I often find myself saying, “what a difference a day can make,” especially after a good night’s sleep following a bout of poor sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well, you probably aren’t doing well. Sleep is one of the most important ways your body heals from the mental and physical rigors of your day. Both your body and mind regenerate and restore, allowing your brain to literally clear out waste from the central nervous system for improved thinking and learning.
Needless to say, sleep is essential, and if you want to be able to perform during the day, you need to be able to get adequate rest at night. Fortunately, there are some good remedies for poor sleep. This article will highlight ten of the best natural sleep aids for you to consider.
Take note: These natural sleep aids can all be bought over the counter and are generally safe to use. However, it is always good to consult with your doctors before introducing any kind of new supplements into your regime. Depending on your unique health, different supplements can have less desired side effects, such as increased blood pressure, or have dangerous interactions with medications.
Perhaps one of the best-known natural sleep aids—which, by the way, is also naturally produced by the body—melatonin plays an all-important role in sleep regulation. It is for this reason that it is one of the more highly recommended supplements when indications of sleep troubles arise.
The body’s natural melatonin production waxes and wanes throughout the day, which is in large part triggered by natural light exposure. Modern life has disrupted what nature intended, and we are often waking and working in dark or artificially lit environments that alter the naturally occurring circadian rhythm connected to melatonin production. It is important to note that cortisol, the stress hormone, is one of the signals that wakes you up in the morning and is in the opposite relationship to melatonin. When one is high the other is low, and if either is off-kilter, sleep trouble will often be the result.
Therefore, during particularly stressful times in your life, sleep is bound to be disrupted by increased cortisol in your body. You can help regulate that sleep cycle with melatonin supplements, which will help your body naturally find its sleep cycle.
Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian herb or adaptogen that is known for its stress reduction effects. When coupled with melatonin, ashwagandha might just be the other half of a very efficient natural sleep remedy.
As it is noted above, melatonin helps induce sleep but does not address the higher-than-average cortisol levels that may be a big contributor to your sleep troubles. Ashwagandha enhances the body’s stress-fighting abilities and promotes good health in the brain and central nervous system. It can be taken in powder form known as churn or in the form of a capsule.
This yellow flower is hailed for many health benefits and is being studied for ailments that range from treating diabetes and lowering blood sugar to reducing menstrual cramps and preventing cancer. Additionally, it has been found to induce sleep and help the body relax.
I would say that chamomile is anecdotally renowned and clinically inconclusive at this point, but more research is being done around these optimistic benefits. Chamomile is also found to relieve symptoms of anxiety, working in a similar function as benzodiazepines, affectionately called “benzos” for short. Benzos are sedatives used to relax the body and are often prescribed for anxiety, panic disorder, seizures, and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and, for this reason, often used as a last resort.
Therefore, a natural alternative like chamomile would be most beneficial for many! Chamomile is best taken in the form of a tea about an hour before heading to bed, but you can also find it in the form of oil for aromatherapy.
Lavender doesn’t just smell nice, it can also be a major support to making sure you are getting the zzz’s you need to stay fresh and at your best day in and day out. It is one of the best natural sleep aids out there. The soothing aroma of lavender can be enough to enhance your rest by maintaining sleep through the night, warding off those less desired 3 am wake-ups.
Lavender can be used in the form of aromatherapy, which is the safest and most widely used. However, there are oral supplements as well, though some are known to cause stomach upset.
Frankincense is another effective natural sleep aid. This is one of those biblical scents and essential oils that have been used for millennia to treat physical and mental ailments. Its relaxing properties also make it a nice addition to your relaxing evening routine to help stimulate melatonin production and relax the body as well as the mind.
Frankincense in the form of aromatherapy or incense is most commonly used. However, many people apply the oil directly to their skin as well.
6. Valerian Root
Not actually a reference to the fictitious ‘Valyria’ from GOT, but valerian is a flower that could bring you to the ancient city of wonder through your deep sleeping dreams! Sorry, I couldn’t help the Game of Thrones reference there, but it does make this one a little more enticing. Valerian root is a widely used sleep aid as it has been found to help with relaxation. Moreover, it can greatly help induce sleep while at the same time increasing the quality of your sleep.
If you decide to look into this supplement, it would be advised to discuss this with your doctor as there are a range of doses and preparations for this natural sleep remedy. There are also warnings around how it may interact with your medication regime.
One way to address your sleep deficiencies is through your diet. If this is a route you want to look into, try to eat more whole foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that supports the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter often connected to depression.
Tryptophan is found in a variety of healthy whole foods that can also promote a positive sleep routine. It is found in foods such as eggs, turkey, chicken, milk, peanuts, and cheese, to name a few.
Magnesium is another natural sleep aid that can be obtained through a healthy balanced diet. Studies indicate that when sleep disturbance takes place, there are lowered levels of magnesium, which is a mineral needed for over 600 cellular reactions in the body.
Magnesium will show up on many healthy food lists for its array of health benefits on the brain, heart, and skeletal systems, as well as sleep support. Magnesium is also found to help regulate the production of melatonin production and help your muscles relax.
If you are looking to boost your magnesium intake, you can do so by incorporating more nuts, legumes, avocados, tofu, and whole grains, among many others. You can also take magnesium in the form of a capsule.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that when attached to a protein, creates a relaxing, calming effect and, for this reason, can decrease stress. Low levels of GABA are found in people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic disorder, all of which are known to coincide with sleep irregularities.
We know that when the body is stressed, there is more cortisol and this negatively impacts the sleep cycle. Therefore, GABA assists by relaxing the body, which should reduce cortisol levels and promote better sleep. GABA can be taken as a supplement, but it can also be found in foods such as tempeh, beans, berries, tomatoes, and potatoes to name a few.
Though this is not an actual substance that you will absorb through aromatherapy or ingestion, meditation can be a major support in helping you to find your happy sleep space.
Incorporating a little mediation or mindfulness in the hours before bed can help relax the body and prepare it for an evening of rest, which just might make it the best natural sleep aid out there, and it won’t cost you anything more than the time and energy you put into it. It is a practice that can also help if your sleep cycle was disrupted by jet lag or a temporary change in routine.
After reading this article you may have noticed that all of these natural sleep aids share a few similarities. They either stimulate melatonin production in the body or help your muscles relax. Anything that does one of these two functions—better if done together—will probably yield some benefits when it comes to stabilizing your sleep routine.
However, there are lots of reasons why you might be experiencing sleep disturbance, and we all go through bouts of poor sleep. If you find that you are experiencing a sudden change that goes on for more than a month, it might be good to consult with your doctor as this could be due to an underlying issue and an indicator that something else is amiss.
Speaking with your healthcare professional will help you rule out any other major concerns and help you get your sleep cycle back on track. Here’s to sunny days and sleepy nights!
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