If you are someone who struggles to get a good night’s sleep, then you know how frustrating it can be. Insomnia or other sleeping disorders can make it hard for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. But there are natural sleeping aids that can help you get the sleep you need without the use of medications. In this article, we will discuss some of the best natural sleep aids and how they work to help you get a good night’s sleep!
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that can make it difficult for a person to fall asleep or stay asleep. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, waking up early in the morning, and feeling tired during the day. Insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, certain medications, and other medical conditions.
How does insomnia negatively impact your health?
Sleepless nights lead to groggy mornings, mood swings, lack of concentration, slow memory, and a general feeling of fatigue that carries on for the rest of the day. While this might not seem very critical, insomnia can be dangerous. In fact, research has shown that poor sleep quality can increase the risk of developing depression, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, as well as, obesity.
Luckily, there are several natural fixes that can improve the quality of your sleep without the need to resort to prescriptions for sleeping aids.
What are some of the best natural sleep aids?
Many natural sleep aids can help you get a good night’s sleep. Some of the best natural sleep aids include:
Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea that has been used for centuries to help with sleep. Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which has sedative effects and can help you fall asleep. Unlike green tea, chamomile tea doesn’t have any caffeine. One study found that Chamomile tea may also be recommended to postpartum women as a way to alleviate depression and sleep quality problems. Other benefits to drinking chamomile include skin healing and soothing, muscle relaxation, headache relief, and easier digestion.
Warning: Do not use chamomile in case of rag allergy or anything else in the daisy family as you might also have a chamomile allergy. Before using, make sure to consult your doctor or an allergist.
Melatonin: Melatonin, also known as “the sleep hormone”, is naturally found in our body and plays an integral role in falling asleep, staying asleep, and awakening. It helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock. This hormone is triggered by the body’s response to reduced light exposure, which should naturally happen at night. When taken as a supplement every night before bed, it can help your body regulate its sleep cycle, which will allow you to eventually fall asleep easier and stay asleep throughout the night. A 2022 review on the effect of melatonin supplementation on sleep quality found that melatonin supplements improved the quality of sleep-in adults with respiratory diseases, metabolic disorders, and primary sleep disorders, but not in individuals with mental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and other diseases. Melatonin can also help relieve symptoms of jet lag, boost immunity, and fight inflammation. Usually, the recommended dose is 1 to 5 milligrams before bedtime for up to two weeks. If your sleep troubles persist after two weeks of use, you should consult your physician for better assessment.
Valerian root: Valerian root is a natural sedative that has been used for centuries to treat insomnia. It works by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation. By lowering the feeling of anxiety and stress, this herb can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality of sleep. Valerian can be combined with hops, lemon balm, and other herbs. In addition, when starting valerian, it is best to start with a minimal dose and gradually increase it over time. Once your sleep improves, you should keep using valerian for up to two to six weeks. During most studies, valerian root was prescribed at 400 – 900mg at bedtime to help with sleep problems. When making valerian tea, use 1/4 to 1 teaspoon up to three times per day. In case it’s taken in the form of a capsule, stick to the recommended dosage on the label. Valerian root can also help ease menstrual and stomach cramps, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and in some cases even depression. Make sure to consult your physician if you are taking any medications, as valerian root can interact with some drugs.
Lavender oil: Lavender oil is a popular essential oil that has calming and relaxing effects. It can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. The scent of lavender has been shown to reduce anxiety and help promote sleep. Specifically in postpartum women where a 2015 study found lavender to be effective in improving the quality of sleep of this specific group. The participants of the study inhaled lavender fragrance before sleeping 4 times a week for 8 weeks postpartum. Aromatherapy has been suggested as a non-pharmacological method for the improvement of the maternal health. Lavender may also help to relieve pain, improve blood circulation, help with respiratory problems, ease abdominal discomfort and headaches, as well as, disinfect the scalp and the skin.
Passionflower: Passionflower is an herb that has calming and sedative effects. It can help you relax and fall asleep and can even be combined with other plants in an herbal blend. You can make a tea out of the herb and drink it before bed, or you can take it in capsule form. When taken as a capsule, the recommended dose is 90 milligrams versus the liquid dose which is 10 to 30 drops of passionflower extract in your tea before bedtime. It is also important to note that passion flower shouldn’t be taken for more than 2 months in a row. Other benefits to passionflower include relief of pain, inflammation, anxiety, muscle spasms, and even menopausal symptoms.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in many biochemical reactions in the body. It has calming and relaxing effects and can help you fall asleep. One study links magnesium’s relaxing effects to its ability to regulate melatonin and thus having positive effects on sleep time and efficiency. It also states that low magnesium body levels to troubled sleep and insomnia. On the market, there are many available magnesium supplements some of which come combined with other sleep-promoting ingredients such as melatonin. This is backed up by the fact that in a 2019 study, which aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Magnesium- melatonin-vitamin B complex supplement in the treatment of insomnia, found that this combination was effective in treating insomnia regardless of the cause.
What are the side effects of using natural sleep aids?
Most natural sleep aids are safe to use with minimal side effects. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before using any natural sleep aid, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medications. Some potential side effects of using natural sleep aids include: drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, dry mouth and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, stop using the sleep aid and talk to your doctor. To make it easier, we have tabulated the common side effects of each of the mentioned sleeping aids.
|Natural Sleep Aid||Common Side Effects|
|Chamomile||Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)|
Night time wakefulness
|Lavender Oil||Nausea (when taken orally)|
Belching (when taken orally)
Diarrhea (when taken orally)
Loss of coordination
Inflamed blood vessels
Irregular muscle action
How to prepare yourself for natural sleep aids?
