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Natural sleep aid: woman lying in the chamomile field

Are you having a rough time sleeping?  

Do you also think that hooking yourself up on tranquilizers is not a solution?

Well, good news: these natural sleep aids have a pretty good chance to give you that good night’s sleep without bringing a bunch of side effects. 

Can you possibly imagine yourself overdosing on chamomile tea?

Many people are turning to more natural methods of solving their health issues. Most synthetic medicines and hormones being put in your body is not only helping but also polluting it. And oftentimes - hurting your whole bio-system.

Natural sleep aids might take a little bit more time and effort to have its effect, but as their name suggests - they are natural, enjoyable and beneficial to your overall health

So, without further adieu (a fancy way of saying “let’s get to the point already”), let’s go through the three ways of how to improve your sleep quality

Ivy Branin

Naturopathic Doctor

What are the top 3 natural sleep aids you would recommend using?

Magnesium is my favorite sleep aid. It helps to calm the nervous system and relax muscles. It is best to take it either orally (on an empty stomach before bed) or topically via lotion or Epsom salt bath. Secondly, lavender as it has relaxant and sedative qualities. It can be added to a bath or a few drops on a pillow. You can also take a few fresh springs and rub them between your hands and then take them to your face and take 3-5 deep inhales. Lastly, it's glycine as it can help improve sleep efficiency and sleep maintenance while not causing grogginess. You can take it in capsule or powder form but I normally recommend collagen peptides which are very high in glycine. It's best to take it in the afternoon or after dinner rather than before bed.

Natural Sleep Aids to Drink

Our forefathers have discovered so many different uses of nature’s gifts in treating or preventing our health problems. There is a variety of herbs - natural sleep remedies -  that you can use to combat your restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia.

Natural sleep aid: few medicine herbs displayed alongside essential oil

Here’s the list of the most common ones:

All of these plants, either their roots or leaves, are consumed in the form of a liquid - tea, as you might’ve guessed. 

It is also confirmed that moderate consumption of these plants in their natural form is completely safe with little-to-no risk for your health. But hey - everything consumed excessively can lead to some level of damage. So please do not substitute your water with them!

Chamomile

This daisy-like tiny flower is probably the most commonly-used plant in the list of natural sleep aids. Its calming properties relieve your nerves, therefore it helps you to feel more relaxed and fall asleep more easily.

As a matter of fact, it is not only good for those who have a hard time falling asleep but also for those who have anxiety issues or depression

Natural sleep aid: chamomile tea

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Valerian

If not its strong and specific smell, this herb would be just amazing

Valerian root is reported being used to fight insomnia since ancient Greece and Rome. Throughout history, many used it not only to calm their nerves but also to treat heart palpitations, trembling, headaches and ADHD.

Nowadays it is also widely used for similar reasons. Pharmacies usually make its root extracts and sell either in capsules as a food supplement, or in bottles as herbal medicine.

Despite its very specific smell (that cats just adore), scientists suggest[1] that it is a powerful natural sleep aid. But since it’s so strong, they also recommend not using it with other anti-depressants or during pregnancy

(And be particularly careful if you have a cat - it will go crazy trying to get it!)

Lemon balm

Lemon balm is similar to mint in looks but, as its name suggests, it tastes and smells very lemony. Therefore it makes for a super delicious tea to drink (especially with some honey). And as all the plants in this list - it helps you to reduce stress, treat insomnia, and relax your nerves.

The extras for this plant, as scientists report[2], are its antimicrobial, antioxidative qualities. Easily put, it cleans your body from various toxins and prevents you from getting sick. 

(Good to drink in the winter season, for example)

Levander

Natural sleep aid: lavender oil and flowers

The queen of fragrances. It is widely used in the perfume industry to give the scent freshness, cleanliness, and soothing qualities. Probably that's why its name derives from a Latin word “lavare”, which means “to wash”. 

Not only does it smell good, but it also makes for a nice tea. And since this flower has soothing qualities, it is good to drink it before sleep.

Fun fact: around 2500 years ago, ancient Egyptians used it during the mummification process. (For the diseased to “sleep” more soundly, I guess)

Passionflower

This purple flower was widely used by Native Americans. And it was also first introduced to Europeans by them. Since the 16th century, people have used one particular variety of passionflower - Passiflora incarnata, for medicinal purposes.

Some researchers suggest[3] that it can help treat anxiety and insomnia.  It works by lowering your brain activity. And by lowering your brain activity you become more relaxed. The rest is simple: the more relaxed you become, the better is your sleep.

Usually, this natural sleep aid is consumed in herbal tea form. Its leaves are mainly sold in various health stores.

Natural sleep aid: passionflower tea

There are a few other plants that have similar effect on your body, like hops, kava, cannabis oil extract (CBD), ashwagandha. But the ones on the list are the most common and widely accepted.

Now that we’ve talked about the natural sleep remedies you can consume, let’s see what things you can do to improve your sleep quality.

