Are you sick and tired of not getting enough sleep?
Do you suffer from insomnia? Do you know that there are readily available home remedies that have been used for years to help people improve their sleeping patterns?
In this article, we are going to look at two remedies that have been recommended for addressing sleeping related problems: Valerian root and melatonin. Which one is the better sleep aid?
We will discuss each in detail to determine whether it can really help ease anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.
What is melatonin?
This is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland located in your brain. Its purpose is to assist you to regulate the wake-sleep cycle, that is also referred to as the circadian rhythm. When the light starts to diminish at dusk, melatonin is slowly released by the brain, signaling that it is time for you to start preparing to sleep.
The main problem with this hormone is that the body begins to reduce its production as you reach your middle age. It is the primary reason why many adults normally experience a problem when they are trying to sleep. Unfortunately for people in their forties, their bodies still require regular sleep.
Many have, therefore, had to turn to melatonin supplements in a bid to make it easier for them to fall asleep. The supplements are meant to work in tandem with those that are being released by the body to help them fall asleep much more easily.
How does it work?
As the sun is setting, signals start being transmitted through the optic nerve instructing the brain to begin producing this hormone. The hormone will prepare your body for the night ahead and will continue being produced by the pineal gland until the sun rises the following day. At this point, the brain will be instructed to cease producing the hormone.
In the course of the day, there will be very little melatonin to be detected in the blood. This is because the bright sun rays help keep its production at bay. If you would like to enjoy quality sleep each night, you should try and make your bedroom as dark as possible. Additionally, limit your exposure to electronics before bedtime.
What is the right dosage?
Melatonin supplements can normally be found in varying dosages. Each dosage has been designed for certain sleep-related problems. Many health professionals will start their clients slow in a bid to allow the body enough time to adjust before increasing the dosage. For an average adult, 1 to 3 mg is enough. This is a low dose and should help them fall asleep easily.
How is melatonin taken?
Melatonin is taken in the form of a supplement, with the recommended dosage being 1 to 3mg for the normal adult. The supplement should be taken an hour or two before one goes to bed.
For those that experience jet lag when traveling, they are advised to start taking it a few days before their travel date. They should always take it two hours before they call it a night.
What side effects does it have?
Some of its common side effects include:
- A headache
- Daytime sleepiness
- Stomach cramps
What is valerian root?
The root has been derived from Valeriana officinalis. This is a perennial plant that belongs to the Valerianaceae family. Its flowers can either be white or pink, and are normally well scented. Traditionally, they bloom during the summer months, and are native to parts of North America, Asia, and Europe.
Valerian roots comes with oils that are volatile, e.g., valerenic acids, and less volatile ones, e.g., valepotriates, and sesquiterpenes. Its ingredients are what enables it possess the ability to produce a restorative and calming effect on the human body, and its nervous system.
It gets its name from the personal name Valeria as well as the Latin verb valere which means healthy or strong. This root has been used for many years since the ancient Greek years when it was used as a medicinal remedy.
In the early years, up until the nineteenth century, this herb was mainly used for treating epilepsy. At the time, researchers had established that the isovaleric acid contained in the root had the capabilities to prevent the occurrence of convulsions.
Does it help insomnia?
Past studies have indicated that the Valerian root can assist in reducing the total time that it requires a person to fall asleep. It assists in improving sleep quality in people who are no longer able to fall asleep as fast as they used to. The reason many people prefer it to prescription sleeping pills is the fact that it does not have many known side effects.
In one study that was carried out by the Foellinge Center of Health in Sweden, it was seen that Valerian had a significant impact on the quality of sleep obtained by an individual. Of all the participants that took part in that study, forty-four percent were found to have experienced perfect sleep patterns. Another eighty-nine percent reported having experienced improved sleep while they were taking this root. The good news among the participants was that many did not report having experienced any negative effects after taking the root.
In many cases, this root is combined with sedating herbs, e.g., lemon balm and hops. The combination is then administered to those that are experiencing reduced or interrupted sleeping patterns.
In a study conducted among minors, it was noted that eighty-one percent of the children who ingested this root with lemon balm, later on, reported improved sleeping patterns. But what makes valerian root so effective in treating sleeping disorders?
