Food Trends 2019: Natural Sleep Aids- The Quest for Rest

Here is our eighth and final article in our Food Trends for 2019 series. In this series, we will discuss what we think of the hottest food trends from a Registered Dietitian’s perspective. Are these food trends here to stay or will they be gone next year like many one hit wonders? Today’s Topic: Natural Sleep Aids

In today’s modern world, it can be easy to get caught up making time for everything but a good night’s sleep.  

You’ve heard it before: getting enough sleep is important and a cornerstone of good health. But so many of us, myself included, struggle to consistently put that knowledge into practice.

Sleep and Your Health

Sleep isn’t just for rest – although that’s important, too. During sleep, your body carries out maintenance and repairs at the cellular level.

Without regular quality sleep, both your physical and mental health can suffer. Research has found a link between lack of sleep and an increased risk of developing serious health issues, such as:

·     Anxiety

·     Depression

·     Obesity 

·     Type 2 diabetes

·     Heart disease

Burning the midnight oil can also wreak havoc on your hormonal health, throwing thyroid, reproductive, and blood sugar functions out of balance.

Sleep Aids

There are a variety of over the counter supplements and prescription medications available to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. How do you know which one to try?

A lot of people reach for melatonin supplements to help them sleep, but it’s not the best choice for everyone. Some people experience side effects, like next-day grogginess and mental fog after taking melatonin. 

The National Institute of Health considers “melatonin supplements to be safe when used short-term; less is known about long-term safety.” And it’s not exactly, well, “natural.”

Melatonin, known as the sleep-regulating hormone, is produced by the pineal gland, located in the brain.

Your melatonin levels are sensitive to light, reaching their lowest point during daytime hours and peaking during dark nighttime hours. That’s one of the reasons you often hear you should dim the lights and turn off blue-light producing electronics before bed.

Because the body makes melatonin, it’s marketed as a “natural” sleep aid. But supplemental melatonin can only be sourced in one of two ways:

1.    A synthetic version created in a lab

2.    Harvested from the pineal glands of mammals

If you’re looking for an all natural sleep aid, there are new, herbal products that might be a better fit.

Choosing Natural Sleep Aids

Sleep supporting ingredients in liquid form seem to be trending for the year ahead. Beverages formulated with sleep-supporting ingredients, like valerian root, passionflower, magnesium and even melatonin, are being marketed as natural sleep aids.

The opposite of wake-you-up energy drinks, these new drinks are designed to help you unwind, relax, and support a good night’s sleep. Some sleep aid beverages contain only herbal ingredients that have been found to help support sleep.

If you’re looking for all herbal sleep support, sans melatonin, keep an eye out for herbal tea blends, like Lone Star Botanicals Dream Herbal Tea, and ready to drink beverages, like Snoooze Natural Sleep Drink

The Bottom Line About Sleep Aid Trends

If you try one of these products and it works for you, great. Just make sure you read the ingredient list before trying a sleep aid, especially if you’re trying to avoid melatonin.

In my experience, calming drinks and teas are no replacement for lifestyle factors. Sleep aids may help take the edge off but remember: they’re just an aid.

Managing stress, getting some exercise, eating a balanced diet, and having a nighttime routine that’s designed to help you unplug and wind down are more effective than any supplement or sleep aid.