No matter what stage of life you're in, a good night's rest is essential. Poor sleep is an endemic problem affecting millions of Americans today.
As we're asked to perform, handle, and accomplish an increasing number of tasks at every stage in life, our sleeping schedules get put on the back burner. We end up relying on caffeine-drenched energy drinks and sugar-bombed coffees to keep us awake.
Awareness is growing, supported by a burgeoning body of scientific research, that developing such habits is dangerous to one's well-being. This has led to the rise of sleep supplements – and two ingredients that have taken center stage in this holistic revolution are valerian root and melatonin.
In this blog post, we'll be breaking down why the individual properties of valerian root and melatonin have caused them to rise as popular sleep supplements for millions of sleep-deprived Americans. We'll discuss their benefits and potential side effects and explore the advantages and disadvantages in the debate of valerian root vs melatonin.
Let's dive in!
What is Melatonin?
Why do we sleep at night?
The chemical agent that makes us naturally drowsy during the night is melatonin. It's a hormone that is naturally produced in your brain when it gets dark outside. This hormone helps regulate your internal alarm clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, and is inherently crucial for getting a good night's sleep.
However, there's a reason why everyone says that staying up all night binge-watching an entire season of your favorite TV show can be bad for you. Too much exposure to light (especially the blue light produced by screens) at night can disrupt your body's natural melatonin production.
For those who don't have a choice concerning their nighttime exposure to light because of their line of work or academic demands, this is precisely where melatonin supplements come into the picture.
Most melatonin supplements (usually coming in pill or gummy form) can help make up for the lack of natural melatonin production and remind your body when it's time to get some rest.
Dosage & Side Effects
While there is no official recommended dosage of melatonin for adults or children, most experts seem to agree that between 1 mg and 5 mg is a safe dose for any individual.
Although melatonin is primarily used to help people sleep, others have used it for anxiety relief prior to surgery. While there is limited scientific research that supports these uses, the hormone has been deployed to treat depression, dementia, and chronic pain.
As with any new medicine that's being incorporated into your daily regimen, you should always start with a lower dosage and work your way up based on how your body's responding. Potential side effects of melatonin overuse include:
The best course of action when using melatonin is to use it to address insufficient natural levels of the hormone rather than to increase levels beyond their natural threshold. Consult with your physician if you have any concerns.
Who Shouldn't Take Melatonin?
If you're thinking of taking melatonin, it's important to know that it's not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women due to the unknowns surrounding the impact of high levels of this hormone on the fetus, and it's also not suitable for older adults with dementia.
Here's an extended list of other medications that should only be mixed with melatonin upon your doctor's approval:
- Oral contraceptives
- Blood thinners
- Hypertension medications
What is Valerian Root?
Valeriana officinalis, or valerian, is a herb that originally comes from Asia and Europe but can now be found in many other parts of the world, including the United States and Canada. In fact, people have been using this plant as a natural remedy for many centuries, dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome.
While the plant's flowers have a pleasant scent, the roots have a strong odor that some dislike. The roots, rhizomes, and stolons of the plant are used to make dietary supplements, teas, and tinctures that are often flavored with other, more pleasant-tasting sleep aids like lemon balm and passion flower.
Valerian roots affect the body by using a combination of compounds found in the plant, including valepotriates, lignans, flavonoids, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and carboxylic compounds.
Some of these compounds, such as valerenic acid and valerenol, act on GABA receptors in the body. GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating nerve impulses in the nervous system and putting you to bed on time.
Dosage & Side Effects
Valerian root vs melatonin side effects are both still being reviewed by researchers, although valerian is widely considered a very mild ingredient.
Due to the plant's long history as a sleep aid, there are many more scientific studies that have reviewed valerian root's application. The recommended dosage for valerian root extract is between 300 to 600 mg. If you're using dried valerian root, the equivalent dose comes out to be around 2-3 mg, which should be soaked in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes.
Some potential side effects of valerian root include:
- Dependency and withdrawal symptoms (usually at higher doses)
- Morning drowsiness (also at higher doses)
- Mental dullness
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Heart issues
- Cottonmouth (or dry mouth)
Who Shouldn't Take Valerian Root?
In a similar vein to melatonin, it's important to avoid combining valerian with other central nervous system depressants, as this could make its effects stronger. Also, if you're planning to have surgery, make sure to tell your anesthesiologist that you're taking valerian so they can adjust your medication doses accordingly.
Stay safe and always talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements or medications you're taking – in particular, avoid mixing valerian with alcohol, as this combination can make you way drowsier than anticipated.
Using Herbs for Sleep
Using valerian root vs melatonin for sleep isn't an “either/or” decision. These ingredients can also be combined with other natural herbs for sleep to promote a great night's rest.
Hops are a natural, organic sleep aid that has been used for as long as valerian root. They promote deep, restful slumber, although some people dislike the taste. For this reason, ingredients like lemon balm extract and passion flower extract are often combined in supplements, as these have a natural tendency to encourage deeper sleep.
L-theanine is another popular addition to sleep aids. It may help regulate the brain and reduce the chance of racing thoughts when falling asleep. Finally, chamomile is an eternally popular choice for better sleep – a cup of chamomile tea before bed is always a lovely prospect, and chamomile is frequently used in sleep aids for its mild, pleasant taste and to help achieve better rest.
Valerian Root vs Melatonin For Sleep: The Verdict
Sleep is essential to our overall health and well-being, and it's not uncommon to struggle with getting enough quality sleep from time to time.
While there are various lifestyle changes and habits that can improve your sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and electronics before bed, and creating a calming bedtime routine, sometimes we need a little extra help.
Here's the low-down: If you're having trouble sleeping, valerian root and melatonin are certainly worth trying out.
Melatonin is particularly helpful if you're trying to adjust to a new sleep schedule or develop a regular, healthy sleeping pattern. Valerian root can be especially useful if you have trouble falling asleep, but be careful not to take too much as it can lead to dependency and morning drowsiness.
It's important to follow the recommended dosage and avoid mixing both valerian root and melatonin with prescription sleep medication. This can make you feel extremely drowsy and impaired.
While these holistic medications can be helpful sleep aids, it's important to remember that they're not a substitute for good sleep hygiene and healthy habits – they should be used in conjunction with developing a healthier, more holistic sleep routine.
When it comes to the debate of valerian root vs melatonin, we suggest that they're best used when combined with a healthy, balanced lifestyle and other natural items that help produce a calm night's sleep. Humans have used herbal treatments for millennia to help them sleep – sometimes, the old ways are best!
How Nested Naturals Can Help You Achieve Your Sleep Goals
Deciding between valerian root vs melatonin doesn't have to be a choice – you can enjoy the benefits of both with Nested Naturals.
Nested Naturals' LUNA Sleep Supplement is a herbal sleep supplement that combines the power of valerian root and melatonin along with other natural sleep aids. You'll be able to set a better sleep schedule and allow you to wake up feeling more refreshed than ever.
Perhaps you're interested in a sleep aid that doesn't contain melatonin due to a medical condition, pregnancy, higher sensitivity levels to the hormone, or personal preference. We highly recommend our Melatonin-Free Sleep Supplement that only contains the finest natural ingredients to help you achieve cozy, restful slumber.
Check out Nested Naturals' catalog of sleep supplements today and experience the sleep that you deserve!