Sleep is essential to good health, but one in three adults aren’t getting enough of it. Whether it’s because of insomnia, stress, poor sleep hygiene, or other factors, adults seem to have a harder time getting to sleep and staying asleep. While sleep medications are available, the side effects and risk of addiction are concerning. Many people are looking for natural remedies to help them get a better night of rest. In this blog, we will talk about six different natural remedies for sleep, including the best essential oils for sleep!
6 Natural Remedies for Sleep
There are many ways to improve your sleep using natural remedies and adopting better sleep habits.
1. Essential Oils
There are several essential oils that can help you drift off to sleep and stay asleep. Whether used in a diffuser or apply topically with a carrier oil, essential oils offer a natural way to relax and fall asleep.
The best essential oils for sleep include:
- Sweet marjoram
- Clary sage
- Ylang ylang
These oils have been shown to be effective at promoting relaxation and calming the mind, making it easier to sleep.
Magnesium is a natural mineral that plays an important role in many of your body’s functions, including sleep cycle regulation. In fact, magnesium is so important for sleep that studies have found low levels of this mineral can lead to insomnia and poor sleep quality.
Magnesium has a relaxing effect on the body, and this is partly due to the mineral’s ability to regulate melatonin production. Magnesium also relaxes your muscles and helps you drift off to sleep more easily.
In one study, participants were given either a placebo or 500 mg of magnesium daily for eight weeks. The group taking the magnesium experienced better overall sleep quality compared to the placebo group. The magnesium takers also had higher blood levels of melatonin and renin, which regulate sleep.
In a different study, participants took a combination of melatonin, magnesium, and vitamin B. The results showed that this cocktail of ingredients was effective at treating insomnia – no matter the cause.
Magnesium's relaxing effects are also due to its ability to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect.
3. Herbal Tea
Herbal tea, which is free of caffeine, can be effective for improving sleep quality. Many herbs contain compounds that have been shown to help with relaxation and improve the quality of sleep.
The most common herbal teas for sleep include:
Lavender is one of the most well-known herbs for sleep and relaxation. Its soothing scent is enough to calm the nerves and relax the body.
In one study involving 80 Taiwanese women, those who inhaled the aroma of lavender and drank lavender tea daily for two weeks reported having less fatigue compared to those who did not drink the tea.
Another popular and effective herb for sleep is chamomile. It’s known as a tranquilizer and sleep inducer.
The calming effects of this herb (or flower) may be due to an antioxidant known as apigenin, which binds to receptors in the brain that reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
In one study, 60 residents of a nursing home were given 40 mg of chamomile daily. Their sleep quality improved significantly compared to those who did not receive any.
Another study involving postpartum women found that drinking chamomile over a two-week period led to better overall sleep compared to those who did not drink the tea.
Valerian has been used for centuries to treat insomnia and anxiety. During World War II the herb was used to alleviate the anxiety and stress caused by air raids. Today, it’s one of the most popular remedies for sleep.
However, researchers are still unsure of why valerian improves sleep. One theory is that it increases GABA levels. High levels of GABA can increase sleepiness.
In one study involving 128 people, those who received 400 mg of liquid valerian root were able to fall asleep faster and enjoy overall better sleep quality compared to those who did not take the extract.
Passionflower, especially when taken in tea or an extract before bed, has shown to increase total sleep time and improve sleep quality. Studies also show that this natural remedy doesn’t help with falling asleep faster, nor does it stop a person from waking up at night.
The chemicals in the flower are known to induce sleep and provide a calming effect.
Melatonin is the “sleep hormone” and is naturally produced by the body. The hormone plays a critical role in the sleep-wake cycle. The hormone begins to increase in production at night to help quiet the mind and promote sleep.
Sometimes, a person won’t create high enough melatonin levels, making it more difficult to sleep.
Supplementation is common and assists the body in relaxing and promoting sleep. This sleep aid was used by 3 million people in the United States in 2012, and it’s expected that this figure is much higher.
Melatonin is a natural sleep aid that has become a normal part of people’s supplementation routine.
It's not uncommon to lay down in bed and stay awake thinking about the day past or ahead. Meditation and mindfulness have both been the focus of sleep studies around the world. Meditation is used to help quiet the mind and body.
Practicing meditation can help reduce sleep troubles and insomnia.
One study with 49 participants found that after six weeks of routine meditation, participants in the study had few symptoms of insomnia and fatigue during the day. It’s also expected that meditation helps:
- Boost serotonin levels
- Increase melatonin
- Reduce your heart rate
Many of these processes are how the body reacts when it is in the early stages of sleep. Mimicking or promoting this process can lead to less time spent falling asleep and deeper overall periods of sleep.
6. Better Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is important but often ignored by people. When you sleep, your habits right before bed can have a major impact on the quality of your sleep. The CDC provides a variety of tips that can help you improve your sleep hygiene, including:
- Consistency. The body falls into a habit when sleeping, but it’s easy for people to fall out of this routine. It's recommended that a person go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Avoid straying from this routine during the weekend for the best results.
- Electronics Off. People spend over three hours on their phones per day, and younger generations are spending significantly more time on their smart devices. Experts recommend shutting off or removing all electronic devices from the room, including televisions, phones, and computers. Stop usage a half hour or more before bed for best results.
- Avoid Meals and Alcohol. Large meals, alcohol, or caffeine before bed can cause you to have a restless night of sleep.
- Exercise. Expending your energy leads to better sleep, but do not exercise too close to bed or it can keep you awake.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene can lead to deeper, more energizing sleep.
A few tweaks to a person’s daily routine, essential oils, and additional tips outlined above can help you sleep better at night. Consistency in your routine and sleep schedule can lead to less tossing and turning and higher quality sleep.