Surprisingly large numbers of people have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia is not good for anyone’s health, regardless of the cause! In this post we share some tips for improving the quality of your sleep, and the best natural remedies and supplements that will get you off to dreamland.
Getting a good night’s sleep sounds like it should be simple, wouldn’t you say? But these days, it seems like more and more people suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is the inability to either fall asleep, or, once they’ve fallen asleep, being able to stay asleep throughout the night. There are many reasons why this happens, but the end result is not good for health.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Since the beginning of time, sleep cycles have been important for the wellbeing of all living creatures, including humans. Ancient traditions, such as Ayurveda, the traditional healing system of India, teach us that we should sleep according to our internal clock, or circadian rhythm.
That “clock” tells us that we should begin winding down our daily activity when the sun sets, and we should rise in the morning with the sun. For most, that’s not realistic, but Ayurveda offers another insight – that the hours of sleep we can get in before midnight are golden for maintaining balance.
Let’s consider the common understanding that the average adult human requires between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Then, according to Ayurveda, if we go to sleep between 10-11pm, and rise between 6-8am, we should be able to maintain our health. Unfortunately, our modern societal norm doesn’t promote a healthy schedule for sleep!
Tips For Improving Sleep Quality
You’ve probably heard this all before, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you about the good habits that will help you get a good night’s sleep. 🙂
This list includes some “do’s – and we can thank modern technology for some “don’ts” that were not issues before!
1. Use evening time to “wind down” from a busy day, not to start new projects or “heavy” discussions.
2. Refrain from eating large portions and rich or spicy foods for dinner, especially if your dinner time is late in the evening, as is the case in many cultures.
3. Don’t drink caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and nicotine before going to bed.
4. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for rest and intimacy.
Don’t read, eat, drink or work while sitting in bed. Although many use their bedroom as their home office, or the place where they watch late night TV, if you want restful sleep, it’s better to do all other non-rest/intimacy related activities elsewhere in the house.
5. Avoid screen time in bed.
This goes for children, too. So many parents allow their children to take their cell phones to bed. They are then surprised to find that the children are texting, talking or playing games on their phones into the wee hours of the morning. Worse still, is that many parents aren’t even aware that it’s happening!
Why is this such a surprise? When I was a kid, I would sometimes try to read a book with a flashlight under the covers until my mom came in and shut that down (meaning she took it away, didn’t just tell me to turn it off!).
6. Take a relaxing bath or shower using calming essential oils (link) or herbs before bed.
7. Before you retire to the bedroom, drink a soothing sleep-inducing tea or herbal beverage like this turmeric latte recipe.
8. Try to maintain regular sleep hours.
If you can’t manage to get those “golden” hours of sleep before midnight, the very least you can do is to stick with the same sleep schedule. That includes both when you go to sleep and when you rise in the morning.
9. Maintain a regular routine of exercise weekly, that includes workouts, yoga, or any other physical training/exercise or sports that you enjoy.
Can Natural Remedies and Supplements Help Sleep?
Anxiety is one of the main causes of insomnia. It’s so widespread that I wrote an article about anxiety and brain fog that includes 5 fantastic herbs that help to treat anxiety-related insomnia. So if anxiety is your main issue, you can also check out that article.
For insomnia that results from an overactive or excited mind, or for those who are suffering from pain or depression, there are additional herbs that are more suited to allowing you to get the sleep you need.
The important point to note is that all herbs and natural remedies have different purposes, and they function differently from each other. Therefore, the key to using natural remedies for sleep is to choose the correct natural remedies and supplements for your symptoms.
There’s no sense to take a remedy that might be perfectly effective – but not for your symptoms! So, get in tune with not only your particular symptoms, but also be aware of the cause of your symptoms, such as anxiety, stress, excitement, pain, etc. Then you’ll be in a better position to choose the right remedy for improving your sleep.
Are Natural Remedies And Supplements For Sleep Safe?
In general, if taken as prescribed, most natural remedies and supplements for sleep are safe to take. Natural remedies tend to help the body to correct imbalances, rather than simply covering up symptoms.
