Are you one of those people who can't get to sleep without counting sheep? Does your mind race with a million different thoughts and worries that just won't let you doze off? Do you need some help getting rest but don't want to rely on medication?
Approaching your sleeplessness through holistic practices could be the right path for you.
Why Use Natural Remedies for Insomnia
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 million Americans experience chronic sleeplessness or insomnia. As many as 33 percent of people with occasional sleep problems say they take medication for their condition.
However, many others fear the well-documented side effects of prescription sleeping pills, such as dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and memory and performance problems. Moreover, long-term use of certain sleep medications can lead to dependency, depression, memory problems, and even an increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease.
Given these risks, many people opt for more natural ways to address their insomnia, whether it be through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), lifestyle changes, home remedies, or natural supplements.
Today, more and more people turn towards simple strategies—including meditation, deep breathing, and changes to diet and exercise—instead of medications for insomnia relief.
Natural Sleep Aids
Homeopathic sleep aids often have little-to-no side effects, as they derive from natural herbs and flowers. Many natural sleep aids cause less grogginess than pharmaceuticals, and some say they have a gentler overall impact on the body.
However, it's important to note that natural doesn't necessarily mean safe. You should always check with your doctor to ensure the remedy does not interact with current medications or pose any other risks to your health.
Some of the most popular natural remedies to fall asleep include:
- Valerian Root– People use valerian root to treat symptoms of depression, anxiety, menopause, and insomnia. You can find valerian root at most health food stores for a reasonable price. A dose of 400-900 mg of valerian extract taken two hours before bed for two weeks may help those with insomnia. Herbalists recommend taking a break for an equal length of time before taking valerian root again.
- Melatonin– A naturally occurring hormone in the body, melatonin signals to your brain when it's time to sleep for the night. Your internal body clock relies on melatonin to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. While melatonin supplements are generally safe for short-term use, scientists don't have the data to assess the effects of long-term use.
- Magnesium– Magnesium, a vital mineral, has various essential functions throughout the body. For example, it helps maintain brain and heart health. Some studies show that magnesium can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which may help calm you down and fall asleep easier.
- Glycine– Glycine, an amino acid and natural sleep aid, may improve sleep quality and support your nervous system. Glycine lowers body temperature, alerting your body to bedtime. Those who take glycine report less daytime sleepiness and better cognition the following day.
6 Home Remedies to Help Fall Asleep
In addition to natural sleep aids, people often use home remedies to fall asleep. The most effective strategy to help you fall asleep faster may be right under your nose; no trip to the pharmacy needed!
The days you spend out on the town, enjoying the outdoors, or working hard around the house tend to wear you out the most, leaving you tired and ready for sleep when bedtime rolls around. So, it probably comes as no surprise that moderate aerobic exercise can improve your quality of sleep.
Setting time aside for daily exercise can help you establish more regular sleeping patterns, and there are plenty of different ways to work exercise into your day. For example, cardio or weightlifting can help you burn off excess energy. Also, flexibility training can loosen up sore muscles.
Keep in mind that exercise is not an instant cure for insomnia. Moreover, exercising too close to bedtime can keep you up longer because of hormone release and increased body temperature. If you want to do something right before bed that promotes sleep but doesn't get your heart racing, try gentle stretches or light yoga.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the best natural sleep aids, as it relieves stress, a top contributor to chronic insomnia.
Bringing your attention to the here and now through deep breathing techniques and reciting mantras—in your head or out loud—clears your mind of stress and calms your body for sleep.
You can make up a mantra of your own by reciting a positive statement that brings your attention to positive thoughts and feelings.
3. Drink Tea
A warm mug of chamomile tea with honey and lemon is not only delicious and calming but also linked to better sleep.
The chamomile plant extract contains apigenin, a chemical compound that induces sleepiness when it binds to the GABA receptors in the brain. The apigenin works to relax the muscle and cause a mild sedative effect.
So, if you want to sleep better at night, avoid reaching for the coffee pot for an afternoon pick-me-up. Instead, keep a stash of chamomile tea in your backpack or handbag to relax and de-stress.
While swapping caffeine for chamomile may take some getting used to, your body will thank you when it comes time to hit the hay.
4. Try Essential Oils
A recent study shows that aromatherapy may increase sleep quality and reduce anxiety in ICU patients. Many people who use essential oils at home say they experience the same benefits.
Aromatherapy advocates have long used essential oils such as lavender as a remedy for stress and sleeplessness. Other essential oils commonly used for sleep include valerian oil, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, bergamot, peppermint, and jasmine.
To use essential oils for sleep, put a few drops under your pillow or add a few drops to a diffuser for calming effects.
5. Take a Hot Bath or Shower
According to a recent study from the biomedical engineering department at the University of Texas at Austin, taking a bath about 90 minutes before bed in water at 104 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit helped study participants improve sleep quality and fall asleep an average of 10 minutes faster.
That's because your body temperature naturally falls as you sleep. While this may sound counterintuitive, the warm bath stimulates blood circulation to the hands and feet, allowing the body to cool down faster.
So, before bedtime, try taking a relaxing hot bath. The warmth of the water will increase body temperature and relax your muscles. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for extra relaxing aromatherapy effects.
6. Keep a Sleep Journal
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule helps regulate your circadian rhythm (internal body clock). Frequent changes to your sleep schedule can throw your rhythm out of sync and make it difficult to get a good night's rest.
Keeping a sleep journal that details your bedtime, sleep hygiene routine, and wake time can help you identify patterns and unhealthy habits keeping you up at night. To learn more about resetting your sleep schedule, click here.
Quick Tips for Your Sleep Environment
If you're still having trouble falling asleep, there are a few tactics you can try to create a sleep-inducing environment:
- Turn Down the Thermostat: Most sources recommend adjusting your thermostat to 60–67 degrees Fahrenheit to help lower your body temperature and get to sleep faster.
- Unplug: Keep cell phones, laptops, and tablets out of your bedroom. The blue light of electronic screens tricks your brain into thinking it's daytime, disturbing your circadian rhythm and preventing those sleepy signals.
- Embrace the Dark Side: Blackout blinds and blackout curtains encourage quality sleep by keeping sunlight at bay. When you're ready to wake up, open the blinds and bathe your bedroom in sunlight.
Want more tips to fall asleep more quickly? Check out these 28 Tips, Tricks & Strategies to Fall Asleep Fast.
Fall Asleep Fast—Naturally
In many cases, natural fixes for insomnia are most effective. Give these healthy habits and home remedies a try, and you'll likely find that doing what's best for your body will help you sleep better and fall asleep faster.
Consult your doctor before embarking on your natural health journey, and if symptoms persist, be sure to seek additional guidance from medical professionals.