Ambien and other prescription sleep aids have become a stressed-out New Yorker’s best friend (and a $14 billion business). But they’re not necessarily the solution for green-juice-drinking healthy types who prefer a drug-free route to seven solid hours of shut eye.
Because it’s also exhausting trying to find an herbal remedy that actually works, we got recommendations from Jim Nicolai, MD, Medical Director of the Andrew Weil, MD, Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval in Tucson, and functional medicine expert, Dr. Frank Lipman, MD.
Here are the effective, herbal sleep supplements they say will gently help you doze off and get your beauty sleep without a drug-addled hangover.
If you’re someone who has trouble falling asleep (rather than waking in the middle of the night), melatonin is the best option. This is a big one for anyone who lives in a city, travels a lot, or has an abnormal sleep-wake cycle (AKA parents of young children).
“Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that’s released in cycles throughout the day. It keeps us alert during the day and at rest during the night, and it is what our body needs to in order to sleep,” Dr. Lipman explains.
How it works: “Many people don’t have high enough levels of melatonin at night, so adding the supplement can help you fall asleep,” explains Dr. Lipman.
Your Rx: Dr. Lipman recommends 0.5-2 mg of melatonin. $15.26, amazon.com
2. Holy Basil
If you’re under a lot of stress (or going through something emotional) and consistently wake up in the middle of the night, holy basil’s for you. It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and “creates a sense of calm by lowering anxiety and depression.”
How it works: Stress disrupts cortisol’s regular rhythm, Dr. Nicolai explains. “Often cortisol spikes between 6 and 8 a.m. to wake us up, but stress causes this spike to go backwards, waking us at 3 or 4 a.m. and holy basil can moderate this cortisol response.”
Your Rx: He recommends 1-2 capsules in the early evening. New Chapter’s Holy Basil Force, $16.90 for 60 soft
3. Valerian Root
If your racing mind causes you to wake up in the middle of the night so often that you’re considering medication for help staying asleep, Valerian root is your friend.
It helps calm the nervous system, says Dr. Nicolai. “It can be very helpful in creating a low level of calm without causing a major hangover or histamine coma or fog.”
How it works: “It’s a mild sedative that lowers the anxiety response and promotes relaxation and sleep,” explains Dr. Nicolai.
Your Rx: He recommends 1-2 capsules a half hour before bed. Nature’s Way Valerian Root, $4.29, amazon.com
Read the rest at Well and Good NYC.