6 Natural Sleep Aids that Really Work
Our sleep is precious time that allows our bodies to heal and rejuvenate, and without enough sleep, our health suffers.
That means we must find ways to get proper rest.
Unfortunately, many people either can’t sleep or don’t get enough sleep, which is where natural sleep aids come in.
The amount of sleep needed each night varies, but for adults, getting at least seven hours every night is crucial to having a healthy mind and body.
And when we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies aren’t the only things that suffer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a whopping 49.2 million people have trouble with focus due to lack of sleep.
And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that millions nod off while driving!
Luckily, this problem doesn’t have to continue.
It’s all about making some lifestyle changes, like using the following safe, natural sleep aids and focusing on getting the sleep you need, in order to stay refreshed, alert and at your absolute best.
Natural Sleep Aids
We have a natural sleep-wake cycle called circadian rhythm.
By being in sync with that rhythm, we can easily improve our sleep. A regular sleep/wake pattern helps you feel refreshed and ready for your day.
Having good sleep hygiene is crucial, such as avoiding stimulants like too much coffee to prevent caffeine overdose, and we’ve all been told to get those electronics far from the bedroom, both for better sleep and to avoid nomophobia.
Thankfully, good sleep hygiene combined with natural sleep aids can make all the difference in getting some body-craving restful sleep.
Calcium, magnesium, valerian root and a few more I’ll talk about below all help to naturally put you to sleep.
1. Food Is Medicine
It’s a well-known fact that having a heavy meal just before bed can cause you to have a poor night of rest, but did you know that there are some foods that could help you sleep better?
Probably the most commonly known characteristic that can help through food is tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help the brain get into a relaxed state, similar to serotonin and melatonin.
You can obtain tryptophan and serotonin from carbohydrates, particularly 100 percent whole grain oats, brown rice, corn or quinoa.
2. Calcium for Relaxation
Did you know that calcium has an affect on our sleep cycle? It’s true.
Calcium is important because it helps the cells in the brain use the tryptophan to create melatonin, a natural body-producing sleep aid.
A glass of warm goat’s milk kefir could do the trick by providing calcium and magnesium, both of which work best when consumed together.
3. Magnesium May Help You Get the Slumber You Need
Studies have shown that higher magnesium levels can help induce a deeper sleep, and as I noted, this is especially true when taken together with calcium for better absorption.
Higher levels of magnesium actually helped provide better, more consistent sleep.
Here are a few snacks to consume for getting a good night of sleep :
- Half a banana with a few almonds
- Crackers with almond butter
- Gluten-free oatmeal with honey and dark cherries
- Small Ezekial wrap with turkey and cranberries
- Small glass of warm goat’s milk kefir with turmeric and a dash of cinnamon
- Chamomile, passion flower and valerian tea
- Small glass of tart cherry juice
4. Essential Oils for Sleep
It’s no secret that essential oils are a natural method for just about anything you can think of, and sleep is no different.
Prescription medications can cause numerous side effects and make you feel jet-lagged upon waking, among other negative side effects.
Essential oils, on the other hand, don’t cause these adverse reactions.
5. Passion Flower for Calming and Restful Sleep
In articles about passion flower, you can see the numerous benefits, including calming and anti-anxiety effects.
When we have anxiety, it can greatly affect how we sleep because you just cannot seem to turn the brain off — especially while you’re trying to rest.
Passion flower can provide the calming effect needed to help stop that vicious circle of thought.
6. Valerian Root to Induce Sleep
Valerian root is a plant with roots that contain many healing properties, in particular for a relaxation and sedative effects.
It’s often found in combination with chamomile in a tea.
By increasing the amount of gamma aminobutryic acid (GABA), it helps calm the nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a calming effect.
How Much Sleep Do We Need ?
It’s no secret that good sleep provides better function at work and home, along with even better fitness and athletic performance.
The National Sleep Foundation released a poll taken in 2015 that clearly indicated quality of life is far better for those who had a good night of sleep of at least seven hours.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep for varying age groups :
- Newborns: 14–17 hours
- Infants: 12–15 hours
- Toddlers 11–14 hours
- Preschoolers 10–13 hours
- School-aged children: 9–11 hours
- Teens: 8–10 hours
- Adults: 7–9 hours
- Older adults: 7–8 hours
Symptoms of Insomnia
How do you know if you have a true case of insomnia?
This may seem like a silly question, but it’s common that most people experience some form of insomnia, known as acute insomnia, without it truly being a chronic problem.
Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and is often considered chronic if it happens at least three nights per week for three months or longer.
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
- Trouble getting back to sleep
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling refreshed after sleep (non-restorative sleep)
- Feelings of fatigue, low energy or being always tired
- Struggles concentrating
- Mood swings, aggression and irritability
- Problems at work, school or in relationships
Problems with Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills are a quick fix, but why use them if natural sleep aids can solve the problem better?
It’s really important that you take the time to understand why sleeping pills may not be the best idea.
They’re placed under a category called sedative hypnotics and include benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
You’ve probably heard of the benzodiazepines, or psychotropic drugs, called Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Librium, which are also known as common anti-anxiety medications.
Because they can induce drowsiness, they can help people sleep, but these drugs can be addictive too, and that’s not a good thing.
Sleeping pills also commonly have numerous side effects, such as :
- Burning or tingling in the extremities, such as hands, arms, feet or legs
- Changes in appetite
- Gas, constipation and/or diarrhea
- Dizziness and problems with balance
- Drowsiness during the day
- Dryness in the mouth or throat area
- Difficulty doing common tasks the next day
- Trouble with memory
- Stomach pain
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- Affected dreams
- Feelings of weakness
There are several different ways you can create your own natural sleep aids. Start with the following recipe :
Bedtime Kefir with Turmeric and Cinnamon
- 1 cup goat’s milk kefir
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- Dash of cinnamon to taste
- Dash of nutmeg to taste
- Place the kefir in a mug.
- Add the turmeric and blend well.
- Top with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Sip before bedtime.
If you decide to warm the kefir, make sure you don’t boil it.
Regardless, heating it causes loss of useful probiotics, but it won’t cause the loss of the natural sleep aids magnesium and calcium.