You’ve tossed and turned for what seems like hours but you just can’t get to sleep. You’ve counted sheep, tried to calm your breathing, and tried to destress. But you just can’t get to sleep. Or maybe you can usually go to sleep right away but then wake up in the night several times, unable to return to sleep. You may even start the day more tired than you were the night before.
You are certainly not alone in your inability to sleep well. Millions of people are affected every day by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. This is insomnia. People who have random bouts of insomnia just every so often are considered to have acute insomnia. When sleeplessness recurs more than three nights a week for a period of more than three weeks, this is called chronic insomnia.
Natural Treatment for Insomnia
Insomnia can affect every part of your life from productivity at work to family relationships to decline of physical health. Many doctors do not treat insomnia with medication as the risks are higher than the results and medications are often ineffective. The better way to treat your struggles with sleep is through natural, effective changes in lifestyle and daily habits.
Healthy Bedtime Routine
Getting into a good bedtime routine helps to prepare your mind and body for sleep. Turn off stimulating electronic devices such as laptops, televisions, tablets, or smart phones at least an hour prior to time for sleep so that your brain can relax. Take a calming bath. Listen to soothing music. Drink a cup of herbal tea (no caffeine!). And make it your priority to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning at the same time every day.
Better Environment for Sleep
A relaxing, sleep-friendly environment is critical for making sure that you are giving yourself the best chance possible of getting a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the best practices to ensure your bedroom is perfect for sleeping:
- Make sure you have room darkening curtains or shades if there are lights outside your windows that could bother you.
- Remove digital clocks or other electronics that can glow in the night and keep you awake.
- If your cell phone pings or vibrates in the night, this can disrupt your sleep cycle—even if you aren’t aware of it at the moment. Move it to another room or turn it off completely.
- Keep your room temperature between 60 degrees and 67 degrees for optimal sleeping comfort, and keep your bedding minimal as it is difficult to sleep when you are too hot.
- Make sure that your bedroom is tidy so that you aren’t stressed about the mess surrounding you.
- Keep work items such as laptop, paperwork, or work-related books out of the bedroom so that it is a place only for relaxation.
- Check your mattress and pillow to be sure that they are comfortably firm and supportive.
- If your bedroom is noisy, generate white noise with a special machine or even just a fan to cover up background noises.
Essential Oils for Insomnia
Lavender and Chamomile are both essential oils that can soothe the mind and promote better sleep. These can be rubbed diluted with a carrier oil and rubbed directly onto the body, sprayed onto a pillow, or diffused into the air with a cool mist humidifier. Be sure that you are using authentic essential oils (not synthetic fragrance oils) in order to receive the powerful therapeutic benefits of the plant oils.
Dietary Supplements for Insomnia
Melatonin is a hormone that the brain produces to help you fall asleep at night. Serotonin (a “happy” hormone) is actually converted into melatonin as the daylight fades. When a body is short on either serotonin or melatonin, your internal clock has difficulty regulating itself. Taking melatonin supplements can improve the quality and quantity of sleep get at night. Of course you should speak with your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.
Valerian is an herbal supplement that is used to promote drowsiness as it is a calm, soothing supplement. Valerian may be combined with lemon balm, hops, or other substances that cause drowsiness.
Exercise to Promote Sleep
Stress is often linked with insomnia. Plus, our sedentary lifestyles often don’t provide easy opportunities to burn off excess energy. Scheduling in opportunities to exercise regularly, at least three times a week, will allow your body and your brain to exert itself so that you are more tired when it comes time to sleep.
Milk and Honey for Improved Sleep
If you drink a glass of wine before bed with the thought that it will help you relax and sleep better, think again! Even if it helps you to fall asleep at first, wine can actually have stimulant effects and interrupt your sleeping cycle in the middle of the night.
Instead, trade your glass of wine for a warm cup of milk with a spoonful of honey. Milk contains tryptophan (the same chemical in turkey that makes you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal) to help you sleep. And honey promotes the transportation of tryptophan to your brain much faster.
Bedtime Snacks for Sleeping Better
A heavy meal late at night is likely to keep you awake, but certain foods eaten as a small bedtime snack may help to improve your quality and duration of sleep. Foods that may help you sleep better are:
- Bananas may be a useful bedtime snack when combined with a glass of milk, as the Vitamin B6 in the fruit converts to serotonin to ultimately make you sleepy. Fish (such as tuna and salmon) is another food that is high in B6.
- Walnuts also contain tryptophan to help you sleep better.
- Almonds contain magnesium which helps with staying asleep.
- If you don’t like milk, cheese and yogurt can have a similar effect.
- Eating a salad in the evening may help as lettuce contains lactucarium which affects the brain similarly to a sedative.
- Jasmine rice has been shown to make people fall asleep faster, due to its high glycemic index.
If sleep is difficult and has been evading you, try to incorporate a few of these simple ways to treat insomnia naturally. You’ll not only sleep better at night but you’ll begin feeling better during the day. Your physical health will improve, your mental capacity and memory will be restored, and your relationships should go back to being happier. Treating insomnia naturally can help you stop feeling tired all the time and take your life back!