Busy days can lead to restless nights, and a lack of sleep can easily turn into chronic insomnia if it isn’t given proper attention. A few natural remedies can help put your sleep habits on the right track.
- Reduce your daily caffeine intake and cut out caffeine completely after 2pm
Caffeine can have a distinct effect on sleep, causing restlessness and insomnia. In addition to coffee, tea, and soft drinks, look for hidden sources of caffeine and other sleep-tweaking drugs like those contained in cough and cold remedies and other over-the-counter meds.
- Reduce sugar intake and avoid sweets before bed
Although sugar can give you a burst of energy, it’s short-lived and can cause uneven blood sugar levels. This can disrupt sleep in the middle of the night as blood sugar levels fall.
- Eat foods that promote sleep
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Carbohydrate snacks such whole grain crackers before bedtime may help to support sleep.
- Eat magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is a natural sedative; a deficiency can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. Foods rich in magnesium include legumes, seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains.
A lack of exercise can contribute to poor sleep since muscle tension and stress can cause restlessness. Exercise can promote deep sleep, though intense exercise too close to bedtime can increase adrenaline levels, leading to insomnia. Get plenty of exercise, but stop 2 hours before bedtime.
Relaxation techniques are sometimes the most effective ways to increase sleep time, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested in the morning. They require a minimum of 20 minutes before going to bed.
- Meditation – a tool for engaging your mind and breath; can help combat stress, improve physical health, help with chronic pain, make you sleep better and improve your general sense of happiness and well-being. Find out a few easy tips on how to meditate.
- Visualization – imagine a scene that will relax you, like a sandy beach with a fresh sea breeze or a blue sky with passing clouds. You can try it in bed before falling asleep; try involving all of your senses. The more vivid the visualization and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
- Yoga – a combination of deep breathing, stretching and meditation. Research has found that daily yoga could improve overall length and quality of sleep. If you are new to yoga, start with easy poses and don’t push your body further than your comfort level allows. See our yoga videos for basic introduction.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation – a promising natural remedy for sleep; easy to learn and simple to master.
Avoid all stressful activities and situations at least one hour before bedtime. Instead of dealing with bills or work, solving family problems, even watching scary movies, try to unwind and watch a funny show or read a book–anything that will get you relaxed, not upset.
Create a calm environment
If you are sensitive to changes in light or motion, make sure that your room has proper window treatments or try a comfortable eye mask to block all light completely. If noise keeps you awake or wakes you up during the night, try masking the noise with slow and soothing music or use a sound machine with calming sounds or white noise. You can also opt for quality ear plugs.
The scent of English lavender has long been used as a folk remedy helping people fall asleep. Research is now confirming its sedative qualities: it’s been found to lengthen total sleep time, increase deep sleep, and make people feel refreshed. It appears to work better for women, possibly because women may have a more acute sense of smell. Use a lavender sachet under your pillow, use aroma-lamp or add few drops of lavender essential oil on your handkerchief or sleep mask. Other aromatherapy oils thought to promote sleep include Roman chamomile, clary sage and ylang ylang.
Non-prescription sleep Remedies
Many herbal-based, non-addictive sleep aids can be found at local drugstores. Valerian, tea from chamomile, hops, passionflower or lemon balm before bedtime may help . Also taking Melatonin (a hormone naturally found in the body) about 30 minutes before the desired bedtime can help with sleep problems or jet lag, though you should consult your doctor before using melatonin–it should not be used by pregnant women or people undergoing care for depression, schizophrenia or autoimmune diseases.
Prescription sleep remedies
There are several sleep remedies that your doctor can prescribe for bouts of insomnia in the short term. These should be used under a doctor’s care and shouldn’t be used as long-term solutions as a tolerance can develop and they can cause addiction in some cases.
Read more at Alternative Medicine at About.com