If you find yourself feeling sleepy during the day or waking up unrested, you might be tempted to try an over-the-counter sleep aid. These herbal formulations promise to help you get a good night’s rest, but can they really help? The evidence is spotty about the effectiveness of these sleep aids, but let’s see what we do know about the effectiveness of their active ingredients.

mature woman sitting on the side of her bed, taking melatonin


Taurine is another supplement ingredient that may potentially improve sleep and increase alertness. Of these two claims, it seems that the alertness claim has more evidence, though there seems to be some association between decreased taurine levels and obstructive sleep apnea. Another study found that taking taurine supplements increases total sleep by 50%.

Taurine alone has not proven to carry any side effects. When it’s in an energy drink, people may experience diarrhea or constipation but that can be from the sugar in the drinks. The only known side effects of taking taurine occur in people with epilepsy and they include nausea, dizziness, headaches, and difficulty walking.

Can I take Melatonin If I Have Sleep Apnea?

Melatonin is a sleep hormone produced by your body. It was once considered the darling miracle drug for sleep. Some studies do support its effectiveness for reducing jet lag or sleep disturbance related to shift work. However, overall reviews suggest there is little to no positive effect from taking melatonin, and taking melatonin is essentially no different from taking a placebo. Though there is some potential benefit for people with cluster headaches.

On the flip side, melatonin can have some negative side effects. These include headaches, stomach problems, dizziness, irritability, low blood pressure, and drowsiness. If you experience any of these symptoms, it might be from taking too high of a dose. Try reducing your dosage to see if your symptoms improve. If they don’t improve, you’re likely better off not taking melatonin.

Melatonin can also cause less common side effects like anxiety, tremors, abdominal cramps, and depression. It can also interact with other medications like anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, diabetes medications, medications that suppress the immune system.

If you’re wondering if melatonin is good for sleep apnea, we don’t recommend it. Sleep apnea already causes the muscles in the throat to relax at night. Taking melatonin will increase your state of relaxation which will only make your throat muscles relax further. Melatonin might be okay if you’re using an oral appliance or CPAP at night. However, we recommend discussing whether melatonin is a good option for you with your doctor.

One study found that taking melatonin nightly improved sleep consolidation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. 


L-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in tea leaves. It has been claimed that L-theanine is helpful in increasing alertness and focus as well as relaxation. These claims have little evidence to support them.  Their somewhat contradictory nature highlights the lack of regulation for these types of claims made by supplement manufacturers. (Always look for the FDA disclaimer on the label.)

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-HTP is one of the more studied ingredients in this popular formulation, and there is decent research to suggest that, when combined with gabadone (GABA), 5-HTP can reduce the time to fall asleep, may improve sleep quality, and may reduce night terrors.

Feeling That You’re Not Sleeping?

It’s possible that for people with mild sleeping problems, something like this might be modestly effective. However, if you are sleepy during the day and waking unrested, it’s important to be evaluated for sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, supplements or medication that induce additional relaxation might actually backfire by increasing the collapse of your airways during sleep and causing more apneic events.

We highly recommend visiting Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center for a sleep apnea evaluation. After you take a sleep test and receive a diagnosis, we can recommend the best sleep apnea treatment option for you. Once you use your treatment consistently, you will start waking up with more energy and other improvements in your symptoms.

You don’t need to take a special sleep drink at night to get a good night of sleep. If you experience any symptoms of sleep apnea like snoring loudly at night, waking up feeling unrested, coughing or choking throughout the night, or morning headaches, you might have sleep apnea.

To learn more about sleep apnea and what treatments might be effective for you, please call (402) 493-4175 for a new patient appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today. We will help you get the good night of sleep you deserve.