The Betterment Project

Melatonin & Other Natural Sleep Remedies for the Elderly

When it comes to optimizing your health, you won’t get far without the right amount of high-quality sleep. Sleep is responsible for regulating all aspects of your health and wellness, from your immune system to your heart to your brain. 


If you don’t sleep enough, or if your sleep is of low quality, then you put yourself at risk for fatigue, poor cognitive function, poor tissue repair, and many other health problems. 


In our work-driven culture, many people pride themselves on purposely cutting down on sleep — to way less than the recommended daily amounts. In addition, sleep disorders (such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome) are increasingly common in the modern world. 


The elderly are even more likely to experience sleep disturbances. Studies show that at least 50% of older adults experience some kind of sleep disorder. However, many sleep disorders go untreated, increasing the risk of health complications in old age.


Fortunately, it’s possible to address sleep disturbances with natural sleep remedies at home. Although melatonin is the most well-known sleep remedy, there are plenty of additional options for improving your sleep. 


In this guide from ASYSTEM, we’ll go over what they are and why they’re so effective.


Read on for your most restful sleep yet. 

 

Why Is Sleep So Important?

Before jumping into the best natural remedies for sleep, let’s talk about why sleep is so important in the first place.


Intuitively, it makes sense that sleep is vital for all living organisms. We know that sleep deprivation can have disastrous effects on the body and can ultimately lead to death. The effects of sleep deprivation are quick, starting to show just after one poor night of sleep.  


Before the development of brain imaging techniques, the purpose of sleep was unknown. However, today we know what exactly happens in the brain during sleep that makes it so crucial for health. 


When we sleep, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — the clear liquid found in your brain and spinal cord — moves through the brain along several channels surrounding blood vessels. The system is managed by the brain’s glial cells, which protect neurons and supply them with nutrients and oxygen. 


During this process, intercellular waste is “flushed out” by the CSF. In addition, beta-amyloid (a toxic protein) is moved out of the spaces between neurons, making it easier for brain regions to communicate with each other while improving overall brain function. 


Aside from literally clearing out the waste in your brain, sleep is responsible for many other functions. For this reason, sleep deprivation is linked to various health problems, such as increased inflammation, high blood pressure, high blood pressure, and impaired tissue regeneration. 


In addition, poor sleep is linked to various diseases, such as cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and many more. 


Due to all the functions that sleep serves, getting the right amount of high-quality sleep is incredibly important for your health. 

 

What Are the Best Natural Sleep Remedies for the Elderly?

If you experience sleep disturbances, getting back on track is incredibly important. While certain sleep disorders might require a visit to your doctor, you may easily address others at home.


Here are five natural sleep remedies to try out today: 

 

1. Improved Sleep Hygiene

If something in your life contributes to poor sleep, your first line of approach can be to identify and address it.


The first place to look? Your sleep environment.


If your bedroom is too hot (or too cold), if there is too much noise, if there is bright light emanating into your room, and so on, you just might experience problems with sleep.


Make sure to optimize your sleep environment — including the lighting, the temperature, and the bedding — before moving on to other sleep remedies. 

 

2. Valerian Root

Valerian is a flowering plant that’s native to Europe. However, only its root is used for medicinal purposes. 


It has been used for centuries as a natural relaxant and for anxiety and depression symptom relief. In the U.S., it is one of the most popular remedies for sleep insomnia, with 2 million adults reporting its use regularly. 


Despite anecdotal evidence, research on the use of valerian in treating sleep disorders is limited. Some studies show clinically significant results, while others do not show valerian to be effective at all. 


Nonetheless, valerian root has been shown to be a natural central nervous system (CNS) relaxant. As such, even if it is not effective in alleviating insomnia symptoms, it can still promote the relaxation response, which can aid sleep. 


Fortunately, valerian is free of any significant side effects. As such, you can try taking this popular sleep aid to see how it affects you (under the supervision of your doctor, of course). 

 

3. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that’s involved in hundreds of processes in the body. Like other essential minerals (such as sodium and potassium), it plays important functions in your brain health. 


Notably, magnesium produces a relaxation response in the brain, which is likely due to its role in regulating melatonin production. It can also promote relaxation of the muscles, which can send relaxation signs to your brain. 


A deficiency in magnesium is linked to sleep problems. On the other hand, supplementing with magnesium has been shown to increase melatonin production, subjective quality of sleep, and sleep duration. 


However, make sure to check with your healthcare provider on the proper dosage. After all, it is possible to have too much of a good thing: An excess of magnesium has been linked to nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset. 

 

4. Chamomile 

Chamomile is a type of daisy flower that’s native to Europe. It’s been used for centuries to promote relaxation, especially in those with sleep problems. 


Chamomile is effective thanks in part to its antispasmodic properties. As a result, chamomile inhibits muscle contractions and promotes physical relaxation, which can send relaxation signals to the brain. 


Chamomile works to bind to certain receptors in your brain in order to help support sleepiness and relaxation. That’s why you’ll find it as a main ingredient in ASYSTEM’s Sleep Gummies, designed to improve sleep so you can wake up feeling refreshed. 

 

5. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the brain’s pea-sized pineal gland. 


During the day, the pineal gland is not active. However, several hours before you naturally go to bed, which should coincide with the sun's setting, the pineal gland releases melatonin. This signals to the brain that it is time to fall asleep (or prepare for it). 


Melatonin is an incredibly popular sleeping aid. Instead of working to put you to sleep, melatonin suggests that it is time for sleep. As such, it should be used strategically in certain cases of circadian rhythm disturbances. 


Most commonly, melatonin is used in cases where the sleep cycle has been disrupted. This is most common in cases of jet lag — especially if you are traveling east. If you find yourself lying awake in the middle of the night, then melatonin might be of help to you. 


Melatonin can also be used for those who work during the daytime, which can create an imbalance in the sleep cycle. This includes night shift workers who sleep during the day. 


However, burgeoning research suggests that melatonin can improve sleep duration and quality in elderly patients at low doses. 


For instance, one meta-review found that those who took melatonin were able to fall asleep faster and sleep for a longer period of time. The same study also found that those who took melatonin reported a higher quality of sleep than those who didn’t. 


Fortunately, there are very few effects of melatonin — if any. As such, it can make for a safe sleep supplement (especially compared to common pharmacological drugs like benzodiazepines). That said, it’s important to check with your doctor to ensure that you’re using melatonin in the most effective way for you. 


ASYSTEM’s Sleep Gummies are available both With Melatonin or Without Melatonin, so you can still get the relief you need regardless of any sensitivities you may have to this ingredient. 

Takeaways 

Sleep helps to support virtually all functions of our physical and psychological health. However, sleep disorders are prominent in our society, especially amongst the elderly.

 

At ASYSTEM, we believe that optimizing your sleep is incredibly important for your overall health. Our Sleep Gummies contain a combination of evidence-based ingredients such as Passion Flower extract, Lion’s Mane Extract, Rhodiola Extract, and many more — no next-day drowsiness involved. 

 

Our clinically-proven ingredients have been shown to improve the quality and duration of your sleep — without any adverse side effects. 


Our Sources: 

Sleep disorders in the elderly: Diagnosis and management | PMC 

Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis | PMC 

Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis | Sagepub

The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial | PMC 

Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders | NCBI 

Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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