Many people suffer from sleep issues or sleep disorders such as insomnia. In fact, the most common sleep disorder in Singapore is insomnia, with 15.3% of the general population and 13.7% of adults older than 60 reported having experienced it.
The worries that came together with the uncertainties of Covid-19 have not helped either. According to Channel News Asia, 60% of Singapore’s population have had their sleep impacted directly by the ongoing pandemic.
However, there are sleep aids that can help to induce sleep and improve sleep quality. We discuss some natural sleeping aids that are quite effective in doing so.
Signs of insomnia
One of the key reasons people seek to use sleeping aids is insomnia, a common sleep disorder. You may be suffering from it if you find that you are frequently:
- Finding it difficult to fall asleep
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Spending hours lying awake at night
- Waking up too early and is unable to get back to sleep
- Feeling tired when waking up
- Feeling tired and irritable during the daytime
- Having daytime sleepiness
- Finding it hard to focus on work during the day
Insomnia can be caused by numerous factors including stress, work schedules, age, lifestyle choices and poor sleep hygiene. As such, it can be prevented or treated with certain changes. Sleep aids can also help you to have better quality sleep.
Natural sleep aids
Natural sleep aids can help you calm down, relax your muscles and promote sleep quality. Here are are few that has been known to help people get a good night’s rest:
L-theanine is a non-essential amino acid for humans and can be found in teas (especially green tea), Xerocomus badius, a brown edible mushroom, as well as C. japonica and C. sasanqua, both of which are small shrubs that are used to make tea.
Benefits of L-theanine include:
- Stress and anxiety relief
- Improved brain function
- Enhanced alertness and cognitive skills
- Increased immunity
- Reducing blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Promoting relaxation by reducing heart rate
- Improving sleep quality
As such, it is a natural sleep aid option that can be a great help for people dealing with sleep disorders like insomnia. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has recognized that L-theanine is safe when taken according to the suggested dose.
For more on the wonders of L-theanine, read ‘L-Theanine: Health Benefits and Cognitive Function’
Alpha S1-Casein Tryptic Hydrolysate (Lactium®)
Lactium® or Alpha s1-casein tryptic hydrolysate is a milk protein hydrolysate that contains an all-natural bioactive peptide. This natural ingredient is extracted from milk and can help one to relax and manage his or her emotions.
Lactium® improves sleep quality and restorative sleep by promoting slow delta brain waves. Studies have shown that it:
- Decreases sleep latency,
- Reduces blood pressure, and heart rate
- Relieves stress-related symptoms
- Regulates the production of stress hormones
Because it is a natural ingredient, Lactium® does not present with any side effects. In fact, it is hypoallergenic and does not cause side effects that are common in sleep aids such as drowsiness or addiction. It is also safe for children.
For more on Lactium®, read ‘Lactium Sleep Aid in Malaysia: Can it Help You With Stress and Sleep Issues?’
Melatonin hormone tells your brain that it is time to sleep, and is naturally produced by your body.
Its levels rise in the evening and fall when the sun rises. Studies on it have shown that taking melatonin can help improve sleep quality by reducing sleep latency and increasing the total hours of sleep.
Melatonin supplements can be useful for those who have disrupted circadian rhythms, such as shift workers or those who are experiencing jet lag.
Valerian is a herb found in Europe and Asia. Its root is often used in herbal supplements that promote sleep. It is said that valerian root helps with depression, anxiety and menopause.
A 2011 study demonstrated that valerian root improved the sleep quality of menopausal women, in addition to reducing sleep disorder symptoms.
However, more research is needed to confirm the positive effects of this root as well as its safety when taken long-term.
Magnesium is a micronutrient needed by our bodies for heart health and brain function. It also plays an important role in the production of melatonin.
It can help muscles relax, making it easier to sleep. A 2019 study found that combining vitamin B, melatonin and magnesium was an effective treatment of insomnia, no matter what the cause.
Additionally, research shows that inadequate amounts of magnesium in the body can lead to sleep issues and insomnia.
Glycine, an amino acid, is said to improve sleep by lowering one’s body temperature during bedtime so that the body knows that it’s time to sleep.
One study that had people with poor sleep consuming 3g of glycine vs a placebo before bedtime demonstrated that those who had glycine felt less fatigued in the morning. This group also reported higher clearheadedness and liveliness.
Another study demonstrated that participants who took 3g of glycine before bedtime fell asleep faster and had better sleep quality compared to participants who were given a placebo.