That said, there are some natural remedies that might become habit-forming, so we don’t recommend them for as sleep aids to be used on a regular basis. We always advise using herbs and supplements for the minimum amount of time necessary to correct an ailment.
As a rule, non-prescription natural remedies and supplements are far safer than prescription sleeping pills and medications that tend to be addictive. Even the Mayo Clinic advises that prescription sleeping pills could lead to addiction or drug dependence.
If all else fails, and you find that you can’t sleep, there are several safe natural remedies and supplements that can help! In fact there are so many herbal remedies that help with sleep, it’s important to choose the correct one(s) depending on the cause of your sleeplessness.
NOTE: If you are taking prescription drugs or are under the care of a physician, we strongly suggest consulting with your practitioner before adding natural sleep aids to your routine. This information should not be considered a replacement for medical advice.
Pregnant women should only take natural sleep remedies and supplements after consultation with their physician.
Which Natural Remedies and Supplements Are Best For Sleep?
Here is our list of the top natural remedies and supplements for when you can’t sleep:
1. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a sunny lemony-scented herb that has a long history of medicinal use. Lemon balm is especially useful in calming the mind, helping relieve headaches, relieving stress and helping sleep patterns, such as when you fall asleep and then wake and can’t fall back to sleep. Lemon balm is a very universal herb that you can use for many issues, including relieving nausea, improving immunity, and fighting viruses and bacteria.
Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, can be taken as a delicious tea before bedtime. But if your symptoms are strong, you’ll get better results by taking lemon balm in its more powerful form as an extract ✓. Lemon balm can be used for hyperactive children who have trouble sleeping, as well as adults.
2. California Poppy
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), a perennial flowering plant native to California, Oregon and Baja California can be identified by its brightly golden colored cup-shaped flowers. A relative of the opium poppy, California poppy is happily free of opioids, and has been used in the Americas since the time of Native Americans as a mild sedative, sleep restorative, and for pain relief.
With no known side effects, California poppy is an excellent choice to improve the overall quality of sleep, reduce times of waking during the night, and for achieving the feeling of restfulness in the morning. California poppy is also a mild analgesic, as it reduces pain, while promoting sound sleep. It is safe for children (under supervision) when used to relieve anxiety and bed-wetting.
Motherwort, (Leonurus cardiaca), is a powerful tonic herb used throughout history for calming anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness. Used in Greek times to soothe extreme anxiety among pregnant women (hence its common name motherwort), this herb is soothing to both physical and emotional matters of the heart.
This is indicated by its Latin name which contains the words Leonurus, meaning “as of a lion”, or “lionheart” as in emotional strength, and cardiaca, pertaining to the physical heart. Motherwort calms and uplifts the mind from depression and worry, allowing for easier sleep.
Motherwort is bitter, so motherwort is easiest to take as an extract ✓. Just a few drops in a little bit of water is all that’s necessary, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Motherwort is also excellent for stopping heart palpitations at any time of the day, and should be calming on the nerves, too.
Note: Motherwort should not be taken with prescription drugs that have a side effect of drowsiness, as that effect will be enhanced by motherwort.
If pregnant, do consult your physician before taking motherwort, as it is only recommended in times of extreme anxiety for pregnant women.
Corydalis, also known as Yanhusuo in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a lovely purple-flowering plant native to Asia, the Himalayas and mountainous regions of East Africa. It is a favorite of TCM, due to its ability to relieve insomnia that is caused by pain, including headache and nerve pain.
By relieving pain, it helps one to fall asleep, and to keep from wakening during the night due to pain. Corydalis is also helpful to resolve irregular heartbeat. It balances moods, helps relieve depression, and calms nerves.
Used properly, corydalis functions as a mild sedative and does not result in drowsiness the next day.
We suggest taking corydalis as either an extract ✓ or you could try these Planetary Herbals, Minor Pain Relief capsules ✓ that contain corydalis along with hops and willow bark, for pain relief plus insomnia relief.
As with all herbs, be mindful to use only the prescribed amount, because misuse of this herb at high quantities is associated on rare occasions with liver damage.
