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Melatonin, Valerian And Theanine - Three Supplements For A Good Night's Sleep

Dec 3, 2007
A good night's sleep ranks up there among the many things we don't appreciate 'till they're gone. Children seem to have no trouble sleeping. They go full tilt until they collapse. Then they sleep soundly and awake refreshed and ready to go again.

This cycle appeals because it is so natural. We recognize it as the way things should be.

Unfortunately for many adults, that's not at all the way things are.

There are many reasons for this. Some are related to life style (is it really surprising that it's a little hard to drift off to sleep after a double espresso mid-afternoon and a Red Bull in the evening?).

Others causes of sleeplessness are more mental. We all have worries, and at night they can become the central focus of thought. It can almost seem like an endless-loop tape playing over and over again.

Watching the evening news immediately before sleep is an excellent way to worsen this problem. Just in case you don't have enough worries of your own, you can have some from all over the world delivered right to your home.

Other causes of insomnia may be physical or related to changes associated with aging.

This article doesn't discuss any of these factors, and certainly isn't meant to replace a physician's evaluation. This article does mention three over the counter supplements that many people have found useful as sleep aids.

The first is melatonin. This is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. Normally people have an increased release of this hormone in the evening. Levels of melatonin generally decrease with age (although a recent study questioned this) and supplementing with it has fairly good evidence of efficacy as a sleep aid.

Other health claims have been made for melatonin. Skeptics caution that the evidence supporting its use is sketchy and no long-term safety studies have been done.

People who use melatonin as a sleep aid suggest doses as low as .1 mg and as high as 10 mg, with 1 - 3 mg being the most common dosage range. Supporters recommend taking it hour before bed.

Be aware that some people report very vivid dreams or even nightmares if they take melatonin.

If you're going to try melatonin, it makes sense to start with a very low dose to see how you respond and experiment with slightly increased dosages according to your response.

Valerian is a traditional herbal supplement often recommend for anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Evidence supporting its effectiveness is reasonably good, and it is one of the most commonly recommended sleep aids in Europe.

It is available as capsules or as a tea. One study showed definite benefit from an "aqueous extract" (tea), but none from capsule. Both were compared to a placebo.

If you want to try Valerian, follow the recommendations on the particular formula you buy. The dose of the extract used in most studies was 300 - 600 mg. You can obtain this by steeping 2 -3 g of the herb in hot water for 15 minutes.

As with any herbal medicine, the actual content in a given product is not regulated. It is therefore important to buy from reliable companies.

The third supplement to consider is theanine. This is an amino acid present in both black and green tea. Perhaps because of this, it has been most extensively studied in Japan. Researchers find it induces a state of mild relaxation in those feeling anxiety or under stress. It is very well tolerated, with no side effects or drug interactions reported.

As a sleep aid, the generally recommended dose is 100 - 200 mg hour before bed.

So there are three supplements you can use to get a good night's sleep. None of them replaces good sleep habits or a physician's evaluation. However if nothing else is helping, these are worth a try.
About the Author
Joseph McCaffrey believes in living life as a work of art in progress, and writes on all aspects of livng life fully at: http://www.masteringlifespuzzle.com/
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