Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Aids

A guide to common-and not so common-sleep remedies and what you should know before trying them

Homeopathy & Herbs

In contrast with Western sleep medicines, homeopathic therapy takes longer to work. According to Kamau Kokayi, M.D., an integrative health expert at Patients Medical, a holistic health center in New York City, homeopathic treatments are subtle and are most effective when taken as part of an overall regimen to restore balance. Arsenicum album and Kali carbonicum (carbonate of potassium) are a couple examples of commonly recommended homeopathic remedies in Chinese medicine that can help people sleep soundly through the night. They are best for those who typically wake up between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., usually due to anxiety.

Herbal sleep remedies have a chemical effect on the body similar to supplements, and are far milder than prescription or OTC medications. They are not known to have a “hangover” effect like prescription and OTC drugs, and they can be more easily selected than homeopathic remedies. Dr. Kokayi recommends valerian root, hops and lemon balm to help the stressed-out fall asleep easier. All three herbs have a calming effect on the nervous system. Look for them in tea blends or herbal capsules available at health food stores.

There’s one caveat to herbal and homeopathic approaches, says Dr. Esther: “We don’t have the evidence to say we can recommend these treatments.” Supplements do not need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration so they do not require the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness as F.D.A-approved drugs do. Though she wouldn’t dissuade a patient from using an herb or supplement that helps them get restful sleep, Dr.Esther does encourage people to do extensive research on manufacturers and sellers to make sure they’re reputable and that their ingredients are pure. Familiar homeopathic brands in North America are Boiron, Weleda and Hyland’s.

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