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Most Recommended Night Shift Sleep Aids – 2022

Most Recommended Night Shift Sleep Aids

A variety of sleep aids are available to people who need a bit of help with trying to sleep, ranging from prescription drugs to more natural options. Sleep aids help people who have difficulty resting.

From people who suffer insomnia to night shift workers, sleep aids help people from all walks of life get much-needed rest. Fortunately, medical institutions and authorities that study sleep in-depth such as the National Sleep Foundation and Healthline offer ample information about sleep aids and how they can help people who need them.

Experts and sleep authorities categorize sleep aids according to composition and effects as follows:

  • Prescription Drugs
  • Over-the-Counter Medications
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Natural Options

Here are some of the best natural sleep aids as recommended by Healthline:

  • Melatonin
  • Valerian Root
  • Magnesium
  • Lavender
  • Passionflower
  • Glycine

This article will serve as a guide that will share the best sleep aids for you and your lifestyle. Through research thought leaders of the field institutions conducted, discover the pros and cons of several types of sleep aids, how they can help your body rest, and the variety available for public and regulated consumption.

What Are Sleep Aids?

Sleep aids are prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and natural options that help people address insomnia and other sleep disorders. Sleep problems are more common than most people think.

In fact, the NSF shared that the rate of adults using sleep aids has risen. In the study experts published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, experts found a 3% increase in the number of adults who used sleep aids in a set amount of time.

Sleep aids also help millions of adults who suffer from insomnia. This makes life massively comfortable for many people as two out of three adults experience various insomnia symptoms. Further, night shift workers and people who experience jet lag benefit from sleep aids as well.

These factors contribute to the findings that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded in their study. Through research, the CDC found that many adults use sleep aids on a regular basis. The institution, in a study, recorded that throughout their experiment, more than 8% more adults use sleep aids at least four times in the previous week. Data from the NCBI also affirms that the use of prescription sleep medications has increased among older adults.

In summary, sleep aids are prescription drugs, medications, supplements, and natural products that help people recover through sleep. These medications and supplements help more and more people every day, aiding individuals – especially adults – get much-needed rest.

How Do Sleep Aids Work? 

As simple as it sounds, sleep aids have the straightforward function of making people sleepy. Most sleep aids are able to make people drift off to sleep because of sedative effects. To ensure sleep quality, the sedative effect has a prolonged effect, allowing people who take them to sleep through the night.

The sedatives that sleep aids produce depend on chemical composition. The medical industry organizes and categorizes sleep aids according to how they work and the ways they’re regulated.

Types of Sleep Aids

Primarily, there are three types of sleep aids available. There are prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and dietary supplements. However, through research, sleep experts have also found natural options for those who prefer them.

Prescription Drugs

Out of all the types of sleep aids, prescription drugs are the least accessible. These are sleep aids that require both doctor prescriptions and, before distribution to pharmacies and stores, approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Institutions further categorize prescription drugs according to how they cause sleepiness and their chemical composition. Below are some of the categories under which prescription drugs fall into:

  • Z Drugs – These particular sleep aids induce a sedative effect by slowing down brain activity, making those who take them sleepy.
  • Orexin receptor antagonists – This type of sleep aid deal with orexin, an important chemical in the body that keeps it alert. To make those who take it sleepy, orexin receptor antagonists block the production of orexin, inducing a sedative effect.
  • Benzodiazepines – One of the earliest prescription drugs that experts used to treat insomnia are benzodiazepines. Similar to how Z Drugs work, benzodiazepines reduce brain activity to make people sleepy.
  • Melatonin receptor agonists – In contrast to how orexin receptor antagonists work, where the sleep aid blocks hormone production, the melatonin receptor agonists boost the production of melatonin, a hormone that can make people feel sleepy.
  • Antidepressants – This particular sleep aid is very rare. In fact, there is only one antidepressant that the FDA has formally approved for insomnia.

Prescription drugs need to pass FDA approval before producers distribute the sleep aids and doctors prescribe them to patients in need. Doctors can prescribe certain prescription drugs for other conditions, too, if a patient’s condition requires it. It is important to note that there are prescription drugs that may be extremely potent, so it’s important to deal with these sleep aids with expert guidance.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Even without prescriptions, people can still have access to over-the-counter sleep aid. These medications also go through FDA review, but not at the same level as prescription drugs. However, even if prescription drugs go through more stringent levels of regulation, over-the-counter medications still need to meet a set of regulatory standards prior to distribution and use.

Prime examples of over-the-counter medications are antihistamines. In fact, antihistamines compose most sleep aids under the over-the-counter medication category. Generally, people use antihistamines to manage allergies. However, because of their sedative effect, companies also market them as sleeping pills.

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are popular among many people because of their supposed health benefits. However, it is important to note that dietary supplements are not formal medications. Dietary supplements do not go through FDA review, which means there is much less oversight of sleep aids sold as dietary supplements.

