Love it, Like it, Hate it: Sleep Aids for #SleepRevolutionNOLA 28-day Sleep Revolution Challenge

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The 28-day Sleep Revolution Challenge, centered on The Sleep Revolution  by Arianna Huffington kicks off this week, with the primary goal of getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night. We know that getting 7 hours of shut-eye is easier said than done, so if you’re looking an extra bit of support to help you get more Z’s,  we’re Getting the Skinny on the best & worst of popular sleep aids that promise a better night’s rest.


9 reasons we need 7+ hours of sleep:


  • Weight loss. Getting adequate sleep makes it easier to shed extra pounds.
  • Look better. Less under-eye circles, brighter skin, & clearer complexion within days.
  • Feel better. More energy, better mood, more patient, lower risk of depression
  • More will power. When we’re tired, energy reserves run low, and our self-control suffers
  • Enhanced physical performance. Faster, stronger, more powerful, and recover more efficiently.
  • Lower risk of diabetes + cardiovascular disease
  • Better blood pressure
  • While we sleep, our body restores the connections between brain cells; essential for memory, attention, and overall high level functioning.


3 Core fundamentals for better sleep:

  • Cut off screen time 30+ min pre-bed & charge phones, iPads, etc outside of bedroom
  • Rethink cocktails. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it can interfere with quality of sleep
  • Ease up on caffeine. Limit to < 300 mg daily (approx. 3 cups of coffee), and try to limit caffeine after 2pm.




If you’re still looking for a bit of a support for more sleep , here’s the Skinny on Sleep Aids:





Guided meditation & breathing exercises – download free from The Sleep Revolution


L-Theanine - 200mg at bedtime – particularly if anxiety is contributing to insomnia.  Can be paired with melatonin


Valerian extract (160 mg) + Lemon Balm (80 mg) + 2-3 times/day may improve quality and quantity of sleep.


Passionflower – as supplement or tea, may improve symptoms of anxiety.  One cup of passionflower tea before bed has been shown to improve sleep quality.


Magnesium – 500 mg may help with falling asleep & staying asleep. Can be combined with above.






Melatonin – 3-10 mg at bedtime – to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Potential side effects include interaction with blood thinners and medications for diabetes, blood pressure, as well as other prescription and OTC medications and supplements.








OTC sleep aids such as Simply Sleep (diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl)

  • These are antihistamines with the side effect of drowsiness – as well as potential dizziness and dry mouth.
  • More serious potential side effects include tremors and a fast, irregualar heartbeat – and a 2015 study from the University of Washington found an increased risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s, and the use of medications such as Benadryl, which is why we are now including these in the “hate it” category.


Prescription sleep aids like Ambien, Lunesta, Restoril, and Sonata

They may be necessary in certain cases – and may be well-tolerated and effective for some – but these hypnotics/sedatives can also have negative side effects such as:

  • Sleep eating, Sleep driving, Sleep Cooking
  • “Amnesia-like” side effects, especially of events occurring within 7-8 hours after taking Ambien
  • Allergic reactions like anaphylaxis and facial swelling





As always, check with your physician and/or pharmacist before beginning any new supplement regime.


For more information about the 28-day Sleep Revolution Challenge, check out Molly’s full articles about the (sometimes surprising) benefits of quality sleep and real-world strategies to make it happen, here and here.


Molly will be offering tips and encouragement on social media (@mollykimballrd on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) using the hashtag #SleepRevolutionNOLA. Use the #SleepRevolutionNOLA hashtag yourself, if you'd like to chime in about your Sleep Revolution Challenge experiences on social media – you can also email Molly to sign on to the challenge, and receive her email tips throughout the #SleepRevolutionNOLA challenge.





Want more from Molly?  Click here to sign up for Nutrition Bites, her weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO, and her weekly column in|The Times-Picayune!   And you can follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram:  @MollyKimballRD