Using Melatonin to Treat Insomnia

Valerian vs. Melatonin

In trial after trial, valerian seems to work as well as benzodiazepines in helping people to fall asleep. What's more, valerian's sedative effects are not significantly exaggerated by alcohol, as are those from benzodiazepines. And, unlike the benzodiazepine Valium, valerian has never been linked to birth defects.

But, for reasons not clearly understood, not all insomniacs respond to valerian. The herb, in fact, seems to mildly stimulate some people. Like all substances working in the nervous system, valerian has this type of paradoxical effect in a small percentage of people. Such individuals experience this effect beginning with the first dose, and it does not diminish; so, if you do not experience this effect upon taking the first dose of valerian, you can safely assume this effect will not occur at a later time.

In addition, valerian, like other herbs, is not regulated by the federal government. Thus, you can't always be sure about the quality of the valerian product you purchase.

The same holds true for melatonin. Consumers really can't assess the supplement's strength and purity. And, unlike valerian, which has been used safely for thousands of years, there have been no studies of the long-term effects of melatonin use.

It's also important to note that the beneficial effects of melatonin do not increase with higher dosages. Melatonin should generally be avoided by people suffering from depression. And, there is some evidence from animal studies that melatonin used during the daytime may have a carcinogenic effect.

But based on the clinical evidence so far, both natural remedies certainly seem deserving of further study.

Waking up exhausted and being sleepy most of the day are problems for many people. Thankfully, the home remedies and natural remedies in this article are designed to help you get the rest you need.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.


Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.