9 Natural Sleep Remedies to Help You Sleep
Struggling with sleep can affect your mood, productivity, and focus the next day, as well as have an impact on your health, particularly if the sleep issues are prolonged. Your sleep quality is directly linked to how you feel, both mentally and physically, and so struggling to fall asleep can be annoying at best and physically and mentally draining at worst.
Natural sleep aids have been used for centuries, usually in traditional or herbal medicines, to treat sleep disorders and to promote sleep in those with sleep problems. A natural sleep aid can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep if used correctly.
While some natural sleep remedies may come in the form of dietary supplements, others may work upon inhalation or when consumed. Natural sleep aids are wide-ranging and can be tried after you have exhausted all other sleep medicine alternatives, or may be used before trying prescribed medication.
In this article, we're going to be looking over what natural sleep aids are, whether a natural sleep aid is right for you and what it can do for your sleep quality, whether using a natural sleep remedy can have negative side effects, and a list of our favourite natural sleep aids.
To find out more, keep reading now!
What are natural sleep aids?
So, what are natural sleep aids?
Natural sleep aids are, simply put, sleep aids that come from natural sources.
In the world of sleep aids, natural has a few different meanings. It could mean that the product is sourced from natural sources, like aromatherapy oils that come from plant sources, or it could relate to a substance that is synthetically made but is found naturally in the body.
The word natural is unregulated and so you should always check the label of products listed as natural to ensure that the contents do come from natural sources, or that the substance is found naturally.
By sleep aid, we mean anything that helps you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and has a positive impact on your sleep quality. Natural sleep aids promote sleep, can help those who have trouble falling asleep to correct their sleep-wake cycle, and can be effective in treating insomnia.
While natural sleep aids are not prescribed medicines, they have been known to improve sleep quality and complementary and integrative health remedies are commonly used in treating sleep issues due to the addictive nature of sleeping pills and the dangers of 'rebound insomnia.'
Is a natural sleep aid right for me?
There are many reasons that people find it difficult to sleep which means that many people use sleep aids. Some choose to use prescribed medication for help to induce sleep, but natural sleep aids may be the right choice for you if you're trying to avoid medication and if you want to use a natural method.
Natural sleep aids are usually the best choice for those whose sleep issues are short-term and not the result of a sleep disorder. Natural sleep aids promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, as well as promote good sleep.
Natural sleep remedy options are also associated with other health benefits, including digestive support, pain relief, and mental health benefits too, like easing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
While alternative medicine isn't for everyone, most of the natural sleep aid options out there have been proven to have some positive effect upon sleep quality and have been used for centuries to treat sleep problems.
Why can't I sleep?
Before you begin looking for natural sleep aid, you might benefit from understanding why you're not sleeping. For most people, sleep problems are short-term and usually the result of external factors. These include:
- Consumption of alcohol. While small amounts of alcohol won't cause huge sleep disturbances, alcohol is known to affect sleep cycles, reducing the amount of REM sleep you get causing you to wake up feeling unrefreshed and irritable.
- Poor sleep habits. Staying up too late, watching TV in bed, staring at your phone in bed. All of these factors can impact your sleep due to light exposure as your body tries to wind down for bed. Try turning screens off an hour or so before bed and stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Drinking too much caffeine. While we all enjoy a good tea or coffee, consuming caffeine before bed can mess with your sleep pattern, keeping you awake for longer than you would like! Try cutting caffeine from 3 pm onwards to ensure the substance is out of your system before bed.
- You're feeling stressed. Stress, anxiety, and overthinking are common sleep deterrents. Reducing the stress in your life, speaking your worries, and using mindfulness to calm overthinking can all help you to fall asleep easier.
- Eating fatty or sugary foods before bed, as well as eating too much protein. All of these foods can wake your digestive system up, making it difficult for your body to rest. Try to minimise snacking before bed.
While most sleep issues can be attributed to one of these few factors, if your sleep issues persist, you may have a sleep disorder and should speak to your doctor. There are many types of sleep disorders and getting the right treatment can help you to get better sleep.
