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Valerian Root vs. Melatonin

If you're struggling with sleep, supplements can help.

Not getting enough sleep each night can have a disastrous impact on your physical and emotional health and finding a solution for sleep troubles that works for you is an essential aspect of living a healthy life.

People often develop acute, or short-term, sleep troubles as a result of stressful situations in their lives. Stress can fill your mind with racing thoughts in the middle of the night, making it tough to settle down and fall asleep. However, sleep troubles aren’t always short-term.

If you’re struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, natural sleep supplements are some of the best solutions to consider. There are multiple natural sleep aids that you should consider trying if you’re not getting the sleep that you need each night, but two of the most popular are melatonin and valerian root. 

In this post, we’ll be comparing and contrasting these two natural sleep aids, covering the pros and cons of each. 

What Is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by your brain as part of your body’s natural cycle of waking and sleeping. The hormone plays a key role in your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that signals your body and brain when it’s time to wake up and time to go to sleep. Your brain naturally produces melatonin in response to prolonged darkness, which is part of why lots of bright lights at night can disrupt your sleep – our bodies are hardwired to get tired in response to darkness.

Melatonin’s primary purpose within your body is to trigger the physical changes that prepare you for sleep. The production of melatonin signals your body temperature to cool down, slows down your heart rate, and helps you relax in preparation for a good night of sleep. 

However, it’s important to consider that this is the role that your body’s naturally produced melatonin plays. Taking melatonin as a supplement won’t necessarily have the exact same inherent effects on your body and mind.

The Pros and Cons of Melatonin 

There are a few key considerations to make before taking melatonin supplements to help you sleep. Let’s unpack the pros and cons of this popular sleep aid, including potential interactions and side effects.

The Pros 

  • Melatonin may help you calm down and relax when it’s time for bed. 
  • Taking melatonin supplements may help you get your sleep-wake cycle back on track if you’re suffering from jet lag.
  • Melatonin may also calm your mind if you’re feeling stressed or nervous before or after a surgery. One 2015 study examined the impact of taking melatonin supplements before and after a surgical operation. The study found that melatonin may be helpful for patients undergoing surgical procedures.

The recommended dose is 1 to 5 milligrams before bedtime and can be digested in pill, liquid, or capsule form. 

The Cons 

  • The research on melatonin is considered inconclusive. While some studies have been conducted examining melatonin’s impact on sleep quality and insomnia, these studies are generally considered inconclusive.
  • Melatonin won’t necessarily help you sleep if your sleep troubles are primarily caused by stress. Instead, it’s best to stick with forming healthy de-stressing habits and trying other natural supplements if you’re stressed.
  • Melatonin may cause side effects if you take too much. Common side effects of a melatonin dosage that is too high include nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

What Is Valerian Root? 

Valerian root is derived from a plant of the same name that is native to parts of Europe and Asia, but it is also grown in North America as well. For centuries, valerian has been used for its sedative effects in the parts of the world where it grows. It’s also often used for its calming, soothing effects. Valerian is a bush that produces pink or white flowers. The root of the plant has a strong earthy scent, and its oils contain compounds that may ease occasional episodes of anxiety and promote sleep onset. 

This relaxing herbal remedy primarily works by increasing GABA activity in the brain. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter within the brain. GABA’s primary role is to keep your nervous system from getting overstimulated in times of stress. When GABA binds to special proteins in your brain called GABA receptors, the result is a calming, soothing effect.

Valerianic acid, one of the primary compounds in valerian root, has been found to have an inhibiting effect on the breakdown of GABA in your brain. While increased GABA breakdown can make you feel stressed and give you trouble sleeping, valerian root can help to calm your mind and get you settled down and ready for a good night’s sleep.

The Pros and Cons of Valerian Root 

Below are some of the biggest perks of choosing valerian root as a natural sleep aid. In addition, we’ll briefly discuss some considerations you’ll need to make when taking the herbal remedy.

The Pros 

  • Valerian root is generally considered very safe. This natural sleep aid has minimal potential to cause side effects. It’s also non-addictive, often results in improved sleep, and its effect on your mental state is not nearly as significant as the impact of more powerful sleep-inducing medications.
  • The natural remedy has been used for hundreds of years. The roots of the valerian herb have been used in parts of Asia and Europe to calm the mind and induce sleep for a long time.
  • Valerian root can be enjoyed as a tea or taken as a supplement. If you like to have a calming drink at bedtime, consider trying a cup of valerian tea.

The Cons 

  • While valerian root is considered very safe, it can cause side effects in rare cases. Potential side effects of valerian root include headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to talk to your doctor before taking valerian root as a sleep aid.
  • There may be withdrawal symptoms from stopping valerian after long-term use.

Overall, there are very few reasons not to make valerian root your sleep aid of choice – it’s mild, soothing, and considered safe for just about everyone.

Conclusion 

Natural sleep aids are generally considered safer than over-the-counter and prescription medications. This is because they tend to have fewer side effects than their OTC and prescription counterparts. 

When it comes to natural sleep aids, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, if you’re primarily choosing between valerian root and melatonin, we highly recommend opting for the former. That’s why we’ve included valerian root in the powerful stress defense formula in our Unwind capsules.

Unwind is a once-a-night stress defense supplement designed to help calm your mind and get you ready for a good night’s sleep. Each capsule contains a combination of natural stress-fighting ingredients, including valerian root, chamomile, GABA, L-theanine, relora, and more.

To find out more information about the science of stress management, the path to a better night’s sleep, and more, make sure to visit the R3SET blog. There, you’ll find a multitude of helpful articles to get you started on your journey towards a happier, more peaceful life.

 

Sources:

Insomnia - Symptoms and causes

The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity

Melatonin: What You Need To Know | NCCIH

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