Simple Actions To Take

One of the best natural sleep aids you can do to improve your sleep quality is to create a fixed sleeping time schedule. If you go to sleep and wake up every day at the same time, your body will get used to it. After a while, it will naturally be programed to sleep at those hours.

But it's easier said than done... 

Natural sleep aid: woman pressing alarm clock

If you cannot fix yourself to the same hours of sleep every day, try at least making them as similar as possible. It is suggested that the best time to go to sleep is between 9 and 11 PM, and the best waking time is between 5 and 8 AM

Should you have trouble falling asleep, avoid napping during day time. Instead, try exercising when you feel sleepy. Then at night your body will be more tired and inclined to sleep

Find Your Bedtime Ritual

There are many suggestions what you can do before going to sleep to improve the quality of it. You can take sleep drugs, look for natural sleep remedies or find out the reason behind the problem (if you have one) and try to solve it.

Most of the sleep problems are induced by the tension in our heads and the inability to relax. Therefore, finding the way to release all this tension and forgetting about everything is probably the best natural sleep aid there is.

Natural sleep aid: man overthinking while lying in bed

I cannot emphasize enough, how important this is. No remedy will work effectively unless you'll learn how to switch off your chatterbox mind.

That’s why all these rituals are helping you to just shut down.

Hot Bath

Imagine lying in a hot, steamy bath, warming your body and releasing the tension from all of your muscles. Sounds relaxing, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is! A hot bath or shower helps you to relax, and consequently, fall asleep quicker.

Relaxation is the key element here.

Worry Book

This wonderfully-simple technique is pretty much exactly as it sounds: you have a book in which you put all the worries for the future that doesn’t allow you to fully enjoy your nights’ sleep. You write them down and forget until the next day.

Exercising

Natural sleep aid: woman stretching in the dark

Now, this is a bit tricky: you shouldn’t exercise excessively before sleep because raising your heart rate and pumping up does the opposite of making you sleepy. I am suggesting some light stretch exercises, like yoga, to, again, relax your muscles and get ready to hit the bed.

Meditating

It is scientifically proven[4] that mindfulness practice is a particularly effective natural sleep aid. Remember when I said that switching off your mind’s chatter is essential for good sleep?

Simply sit somewhere comfortably, in a dimly lit room (a candle would do), close your eyes and keep your focus three fingers below your navel (I know, sounds strange, but that’s what many mindfulness teachers suggest you to do).

Sit there for 10-15 minutes redrawing your attention back to the focus point (for it will be easy to drift away with your thoughts). But don’t get all stressed out - the key thing here is to relax.

Natural sleep aid: buddhist monk meditating

Reading

Another simple thing you could do is to just read a book. No, not a scientific, thought-provoking academic paper but an easy fiction novel, to draw your thoughts from every day worries. 

Having a Light Meal

Same as that “light food”(book) for your mind before sleep, it is good to have light food for your stomach, too. A small ritual of drinking one of those natural sleep remedies with some light snack before bed will definitely be helpful for you to fall asleep. 

Imagine lying in bed and being growled at by your stomach. Well that’s disturbing, isn’t it?

Natural sleep aid: tea, candles and a piece of cake in bed

Now, that you know what remedies you can drink and what actions to do to improve your sleep quality, let's look at how can you best arrange your environment for it?

Surroundings to Arrange

Quality sleep has a lot to do with the surroundings you’re in, and the mattress you’re on. The best natural sleep aids to arrange in your bedroom are deeply connected with your body’s senses. There are sleep-aiding smells, darkness for eyes, soft and breathing materials for skin and so on. 

Mattress

There are many types of mattresses suitable for various types of sleepers. (Which one are you: a side sleeper, back sleeper, stomach sleeper or combo?)

Natural sleep aid: woman sleeping cozily

The very first mattresses were found 77,000 years ago (can you imagine that?) at the Sibudu Cave site in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa). It means, that people that far back were already looking for ways to improve their sleep!

Nowadays there are so many improvements made in this industry, that everyone can find fit for their taste: mattresses for allergic people, matresses for firm base lovers, memory foam, innerspring, latex mattresses… And all are different in their features. 

If in the morning you wake up still tired and with many pains in the body, it might be good to consider changing the thing you spend all night on.

Natural sleep aid: dark comfortable bedroom

Atmosphere

Natural sleep aids also include light, smell, temperature, and sound in your bedroom.

  • Light

It is crucial to limit the amount of light you are exposed to before sleep. A good natural sleep aid can simply be a light switch.

Your brain reacts to the amount of light around, and therefore produce melatonin (sleeping hormone) accordingly. If you’re exposed to unnatural light after the dark hours, you limit your melatonin production. Therefore, try dimming the lights at least 2 hours before sleep. And spend the last one for your bedtime rituals. 

Natural sleep aid: dimmed light in the bedroom

Tip: if you happen to work with a computer or a phone, there is a special “Night mode” you can choose. It turns off the blue LED light, which suppresses the production of melatonin.

  • Smell

It is proven, that smells have a strong effect on your brains. It can make you lustful, it can make you hungry, it can make you sick, and it can also make you sleepy! Or… relaxed, to be more precise.

