If you’re struggling with sleep problems, you may be looking for the most effective sleep medication that can help, whether that’s prescription herbal sleeping tablets, over-the-counter sleeping pills, or some type of natural sleep remedy.
And it's not just you searching for a solution to sleeplessness. A 2016 study of the sleep habits of 13 countries found that Britons are the most sleep-deprived of those nations, with over a third of us saying that we don't get enough sleep. Only one in ten Brits has actually consulted a doctor about sleeping poorly, but nearly four times that number (37%) report that they have taken medication – either prescription tablets or over-the-counter sleep aids – to relieve the problem.
Prescription and Herbal Sleeping Pills – What You Need To Know
Whether your sleep problem is not being able to fall asleep easily or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep, chances are that if this is happening to you regularly, you need the help of a sleep aid.
But wait… Aren't prescription sleeping pills problematic?
We are often asked this question, and we understand your concern, because the prospect of "taking sleeping pills" can be quite daunting. Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription sleep medications are potent, they can knock you out so that you can sleep, but they often come with heavy side effects and it is proven that the most popular prescribed drug in the UK doesn’t result in quality sleep, so that the user still feels the effects of insomnia, even though they have been asleep all night.
Common short-term side effects of prescription sleeping pills include daytime drowsiness, mental lethargy, weakness, changes in appetite, dizziness or lightheadedness, gastrointestinal problems, allergic reactions, and even tachycardia.
After 2-4 weeks, the effects of prescription sleeping pills diminish, requiring a high and higher dosage to be able to sleep. Taking prescription sleeping pills above the recommended dosage is very dangerous.
Can't prescription sleep medications become habit-forming?
Yes, they can. Ideally, both prescription and OTC sleeping pills should be used only to get you through short periods of transient insomnia and sleeplessness. Most prescription sleep medications are recommended for a period of 2 to 5 days, with an absolute maximum use of 7 to 10 days to help people get back into a healthier sleep routine.
But here at The Restored, we regularly hear from people who have taken sleep medications like Zopiclone every night for more than 25 years.
This is not at all ideal and not how prescription sleeping pills are intended to be used.
What are the effects of taking prescription sleep medication long-term?
One thing that happens is that the medications become progressively less effective. They are, after all, only designed to be taken for 2 to 5 days at a time.
As your body becomes accustomed to the medication, you need to take higher and higher doses of it, which can lead to serious dangers such as depressed breathing during sleep. This can be life threatening.
There are other concerns about long-term use as well, as Milton Kramer, author of the book Sleep and Sleep Disorders, states succinctly: "Expert opinion has strongly advised against long term drug treatment because of concerns about residual sedative effects, memory impairment, falls, respiratory depression, rebound insomnia, medication abuse, dose escalation, dependency and withdrawal difficulties, and an increased risk of death possibly associated with the current hypnotic medications."
So is there an alternative to OTC or prescription sleeping pills? One that works?
Yes. As a solution to bouts of insomnia that many of us experience, it is better in our opinion to take natural sleep supplements, combined with a healthy nightly sleep routine that facilities falling asleep more quickly. This combination is much more effective than just taking a sleeping pill.
Sleep aids can, of course, help you to get you back into a healthy sleep routine – that’s what they are for. But if a healthy sleep routine isn’t re-established, and you begin to rely on nightly sleep medication long term, that can quickly become a dangerous problem.
Fortunately, there is a safer alternative that helps you not only to fall asleep, but also helps you develop a longer-term healthy sleep routine – natural sleep supplements.
Herbal sleeping tablets - a safer alternative to prescription sleep meds
There is a common misconception that if a sleeping pill is natural, it won’t be effective.
This is far from the truth. Numerous clinical trials have proven that natural sleep remedies not only work to help you to fall asleep, they do so without the side effects and dangers associated with prescription sleeping pills:
- For example, a 2016 study found chamomile tea to be useful in improving the quality of sleep in women who were experiencing sleep disturbances after giving birth. As an extra perk, the chamomile also reduced their symptoms of depression.
- Another 2017 study showed that taking supplemental melatonin resulted in longer, more quality sleep for trial participants.
- Finally, many clinical studies have found that taking supplemental dosages of the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) extends the duration of sleep. It also reduces anxiety, which often contributes to sleeplessness in the first place.
They have consistently been shown to improve the three stages of sleep that most people struggle with – falling asleep, staying asleep (quality rest), and awakening feeling wakeful and rested the next day.
"Stacking" can improve the effectiveness of herbal sleeping tablets
Interestingly, some of these natural ingredients significantly increase their effectiveness when they are combined with other ingredients. 5-HTP, for example, becomes much more effective when it is "stacked" together with tryptophan.
It's not considered 100% safe to combine these ingredients yourself to create your own "stacks," because there are guidelines having to do with appropriate dosages and how these ingredients work together synergistically in the body that must be followed. It's better in our opinion to rely on a professionally formulated natural sleep complex such as our Advanced Night-Time Nutrients.
At The Restored, we have done the chemistry for you by combining the best natural sleep ingredients such as 5-HTP, Montmorency cherry, and Chamomile powder in the optimum quantities. Then we further "stack" them with sleep-specific forms of Magnesium and the amino acids Tryptophan and Taurine.
