Difference Between Melatonin & Chamomile, How it Helps With Sleep?

Difference Between Melatonin & Chamomile, How it Helps With Sleep?

We've all been there – tired eyes, a busy mind, and a strong desire for a good night's sleep. But in today's fast world, getting those Zzz's can be tough. So, why is sleep so important? Well, it's not just about feeling rested. Quality sleep boosts our mood, memory, and overall health. When sleep is elusive, it can mess up everything, leaving us tired, grumpy, and wishing for a good sleep cycle.

Now, meet the natural sleep helpers: chamomile and melatonin. They're not magic, but they're like friendly teammates in the fight against sleep troubles. Chamomile has a calming aroma that soothes our anxious minds, helping us drift into sleep like a cozy bedtime hug. Melatonin, our internal night guide, acts like a tiny clock, making sure our bodies fall asleep at the right time and stay asleep.

But which one should you choose, or do they work best together? Find out in the next section. I will unravel the secrets of chamomile and melatonin. They will lead you to restful nights and energised mornings!

Understanding Sleep

Sleep is a crucial part of our lives where our bodies and minds get a break to recharge, serving as a reset button for both body and brain. It is vital to our well-being. It gives us time to rest. During this time, our bodies repair themselves, remove waste, and get ready for a new day. This vital process maintains focus and memory. It also aids in a happy and healthy mood. Think of it as a power nap for your whole body!

Think of sleep as a time for your body and mind to recharge and reset, just like plugging in your phone to give it a power boost. While you sleep, your body does amazing things:

  • Cleaning: Your brain and body clear away waste products that build up throughout the day, keeping you refreshed and energized.
  • Repair and renewal: Your muscles and tissues repair themselves, making you stronger and ready for action.
  • Memory and learning: Sleep helps your brain organize and store information you learned during the day. This strengthens memories and makes you smarter over time! It's like filing away new things so you can easily recall them later.
  • Mood boost: Sleep washes away stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling happy and ready to take on the day.

When you fall asleep, it's not just lights out! Your body goes through a whole show with four parts:

Part 1: Drowsiness (NREM 1): You start to relax, your muscles get floppy, and your brain waves slow down. It's like your body's taking a deep breath before diving into sleep.

Part 2: Getting Cozy (NREM 2): Your heart beats slower, you breathe less, and your brain waves become even calmer. It's like your body whispering, "Shh, sleep time!"

Part 3: Super Repair (NREM 3): Now things get serious! Your body fixes itself, builds new muscle, and strengthens your immune system. It's like a team of tiny doctors working while you snooze.

Part 4: Dreamland (REM Sleep): Your brain wakes up for a bit, but your body stays still. This is when you have those crazy dreams and solidify your memories. It's like your brain playing movie rewinds and taking notes!

These four parts play over and over throughout the night, helping you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Chamomile: Nature's Relaxant

chamomile

What is Chamomile?

Chamomile is a flowering plant with daisy-like blooms, often with white petals and a yellow center. It belongs to the sunflower family and grows in various parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America.

Two main types are used for their calming and medicinal properties:

  1. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita): This is the most common type used in teas and supplements. It boasts a stronger aroma and higher concentration of apigenin, the sleep-promoting compound.
  2. Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile): With a sweeter, apple-like scent, this type is often used in aromatherapy and topical applications.

History of chamomile as a sleep aid

Chamomile's journey as a sleep aid stretches back millennia, weaving a fascinating tale of herbal wisdom and cultural use. Let's embark on a timeline of its sleepy secrets:

  • Ancient Beginnings (1550 B.C.): The earliest recorded use of chamomile for sleep comes from the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text. It recommends the herb for insomnia and restlessness. 
  • Greek and Roman Interludes (500 B.C. - 400 A.D.): Greeks saw chamomile as a sacred herb dedicated to their sleep deity, Hypnos. Romans valued its calming properties for relaxation and treating anxiety-induced sleep disruption.
  • Medieval Period (10th Century): chamomile appears in the Anglo-Saxon Lacnunga medical manuscript. It is from the Medieval Period. It is listed as one of nine sacred herbs to aid sleep.
  • Modern History (16th - 19th Centuries): German chamomile became the best sleep-aid type. It appeared in pharmacopoeias across Europe for its calming and anti-anxiety properties.
  • Present Day (20th Century - Present): Research has shown that chamomile has calming effects. This is due to apigenin. Today, chamomile is still a popular sleep remedy. People enjoy it in teas, capsules, and aromatherapy.

