The Science of Sleep has grown into a huge business, turning what used to be a relatively natural human function into an expansive market dominated by expensive and unpronounceable medications.
We’ve decided to showcase some tried and true natural home remedies as well as some simple sleep tips that will bring about a better and more peaceful sleep for you and your loved ones. We will go over helpful vitamins and supplements, healthy food choices, daily tips, relaxation techniques, and the main types of sound and light therapy. By the end of this post, you will be an expert in the Art of Natural Sleep!
1. Homeopathic Sleep Aids: Herbs and Vitamins
The world of herbal supplements and vitamins is a largely unregulated industry that claims a lot, but often delivers little. However, there are six big natural herbs and vitamins that have received the most attention the world of natural sleep remedies: Melatonin, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Valerian, and Tryptophan.
Melatonin: A sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness that occurs naturally in the center of the brain through the pineal gland. Melatonin has long been linked to effectively falling and staying asleep, and is believed to have a large effect in regulating the body’s circadian rhythms. Melatonin is available in quick-release and extended-release capsules, and for most people a dosage from 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams should be enough to have an effect both in the time it takes to fall asleep and the quality of sleep. Melatonin side effects may include daytime sleepiness, mild headaches, and stomach cramps in certain individuals. But, it is generally regarded as one of the safest natural sleep aids.
Chamomile: A very popular herbal remedy that is linked not only to helping remedy sleep issues, but also with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Also makes for a good night-time tea ritual, which can help put you in a relaxed mindset before turning in to sleep.
Lemon Balm: Helps digestion and decreases agitation. Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb in 1 cup of water to desired strength and sip before you fall asleep.
Valerian: One of the leading homeopathic supplements for managing stress and anxiety, it is best used for a period of a month to six weeks at a time. Unlike some other supplements, Valerian has not been linked to morning-after grogginess, though there are some reports that it can cause headaches and a “hangover”-like feeling in some individuals.
Tryptophan: Famous as the amino acid in turkey linked to post-Thanksgiving food comas, herbal health stores have begun selling concentrated Tryptophan their herbal supplement aisle. As of now, the effect of tryptophan outside of food sources is unknown, and while it is safe in food products should probably be avoided in other forms.
As ever, be wary of any vitamins or herbs that claim to be the magic solution to your problems, and make sure your vitamins are sourced safely before consuming anything. Just because you can find it in a health food store does not mean it is safe. The above list is a solid place to begin experimenting with sleep supplements.
2. Food to Help You Sleep
Some say you are what you eat. Well, it is also true that you sleep how you eat. The following foods contain natural ingredients to help you fall asleep faster.
Cherries: Cherries, especially tart cherries, are naturally high in melatonin, a hormone linked to peaceful sleep. Try to eat a cup of cherries or drink juice as a snack before bedtime.
Fish: A good source of tryptophan, an amino acid linked to better sleep. While generally delicious and nutritious, not all seafood choices are healthy for us in large quantities (due to contaminants), or for the earth (try to avoid fish that are endangered by overfishing). Nonetheless, if you need a good night’s sleep, try to cook a nice tuna or halibut dinner before turning into bed.
Walnuts: Contain both melatonin and tryptophan, both of which help the body’s natural sleep cycle function properly.
Almonds: High in magnesium, which is linked to muscle relaxation.
Dairy Products: Grandma was right about warm milk, but truth be told it is not just warm milk that helps you fall asleep. Most dairy products are high in both calcium and tryptophan, which help sleep-triggering melatonin do its magic.
Grains with a High Glycemic Index: Recent government and medical studies have shown that foods with a high glycemic index (think rice/pretzels/corn) are positively associated with sound sleep. Try including such foods in your daily meals, and count the zzz’s that follow.
Green Leafy Vegetables: Kale, spinach, and collard greens are all examples of leafy greens loaded with calcium, which helps the brain process tryptophan and melatonin.
3. Healthy Sleep Tips
Often times, a good nights sleep can be helped not just by eating and consuming the proper things, but through simple behavior changes. Try incorporating the following healthy sleep tips in your everyday routine.
Exercise: Regular exercise has consistently been linked to better sleep quality. Try exercising in the morning or evening for at least 30 minutes. However, try to avoid vigorous exercise four hour before bedtime, as this will have a negative impact on you ability to fall asleep. If you want to exercise during the night, try yoga, or deep stretching exercises (no cardio).
