Why Sleep Aids Don't Help You Sleep

Here’s a funny statistic I’ll bet you’ve never seen before: sleeping pills provide only 11 extra minutes of sleep on average.


Now consider that this number comes from no less a reliable source than the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Considering that sales of prescription sleep aids in the U.S. are $4.5 billion a year, that’s not much bang for a whole lot of bucks…

How dangerous are these drugs? Some of the most notable potential side effects include sleepwalking; “trance driving” at night; binge eating without any memory of doing so; headache; dry mouth; dizziness and, in an ironic twist, making your insomnia worse.

One fact is obvious: people are desperate for sleep, even if it’s only a little bit more. And they’re willing to take dangerous drugs to get it.

The reason for this is that sleep is crucial for good health. Clinical studies show that getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is essential for:

  • Maintaining heart and circulatory system health
  • Managing weight and optimal metabolism
  • Supporting normal blood sugar levels
  • Keeping the immune system strong
  • Maintaining emotional resilience and mental focus
  • Improving effectiveness at work

Given the relatively small amount of additional sleep that pills provide (not to mention their dangerous side effects), if you experience sleep disturbances it’s good to know that you have other, more natural choices.

Better yet, these alternatives are natural and easy to find. Here is a short list of specific natural sleep remedies:


Melatonin may reduce the relative proportion of the Drowsiness and Stage 1 Sleep and may increase the relative proportion of Stage 2, Slow-Wave and Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. It does this by resetting your biological clock.

The most effective form of melatonin is a spray. Spraying it under your tongue gives you the full effect without it being broken down too soon in the stomach.

Dosage and timing of taking it are also important. Taking too much prevents it from being effective. And if you take it too soon or too late before sleep you won’t get the benefit of resetting your biological clock correctly.

Most people get the best effect using 500 mcg to 1 mg of melatonin, particularly in the spray form. And the best time to take it is 2 to 3 hours before you plan on going to sleep.

Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. It helps trigger alpha and delta brainwave patterns that facilitate deeper, more restful sleep. The typical dose is 200 mg.

B Vitamins can also support better sleep by helping regulate blood sugar issues that may interfere with normal sleep patterns.

Tryptophan can help reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. The usual dosage is between 500 and 4,000 mg for this effect.

If none of these help, you may be experiencing a brain chemistry imbalance that can usually be easily corrected by Neurotransmitter Testing (NT), followed by taking the natural substances indicated by these results. Call the office if you would like to learn more about this highly targeted approach to sleep problems.


Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.

Stephanie Saul, “Sleep Drugs Found Only Mildly Effective, but Wildly Popular.” New York Times. October 23, 2007.

Eguchi et al. “Short Sleep Duration as an Independent Predictor of Cardiovascular [Health] in Japanese Patients.” 2008. Archives of Internal Medicine. 168(20):2225-2231

University of Chicago Medical Center. 2008. “Lack Of Deep Sleep [and Blood Sugar.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 31, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com?/releases/2008/01/080101093903.htm

17th European Sleep Research Society Congress. Prague. October 2004.

Malhotra, S., et al. The therapeutic potential of melatonin: a review of the science. MedGenMed. 6(2):46, 2004.

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