Bonus Fact: Queen Elizabeth I of England liked chamomile tea before bed. This shows its royal link to sleep!

How does chamomile work for sleep?

Chamomile's calms and promotes sleep. This is thanks to a mix of a compound called apigenin and your brain's "relaxation receptors." These receptors are called GABA receptors.

Here's the breakdown:

  • Apigenin: This is a powerful flavonoid found in chamomile that acts like a key unlocking a specific lock. In this case, the lock is a type of GABA receptor found in your brain called the benzodiazepine receptor.
  • GABA Receptors: These receptors play a crucial role in calming down your nervous system. When GABA molecules bind to these receptors, they send signals to your brain telling it to relax and slow down.
  • Chamomile's Magic Trick: Apigenin binds to the benzodiazepine receptors. It mimics the effects of GABA, even though it's not actually GABA. This binding triggers the same calming signals in your brain as real GABA. It leads to various sleep-promoting benefits:
  • Reduced anxiety and stress: Apigenin reduces anxiety and stress. It quiets your anxious thoughts and worries. This makes it easier to wind down and sleep.
  • Muscle relaxation: GABA signals also affect muscle tension. Apigenin's mimicry can help relax your muscles. This can promote a sense of physical calmness.
  • Sleep onset and quality: By calming your mind and body, apigenin can make it easier to fall asleep and maintain deeper sleep throughout the night.

Benefits of chamomile tea and supplements for sleep.

Chamomile boasts several potential benefits for sleep, both as a soothing tea and in supplement form.

Here's a breakdown of how it can help you catch some Zs:

Chamomile Tea:

  • Calming & Stress-reducing: Chamomile tea's warmth and gentle smell offer a calming ritual before bed. They ease anxiety and stress that can stop sleep.
  • Apigenin Power: As mentioned before, apigenin binds to GABA receptors. This promotes relaxation and prepares your body for sleep.
  • Sleep Quality: Studies suggest chamomile can improve sleep quality. It leads to deeper sleep and fewer awakenings.
  • Natural Alternative: If you prefer natural remedies, chamomile tea is a gentle and safe option. It is especially compared to certain sleep drugs.

Chamomile Supplements:

  • Concentrated Apigenin: Supplements offer a higher dose of apigenin compared to tea, potentially amplifying its sleep-promoting effects.
  • Convenience: Capsules or tinctures can be more convenient than brewing tea. This is especially true for on-the-go people.
  • Targeted Dose: Supplements allow for a more precise dosage based on your individual needs.

Potential side effects and precautions of chamomile

While generally safe for most, chamomile does come with some potential side effects and precautions to consider:

Side Effects:

  • Allergic reactions: People with allergies to ragweed, daisies, or similar plants may experience allergic reactions like skin rashes, itching, or even breathing difficulties.
  • Drowsiness: Chamomile's calming effects can cause drowsiness, especially in high doses. Be cautious if operating machinery or driving after consuming chamomile.
  • Headache or stomach upset: These are less common, but some people may experience mild headaches or digestive discomfort after taking chamomile.

Precautions:

  • Medications: Chamomile can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, sedatives, and anxiety medications. Always consult your doctor before using chamomile if you're on any medication.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: The safety of chamomile during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not fully established. It's best to avoid it unless specifically advised by your doctor.
  • Underlying health conditions: If you have any underlying health conditions like liver or kidney disease, consult your doctor before using chamomile.

Melatonin: The Body's Sleep Hormone

What is melatonin and how does it regulate sleep?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland, a tiny pea-sized gland nestled deep within your brain. It acts like your body's internal clock, helping to regulate your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).

Here's how it works:

  • Natural Light & Darkness: The amount of light you're exposed to throughout the day plays a crucial role in melatonin production. As darkness falls, your pineal gland kicks into gear, ramping up melatonin production. This surge signals to your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  • Sleep & Wakefulness: Melatonin levels peak in the middle of the night, promoting feelings of drowsiness and relaxation. It helps to lower your body temperature, slow your heart rate, and release other sleep-inducing hormones. In the morning, as daylight breaks, melatonin production naturally declines, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed.

Melatonin supplements

You can find melatonin supplements like pills, liquids, and melatonin gummies easily. People often use these supplements to help with sleep problems such as insomnia or jet lag. Before taking any supplements, talk to your doctor first. Supplements can interact with other medications and may have side effects.

Benefits of melatonin supplements for sleep issues (jet lag, insomnia).