It is also important to remember that since dietary supplements do not go through FDA review, there is little to no proof of their effectiveness. The range of available dietary supplement brands is so vast in number that some natural options fall under this category as well. Brands often just create sleep aids based on a certain ingredient or blend. This is why there is a diverse number of available dietary supplements in the market. But despite the number of options, there tends to be very little evidence from studies that prove the benefits and downside of many of the dietary supplements available in circulation.

Natural Options

While many companies use natural sleep aid options in their dietary supplements, leading authorities in sleep studies recommend many other organic options. Despite few studies on the effectiveness of some natural options, experts did find a couple of novelties that may help people with their sleep problems.

Here are some of the recommendations experts have for people who need better sleep:

Melatonin Supplements 

Melatonin is the actual hormone that signals the brain that it’s time to sleep. This is the reason why melatonin supplements have become among the most popular sleep aids. Melatonin supplements are particularly popular as a sleep aid in circumstances where people have disrupted melatonin cycles – like jet lag.

It’s also an excellent option for people working the night shift as studies report that melatonin improves daytime sleep quality and duration. Other studies reveal that melatonin also improves overall sleep quality for people with sleep disorders. The research discovered that melatonin reduces the time people need to fall asleep and extends the time they spend asleep.

There are a few studies that may contest the effectiveness of melatonin but they are very few. For those who find melatonin effective, the participants of the studies recommend about three to ten milligrams of melatonin before sleeping.

Further studies on melatonin supplements reveal that such products are safe for adults for short periods. However, it is generally not recommended for people who are pregnant or nursing, as there is some research about its safety and effectiveness.

Valerian Root

A herb native to Asia and Europe, people often use the Valerian root as a natural treatment for anxiety, depression, and menopause symptoms. Valerian root is quite popular as a sleep supplement. In fact, Valerian root is among the most popular and most widely-used sleep aid herbal supplements in Europe and the United States.

Despite its popularity, studies regarding Valerian root are inconsistent. However, there have been studies in the NCBI that shows that menopausal and postmenopausal women see an improvement in sleep quality and sleep disorder systems after exposure to Valerian Root.

A smaller yet separate study also found that by taking 530 mg of valerian root supplements at night for 30 consecutive days, participants who had once undergone heart surgery found significant improvements in sleep quality, latency, and duration.

Whichever the case, short-term intake of Valerian root seems to be safe for adults. There have been times when minor and rare side effects occurred but are safe enough to be used by adults. Its safety for certain demographics – like pregnant people –  is still uncertain.


Magnesium is an essential mineral to the body, playing a vital role in hundreds of processes in the human anatomy. Its most notable role involves brain functionality and heart health. Further studies reveal that magnesium even has the ability to quiet the mind and body, able to induce sleepiness or a sedative effect.

Experts believe that this sedative effect is a result of magnesium’s ability to relax the body by regulating melatonin production. It is also important to note that magnesium can relax muscles and cause sleepiness.

Studies reveal various other ways magnesium can help sleep quality and duration. Experts found a combination of magnesium, vitamin B, and melatonin to be an effective treatment for insomnia regardless of what caused the disorder.

Separate research also discovered that magnesium raised the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a brain messenger that has calming effects. Experts also suggest that people who have trouble sleeping might have insufficient levels of magnesium.


The lavender plants are common and can be found all over the world. People use the purple flowers that this plant produces in a variety of ways. What makes lavender such a popular sleep aid is its distinct aroma.

Various studies reveal that lavender’s amazing aroma is capable of inducing a sedative effect. In fact, numerous studies suggest that smelling lavender oil in the air shortly before bedtime is enough to improve sleep quality – even for those with mild insomnia.

Experts also discovered that lavender aromatherapy has yielded amazing results in helping older adults who have dementia with their sleep disturbance symptoms. In the experiment, participants’ sleep durations improved and fewer people woke up prematurely. The participants were also able to get back to sleep without too much trouble.

It’s important to note that people use lavender as a sleep aid through aroma therapy. Intake of lavender orally may cause nausea, belching, and diarrhea in many cases.


Passionflower is a popular herbal remedy for insomnia. However, there are only specific passionflower species that have been connected with sleep improvements. The species native to North America, particularly, have been found to be effective.

Fortunately, professionals have started cultivating the same passionflower species in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Various studies demonstrating passionflower’s sleep-promoting capabilities have been successful in animals. For humans, however, results have depended on the form people consumed.

In a more subjective experiment, participants did note an improvement in sleep quality. A more recent study also revealed that participants who took passionflower extract for two weeks saw significant improvement in important sleep parameters such as total sleep time, sleep efficiency (time spent sleeping as opposed to just lying awake in bed), and wake time after sleep onset.


Ultimately, the most recommendable thing to do when looking into sleep aids is to consult an expert, especially when dealing with prescription drugs. Over-the-counter medications are generally safer but should still be dealt with carefully. There are various dietary and natural supplements on the market but it’s best to hear expert guidance when choosing which one to use for your needs.

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