If ongoing daily stress is the main cause of your inability to sleep, ashwagandha is an excellent choice. This adaptogenic herb is a favorite in Ayurveda for soothing anxiety while encouraging natural functioning. Ashwagandha also regulates sleep in those with insomnia.
Ashwagandha capsules ✓ are fantastic for treating seasonal depression that occurs in autumn/winter, and ashwagandha is also a powerful immunity booster.
6. Magnolia Bark
Magnolia bark from the flowering magnolia tree (magnolia officinalis) is a native of China that has been used for aiding sleep for centuries. Magnolia acts as an anxiolitic, that is, it relieves anxiety and depression, while also acting as a sedative to promote sleep.
Magnolia bark is an adrenaline inhibitor, which also helps to promote restful sleep. Commonly prescribed in Chinese, Japanese and Korean medicine as a sleep aid, magnolia bark is gaining popularity in the west, due to its effectiveness.
Magnolia bark is also anti-inflammatory, helps with gut health, and is useful in weight loss. When taken for sleep, magnolia is excellent in combination with ziziphus, another fantastic herb useful for getting sleep back on track, without grogginess the next day. We suggest Source Naturals, Seditol Capsules ✓ an excellent product that combines magnolia bark and ziziphus.
7. Magnesium/Magnesium Lotion
Magnesium is a natural mineral nutrient that can be found in numerous foods that we commonly eat, such as green leafy veggies, yogurt, nuts (cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds), lentils and beans, avocados, bananas, and dark chocolate, to name a few. But if you somehow don’t get enough magnesium through diet, you could suffer from anxiety, sleeplessness, muscle cramps and spasms.
In addition to relaxing muscles and cramping, magnesium increases the levels of GABA in the brain, which reduces anxiety and encourages sleep. There are several forms of magnesium for helping sleep. If you also have sluggish bowels, you can take a magnesium citrate supplement ✓ that also functions as a mild laxative.
But if you tend towards looser bowel movements or have a sensitive stomach, you’d be better off taking magnesium glycinate ✓ that is easier on the bowels and doesn’t cause griping or looseness.
The key is to start out slow and see what works best for you. Once you find the correct type of magnesium and the correct dosage, you’ll find that magnesium will be very useful in sending you off to a better night’s sleep. If you suffer particularly from pain and muscle cramps, you can try magnesium topically for relief.
Magnesium oil is effective, but it often causes a stinging sensation and leaves a salty residue that needs to be washed off. So, we’d suggest magnesium lotion, that is not greasy, doesn’t sting and doesn’t need to be washed off after… like this one – all natural Life-flo, Magnesium Lotion ✓
8. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a perennial flowering plant with a long history of use as a natural remedy. Popularized throughout Eurasia for millennia, St. John’s Wort contains various active phytonutrient compounds that relieve depression and enhance serotonin (the “happiness” hormone) production. St. John’s Wort is one of the most trusted natural remedies soothe and relax, thereby helping sleeplessness. Full strength John’s Wort extract tablets, as in this product by Planetary Herbals ✓ are an easy way to take St. John’s Wort for insomnia.
St. John’s Wort should not be taken with other anti-depressants or with other prescription medications without consulting your doctor. Although St. John’s Wort is highly beneficial for menopausal women (treating hot flashes and improving sleep) it should also not be taken by pregnant women or by those who are nursing.
These are some of the most effective natural remedies and supplements for helping when you can’t sleep. Even if you’ve been hesitant to take “sleeping pills” because of the possibility of addiction or terrible side effects, you can safely try one of these remedies, depending on the cause of your sleeplessness.
Of course, developing good sleep habits will be helpful, and hopefully you will only need to turn to natural remedies or supplements on occasion. If you tend to have insomnia, it’s a good idea to keep natural remedies on hand. For times when pain, stress or wan overly excited mind requires a little natural aid, you can use natural remedies and supplements to help you get a good night’s sleep.
We hope that you try these natural remedies and that you find one that works for your needs. Here’s wishing you sweet dreams!
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