Natural Sleep Aids

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It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep these days. Between work, family, and social obligations, finding time to relax and unwind before bed can feel downright impossible. Even if you do manage to get some shut-eye, you might not be getting the deep, restful sleep you need to function at your best during the day.

If you’re regularly having difficulty sleeping, especially while practicing polyphasic sleep, it can affect your health. Luckily, there are tons of natural sleep aids that can help you get the rest you need.

Note: Be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements as they can interact with certain medications and may not be right for everyone.

What are Natural Sleep Aids?

Natural sleep aids are any substances, tools, or activities that help you fall and stay asleep. They can be either supplemental (like herbal teas, essential oils, and tablets) or physical (like white noise machines and weighted blankets).

Most natural sleep aids work by either promoting relaxation or by masking disruptive noises and light. Because our natural sleep patterns are often disrupted by stress, illness, and poor sleeping habits, natural sleep aids can be a helpful way to get back into a consistent sleep schedule.

While natural sleep aids can be a safe and effective way to improve your sleep, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking anything new. Supplements aren’t well-regulated by the FDA, and they can interfere with other medications.

Natural Sleep Supplements

There are many natural sleep supplements available on the market. Some of the most popular include:

  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Valerian root: Valerian root is an herbal supplement often used to treat anxiety and insomnia.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile is a type of herb that’s traditionally been used as a natural sleep aid.
  • Lavender: Lavender is a plant that’s often turned into an essential oil as a way to promote relaxation.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral involved in many different bodily processes, including muscle relaxation and sleep.


Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness that helps you fall asleep by sending signals to your body that it’s time to wind down.


Side effects

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness


  • Irritability
  • Reduced alertness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Mild anxiety
  • Mild tremors
  • Short-lasting feelings of depression

Valerian Root

Valerian root is an herbal supplement that’s often used to treat anxiety and insomnia by enhancing your GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in promoting sleep.


Side effects

  • Dizziness
  • Vivid dreams
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Metallic taste in the mouth


  • Withdrawal symptoms if abruptly stopped after long-term use
  • May cause liver damage
  • May interfere with other medications


Passionflower is a plant often used as an herbal tea to induce sleepiness and a sense of calm. 


Side effects

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion and mental slowing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased blood pressure



Magnesium is a mineral that’s involved in many different bodily processes, including muscle relaxation and sleep.


Side effects

  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea


  • May interfere with antibiotics and other medicines
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing


Chamomile is a type of herbal tea that produces apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that have a calming effect.


Side effects

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


  • Some people may have an allergic reaction
  • Contact dermatitis when applied topically
  • Hypersensitivity

Sleep Aids for Bedrooms

Noise Machines

A white noise machine is a device that masks disruptive noises by emitting natural or artificial calming sounds that can help you relax and fall asleep.


Side effects

  • Increased restlessness if the machine is too loud
  • Can develop a reliance on the machine


  • Can cause hearing problems in children and older adults if the white noise is too loud
  • Can cause speech or language development issues in children if the white noise is too loud

Weighted Blankets

A weighted blanket is a type of blanket that’s filled with heavy materials like microfiber beads, sand, steel beads, or pebbles to promote a feeling of being held or hugged, which can help you relax and fall asleep.


Side effects

  • Can increase body temperature, which may disrupt sleep for some
  • Can cause soreness if the blanket is too heavy for the individual


  • Suffocation for children under the age of two
  • May trigger claustrophobia
  • May not be suitable for those with obstructive sleep apnea or asthma
  • May not be suitable for those with circulation or blood pressure issues

Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains are a type of window treatment that helps block outside light, making it easier to fall asleep.


  • Reduces sleep disruptions, particularly bright lights from outside
  • Supports melatonin production
  • Reduces noise pollution
  • May help improve daytime sleep for night shift workers

Side effects

There are no side effects.


Some blackout curtains are made of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which could be harmful to your health.

Over-the-Counter Options

In addition to the myriad of natural sleep aids available, there are also plenty of over-the-counter medication options that can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Some of the most popular over-the-counter sleep aids include diphenhydramine (Benadryl),  doxylamine succinate (Unisom), and melatonin.

Warning: Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any sleep aids, as they can interact with other medications you may be taking and cause unwanted side effects. Your doctor may also want to try other treatment options before starting medical or supplemental treatment.


Sleep is essential. It allows our bodies to rest and repair themselves, helps us feel rested and alert during the day, and plays a role in maintaining our overall health. However, for many of us, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done.

If you’re struggling to get the shut-eye you need, natural sleep aids like chamomile tea, noise machines, and blackout curtains may be able to help. Talk with your doctor to determine if natural sleep aids are right for you.


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