Melatonin supplements can help with specific sleep issues. These issues are jet lag and insomnia. But, it's important to know their potential benefits and drawbacks before using them.

Jet Lag:

  • Melatonin can help reset your internal clock when traveling across multiple time zones. Take it shortly before bedtime at your destination. It can help you adjust to the new time zone and reduce the severity of jet lag symptoms. These include daytime sleepiness and nighttime wakefulness.
  • Studies show moderate effectiveness. Melatonin is not a cure-all. But, it can greatly shorten jet lag's duration and intensity.

Insomnia:

  • Melatonin can help some types of insomnia. This is true especially when it's caused by delayed sleep phase syndrome. It can encourage sleepiness at the desired bedtime.
  • Effectiveness varies depending on the cause of insomnia. It may not be effective for all types of insomnia, and its long-term efficacy for insomnia is still under research.

Potential side effects and precautions of melatonin

Melatonin can help with sleep, but you need to know about its side effects and precautions before using it.

Side Effects:

  • Drowsiness: Melatonin's sleep-inducing properties can linger into the daytime, causing sleepiness and potentially impacting alertness, especially when taking high doses.
  • Headache: Some individuals experience mild headaches, particularly at higher doses or with long-term use.
  • Dizziness and nausea: These less common side effects can occur, especially in sensitive individuals.
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares: Melatonin can intensify dreams, both positive and negative, for some people.

Precautions:

Underlying health conditions: Talk to your doctor before using melatonin if you have any underlying health conditions like depression, epilepsy, autoimmune disorders, or high blood pressure.

Medications: Melatonin can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, sedatives, and diabetes medications. Consult your doctor to ensure safe use.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Avoid melatonin during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to limited research on its safety in these stages.

Children: Melatonin use in children should only be under medical supervision.

Dosage: Start with a low dose and increase gradually as needed under your doctor's guidance. High doses don't guarantee better results and can increase side effects.

Addiction: Though rare, long-term use of high doses may lead to dependence.

When does melatonin kick in?

Melatonin starts working in 30-60 minutes, making you drowsy. Take it before bed, but remember it's not a magic sleep fix! Combine it with good sleep habits for best results.

Chamomile vs. Melatonin: Comparing the Contenders

Similarities and differences in their mode of action (hormone vs. herb)

  • Chamomile: This gentle herb works indirectly, promoting relaxation and sleep through a flavonoid called apigenin. Apigenin binds to GABA receptors, mimicking the brain's natural calming signals and easing you into slumber.
  • Melatonin: This hormone acts directly, mimicking the body's internal clock signal and regulating sleep-wake cycles. It primarily affects sleep timing, helping you fall asleep at the desired time.

Effect on sleep timing vs. sleep quality

  • Chamomile: While chamomile can improve sleep onset slightly, its main focus is sleep quality. Its calming properties reduce anxiety and muscle tension, leading to deeper, more restful sleep.
  • Melatonin: This champion of sleep timing helps adjust your internal clock and induce drowsiness, but it may not improve sleep quality directly. Higher doses can even disrupt REM sleep, which is crucial for cognitive function.

Suitability for different sleep problems

  • Chamomile: Ideal for mild sleep difficulties like trouble falling asleep due to anxiety or stress. Its gentle nature makes it suitable for long-term use and safe for most people.
  • Melatonin: Best for short-term use to adjust sleep schedules (jet lag, shift work) or for specific sleep disorders like delayed sleep phase syndrome. Due to potential side effects and interactions, consult your doctor before using melatonin.

Combining Chamomile and Melatonin: Dream Team or Double Trouble?

The quest for blissful sleep can lead us down many paths, and sometimes those paths converge. Enter chamomile and melatonin: one, a gentle herbal embrace, the other, a potent regulator of our internal clock. But can these sleep-inducing allies join forces, or is mixing them a recipe for trouble?

Can You Take Chamomile and Melatonin Together?

In short, yes, you can generally take chamomile and melatonin together. Both are safe for most adults when used separately. Research shows no harmful interactions between them.

But, as always, ask your doctor. This is especially important if you have health conditions or take other drugs.

Potential benefits and risks of combining them

Potential Benefits of Combining:

  • Synergistic Effect: Chamomile's calming properties may amplify melatonin's sleep-inducing effects, leading to quicker drift-off and deeper sleep.
  • Double Whammy on Sleep Quality: Chamomile tackles anxiety and muscle tension, while melatonin regulates sleep timing, potentially creating a dream duo for both falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Reduced Melatonin Dosage: Combining chamomile with melatonin may allow you to use a lower dose of melatonin, minimising potential side effects.