Set a Regular Sleep Schedule and Set a Bedtime Routine: The body operates on a rhythm, and the easiest method to control that internal rhythm is controlling the outside rhythm around it. If you have trouble sleeping, try to create some rituals and habitual associations that let your body know that you are getting ready to sleep. Fir example, follow a set pattern of brushing your teeth and cleaning up before you get into bed. Moreover, repeat this ritual at the same point every day, and in no time you will start to feel yourself falling asleep faster and more easily. Establishing such a winding down period will make you feel relaxed, and keep away anxious thoughts that keep you awake.
Increase Light Exposure During the Day, and Reduce Light Exposure at Night: Exposure to light huge factor in the body’s natural sleep rhythm. During the day, try and spend some time in the natural morning light to let your body know it is time to get up. And, starting a few hours before bedtime, lower the lights around you, this lets your body know that night is here, and that sleep is imminent.
Make Your Bedroom a Good Sleep Environment: Is your bed uncomfortable? Is your pillow too soft? Make sure that your bedroom environment is conducive to sleep. Medium to firm pillows provide the best neck support and allow easy breathing, and soft and warm sheets will provide the comfort necessary for tranquil sleep.
4. Relaxation Techniques for Sleep
Reducing stress before bedtime will help you falling asleep faster. Then again, reducing stress is always easier said than done. Try these relaxation exercises, and practice them regularly, and you should find it easier to de-stress before getting into bed.
Deep Breathing Techniques: Taking the time to simply take long, deep breaths can do wonders to calm the body and mind. Truly effective deep breathing goes much slower than normal breathing. Try counting your in-breath for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, and exhaling for another four seconds. Try to breathe into your abdomen versus your chest, and try to keep up this rate for at least fifteen minutes. After practice, you should be able to reach a relaxed state of deep breathing easily.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Much like how it sounds, this involves alternatively tensing and relaxing each major muscle group sequentially, beginning from the toes and moving to the head, in order to induce full-body relaxation.
Guided Visualization: There are many types of guided visualization techniques to reduce anxiety. The simplest one is this: imagine yourself in a relaxing place, like a beach. Imagine all the sensations around your body while breathing in deep and even breaths. Imagine the sky, the wind, the smells, and all the senses you might feel. The point of this type of guided visualization is to get the mind focused not on anxious thoughts, but on the feeling of bodily relaxation and mindfulness.
5. Sound Therapy
Soothing sounds can provide an effective natural sleep remedy. To build an effective sound system for inducing sound sleep, consider the following options.
White Noise Machines: White noise generators block out background sounds and other aural distractions through the production of natural or artificial sounds. They work by creating noise that stimulates the mind away from sounds outside the bedroom, like cars and other city noises. There are many different kinds of white noise machines with a variety of settings, and sometimes it can take a couple tries to find the right one. First though, try just turning on a fan next to the bedroom table, this may be enough to block out the sounds that are keeping your from you sound sleep.
Brainwave entrainment music: The theory behind brain entrainment music is that certain aural frequencies in the right combination can encourage the brain to fall into an intended brainwave state (such as sleep). The music is created by software, though brainwave entrainment enthusiasts maintain that these techniques have been around for centuries (such as found in ritual chanting and drum circles). Some music is available for free online, though there are also CDs and MP3s you can buy.
6. Light Therapy
A new theory gaining ground in the study of sleep disorders is the effect of light exposure upon the body’s circadian rhythm. As most of us tend to spend long hours in artificial light during the day, as well as expose ourselves to artificial light at night (via computers, televisions, or tablets), a growing number of light therapy treatments are available to coax the body into following a more natural circadian cycle. The following types of light therapy are simple (all you need to do it put them near you while you work) and effective methods of regulating your body’s natural melatonin and serotonin production.
Bright Light Therapy: Light Boxes are made to provide the correct amount of light required to orient the body’s circadian rhythm. Light Boxes work to re-set this cycle by exposing you to extremely bright light (between 5,000-10,000 lux of light) for a period of determined by your individual needs. Some light boxes have been adapted to look more normal in an office or home setting, and some now carry certain settings to mimic sunrise and sunset light. For those of us who work in an office all day, or are otherwise not getting direct exposure to sunlight on a regular basis, light boxes may be a good investment.
Blue Light Therapy: Blue light is the light emitted by computers, televisions, and other electronics, and is well known for promoting wakefulness (and preventing sleep). While Blue light should be avoided while attempting to fall asleep, blue light lamps are an effective way to wake up if early-morning fatigue is a problem for you. Moreover, blue light lamps are a good option for those affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Ban blue light in the bedroom, but place one near you while you work and feel your energy level increase.
So that’s our round up of natural and homeopathic sleep aids. Here at SleepBetterShop we are committed to helping everyone get the sleep they deserve. Try the following all-natural techniques for finding better sleep, and let us know how it works out for you!