Sleep, unrefined: Natural sleep aids and remedies for the average insomniac
In today’s 24/7 society, we often see sleep as an unnecessary luxury rather than a necessity.
We laugh off our exhaustion, competing with coworkers and friends to see who can stay up the longest, or get by on very little rest. However, sleep deprivation is no laughing matter.
While skipping out on sleep so you can get to work earlier or accomplish more at home after you leave the office might seem like the ideal way to boost your productivity, it’s actually having a hugely negative impact on your health.
The bad news? Once you’ve trained your mind to stay active at all hours of the day, it becomes incredibly difficult to wind down, relax, and snooze soundly when you want to.
It’s easy to see why up to 40% of American adults say that they have at least occasional issues with insomnia.
So, what do you do when you can’t get the shut-eye that you know you need? Well, you could try medications — but they often have the potential to make your sleep worse rather than better.
The good news? There are plenty of natural sleep aid alternatives available.
Natural sleep aids #1: The perfect midnight snack
Let’s start simple.
Just as you need to provide your body with the right food to keep it fueled during the day, you also need to ensure that you’re eating the right meals at night for a great slumber.
Consuming heavy foods like pasta and bread on an evening might be a delicious way to treat your senses, but it also runs the risk that you’ll have heartburn keeping you up all night.
That doesn’t mean that you have to skip a good meal if you’re eating late — you just need to think carefully about what you’re eating.
Focus on adding more snooze-inducing foods into your schedule, such as:
Nuts: Nuts are a (mostly) healthy snack, if you eat them in moderation. Try to avoid too much salt on your nuts. Eat them fresh instead, and they’ll fill your stomach without giving you too much excess energy to burn off before bed. Walnuts and almonds are particularly good at delivering an extra dose of melatonin and magnesium — two nutrients that are essential for sleep.
Kiwi: Research indicates that the kiwi fruit is one of the best things to eat before bed, thanks to high levels of serotonin within the fruit. Serotonin is the stuff that makes you feel happy and calm. You can usually create it by getting plenty of sunlight or doing some exercise. Kiwi is also packed full of vitamin C, which is handy for aiding digestion when you snooze.
Turkey: You’ve probably heard a story or two about turkey making you tired. A nap after a big turkey dinner is a common practice for many of us — particularly around Christmas. That’s because turkey comes packed full of tryptophan — that’s a kind of amino acid that’s great for your snoozing strategy.
Cottage cheese: Yep, you can eat cheese before bed — believe it or not. Research indicates that protein-rich cottage cheese is excellent for giving your metabolism a much-needed boost during the night. This could help you to process any of the food that you eat faster and support your waistline too.
While you’re searching for the ideal natural sleep remedies in your diet, it’s also worth paying attention to the foods that you shouldn’t be eating.
For instance, alcohol might initially make you feel drowsy when you’re going to bed, but it will ruin the quality of your sleep, meaning that you wake up feeling more exhausted the next day.
Avoiding things that are high in sugar and caffeine can be helpful too!
Natural sleep aids #2: Sip your way to slumber town
The foods that you choose to eat and avoid can make a massive difference to how well you sleep. However, it’s also important to think about what you’re drinking too.
Obviously, you’re going to be avoiding alcohol and coffee before you go to bed. However, it’s worth noting that there are a handful of sleep-friendly drinks available to explore too.
Water: A tall glass of cold water should be the last thing you drink before you go to bed each night. It’s crucial to ensure that you’re keeping your fluid levels topped up not just through the day, but during the night too. If you tend to sweat a lot when you go to bed, it’s even more important to avoid dehydration.
Calming teas: You probably already know that chamomile can help you relax for a good night’s rest. There are a bunch of other tea options that often go overlooked, ranging all the way from valerian root teas, to teas made from lavender. Research found that chamomile’s apigenin flavonoid helps to calm the brain. Additionally, valerian tea can reduce the time it takes for you to fall asleep each night.
Tart cherry juice: There are a lot of insomniacs that swear by the benefits of using tart cherry juice before they go to bed each night. This substance contains melatonin — the stuff that helps you to manage your sleep cycle. Drinking just a bit of this tart treat can really help you to wind down before bed.
Coconut water: If normal water doesn’t appeal to you, but you’re concerned about staying hydrated through the night, then coconut water could be the perfect alternative. Not only is coconut water great for hydration, but it’s full of electrolytes too!
