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Natural Vs. Synthetic Sleep Aids: Which One Works Better?

Taking good quality sleep for granted is easy until you develop a sleep disorder. Fortunately, sleep aids can be the solution you need to overcome this problem in the short or long term.

Author:Katharine Tate
Reviewer:Karan Emery
Aug 04, 202313.6K Shares248.7K Views
Taking good quality sleep for granted is easy until you develop a sleep disorder. Fortunately, sleep aids can be the solution you need to overcome this problem in the short or long term.
With that said, whether you are looking for natural or synthetic sleep aids, it is vital to note that not all sleep medications are the same. While some may work for you, others can be ineffective.
In this natural vs. synthetic sleep aids comparison guide, we delve into the finer details to determine the best option for you.

Ingredients & Compounds

Natural sleep aids, as highlighted, usually contain organic ingredients derived from animal or plant tissue. These compounds mimic and supplement the body’s natural substances that regulate sleep. Melatonin supplements are the most popular natural remedy for sleep problems. As the name suggests, they contain melatonin, a natural hormone that induces sleep in humans. Other natural sleep aids consist of valerian, glycine, and magnesium, which calm the mind and reduce anxiety, promoting sleep.
Conversely, synthetic sleep aids comprise artificial compounds processed in a lab. Although most synthetic sleep medications are FDA-approved, they often require a prescription, as they can have severe side effects on some patients.

Prescription or OTC

Synthetic sleep aids usually require a prescription. They contain potent ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Since they demand a written prescription, they are not easily accessible. You must consult your healthcare provider before acquiring them.
In contrast, most natural sleep aids are available over the counter and do not require a prescription. After all, they comprise organic ingredients that are generally safe for everyone. However, people react differently to various medications. For this reason, consulting a doctor is recommended even when purchasing natural OTC sleep aids.

Biochemical Interaction

Sleep aids work differently in how they interact with body chemicals. Determining how each sleep aid option works and reacts with your body is essential to deciding the appropriate solution for your sleep problems.
Natural sleep medications usually stimulate melatonin receptors that promote and sustain sleep. In contrast, synthetic sleep aids might calm the mind, cause drowsiness, slow body functions, or bind with multiple brain receptors to induce sleep. Some have a sedative effect, causing you to sleep faster.


The effectiveness of sleep medications depends on various factors. However, the best sleep aid should not take long to have an effect. It should induce and maintain sleep effectively, allowing you to sleep through the night uninterrupted.
Both natural and synthetic sleep aids are fast-acting. They reduce sleep latency and increase sleep propensity. However, the duration of the effect varies. Natural sleep aids last for 4-6 hours, while synthetic sleep medications can cause sleepiness for longer periods, reaching up to 8 hours.

Side Effects

Whether natural or synthetic, almost all sleep medications have side effects. The degree varies from one individual to the other. Health factors such as chronic conditions and underlying disorders can also impact the side effects of a particular sleep aid.
Common side effects of natural and synthetic sleep medications include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Tiredness during the day
Natural sleep aids often have far fewer side effects since they contain organic ingredients, and those which may occur will often be less intense. In contrast, synthetic sleep aids might have adverse effects due to their potent compounds. For this reason, it is vital to consult a doctor for the correct prescription.

Dependency Risk

All sleep aids have some risk of addiction when used long-term. However, the dependency risk is much lower with natural sleep medications than with synthetic sleep aids. After all, some synthetic sleeping pills contain active compounds such as diazepam and alprazolam, which are known for their dependency risk. Some people even experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using these sleep medications. In contrast, many people do not associate natural sleep aids with addiction, since they contain organic, less-reactive ingredients.

Safety Considerations

Your safety should be your top priority when purchasing sleep aids. Synthetic sleeping pills have the highest safety risk and are unsuitable for nursing mothers, pregnant women, and older adults. They contain compounds that may cause a hormonal imbalance during pregnancy or increase the risk of falls in older adults.
Some natural sleep aids that contain melatonin are not ideal for lactating and pregnant women, since they can interfere with their hormones. If your profession entails driving or operating a machine, avoid synthetic sleep aids that can cause drowsiness, tiredness, and dizziness.

Final Thoughts

Natural and synthetic sleep aids have their fair share of upsides and downsides. What might work for one individual may not work for the other. Someone might need sleep aids for an occasional sleepless night, while another may want them to treat severe sleep insomnia. Choosing which works better varies on a case-by-case basis. As such, it is best to consult a doctor to determine which one works best for you.
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Katharine Tate

Katharine Tate

Karan Emery

Karan Emery

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