A look at some of the most promising sleep aid ingredients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend seven hours of sleep or more for adults per night; yet, not surprisingly, a significant percentage of Americans are falling short of this number. About 35% of Americans (more than one out of three) are sleeping fewer than seven hours per night, CDC reports, which is associated with such chronic health conditions as heart attack, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma, arthritis, and depression.
Americans are increasingly turning to dietary supplements for upping their quantity and quality of sleep. SPINS analysts put the nationwide total value of non-prescription, non-drug sleep aids (categorized by SPINS as “health focus: sleep”) sold at just over $300 million for the year ending December 3, 2017, which represents a 6% increase over the previous year. Similarly, worldwide, Euromonitor reports sales of herbal/traditional sleep aids (including such ingredients as valerian root, hops, and passionflower but excluding melatonin) totaling $1.1 billion for 2017, growing 28% over the past five years, with a compound annual growth rate of 5% during that same time period.
Clearly, adults both in the United States and elsewhere are aware of their insufficient sleep and are looking to safe, “natural,” non-pharmaceutical remedies for help. Melatonin is currently the leading sleep ingredient in the U.S., with sales of about $234 million last year, SPINS reports. Coming in a far second was valerian root, with sales of about $23 million. A third notable sleep ingredient in 2017 was 5-HTP, with a relatively small share of sales (about $2 million) but noteworthy growth of 37% over the previous year.
The following slides provide more detailed updates on the sleep-supplement ingredients melatonin, valerian root, and 5-HTP, respectively.
CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW SLIDESHOW
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Of the roughly $300 million of sleep-promoting supplements sold in 2017, the hormone melatonin accounted for about $234 million of sales, or more than two-thirds, report SPINS analysts. Additionally, domestic sales of melatonin grew by 6% from the previous year. Tablets were the most popular form of melatonin sold last year, with sales of about $121 million, but gummies saw significant growth of 29% over the previous year. In fact, all forms of melatonin saw sales growth in 2017 except for powders, liquids and softgels. Tablets, gummies, and chewable tablets made up the majority of melatonin sold.
Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, CBSM, FAASM, assistant professor of psychiatry and director, Sleep and Health Research Program, College of Medicine, University of Arizona, stands by his assertion in an August 2016 Nutritional Outlookslideshow about melatonin that the ingredient is “quite safe, especially compared with sleeping medications.”
Additionally, a 2014 Journal of Nutrition piece assessing the existing scientific literature on melatonin’s effectiveness in adult military and civilian populations concluded that the use of melatonin by healthy adults “shows promise to prevent phase shifts from jet lag and improvements in insomnia, but to a limited extent. For the initiation of sleep and sleep efficacy, the data cannot yet confirm a positive benefit.”1
1. Costello R et al., “The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature,” Nutrition Journal, vol. 13, no. 106 (November 7, 2014)
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The ingredient valerian root represents the second most popular sleep-promoting ingredient in the U.S. in 2017 according to SPINS sales data. Although, at about $23 million, total sales equaled only 10% of melatonin’s sales, valerian did see growth from the previous year in the following delivery forms: vegetable capsules (about 12%), softgels (about 8%), alcohol-free tinctures (about 5%), and conventional tinctures (4%). Overall, total sales of valerian in all forms dipped a bit, from $27 million in 2016.
Valerian’s effectiveness as a sleep aid has not been determined, yet its use dates back to ancient civilizations and is mentioned in writings by Hippocrates, as explained by MegaFood’s medical director, Erin Stokes, ND, in Nutritional Outlook’s Valerian 101 slideshow.
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Serotonin precursor and L-tryptophan metabolite 5-HTP, which is shorthand for 5-hydroxytryptophan, appears to be a dark horse in the domestic sleep-ingredient market, with total sales growing a notable 38% from the previous year. 5-HTP sold in tablet form grew its sales by a remarkable 162% in 2017 from the previous year, from about $321,000 in 2016 to $841,000 in 2017.
The University of Michigan’s “Michigan Medicine” website, which assigns star ratings to supplements to indicate the volume and quality of scientific research supporting them for certain health conditions, assigns 5-HTP two out of three stars for the treatment of both insomnia and sleep disturbances. “5-HTP is used by the human body to make serotonin, an important substance for normal nerve and brain function. Serotonin appears to play significant roles in sleep, emotional moods…and other body functions. Insomnia has been associated with tryptophan deficiency in the tissues of the brain; therefore, 5-HTP may provide a remedy for this condition,” the site reads.
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