How to make your herbal sleeping tablets even more effective
Sleep medications – whether natural, herbal, prescription, or over-the-counter – are only designed for short term usage. This is when they are most helpful and effective. They are designed to get you through short periods of sleeplessness and insomnia (which are likely to reoccur), not as a nightly sleep aid forever.
Studies have shown that a natural sleeping tablet combined with a consistent sleep routine is the most effective long-term solution.
The nightly "unwind before bed" routine amplifies the effects of the natural sleep supplements by allowing your body and mind to settle down into a more relaxed and receptive state, in which the supplements work even better.
Practising basic sleep hygiene and sleep preparation techniques makes the short-term effects of the natural sleeping pills even more potent.
Plus, the nightly sleep routine helps you to re-establish a healthier overall sleep pattern, which will eventually mean that you won’t need to take the supplements every night.
The importance of developing a nightly sleep routine
We get it, we really do. You’re busy. And so chances are the idea of adding a "sleep routine" to your already full schedule doesn't sound doable. It's just one more thing you would have to fit in to your hectic life before bedtime.
Every single one of us at The Restored have been there and have felt the exact same way. But please allow us to emphasise the importance of setting aside some "You time" before you go to bed. Not only will it greatly enhance your sleep and improve your life, but as neuroscientist Matthew Walker, author of the book Why We Sleep, says;
"More than exercise, diet, and wealth, science has shown that sleep is the most important factor to our physical and mental well-being."
The import of this quote should not be missed. "Most important factor…" means just that. Even if you have the healthiest possible diet and the best possible exercise routine, if you aren’t getting sufficient quantities of sleep – and deep, restful sleep – you aren’t healthy.
So be honest – are you really taking time to relax before bed?
Or do you just think that you are? Sleep expert, Anandi, explains that she hears sleepless clients saying over and over that they "definitely" take time to unwind before bed. "Many of my clients are adamant they unwind," says Anandi, "but when I delve further into it, they are using phones, reading off of a blue screen, or watching TV – this is not conducive to healthy sleep."
For more advice, read Anandi’s guide: ‘How to fall asleep naturally’.
An ideal sleep routine starts two hours before bedtime, with "bright lights out"
By "bright lights" we don't mean to suggest that you spend the last two hours of every day stumbling around in total darkness. What we're suggesting is that you shut off all of your bright TV, smartphone, and computer screens at least an hour before bedtime.
And by an hour, we mean at least a full hour. There is an important physiological reason for this suggestion. Remember melatonin? It's the body's "sleep chemical," the hormone that signals the body and mind that it's time to prepare for sleep. And your body cannot produce melatonin in bright light.
The closer to your actual bed time you watch TV or stare into a bright computer or phone screen, the more you delay the moment when your brain can produce sufficient melatonin to tell your body, "It's OK to go to sleep now."
So if you want to be able to fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed, one of the things you may have to give up is watching the 11 o'clock News, and then immediately turning off the light and going to bed, expecting to fall asleep instantly.
That habit is likely to leave you tossing and turning for two hours, the time it take your brain to produce enough melatonin that you can fall asleep.
So read a book instead of watching TV or surfing the Internet. Or listen to some quiet music. This will help to "set the stage" for your nightly "wind down" sleep routine.
A healthy sleep routine starts 30 to 45 minutes before bed
It's a period of time during which you intentionally set aside the cares of the day, and do something nice for yourself. Think of it as your "Me time."
Here is a routine that we recommend, and that works for us here at The Restored.
By "bed time" in the following suggestions, we mean the target time at which you hope to turn off all the lights and quickly fall asleep:
- 45 mins before bed time, take a hot shower.
- 30 mins before bed time, take a natural herbal sleep supplement, like Advanced Night Time Nutrients.
- 30 mins before bed time, meditate. If you don't know how to meditate, continue reading that book or listening to soothing music.
- 15 mins before bed time, unwind with a cup of chamomile tea.
- 5 mins before bed time, breathe. Use a breathing technique to switch-off your brain.
Other habits to avoid a few hours before bedtime in order to enjoy healthier sleep:
- Heavy meals
- Exercise close to bedtime - complete your exercise routine two hours before bedtime
Information about Advanced Night-Time Nutrients
Advanced Night-Time Nutrients is a natural and herbal supplement to improve the three stages of sleep: falling asleep, staying asleep and feeling wakeful and rested the next day.
*97% of surveyed customers reported that they slept better, 77% reported that they were able to fall asleep faster, and 78% reported that they woke up during the night less frequently.
Our Advanced Night-Time Nutrients formula contains a synergistic blend of ingredients. One of the reasons it's so successful at overcoming insomnia is that it contains a number ingredients that work together to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep.
For example, our natural sleep supplement contains our exclusive Melo-Fruit® combination, a blend of Montmorency cherry, grape skin and watermelon extracts. This synergistic combination provides several different natural sources of melatonin, the compound that signals the body that it is time to sleep.
In addition, the ingredients in our Mental Wellbeing Blend – Chamomile powder, L-Taurine, and biotin – have been shown to help you more easily "switch off" at the end of the day so that you can enjoy a good night's rest.
The standard recommended dosage is one or two 200mg tablets, taken orally 30 minutes before bedtime.
*Based on a survey of 115 customer respondents
Visit The Restored Blog for more practical guidance to help restore your foundations in sleep, nutrition, movement and mindset.