Warm milk: There’s a reason why your mother used to suggest a glass of warm milk before bed when you were struggling to sleep. This soothing substance can help you to relax and unwind when you need to drift off into a good night of slumber.
Remember, making sure that you’re using the right beverages to get to sleep each night means thinking about when you stop drinking caffeine. Most of us assume that if we want to go to bed at 11 pm we can stop drinking caffeine at 7pm and be fine.
You should actually cut down on your caffeine intake as close to lunch time as possible, however, to get as much of this substance out of your system as possible.
Switch to natural sleep remedies in the early afternoon, like a nice cup of low-caffeine green tea.
When you’re getting ready to go to bed, about 2 hours before you hit the sheets, you can try one of the options above.
Natural sleep aids #3: Experiment with essential oils
Have you ever caught a whiff of something when visiting your mum’s house, or walking around a convenience store, and suddenly felt totally relaxed?
Specialists in sleep and insomnia have used this connection to create aromatherapy strategies for targeting a wide range of sleep disorders.
Something as simple as having plants in your bedroom or dripping some oil into a diffuser before you nod off could be the perfect all-natural sleep aid.
Here are just some of the best natural sleep aid oils to add to your nightly routine:
Lavender: Lavender is frequently ranked as one of the leading essential oils for sleep. The solution has been known to assist with anxiety and sleep quality throughout the decades. You can even feel more alert during the day if you take lavender to bed with you at night.
Valerian root: You don’t need to drink Valerian to get the benefit from it. This natural substance is used in a variety of sleep aids. Although the results from studies into the effects of valerian on sleep have been inconclusive at times, most people report that they get a better nights sleep after using this substance.
Eucalyptus: Another of the best natural sleep aid options for people who suffer from mild insomnia. Eucalyptus can assist with everything from relaxation, to sleep apnea. The oil helps to open up your airways — which could be ideal if you suffer from obstructive forms of sleep apnea.
CBD oil: It seems like CBD oil is everywhere these days, addressing everything from anxiety to chronic pain. When used as a natural sleep aid, CBD oil can help to relax your mind. Whether you eat it, diffuse it, or vape it, a dose of CBD could make it more likely that you will enjoy a natural sleep that’s free from nightmares or discomfort. Since this substance also helps with chronic pain, it could even stop you from waking up during the night because of pre-existing ailments.
Remember, there are a variety of ways that you can use essential oils as part of your all-natural sleep aid routine. Some people prefer to simply drip their oils into a diffuser placed next to their bed.
Others use humidifiers so that they can essentially breathe in the oils. You can even mix your essential oils with carriers so that you can apply them to your skin.
One of our favourite options is to add a few drops of your natural oils to a bubble bath. Studies have proven that women who take hot baths before they go to bed fall asleep faster and have a higher quality of sleep than those that didn’t take a bath.
If you don’t have time for a full bath, you can always just soak your feet for a few minutes to unlock similar snooze-inducing powers.
Natural sleep aids #4: Discover the value of vitamins
Vitamins are another solution for anyone in search of natural sleep remedies to deal with insomnia, sleep deprivation, and more.
Taking a supplement can be an excellent way to top up the stores of essential substances in your body that could be inadvertently shouting for attention.
Just don’t expect to pop one pill and see a huge response immediately. It may take time for you to balance things out if you’ve been deprived of a specific vitamin for a while.
Some of the most common vitamins to help with natural sleep include:
Vitamin D: Most people automatically think of sunlight when they’re discussing vitamin D. However, popping one of these pills can actually be ideal for your sleep quality too. Having a Vitamin D deficiency is well-known for keeping you up at night.
Magnesium: Part of the reason that you should consider using nuts as your bedtime snack is because they contain magnesium. Magnesium helps to support melatonin and other substances in your body that help you to get to sleep and stay asleep for longer.
Melatonin: Melatonin is probably the most frequently cited natural sleep aid that there is. This sleep hormone is essential for regulating your sleep/wake cycle. Some people suffering from insomnia find that taking a melatonin supplement is the best way to keep their mind and body on track when they need to get plenty of rest.
One of the most useful things about using melatonin as one of your natural sleep aids, is that it’s good not just for helping you to fall asleep, it can also assist with getting your routine back on track after you travel or change sheets.