Glycine is available in pill or powder form, and can also be found in foods such as:
- Meat and poultry
It is an essential amino acid that helps in the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps you to feel relaxed and sleepy.
A study on the effects of tryptophan on cognition, mood and sleep found that even 1g of it per day may help improve sleep quality and sleep latency.
Tryptophan can be found in milk, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts and turkey. You can also try boosting serotonin levels by eating foods that are carbohydrate-rich.
Soothing lavender oil fragrance may help to improve sleep. Studies show that smelling lavender oil before bedtime can help people who are suffering from mild insomnia.
While lavender aromatherapy is generally safe, oral intake can lead to nausea and stomach ache. Thus, it should not be consumed.
Passionflower or maypop is a herbal remedy for sleepless nights. While more research on it is still needed, studies that have been conducted are promising.
A 2011 study in which participants were given either passionflower tea or a placebo tea made from parsley leaves found that there was an improvement in subjective sleep quality when they drank passionflower tea before sleeping.
Another study that had participants consuming passionflower extract for 2 weeks found significant improvements in total sleep time, and sleep latency.
Passionflower is generally safe for adults with no noted side effects.
Sleep aid device
There are also quite a number of sleep aid devices that are said to be able to help induce sleep. Among these include:
- Blackout window curtains to keep the light out and reduce noise from outside.
- Cooling bedding will help with temperature control for those who wake up due to feeling hot at night.
- Smartwatches that help track sleep quality and how much deep sleep you get.
- Blue light blocking glasses if you must use devices before bedtime.
- White noise sound machines to help you drift off to sleep and block out other noises from your environment.
What is the best-proven sleep aid?
Natural sleep aids such as L-theanine, Lactium® and melatonin have shown to be very effective in improving sleep quality and decreasing sleep latency. They should, however, be taken according to the recommended doses on the packaging.
For some other sleep aids on the market, more research is needed to confirm for sure that they are indeed effective. It’s also worth noting that some sleep aids that might work for others may not work for you.
Are natural sleep aids better than prescription sleep aids?
Natural sleep aids like those in this article are generally safer compared to prescription sleep aids since they have very few side effects if taken correctly.
However, it’s vital that the product or supplement you use comes from a reputable brand and has been thoroughly researched and tested. Also, most sleep aids are not intended to be a long-term solution.
Speak to your doctor if you seem to have problems sleeping, or if you’re experiencing fatigue frequently, as there might be other underlying causes.
Is it OK to take a sleep aid every night?
While this can depend on the type of sleep aid you are taking, most experts do not recommend sleep aids to be used for too long.
Sleeping pills, especially, should only be used for a short term. This is especially because there is not enough evidence to support the safety of using it long-term.
Many people also build a tolerance to sleep aids, with higher doses of the particular drug or supplement needed for the same effects. This may lead to addiction, withdrawal symptoms, anxiety and even a rebound of the sleep issue or disorder.
Natural sleep aids are usually safer, as they are made from components that your body is able to process naturally. However, they too should not be used for too long.
One of the best things you can do when you have a sleep issue is to deal with the underlying cause. If you are using natural sleep aids, read information labels and research the safety of the product.
Sleep aid for kids
Sleeping problems are not specific to adults. Many children, too, have sleep issues. However, sleeping pills and supplements are not usually made for children.
Nonetheless, children are sometimes given antihistamines. Some doctors do recommend melatonin but there is little research on its long-term risks for children.
If you are considering giving your child sleeping drugs or sleeping aids, do ask or check the side effects and risks, its effectiveness in helping your child’s sleeping issues and if there are natural solutions available
Additionally, developing good sleep hygiene in kids can also help.
Sleep aid supplements Singapore
Sleeping pills are only available via prescription in Singapore. Thus, you will have to visit your doctor in order to get them.
Sleeping aids are available in pharmacies and can also be purchased online. For example, Rilax is an award-winning natural sleep supplement that works to improve sleep quality as well as promote relaxation for healthy, restorative sleep.
It contains Alpha s1-casein tryptic hydrolysate (Lactium®) as well as L-theanine, both of which are safe, effective and natural ingredients that do not present with any side effects.
Don’t hesitate to seek help if you’re having sleep issues or suffering from any sleep disorders. You might also want to check if there is an underlying health condition if you’re frequently waking up feeling tired. Natural sleep aids such as Rilax can be very effective in helping you get a good night worth of restorative sleep.