Potential Risks and Considerations:

  • Overstimulation: Both chamomile and melatonin can induce drowsiness, and taking them together may lead to excessive sleepiness, especially at high doses.
  • Headaches or Dizziness: While rare, some individuals may experience mild headaches or dizziness when combining these substances.
  • Individual Sensitivity: Your body's response to each substance can vary. Monitor your own reactions and adjust dosages accordingly.

Dosage considerations and safety tips.

  • Start Slow: Begin with low doses of both chamomile (one cup of tea or a small supplement) and melatonin (0.5mg). Gradually increase based on your individual needs and response.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you experience any adverse effects, discontinue use or adjust dosages.
  • Time it Right: Take chamomile 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and melatonin about 30 minutes before your desired sleep time.

Chamomile tea vs. melatonin

Chamomile tea helps you feel calm and sleep better, like a cosy hug. Melatonin acts like a tiny time-traveller, helping you adjust to bedtime. You can pick chamomile for calming sleep, melatonin for bedtime adjustments, or use both for an even better result (but start with small amounts and pay attention to how your body feels!). But always remember, having good sleep habits is the most important thing.

Choosing the Right Sleep Aid

When we're trying to get good sleep, it's tempting to fall for quick fixes and magical solutions. But the truth is, the real sleep heroes are simple, everyday choices that you can stick to:

  • Stick to a Regular Sleep Time: Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, to help your body get used to a routine.
  • Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Wind down before bed by avoiding screens, taking a warm bath, reading a book, or doing gentle stretches. This tells your body it's time to sleep.
  • Create a Cosy Sleep Space: Make your bedroom comfortable by keeping it dark, cool, and quiet. Invest in comfy bedding for a better sleep environment.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular morning exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. Just avoid strenuous activities close to bedtime.
  • Watch Your Stimulants: Cut back on coffee, alcohol, and nicotine, especially in the evening, as they can disrupt your sleep.
  • Manage Stress: Practise relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to calm your mind before sleep.

Consulting a doctor before using any sleep aids, including natural ones

  • Talk to Your Doctor: Share your sleep problems and habits with your doctor. They can check for any health issues and guide you on the best approach.
  • Be Honest About Medications: Let your doctor know about any medications you're taking, as natural remedies can interact with some drugs.
  • Start Small and Keep Track: Begin with low doses of natural remedies, keeping a sleep diary to see what works.

Other natural sleep remedies to consider (lavender, magnesium).

  • Lavender: Use this calming herb in aromatherapy or as a sleep-inducing bath soak.
  • Magnesium: Get this essential mineral from foods like leafy greens or supplements, but consult your doctor first.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Insomnia: This structured program has proven effective in improving sleep quality without relying on medication.

Remember, the best solution for good sleep is the one that fits your needs. Combine healthy habits, try natural options cautiously, and consult your doctor as needed.

Conclusion

Having a timely, perfect, restful and quality sleep is the basic right of your body and mind. If you’d like to harness melatonin and chamomile’s sleep-inducing effects. It is highly recommended to take the necessary steps. Later, after the hectic day, at night you just need to lie down comfortably, dim the lights, close your eyes, and let them both do the magic.

Share your sleep struggles and tips in the comments - together, we can build a haven of sound sleep! 

FAQs

1. Does chamomile have melatonin? 

Ans: Chamomile does not directly produce melatonin, which is a hormone primarily synthesised by the pineal gland in the brain. However, recent research suggests it may stimulate the production of melatonin indirectly. This happens through apigenin, a flavonoid found in chamomile, binding to GABA receptors in the brain. These receptors can send signals to the pineal gland, potentially prompting it to increase melatonin production.

2. How does melatonin work?

Ans: Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle by signalling darkness and promoting sleepiness.

3. Chamomile supplement for sleep: Is it effective?

Ans: Yes, chamomile supplements can be effective for mild sleep issues, but individual results may vary.

4. Can you take a sleeping pill with chamomile tea?

Ans: While both chamomile tea and sleeping pills can help you sleep, combining them isn't the best idea. Both have sedative effects, and together they could make you too drowsy, increasing the risk of side effects like dizziness or even overdose. Always check with your doctor before mixing any sleep aids, including natural ones like chamomile.

Sources:

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Chamomile

WebMD: supplement guide chamomile

WebMD: Melatonin - Uses, Side Effects, and More

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) Melatonin: What You Need To Know

Sciencedirect: Chamomile
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