The production of melatonin in the body is triggered by an absence of light. If you’re working in a routine that doesn’t give you a lot of exposure to the sun, then you may need melatonin supplements to help you get into a rhythm.
Researchers have found that melatonin improves sleep quality and reduces nighttime disturbances in people from all walks of life.
Just remember to speak to your doctor before you begin taking any kind of supplement. The medications that you already use could interact negatively with certain herbal remedies.
Natural sleep aids #5: Ramp up your relaxation efforts
Still with us?
If natural sleep remedies like vitamins and essential oils don’t work for you, then it may be that you need to do something to change the way you feel when you’re going to sleep. Anxiety can be one of the biggest causes of sleep deprivation.
Unfortunately, these days, most of us are dealing with some form of stress that makes it difficult to switch off.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways that you can begin to boost your relaxation efforts, for instance:
Try meditation: Meditation is a lot easier than you’d think. You don’t need to be an expert to get started. There are plenty of apps and videos out there that can help you with things like guided relaxation and breathing techniques.
Set aside time to get ready for sleep: Rather than browsing through social media on your smartphone until you’re ready to snooze, set some time aside for a schedule that’s conducive to good sleep. Remember that electronics and blue light are proven to have a negative impact on sleep quality. Using your time before bed to practice some yoga, read a book, or do something else that “unplugs” you from technology is a great way to get your mind and body into sleep mode.
Keep a journal: If anxiety and stress are keeping you up at night, it might be helpful to get some of your worries down on paper. Journaling your thoughts can help you to organise them before you go to bed. You might even come up with some solutions to your issues that you can try. When you know that you’re already working towards a solution for your issues, you’re much less likely to panic about whatever your issues might be.
Look into CBT: If no matter what you do, you’re still dealing with things like sleep anxiety each night, you may need to consider cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT. This form of therapy helps you to get to the root cause of your anxiety, so you can actively change and improve your thought processes.
It sounds overly simple, but evidence suggests that learning how to relax properly before you go to bed will really improve your sleep. You need to be committed to whatever strategy you choose, whether it’s visualization or meditation, but you’ll eventually notice a difference.
One study from the National Centre for integrative and complementary health found that relaxation techniques are a crucial part of insomnia treatment.
Natural sleep aids #6: Alternative treatments
Finally, there are a handful of other ways that you can tap into all-natural sleep aid options to solve your insomnia issues. For instance, we’ve discussed before how regular physical activity is crucial for improving your sleep quality.
Mounting scientific evidence proves that people who exercise regularly are more likely to enjoy a good night of slumber than people who spend more time on the couch.
One study found that people who got 60 minutes of exercise up to 5 days per week have better REM sleep than people who don’t exercise. You don’t even have to sweat it out for that long to see results.
20 minutes of exercise each morning could help you to regulate your sleep patterns too.
Notably, exercising in the morning when you just wake up is generally the best way to enhance your sleeping routine. That’s because natural sunlight helps to set your circadian rhythm.
When you get a dose of natural light each morning, this tells your brain that it’s time to wake up.
When your hypothalamus senses a change in the amount of light that you’re exposed to, it tells your body and brain that it’s time to increase or reduce the production of the hormone melatonin in your system.
When it’s dark, you produce more melatonin. When you’re in the light, then you’ll produce more cortisol to keep you awake.
Notably, this light exposure strategy only works with real genuine sunlight. You may also be able to get similar results when using sunlight lamps. However, the artificial lights in your home aren’t going to give you nearly enough of the right light to change your natural sleep patterns.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re looking for the best natural sleep aid is that most doctors will recommend changing your sleep hygiene strategy and routine if you’re struggling with insomnia.
Try setting aside a couple of hours each night for your own routine. You might have a nice bath before bed or drink a hot cup of tea while reading a book before you snooze. The details of your routine are up to you.
Enjoy your all-natural sleep aids
Although we all have the occasional sleepless night from time to time, there’s a real problem if you find that you’re constantly unable to get the quality of rest that you need.
Failing to sleep well for an extended period of time could lead to the symptoms of sleep deprivation, which include everything from weight gain, to mood problems.
The good news is that there are natural sleep remedies out there that can help you to get back on track, without exposing you to any dangerous chemicals.
Try one of the options above if you’re struggling with your slumber and consider making an appointment with your doctor.
A medical professional will be able to provide you with much more personalized treatment strategies based on your medical history.