We’ve been told over and over again that a healthy night’s sleep is the key to being your best self. (That’s to say clear-headed, anxiety-free, and able to turn down a second piece of cake at your friend’s birthday party.) But sadly, sleeplessness is just a way of life for an unlucky 70 million Americans.
And the factors behind our snooze issues are often hard to control. “The number-one reason [for difficulty falling asleep] is stress,” says board-certified sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD. “There is plenty of data to show how stress inhibits sleep onset and can cause multiple awakenings.”
So although you may try to follow all the good-sleep rules—shutting off your screens, slipping under your cooling sheets, inhaling some calming aromatherapy oils—you may still spend the next hour(s) staring despondently at the ceiling, worrying about that big meeting in the morning. Is it really so bad to pop the occasional sleeping pill for a little chemical nudge into Dreamland?
Actually, yes. While over-the-counter drugs like ZzzQuil and Tylenol PM knock you out, they leave you worse off in the morning. “[Almost] all PM products have some form of anti-histamine added as an anti-inflammatory,” says Dr. Breus. “These compounds were built for lasting 12 hours, so when a person takes it and wakes up after six or eight hours, it is still in effect.”
That’s where natural sleep supplements come in. These drug-free plants and compounds are said to be a less-intense way to get your Zzz’s, without leaving you feeling like a zombie the next morning. But do they really work? To find out, I asked Dr. Breus for his six favorite natural sleep aids—and then tried them out on myself.
Read on to get the facts about sleep supplements and to find out how I fared in my quest for better sleep.