Many luxury hotels have Levander smells in their rooms. Guessed it right - to help their guests sleep better.

Aromatherapy is widely used for therapeutic reasons. If you choose the fragrances that help you relax (like Levander, Vanilla, Valerian, Juniper) for sure you'll have better odds of falling asleep. Just get yourselves a diffuser, a few essential oils and enjoy.

Natural sleep aid: diffuser with candles

  • Temperature

When you go to bed your body naturally lowers its temperature. That slight temperature drop induces sleep. Therefore it is easier to do that in a cooler room.

Set your room temperature at around 60-65°F (16-18°C) for the optimal sleeping environment

If there’s no thermostat in the room, try adjusting your temperature using suitable bedding, depending on the season. The thing is - just don’t make it too hot, for you will become restless trying to fall asleep. 

It is also recommendable to have a window opened - since the fresh air adds to the overall comfort of your room. 

  • Sound

It goes without saying that loud noise interferes with your sleep. But you can listen to some relaxing music or sounds (like running water, rainforest or ocean, for example) for your bedtime ritual. Some people, though, prefer the familiar sounds, like a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer. It might help you fall asleep.

Personally for me, the best natural sleep aid in this sound category is silence. If there’s some noise around and I can’t turn off then I use my “sleep savers” - earplugs.

Natural sleep aid: woman sleeping with earplugs

Conclusion

We’ve covered in this article three ways of how to use natural sleep aids to improve your sleep quality.

The first one is to consume nature’s sleep medicine: a few different herbal teas you can drink to naturally calm your nerves and relax

Relaxation is the key to good sleep.

Secondly, you can create your fixed sleep schedule and bedtime ritual to help yourself fall asleep easily and rest deeply. 

Lastly, you can create your environment suitable to relax and sleep comfortably.

Our part here could be to assist you with the quality of your bed. The rest is up to you.

Do not be afraid to experiment, find yourself a good ritual to switch off and adjust the surroundings to your liking!

Ivy Branin

Naturopathic Doctor

Contributed By Ivy Branin, Naturopathic Doctor

Dr. Ivy Branin is a naturopathic doctor based in New York City. After three years of working in the pharmaceutical industry as a biochemical engineer, she packed her bags and moved to Seattle, WA, ...

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Scientific References

Quote contributed by Ivy Branin, Naturopathic Doctor

1. Bent S, Padula A, Moore D et al.: 'Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis'

2. Sepide Miraj, PhD, Rafieian-Kopaei, PhD, and Sara Kiani: 'Melissa officinalis L: A Review Study With an Antioxidant Prospective'

3. Ngan A, Conduit R: 'A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality'

4. Jason C. Ong, PhD, Rachel Manber, PhD, Zindel Segal, PhD et al.: 'A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Insomnia'



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FAQ

What is the home remedy for sleeplessness?

Simply put, try to have a fixed sleeping schedule, drink one of the recommended natural sleep remedies (Chamomile, Valerian, Lemon balm, Levander) and create your own bedtime ritual: have a hot bath, do some light stretching, meditate, put your worries into the worry book, listen to some relaxing music. Also, try adjusting your bedroom environment: proper temperature, light, smell and mattress.

Which is better for sleep valerian or melatonin?

It is always better to use natural remedies, for they have little to none side effects and do not distort your body's bio-system. Valerian is quite a strong natural medicine used to calm nerves, ease heart palpitations and improve sleep quality. (Though its smell is not liked by everyone.) Melatonin is a synthetic drug made to boost your sleep hormone levels, but it might have some side effects. Pregnant women should be especially cautious.

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are created mostly from polyurethane and have additional chemicals added that increase its viscosity and density. It’s also often called “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. In order to create the air movement and let your body “breath” while you sleep, it has open foam bubbles. Memory foam mattresses are created in a way to adapt to your body curves and to also recover their original shape after you get up. Therefore, this kind of top mattresses offer you the feeling as if is created specifically for you.

Do top rated mattresses offer a money-back guarantee? Is there a catch?

All of the top mattress brands offer a money-back guarantee. The free trial usually starts from 90 to 100 nights, and if you don’t like the mattress, you can simply give it back. The majority of best mattress providers will not only give your money back but will also come to get it for free. If the mattress provider is reputable, there won’t be any catch - everyone understands that you have to try the mattress before knowing if it fits you.

What is off-gassing? Is it poisonous?

Off-gassing refers to the odor which comes from a new mattress. It’s the process that happens when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) leak out of the mattress foam into the air. Those chemicals include both human-made and natural components, including formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Top rated mattresses will have zero or very minimal off-gassing. Many of them are sent to the customer already after the off-gassing. Is it dangerous, though? Even though the smell can be unpleasant, there’s usually only a very small amount of chemicals that can do no harm to your health.

How long do top rated mattresses serve?

The durability of a mattress depends on the provider and the quality of the materials used. Usually, you get a 10-year warranty, which will be valid in case of any defects. Normally, mattresses will serve you from 7 to 10 years, or even longer. Thus, when you buy the best mattress, you should take it as a long-term investment.