Just like food and water, sleep is vital for everyday life. It plays a major role in our daily functioning and not getting enough can have a significant impact on both our physical and mental health. The average adult needs a minimum of seven hours of quality sleep each night to recharge the body and flush toxins from the brain. From habits to supplements, here is a list of pharmacist-researched options:
GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
“Sleep hygiene” is just a fancy way to describe healthy sleep habits that can improve the overall quality of your sleep. It is recommended to try one or more of these measures before starting drug therapy.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends
- Be sure you have a comfortable sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and cool
- Engage in relaxing activities before bed, such as reading or meditating
- Try to not use electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bed
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and/or nicotine for at least 4-6 hours before bed
- Don’t eat a large meal or consume fluids before bed. If you do need a snack, eat something light and healthy.
- Reduce your fluid intake before bed
- Don’t go to bed until you are actually sleepy
- If you can’t fall asleep, get up and engage in a relaxing activity until you feel tired
- Exercise regularly during the day at least 3 hours before you plan to sleep
Our brains naturally produce melatonin in response to darkness. Exposure to light at night (i.e. looking at your cell phone in bed) can block its production, thus resulting in difficulty sleeping.
Melatonin is available as an over-the-counter supplement and comes in many different formulations (tablets, capsules, orally disintegrating tablets, liquids, and oils). It is recommended to take 3 to 5 mg by mouth 3 to 6 hours before sleep. At higher doses, sleep disruption and daytime sleepiness are possible. Melatonin should not be used for long periods of time without the supervision of your doctor.
Most over-the-counter sleep aids contain diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in commonly known products like Benadryl and ZzzQuil. Diphenhydramine is used in these products because of its sedating properties and the usual dose to induce sleep for an adult is 25 to 50 mg before bedtime.
Diphenhydramine should only be used for short periods of time because tolerance to its sedative effect can develop within just days of repeated use. To reduce this risk, it is best to only use it for ~3 days then take a night “off” to reassess your sleep. It should not be used for longer than 10 days. Additionally, it may interact with other medications and should be used with caution in certain patients, especially those over the age of 65. Be sure to ask your pharmacist or doctor if these products are safe for you to use before taking them.
Research has shown that CBD may have an effect on our sleep/wake cycles, thus helping those experiencing sleeping difficulties. Additionally, CBD may also decrease pain and anxiety, both of which can interfere with restful sleep.
As with melatonin, CBD comes in a wide range of formulations and strengths. There is no “one size fits all” dose for sleep. Dosing is typically dependent on the specific product and a patient’s weight. A good rule of thumb is to start with a lower dose and gradually increase until you notice a difference. As with starting any new product or supplement, you should consult with your doctor or pharmacist first to make sure CBD is a safe option for you.
To learn more about CBD, check out our blog post or stop in the pharmacy to speak with us about the products we offer!
Valerian Root is a medicinal herb that has been used in many cultures for generations because of its sedating properties. Although evidence of its efficacy in insomnia is lacking, some individuals find it to be helpful with sleep. The recommended dose is 500 to 1000 mg before bed. Valerian may have an additive effect if taken with other medications or supplements that cause sedation and should be used with caution.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, or GABA, is another supplement that may be beneficial in sleep disorders. It is a naturally occurring amino acid in the brain that enables the mind and body to relax and fall asleep. There is a link between low GABA levels and insomnia/disrupted sleep, which is why some prescription sleep medications target the body’s GABA system. As with valerian root, there is limited evidence to fully support its use in sleep disorders. However, some find taking about 700 mg daily before bed helps them fall asleep easier.
A fan-favorite among some of us here at Sona is the “Best Rest Formula” by Pure Encapsulations. It is a combination product that promotes healthy sleep cycles by making the transition to sleep a little easier and supporting a restful night’s sleep. The supplement contains valerian root, melatonin, and GABA, as well as passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm and hops, and l-theanine. The ingredients in the product work together to encourage relaxation and provide an overall better sleep quality.
As with any medication or supplement, you should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before starting to ensure it is safe for you to use.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
Everyone has difficulty sleeping from time to time and trying to manage it at home on your own seems easy enough. However, there are many underlying conditions and medications that can cause patients to have difficulty sleeping. If you find yourself still having trouble after trying some of these at-home recommendations and/or it has been going on longer than a couple weeks, you should reach out to your doctor to discuss it further.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
American Sleep Association
National Institutes of Health