Lifestyle Wellness Sleep

This Is What Happened When I Tried 5 Different Natural Sleep Aids

A whole lot of z’s.

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I’ve never been a morning person. For as long as I can remember, the early hours of the day (anytime before 8:30 am) have been marked by a debilitating need for coffee, a dogged persistence to stay in bed, and a blatant disregard for my alarm. In an effort to change my ways, I knew I needed a little extra help, so I decided to try out a few different natural sleep aids.

I’ve consumed plenty of information on the habits of morning people and I’ve tried many techniques to become an early bird myself. Yet, no morning workout class, alarm-across-the-room placement, or icy-cold face wash could keep me from returning to my covers. I came to a point of acceptance in my sleep journey, realizing that there was only one thing that would actually help me to wake up earlier: I had to go to bed earlier.

Every time I aimed to fall asleep an hour or two earlier than my typical midnight bedtime, though, I found myself tossing and turning. With the ambition of waking up earlier, falling asleep suddenly became something stress-inducing, and my worries made it impossible to get some shut-eye. With five different natural sleep aids in my arsenal, however, I was finally able to get the rest I sought and I even woke up feeling pretty bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The Old-School Pick

Melatonin is likely the most widely recognized sleep aid, but it’s not without mixed reviews. I had long avoided it out of the fear that it would work almost too well, making it impossible for me to wake up in the morning. Still, when I was faced with a bought of jet lag, I decided to try it out, hoping that it would, at the very least, help me to fall asleep at a normal hour in my new time zone.

At 10:45 pm, I took a 3 mg dose. By 11:15 pm, I was asleep. The 30-minute window between taking the supplement and going to bed wasn’t characterized by drowsiness but rather a general sense of relaxation.

“Our bodies naturally produce this hormone in the evening to regulate our sleep cycle,” explains Dr. Erin Stokes, ND, and medical director at MegaFood. “The natural cue of darkness is what causes the body to produce more melatonin, and many healthcare professionals believe the increase in light exposure from screen time in the evening has contributed to a rise in insomnia. Melatonin can be particularly helpful for certain individuals who are in a new time zone and have difficulty adjusting to a new bedtime.”

Stokes, however, recommends that melatonin isn’t used as a long-term solution for insomnia but rather something that can help every now and again. It didn’t make me feel totally refreshed in the morning, but it enabled me to get at least eight hours of sleep, and that’s something I won’t complain about.

The CBD Twist

Not all CBD products are made the same; whether a product will help you fall asleep or whether it will simply help ease stress depends on the exact formulation. I’ve grown accustomed to using CBD tinctures (opting for a relatively high potency of 1000 mg) to abate anxiety, so I was open to trying it as a sleep aid. Mineral Health’s Sleep tincture stood out because of its unique blend of CBD and CBN, another cannabinoid found in hemp.

“CBN is more powerful as a sedative than CBD and highly effective in small doses,” explains Matthew “Mills” Miller, founder of Mineral. “Consuming 2.5 mg of CBN has the same level of sedation as a mild pharmaceutical sedative. Nonetheless, CBN is synergistic with CBD, and both depend on each other’s presence to accentuate the effect.”  

On a day when I felt particularly wound up, I opted for this sleep aid around 10:45 pm, I took a full dropper of the tincture and allowed it to absorb underneath my tongue. I read for 15 more minutes and fell asleep. It seemed to work well.

But here’s the thing: I probably didn’t need a full dropper. In fact, a half dosage probably would’ve been sufficient. The sedative-like quality of this product left me feeling lethargic and all the more unwilling to get out of bed in the morning. Now I know to either cut down on my dosage or save this potent product for sleep help on long-haul flights.

The Herbal Remedy

For those who don’t want to opt for melatonin alone as a convenient pill option, Love Wellness’s sleep supplements make a fair alternative. They contain both valerian and magnesium—two other natural ingredients that have been shown to help with sleep.

Magnesium supports muscle relaxation, which is why it’s commonly associated with healthy sleep support,” explains Stokes. “Valerian is a well-known plant and has a long history of use that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was taken to help with both sleep and general nervousness.”

I took two of these supplements around 10 pm on a night when I hoped to fall asleep quickly, and it worked. I felt drowsy quite shortly after taking the dosage and found myself turning in for the night even earlier than I anticipated, not even making it a chapter through my book.

The added pre-sleep drowsiness that these pills granted is a helpful side-effect for anyone who needs to fall asleep fast, but ideally, I prefer a supplement that still enables me to be a bit more selective about my bedtime.

The Beauty Sleep Bonus

I drink assorted hot liquids throughout the day as a means of sustaining myself. In the early morning, I’ll start with hot coffee. By mid-morning, I’ll switch to Earl Grey tea. By afternoon, I’ve moved on to green tea, and in the evening, I’ll switch to something herbal, like kava, mint, or moringa tea. This is what made Beauty Chef’s easy-to-mix powder appealing.

On a night when I brought a hot cup of kava tea to my bedside table, I mixed in a spoonful of this powder, which contains lemon balm, an herbal sedative that can help with mild sleep disorders (though not a ton of clinical research has been done on it). This powder also contains turmeric and other herbs that promote a skin-glowing effect.

The tea concoction did help me drift off to sleep, but it didn’t prevent me from waking up at 3 am from a stress-related dream. The natural sedative was powerful enough to get me to bed, but it wasn’t strong enough to keep me soundly asleep. This option, it seems, is best if you’re more interested in probiotic skin benefits.

The Winner: The Dropper Effect

My ideal sleep supplement helps me fall asleep without feeling overly drowsy, makes me feel refreshed when I wake up, and doesn’t require a high dosage of anything. I found this exact mix of results in The Nue Co.’s Sleep Drops.

In our Sleep Drops, we use a blend of valerian root, chamomile, passion flower, and catnip—these ingredients work together to gently depress the central nervous system, reduce anxiety, and aid relaxation,” explains Jules Miller, founder of The Nue Co. “The idea isn’t to provide a knock-you-out product where you wake up with that ‘hangover’ feeling, but to deliver totally restorative, easy sleep.”

Just six drops into a glass of water helped me to fall asleep shortly after hitting the pillow, and when I woke up, I felt all right. I didn’t hop out of bed with a ton of energy, but it also wasn’t a total struggle. For now, that feels like a step in the right direction.

See more sleep stories: This Sleep Expert Wants You to Stop Spending Money on Fancy Bedding Is It Just Us, or Are We Suddenly Obsessed With Sleep? I Never Knew Luxury Until I Slept on These Sheets