep (and subsequent drowsiness) can put your safety and the safety of others around you in danger.
Lastly, the long-term consequences of depending on prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids can set you up for disaster during your golden years. More and more scientific evidence is emerging that shows people who take prescription and/or drugstore sleep aids for years or even decades have a higher likelihood of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s. So to lower your risk for such diseases, or if you want to delay the inevitability of them, you should rely on natural sleep aids instead because there’s no known association between natural supplements and age-related brain disease.
How to Find the Best Natural Sleep Aid
So how do you replace your prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pill with a natural sleep aid? You have to shop smart. Start by looking for products which contain all natural botanical extracts and ingredients. If they contain antioxidants, that’s even better! But don’t just look for a box that says “all natural”. Take a very close look at the ingredients list on the back and try to find one or more of the following:
- Melatonin. Yes, believe it or not, this is a natural ingredient. Even synthetic versions of it which are common in natural sleep aids are processed by the body as if they were the real thing, rendering them perfectly safe. Most people don’t produce enough melatonin for one reason or another. But if you take a natural sleep aid within about 30 minutes of going to bed that contains melatonin, it’ll help start a domino effect which promotes relaxation and natural drowsiness in the human body.
- Valerian root, chamomile, l-theanine, and/or lemon balm. Any and all of these will help boost GABA in the brain, which helps your body get to sleep naturally. GABA is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for feeling relaxed and stress-free. Most people have trouble sleeping because they have too little GABA, which triggers a stress response in their body. When you’re stressed out, sleep is the last thing on your mind! So increasing the amount of GABA in your brain and reducing the stress response is the best way to get more natural sleep.
- Hops, orange peel extract, passion flower, and/or 5-HTP. Either or all of these natural ingredients help the body feel sedated without chemicals. They help balance serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain so that you feel both relaxed and drowsy when it is time for bed. Many of them also have antioxidants which helped improve brain health on a cellular level.
We don’t know your personal situation. We have no idea if you’ve been addicted to sleeping pills for years, if you’re thinking about sleeping pills but you’re unsure, or if you’re just having trouble sleeping for the first time ever and you’re wondering what your options are. Regardless, we hope you give a natural sleep-aid a try. Most people get fantastic results from such supplements – and all for a fraction of the cost you’d end up paying for prescription sleep aid!