Are there side effects of natural sleep aids?
While natural sleep aids are considered safe, as with any medication, there are some side effects. Though not everyone will experience side effects, it is important you always use the correct dosage of any natural sleep aid.
While not every sleep aid has the same side effects, there are some side effects you should look out for. These include:
- Allergic reaction. While this is relatively uncommon, some natural sleep remedies may cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include a rash, swollen lips and eyes, itchy eyes, sneezing, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing, cramping, difficulty swallowing, tightness in the chest, heart palpitations, and unconsciousness. If you have an allergic reaction, cease use of the sleep aid immediately and seek medical attention. In severe cases, emergency attention is required.
- Adverse reactions. These include gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and other symptoms that cause discomfort.
- Excessive sleepiness. If you find you are falling asleep during the day, sleeping for much longer than usual, or experiencing drowsiness, you may need to stop using the sleep aid.
- Drug interactions. Some remedies may cause issues with other drugs you are taking, reducing their effectiveness or causing other symptoms. Always check the label and seek medical advice before starting using a sleep aid if you're concerned about drug interactions.
For children, you should check the label to ensure you're using the correct dosage for their age before administering any natural sleep aids. Additionally, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should seek medical advice to ensure the safety of any sleep aid you intend to use.
9 natural sleep remedies we love
Now we understand the general idea behind natural sleep aids and how they can help you to get a good night's sleep, let's check out some natural sleep aids we think are fantastic.
Each of these aids differs slightly, from essential oil sleep aids to melatonin supplements to teas for relaxation, each comes in a different form and works in a different way, but all have been proven to have a positive impact on sleep.
Let's take a look at them now.
Melatonin is naturally produced in the body. It signals to the body that it is time to sleep and increases in the hours before bedtime. Melatonin supplements have been known to have a positive impact on sleep quality and can help to promote sleep in the body.
Melatonin is often advised when sleep issues are a complaint and may also improve daytime sleep quality. This makes them an effective treatment for shift workers who struggle to sleep during the day.
Melatonin has been found to treat sleep disorders, like insomnia, and is suitable for short term use in adults.
Lavender has been used as a sleep remedy for centuries. Used in its oil form, lavender is known to promote sleep. Lavender essential oil, when inhaled, calms the body, reduces feelings of anxiety, and improves sleep.
Lavender is suitable for short and long term use. Always seek medical advice if you are pregnant and considering using essential oils.
Valerian root is a herb native to Asia and Europe that is found in many sleep-promoting teas. Valerian root is thought to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and research has shown it to be effective in treating sleep disorders.
Though much of the evidence that valerian root is a good sleep aid is subjective, many study participants have found it to improve their quality of sleep according to their own definition of good sleep.
Passionflower is a common ingredient in relaxation teas and tinctures to help with sleep. Research has shown that passionflower has been known to improve sleep in individuals, though this improvement was subjective to the person's own definition of sleep quality.
Passionflower is safe for consumption and comes in both tea and supplement forms. It is commonly mixed with other sleep-promoting herbs, like chamomile. It is safe for use for up to two months at a time.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient found in the body. It is known to quiet the mind and relax the body. Magnesium is also responsible for the regulation of the production of melatonin. Magnesium deficiencies have been linked to sleep disorders and poor sleep.
As magnesium relaxes muscles and induces sleep, it is important that the body has enough of the mineral to function properly. You may find it useful to take a magnesium supplement or take a bath with magnesium salts close to bedtime to promote restful sleep.
Lemon balm is a herb known to have a positive impact on relaxation and sleep. It is thought to calm nerves, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation in the body.
Known for its soothing and relaxing effects, chamomile tea has been a natural sleep aid for centuries. Brewed as a tea or inhaled as an essential oil, chamomile might be the answer you need for your sleep problems.
Chamomile is also available as a supplement created to soothe stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and help the body to rest.