The root is effective because it contains a chemical that is known as linarin. This chemical helps the body to relax by creating a sedative effect. It is able to cause sedation through the increase of the brain’s GABA levels. Gamma-amino butyric acid is found in your central nervous system where it works as an inhibitor. When it is present in large quantities, it is able to create a calming effect on the body.
Results obtained from a recent in vitro study point towards the fact that this valerian extract could cause GABA to start being released from the nerve endings in your brain. Once released, it would then ensure that this GABA did not find its way back to your nerve cells.
The valerian root normally comes in many varying forms. This provides you with various ways to get it into your body. It can be found as a dry powdered extract that comes in either tablet or capsule form. It is also available as a fluid extract and as an herbal tea.
You should, however, note that it may take between one and two weeks for you to start noticing any change. Be prepared to give it an opportunity to work, and take it as regularly as you can.
- If taking it as a liquid extract, you should take half a teaspoon
- For capsules, it is recommended a dosage of between 250 and 600mg
- For tea, use a single teaspoon in one cup of boiling water. Allow it to steep for a period of not less than five minutes.
How to take valerian root
Valerian root has been classified as safe for consumption in the United States. You can purchase it in the form of a supplement, dry powdered extract, herbal tea, fluid extract, or tincture. You could also apply it topically on your skin in the form of an essential oil.
It is important to note that this root has a very terrible smell, but the good news is that it does not taste as bad as it smells. As mentioned above, it has been seen to be most effective if taken regularly for a duration of not less than two weeks. In some cases, it could take longer.
For those that are battling insomnia, you need to ensure that you take it at least an hour or two before you head to sleep. Do not take it for more than three times each day. The last dosage should be very close to your bedtime.
Side effects of using valerian root as a sleeping aid
Even though this root has been categorized as being safe for human consumption, you may experience some side effects, e.g.,
- Stomach problems
- Anxiousness instead of calmness
Many of the studies that have been discussed above have not shown whether it can pose any problems to fetal development or fertility. Additional research is, therefore, needed to help clear the air on this. You should check with your physician before attempting to take this root if you happen to be nursing, or are pregnant. In addition, consult with the doctor before you give this root to a small child.
For many people, including those who have participated in past studies pertaining to valerian root, it does not seem as though it possesses any kind of dependency. You will also not experience any withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it. A person intending to take the valerian root for prolonged periods need to ensure that they lower their dosage slowly as they are approaching their intended stopping time.
Given that the root can make one sleepy, it is advisable not to take it when operating heavy machinery, when driving, or when performing a task that requires you to be alert around the clock. People with liver conditions should not take the root as well.
Do not combine this root with any sleeping aids that you could be taking as it may enhance their effects. Additionally, do not combine it with narcotics, benzodiazepines, alcohol, or depressants.
It has been seen to interfere with the workings of other medication, and it could increase effects that come with taking supplements like melatonin and kava. People with chronic health issues should first check in with their doctors before they start taking any valerian root supplements or extracts.
Melatonin vs. valerian root comparison summary
Melatonin is the hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, and one that is highly correlated with your body’s sleep cycle.
As mentioned earlier, the pineal gets activated when the sun starts to go down, leading to the production of this hormone. It gets released into the blood from where it is circulated around the body.
Normally, this has been seen to take place around nine in the evening. This is when the melatonin levels in the blood begin to rise very sharply, and when the body starts telling you that it is time for you to retire and head to bed. Once their production has begun, they will remain elevated in your blood for the next twelve hours, and will start to reduce as daytime approaches.
by the time the clock is strikes nine in the morning, the levels will have become lowered and will be barely detectable in your blood stream. People with insomnia will normally have very low levels of this particular hormone.
Valerian root, on the other hand, is a sedative herb that has been applied for years to deal with insomnia related cases. Taking the valerian root assists in increasing the GABA levels in your brain, and this acts to slowly reduce your brain activity. Eventually, you end up falling asleep.
It is recommended that you do not take the two together as their sedating effect may be too much for the body to handle.
- Assists in treating cramps, stress, and anxiety
- It can easily cause uneasiness
- It has been seen to assist with ALS, Alzheimer’s and cancer care
- It can cause irritability, short term feelings of depression, and sleepiness during the day
Should you choose valerian or melatonin?
If you have to make a choice between the two, it is recommended that you choose valerian root. It is safe to take, has no serious side effects, and it will easily take care of your sleeping problems.