For the last week, I’ve taken the Physician’s Choice sleep aid every night. I haven’t been sleeping well again recently, so I thought it was a good opportunity to try a new sleep aid.
It’s an interesting one as it contains a mix of melatonin, chamomile, and valerian. These ingredients crop up time and time again in different sleep aids, but not always together. It also contains vitamin B6, which isn’t so commonly found in sleep aids.
In addition, it’s the first sleep aid I’ve taken which contains Suntheanine. This is a patented form of L-Theanine that’s derived from green tea and is apparently included by the manufacturer to help promote relaxation.
In this review, I’ll describe my experience taking Physician’s Choice. I know that melatonin typically works for me, so it was going to be interesting to see if the additional ingredients made any difference on top of it.
A mild feeling of relaxation
Valerian sleep aids are sometimes unpleasantly pungent, but the capsule did a good job of keeping the smell out of my nostrils in this case.
The instructions tell you to take two capsules 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. They are quite large because of the ingredients included, so I needed to wash them down with a good gulp of water.
Each night I took them, I lay in bed reading to see if there was a discernible sedative effect. This is a tricky point to measure objectively when you consider the placebo effect and my previous positive experience with melatonin. Still, I find it interesting to see if I can notice anything when I first try a new sleep aid.
I do think I was able to sense a mild feeling of relaxation while reading on the nights I took it. I didn’t exactly feel my eyes drooping, nor did I fall asleep with the light on and wake up with my book still in my hands. However, I felt ready to turn out the light and go to sleep around 40-60 minutes after taking it.
Compared to the week before, I felt like I slept really well on one night during the week I took the sleep aid, and reasonably well on four others. But there were two nights when I still didn’t get as much sleep as I feel I need.
Interestingly, the best night was on the last night of my week long test, which made me wonder if the placebo effect wasn’t playing much of a role after all.
An interesting point I noticed was that even when I woke in the night, I was able to fall asleep again quite quickly on the five better nights. This is sometimes an issue for me, and it was notable that I didn’t get up to have a cup of tea in the night all week.
I was also keen to see if my Fitbit Versa 2 sleep tracker data backed up the suggestion on the packaging that the sleep aid “promotes REM sleep” (though they add the typical caveat that the statement hasn’t been evaluated by the Food and Drugs Administration).
I know that personal sleep trackers aren’t 100% accurate, but it was still interesting that the percentage of time I spent in the REM stage was good compared to my usual average. I’ll take that result with a pinch of salt, but the data looked positive.
No noticeable side effects
For me personally, there were no noticeable side effects. With over the counter sleep aids containing antihistamines, I often get a dry mouth after a couple of days, and sometimes I have vivid dreams when I take melatonin. So as far as I could tell, I seemed to tolerate Physician’s Choice well.
This is just my experience though, and you might react differently to one or more of the ingredients.
Would I take Physician’s Choice again?
I’ve had the same positive effect from sleep aids that contain just the melatonin content. So I would probably be more tempted to stick with those, especially as they are smaller and easier to swallow.
However, I’ll keep the bottle and plan to try them again in the future if my sleep tracker data starts showing that I’m getting less REM sleep than usual. It strikes me that it would be an interesting experiment to see what effect it might have.
The label on the bottle I bought lists these active ingredients:
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate) 2mg
- Chamomile flowers (Matricaria Recutita) 100mg
- Valerian root (Valeriana Officinalis) 100mg
- Theanine (Suntheanine®) 50mg
- Melatonin 5mg
The other ingredients listed are:
- Rice flour
- Vegetarian capsule (hypromellose and water)
I’ve checked the label again on the product currently sold online, and the ingredients appear to be the same as of October 2021.
Do the ingredients work as sleep aids?
Chamomile, melatonin, and valerian all have mixed evidence for their effectiveness as sleep aids. Chamomile and Valerian have the weakest evidence for their effectiveness as sleep aids, and melatonin is thought to be better for specific sleep problems rather than a catch-all for anyone with insomnia.
So these ingredients aren’t exactly guaranteed to knock you out at night – their effectiveness varies from person to person.
Theanine is less commonly found in sleep aids, and I’m not sure if there’s a medical consensus about how well it works. Here’s a brief quote from the website of the company that makes this particular version of it:
Suntheanine is produced via a fermentation process that mimics the natural process in green tea leaves resulting in a 100% pure L-isomer-theanine.Taiyo International
As for the B6, I’ve seen suggestions online that it might help with sleep because the body uses B6 to convert tryptophan into serotonin, which regulates the sleep hormone melatonin.
The most useful research I’ve found regarding this came from Chinese researchers in 2018 . They conducted a large analysis of previous research and found that B6 deficiency was associated with a higher risk of sleep disorders. They don’t, however, say that taking B6 would improve your sleep if you don’t have a deficiency.
Who shouldn’t take it?
The box I bought didn’t contain an information leaflet and there are no safety warnings on the label other than to keep it out of the reach of children and not to use it if the safety seal is damaged or broken.
I think this is a case where it’s a good idea to check with your personal doctor or physician before taking it, especially if you have any health conditions or are taking any other medication.
I’d also do your own research to make sure the ingredients will be safe for you to use. Some people do experience side effects from taking melatonin, chamomile, or valerian.
For example, some of the most common side effects of these ingredients listed on medical sites like drugs.com and WebMD are:
- Low mood
- Daytime sleepiness
- Stomach cramps
- Irritability or anxiety
- Vivid dreams
What others say
As of October 2021, there were more than 4300 customer reviews on Amazon.com with an overall rating of 4.1/5, which is quite high for a sleep aid sold online.
57% are five stars, so there are a lot of people who felt it worked well. 9% are one star reviews though, with most saying it just didn’t work for them.
There were also more than 1600 customer ratings on Walmart when I checked, with a combined rating of 4.8/5 stars. And as is often the case with over the counter sleeping pills, some say it works really well while others say it did nothing for them.
For more about the Physician’s Choice company itself, you can see customer feedback on the Trustpilot website.
If you’d like to find out more about the company that holds the trademark for Sunthenine, and their explanation for how it’s produced, have a look at the Taiyo International website (not a paid link).
An interesting study in 2011 showed that Suntheanine improved the sleep of 98 male children with ADHD and was well tolerated at doses significantly higher than in the Physician’s Choice sleep aid.
A study in 2018 found that B6 supplementation increased how much people remembered their dreams. It didn’t affect how vivid or bizarre their dreams were though, or improve their sleep in general.
An Australian study in 2016 discussed multiple uses of L-Theanine. They mention that some human and animal studies have found it helps with sleep.
Have you tried the Physician’s Choice sleep aid? Please leave a comment below describing your experience, and your opinion on how well it works.