There are a few things to keep in mind before taking any of these natural sleep aids. First, make sure to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, as they can interact with certain medications. Second, start with a lower dose and increase it gradually until you find the amount that works for you. Finally, be sure to give yourself enough time to sleep by going to bed at a reasonable hour and turning off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
How can you prevent insomnia from occurring in the first place?
There are a few things you can do to prevent insomnia from occurring in the first place.
- Stop Smoking
Based on a study published in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it was found that smokers are four times more likely to feel restless after a full night’s sleep than non-smokers. This was mainly due to the stimulating effect of nicotine and the night-time withdrawal associated with it, as was concluded by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Taking a more clinical approach, smoking is also associated with several breathing disorders, such as asthma and sleep apnoea. These disorders, among others, have been proven to cause difficulty sleeping, thus, leading to lower quality of sleep. For this reason, our recommendation, ideally, is to stop smoking. If that is not possible, try to reduce your consumption of nicotine.
- Minimize Light and Sound
Naturally, whenever light is present, your brain generates signals that it is time to wake up. As discussed above, melatonin is the agent responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. At bedtime, your brain releases melatonin for a calming sleepy effect. It is important to know that any light, whether it is from your cell-phone or a small lamp, is enough to disrupt your sleep cycle. Furthermore, the excessive use of televisions and mobiles before bed stimulates your brain enough to make you lose sleep. Therefore, creating the right environment for your bedroom is essential. This can be done by banning electronics from the bedroom, using blackout shades, eye masks, etc. Noise is also a factor that can interfere with one’s sleep, which is why minimizing noises to a minimum is a must. If that is not possible, using a fan or noise machine can be done to block out unwanted noises.
Physical activity can improve sleep. Studies show that simple activities, such as jogging or aerobic exercises, can help insomniacs sleep faster. This is mainly due to the fact that physical activity boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. However, it is important to note that exercising too close to bedtime can have detrimental effects on sleep. This is because exercise releases endorphins, which are responsible for feeling energized and awake after a workout. For this reason, we recommend keeping at least two hours between your workout and bedtime. Ideally, morning workouts are preferred since they expose you to light, thus, helping with your natural circadian rhythm (The natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavior changes that our body undergoes in a 24-hour cycle).
- Change your diet
Eating or drinking too close to your bedtime has been shown to disrupt sleep. For this reason, it is important to time your meals and drinks right. For instance, it is recommended to make dinner your lightest meal and to finish it a few hours (2-3 hours) before bedtime to give your body enough time to digest it. In case you’re hungry right before bed, have a light healthy snack (such as an apple or crackers) to satisfy you until your breakfast the next day. You should also skip spicy and heavy food which can keep you awake with indigestion and heartburn.
- Cut back of caffeine
Although this can be hard and even painful to some, limit drinking your caffeinated beverages only till mid-afternoon. After that, switch to water or decaf beverages. This means avoiding coffee, tea, soft drinks, and even chocolate, all of which contain caffeine. One alternative is chamomile tea.
- Avoid alcohol before bed
Another substance to avoid is alcohol. Yes, you might feel that it makes you sleepy, but the truth is that alcohol is a stimulant and it can disrupt your sleep during night time.
Other Tips for getting a good night’s sleep every night
1) Stick to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
2) Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes winding down for 30 minutes before sleep. This may involve reading, taking a bath, or doing relaxation exercises.
3) Get up and move around during the day to keep your body active.
4) Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
5) Talk to your doctor if you’re still having trouble sleeping.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to get a good night’s sleep every night.
Insomnia and other sleeping disorders can be a real challenge to deal with. But there are natural sleep aids that can help you get the sleep you need without the use of medications. In this article, we have discussed some of the best natural sleep aids and how they work to help you get a good night’s sleep! So if you are struggling with insomnia or another sleeping disorder, try using one of these natural sleep aids and see if it helps you get the rest you need. Good night and sweet dreams!
Myths and Facts about Natural Sleep Aids
Myth: Natural sleep aids are not as effective as medications.
Fact: Many natural sleep aids are just as effective as medication, but without the risk of side effects or dependence.
Myth: You need to take natural sleep aids every night in order to get the full effect.
Fact: You can take natural sleep aids as needed in order to get relief from insomnia or other sleeping disorders. You may need to use them more frequently at first, but eventually you should be able to reduce your usage as your sleep disorder improves.
Myth: Natural sleep aids are not safe.
Fact: Most natural sleep aids are safe when used as directed. However, it is always important to talk to your doctor before taking any type of sleep aid, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medications. Some potential side effects of using natural sleep aids include: drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, dry mouth and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, stop using the sleep aid and talk to your doctor.
Myth: You can become addicted to natural sleep aids.
Fact: You cannot become addicted to natural sleep aids, but you may become dependent on them if you use them too often. If you find that you are using natural sleep aids more than a few times a week, talk to your doctor about other treatment options for your insomnia or sleeping disorder.
Myth: Natural sleep aids are expensive.
Fact: Some natural sleep aids, such as herbs or supplements, can be expensive. However, there are also many inexpensive options available, such as drinking chamomile tea before bed or using a noise machine to block out disruptive sounds.
Myth: You have to take natural sleep aids for the rest of your life.
Fact: No, you don’t have to take natural sleep aids forever. Once your insomnia or sleeping disorder is under control, you can stop using them. However, if you find that your sleep problems return, you can start taking them again as needed.
Myth: Natural sleep aids are not regulated by the FDA.
Fact: The FDA does not regulate natural sleep aids, but they do offer guidance on their safety and effectiveness. Talk to your doctor before taking any type of sleep aid, natural or otherwise.
Myth: Natural sleep aids are not backed by research.
Fact: There is a growing body of research that supports the use of natural sleep aids for treating insomnia and other sleeping disorders. If you are considering using a natural sleep aid, talk to your doctor about the available evidence.