Sleeping pills are big business: About 1 in 25 adults has taken a prescription sleep medicine in the last month, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. And according to Consumer Reports, Americans spent $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies in 2015—a number that’s expected to reach $52 billion by 2020.
Use of melatonin supplements, for instance, more than doubled in the United States from 2007 to 2012. And while scientific evidence for many herbal and alternative insomnia treatments is thin at best, there are some drug-free remedies that have been well studied by scientists.
Getting natural melatonin production back on track is the most sustainable scenario, Barone says, but taking an over-the-counter brand might do the trick short-term. Barone recommends taking between 1 and 3 milligrams 30 to 60 minutes before bed if you have trouble falling asleep, and immediately before if you have trouble staying asleep.
Valerian root: Like all supplements, however, valerian can have side effects—and you should get clearance from your doctor before taking it since it can interact with some drugs.
Lavender: A 2016 study published in the journal Explore found that college students who inhaled a lavender-scented patch before bed reported better nighttime sleep and more daytime energy, compared to those who inhaled a placebo patch.
Chamomile Tea: It’s marketed as a before-bed beverage for a reason: The herb chamomile has been used as a sleep aid for thousands of years.
Meditation: If you’re new to meditation, Barone recommends finding a mobile app, audio program, or online video to guide you through some exercises.
A noise machine: Soothing background sounds can also cover up manmade sounds like voices or traffic, which were shown in the study to have the opposite effect.