I’ve always had trouble sleeping at night. And now that I work overnight hours, this completely throws off my body clock. Usually, I’ve taken melatonin to help get some sleep between shifts. But after reading about possible safety concerns regarding extended use of melatonin, I’m wondering if an herb called valerian root may provide a better and safer night’s sleep?
What safety concerns over melatonin supplements?
In 2012, The Dr Oz Show addressed some safety concerns over melatonin, specifically usage and dosage. Melatonin is a hormone your body secretes when darkness falls, causing you to become sleepy. But melatonin supplements are not meant to be sleeping pills. They are synthetic hormones that act as sleep regulators and are better suited for shift workers (like me) and treating jet lag. A safe dosage is defined as 1mg a day maximum. Yet many stores sell 3 and 5gm tablets and market melatonin as a safe, natural sleep aid. This can lead to overdose and some unpleasant side effects.
What is valerian root?
Valerian is a plant and its root is used for herbal remedies. According to WebMD.com, uses for valerian root include treating anxiety and promoting sleep. Other potential uses include relieving muscle pain and easing symptoms associated with menopause like hot flashes. I’m only concerned with using valerian root as a sleep aid.
What are the side effects of valerian root and melatonin?
Using valerian root can cause headaches, uneasiness, morning grogginess, and even insomnia. I have not experienced any of these side effects. Because valerian root acts on the central nervous system as a sedative, stop taking it two weeks before going under anesthesia to avoid complications.
The most common side effects of melatonin include headaches, dizziness, and daytime sleepiness. Melatonin may also increase blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and worsen symptoms of depression. I experienced daytime sleepiness especially after taking 3mg of melatonin.
The sleep challenge
Armed with this knowledge, I challenged myself to a two-week trial to see whether valerian root or melatonin safely improved my sleeping pattern.
Valerian Root or Melatonin: Which Provides A Better and Safer Night’s Sleep?
Valerian root works much better for a longer, more rested night’s sleep. However, since melatonin is good for shift workers, I prefer it when I work back to back days at the hospital and am trying to sleep in the daytime. Because I have yet to find melatonin as a 1mg pill, I am breaking the 3mg in half and saving it only for sleeping between shifts. I am also trying other sleep aid methods like avoiding caffeine at night and inhaling lavender essential oil.