The statistics on sleep are startling: it’s estimated that 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep disorder of some sort. Nearly 40 percent of 20 to 39-year-olds report short sleep duration and more than 35 percent of adults say they sleep less than seven hours per night.
When millions of people struggle to fall asleep, it’s no surprise that drugstores, supermarkets, and health food stores alike all line their shelves with over-the-counter sleep aids. Lack of sleep is associated with poor decision-making, automobile accidents, poor dietary choices, mood swings, and lack of motivation, among other things.
What’s In Dream Water?
Dream Water is an over-the-counter sleep aid that claims to be the best all-natural, non-habit-forming sleep supplement. It contains a proprietary blend of three ingredients, all of which have been associated with improvements in falling and staying asleep.
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid that is produced naturally in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Because of this, it’s suspected that GABA may boost your mood or have a calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system.
By calming the nervous system, GABA can reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate aches and pains, and increase overall relaxation. GABA is the body’s most important inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it lowers the activity of nerve cells in the brain and central nervous system, effectively moving the brain and the body into lower gear.
It’s widely known and accepted that GABA produced in the brain is important for the body’s sleep patterns. Because the body’s natural levels of GABA are critical for sleep, it makes sense that supplements are thought to help, too.
However, scientists have not reached a consensus about whether—or how effectively—supplemental GABA crosses the blood-brain barrier.
As with all supplements, the real thing (that your body produces on its own) and the supplement version are different and may act differently in your body. Some limited research investigates the direct relationship between supplemental GABA and sleep. One study suggests that the oral intake of GABA as it’s naturally found in food can have beneficial effects on sleep.
Melatonin is probably the most widely used over-the-counter sleep supplement worldwide. It’s well-known for its ability to induce sleep, and it’s popular due to its origin as a naturally occurring hormone.
It’s thought that melatonin is safe and effective for long-term use. Hundreds of scientific studies have accepted melatonin as a favorable alternative to other over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Melatonin is not thought to be habit-forming.
It plays a critical role in regulating your circadian rhythm, or the biological clock that tells you when to go to sleep and when to wake up. A hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain, melatonin is usually released at nighttime and melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours. An exception is in people with delayed sleep phase syndrome or other circadian rhythm disorders.
For some people, melatonin seems to help improve sleep. However, in studies that compare melatonin to a placebo, the same benefit isn’t always present. Evidence that melatonin can reset the body clock is better established, but proper exposure to light and darkness may be just as effective.
5-HTP, or 5-Hydroxytryptophan, is another compound that’s made in the body and found naturally in many foods. It’s a byproduct of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is present in large amounts in turkey (which is part of the reason people say turkey makes you sleepy).
Our bodies don’t make L-tryptophan naturally, so we must absorb the essential amino acid from the food we eat. 5-HTP is made in the body after we consume and absorb L-tryptophan.
Most supplemental 5-HTP is derived from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicifolia plant, a shrubby plant native to West and Central Africa.
5-HTP improves sleep because it helps the body produce more serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences sleep-wake cycles in several ways, particularly through its relationship with melatonin. Serotonin and melatonin work symbiotically—healthy serotonin levels are essential for maintaining healthy melatonin levels, and both hormones are critical to a properly functioning biological clock.
Research suggests that 5-HTP may shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, and because of its serotonin-boosting quality, 5-HTP is also thought to help with mood disorders, stress, pain, and appetite control.
There are several potential benefits to Dream Water.
The three ingredients in Dream Water are all science-backed sleep aids. They’re all present naturally in the body in some way or another, and all influence the nervous system and sleep-wake cycles.
By quieting the nervous system, governing the internal bio-clock, and increasing the production of serotonin, Dream Water may be effective at helping you relax, especially before bedtime.
5-HTP and GABA have both been shown to have anti-anxiety properties. Research on 5-HTP suggests that the compound may reduce the risk of panic attacks and emotional stress. The role of 5-HTP in anxiety is mainly attributed to its serotonin-boosting quality.
GABA’s primary role in the body is to dampen the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which can aid in relieving anxiety. It’s important to note, though, that supplemental GABA may do this in other ways (such as through its activity in the gut microbiome).
Possible Side Effects
GABA, melatonin, and 5-HTP are all generally well-tolerated by healthy adults. However, there are still some possible side effects of Dream Water of which to be aware.
Can Interfere with Sleep Cycles
If you take Dream Water at the wrong time or take too much, it can interfere with your body’s natural sleep cycle.
Taking Dream Water may cause you to fall asleep too early or sleep too late, which can negatively alter your sleep cycle over the long run.
Everyone reacts differently to sleep aids. Some people may find that Dream Water is too strong for them and causes daytime fatigue or trouble waking up in the morning.
Sleep Aid Dependence
Even though the ingredients in Dream Water are natural and thought to be non-habit-forming, it’s still possible to develop a dependence on the product. In fact, it’s possible to develop a dependence on any sleep aid, natural or not.
Other Side Effects
The side effects of the individual ingredients in Dream Water are uncommon, but some reported side effects include:
- 5-HTP: nausea, dizziness, diarrhea
- Melatonin: drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, nausea
- GABA: low appetite, drowsiness, muscle weakness, nausea
Dosage and Preparation
Dream Water comes in two forms: Sleep Shot and Sleep Powder. The Dream Water website says to take either form of Dream Water when:
- You need an extra “push” to get to sleep
- You can fall asleep, but keep waking up
- You travel frequently and need to sleep during travel or after to help with jet lag
The Sleep Shot is a 74 mL bottle that contains 135 mg GABA, 10 mg 5-HTP, and 5 mg melatonin. Times vary based on individual needs, but you should drink one Sleep Shot about 30 minutes before bedtime. There are zero calories in the Sleep Shots.
Sleep Powder comes in individual, portable packets. You don’t have to mix the powder with water, but for easier consumption and better taste, you should. Each Sleep Powder packet contains 65 mg GABA, 7.5 mg 5-HTP, and 2.5 mg melatonin. There are 10 calories in one powder packet.
The ingredients in Dream Water can interact with many common medications. 5-HTP alone may interact with nearly 10 medications. GABA is known to interact with several drugs, including benzodiazepines (primarily used for treating anxiety) and barbiturates (commonly prescribed for sleep disorders).
Possible drug interactions with melatonin include anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, birth control pills, anti-hypertensive drugs, and immunosuppressants.
This is not an exhaustive list. It is always best to talk to your doctor if you are on any medication and are considering taking Dream Water or any of its individual ingredients as supplements.
Other Ways to Improve Sleep
You may not need to resort to a supplement if you have trouble sleeping at night. There are many sleep improvement techniques you can try, including:
- Spending less waking time in bed (reading, scrolling on your phone, and more)
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature
- Try stress-reducing tactics
- Listen to white noise
- Reduce consumption of alcohol and caffeine
- Exercise during the day
- Turn off televisions and other devices a couple of hours before bedtime
A Word From Verywell
Dream Water may be an effective over-the-counter sleep aid. However, everyone reacts differently to sleep aids and supplements. It’s important to note that although each ingredient in Dream Water plays an important role in our bodies, their roles as supplements are a lot less clear.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, be sure to discuss your situation and symptoms with your physician. A doctor will be able to best help you find an appropriate sleep aid and, if needed, a prescription or cognitive behavorial therapy for insomnia.
Remember that many factors influence sleep, including diet and exercise. An inability to fall asleep can be indicative of underlying health issues, as well as mental health complications.