There are actually a number of ways your diet can affect your sleep, from your caffeine and alcohol intake to the foods you snack on before bedtime. Below we've added a few tips for a good sleep when it comes to your diet, check them out.
- Avoid drinking caffeine close to bedtime. Stop consuming caffeine-containing drinks around 3 pm to ensure you're not kept awake.
- Try not to consume an excessive amount of alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol messes with your sleep cycle, disrupting REM sleep and leaving you feeling unrefreshed and irritable the next day.
- Cut back on sugar, particularly before bedtime. There are tonnes of sugar alternatives out there that may be helpful as you cut back on sugar, though be careful not to overconsume any sugary product before bed.
- Try to eat whole grains before bed. Both whole grains and foods rich in vitamin B6, such as sunflower seeds and bananas, can help promote sleep. This is because whole grains are high in L-tryptophan, an amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin which becomes melatonin, and vitamin B6 supports and enhances the process from L-tryptophan to melatonin. Melatonin, as previously discussed, helps to promote sleep.
- Eat magnesium-rich foods, like legumes, seeds, blackstrap molasses, cashews, almonds, and whole grains.
And finally, getting enough light during the day can really help to promote better sleep. If you find you are having difficulty falling asleep, getting out into natural light first thing in the morning can help. If you find you are waking too early, then getting outside in the sunshine during the afternoon will work better.
Another form of light exposure that can affect sleep is exposure from our screens. Try removing screens from the bedroom and avoid looking at them at least an hour before bed to promote more restful sleep.
Getting good sleep is essential for mental and physical health. Lack of sleep can lead to poor emotional stability, mental health conditions, poor physical health, and can worsen chronic conditions. Getting good sleep is a pillar of a healthy life and should be a priority in your life.
External factors can worsen your sleep and so making changes to your diet and sleep habits can help. In addition, reducing stress and finding ways to cope with anxiety can help to improve your sleep too.
Better sleep can come from a range of sources, including natural sleep aids. Natural sleep aids, like lavender oil, melatonin supplements, and diet changes can all help to improve sleep quality, help you to fall asleep easier, and help you to stay asleep.
Natural sleep remedies are safe for use and don't have addictive qualities like prescription sleeping pills. Though natural sleep aids may have some side effects, sticking to the proper dosages makes these rare.
Check out the sleep aids we have listed here and see if any of them work for you!
Remember to seek medical advice before trying natural remedies, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking other medications and remember that sleep aids may only take you so far and that underlying causes for sleep issues need to be solved too. If you are concerned you have a sleep disorder, speak to a health professional for advice on treatments.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best natural remedy for insomnia?
There are lots of beneficial natural remedies for insomnia. These include:
- Melatonin tablets, which have been shown to have a positive effect on those suffering from sleep disorders
- Mindfulness and meditation. Using these techniques can still the mind and help the body feel relaxed
- Light exposure. Make sure to get natural light during the day and avoid screens in the evening to promote a better sleep cycle
- Lavender essential oil, known to promote sleep, calmness, and relaxation when inhaled before bed
What is the strongest herb for sleep?
There is a range of herbs known to help promote better sleep. One of the most commonly used is the valerian root. Research has shown that the herb may have a positive impact on sleep and, from anecdotal accounts, has improved sleep quality when taken as a supplement or drunk in tea.
What can I do naturally to sleep at night?
To sleep better naturally, you may want to make some lifestyle changes. These include changing your diet to avoid sugary foods before bed and upping your whole grain consumption on an evening to promote sleep. Avoiding caffeine after 3 pm and not drinking alcohol to excess can also help. Additionally, getting more exercise during the day and exposing yourself to more natural light can help sleep quality.
How can I sleep naturally without pills?
If you're struggling to sleep, you may be inclined to seek medical help but there are lots of natural remedies that can help to promote sleep too. These include consuming valerian root tea or supplements, eating more magnesium-rich foods, using aromatherapy oils like lavender, to promote relaxation and calmness, and taking melatonin supplements before bed.