We all need a certain amount of sleep each night, which according to the National Sleep Foundation, is anywhere between 6 – 10 hours a night. This can vary greatly, depending on a person’s age and individual requirements. Of course children usually require more sleep than adults, and newborns sleep over 20 hours a day. Although sleep should come easily each night, it doesn’t always. Many people suffer from insomnia occasionally, and some on a regular basis. If you suffer from sleepless nights that seem to interfere with your ability to function normally, then you may have gone to your doctor. Doctors will often prescribe sleeping pills to assist those with difficulty going to sleep, however, these medications can have undesirable side effects. One of these possible side effects is reliance on the pills. Fortunately, there are natural sleep aids available, and here is an overview of the many types available:
There are plenty of helpful supplements that can induce sleep. Many of them work without causing you to suffer from grogginess the next morning like with prescription sleep aids have a tendency to cause. Some common sleep aids natural are:
- 5-HTP – short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, this amino acid has been used to treat obesity, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and chronic headaches, in addition to insomnia. 5-HTP induces sleep by creating serotonin and melatonin, and it can be purchased over the counter at health food stores and pharmacies just about anywhere.
- Melatonin – this is a natural hormone produced by the body’s pineal gland. As it becomes dark, most people’s body naturally produce adequate amounts of melatonin and they because drowsy enough to fall asleep. However, if your pineal gland fails to produce enough melatonin, then you can purchase it in supplement form from your local drug store. In most cases, melatonin helps significantly.
- GABA – short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, this main neurotransmitter in the brain is used to treat anxiety, depression, PMS and symptoms of ADHD. GABA can also induce sleep, and it can be used in conjunction with other supplements, or alone.
- Skull Cap – this is an herb derived from a flowering plant within the mint family that has been used for centuries to treat anxiety, nervous tension and stroke, and especially insomnia. It can be found at pharmacies and health food stores, often in combination with other sleep-inducing herbs.
- Valerian – this herb is derived from the root of the valerian plant. It is used to treat hysteria, anxiety, stress, tension, and various sleep disorders, including insomnia.
Teas & other drinks
If you’re not a fan of taking supplements, then you have the option of drinking tea that can be used as a natural sleep aid for adults. There is a tea that can be purchased from your local grocery store called “Sleepy Time Tea.” This tea is a concoction of chamomile, spearmint and lemongrass. Most people love the taste, and you could mix in a bit of honey and drink a hot cup about an hour before your normal bedtime. You should feel yourself becoming very drowsy by bedtime. Decaffeinated green tea is also a good choice, as it is high in the amino acid, theanine, which reduces stress levels and can therefore contribute to sleep.
Some people may believe that since drinking large quantities of alcohol can make you “pass out” that it can be great for insomnia. However, the complete opposite is true, as alcohol will cause you to bypass the first stage of sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) and fall into a deep sleep. Sleep occurs in stages for a reason and if both stages aren’t experienced, then you will suffer the consequences. Since REM is considered to be the stage when the body restores itself, you will feel fatigued, suffer from forgetfulness, feel irritable, etc. after a night of drinking alcoholic beverages close to bedtime.
If you’re looking for a drink to help encourage better sleep patterns, then warm milk works for some people. It might be more of a natural sleep aid for children, however, since most adults might need something a bit more potent. A more potent sleep-inducing beverage might be a large glass of tart cherry juice. You can purchase your own cherries and run them through your juicer, or you can purchase tart cherry juice from your local health food store. Tart cherry juice has been studied extensively, and in addition to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, it also induces sleep due to its natural melatonin properties.
Pure coconut water is another healthy and effective sleep-inducing beverage. With high levels of calcium and magnesium, which can relax muscles, and B vitamins, which can minimize stress, coconut water is a great sleep tonic.
Lifestyle changes & activities
Exercise – although exercise can give you energy initially, it can work wonders as one of the best natural sleep aids for adults as well as for children. There is no need to take any pills or see a doctor, as exercise is something that can be easily performed anywhere, at any time. You should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You should exercise earlier in the day, since exercise too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.
Meditation – meditation and deep breathing can work wonders for inducing sleep and totally curing insomnia. If you’ve never meditated before, then it will likely be very difficult to quiet the mind enough in order to derive any benefit. Luckily there are a host of guided meditations available, which enable you to focus on the speaker’s voice as he or she guides you through a relaxing “adventure.” You can find guided meditations online at various sites like Amazon.com and more.
Yoga– not only can help you tone your body, but the deep breathing exercises that are required with the physical exercises can help your body to relax naturally, making sleeping easier.
Ensure comfort levels – when attempting to fall asleep, it is very important that your bedroom is at an optimal temperature level. If you are too cold or too hot, then it will make it difficult to fall asleep. Even if you’re able to fall asleep initially, you will find it difficult to remain asleep, and your quality of sleep will be lowered. The ideal sleeping temperature should be around 67 degrees Fahrenheit. If that is too chilly, then instead of turning up the thermostat, you might want to cover up with a light blanket.
Minimize and eliminate pain – if you suffer from chronic pain conditions and you experience pain while trying to sleep, then this is going to interfere with your ability to sleep. It is important that you minimize your pain as much as possible before bedtime. Try taking painkillers well before bedtime. If pain relievers fail to eliminate all of your pain, then you might try a heating pad. If regular pain relievers and other tactics don’t work, then you need to see your doctor so he or she can assist you with managing your pain.
Electronic devices – cell phones, tablets and similar items can disrupt sleep by encouraging “wakefulness” due to the light that is emitted from them. Not only can this cause your quality of sleep to be lessened, but it can throw your sleep/wake cycle out of whack. This can lead to long-term insomnia. If you must have your cell phone near your bedside at night, it’s best to stick it in a nearby drawer. That way, it will be close enough in case you receive an important call, but the light emitted from it will not affect you since it will be inside the drawer.
Stress reduction – if you are experiencing a high amount of stress which is contributing to your sleep issues, then getting to the root cause of your stress can cure your insomnia. If the source of your stress is work-related, then you might need to make some changes at work, which could include finding a new job. If you’re worrying about finances, then you need to do whatever is necessary to fix your money problems. As long as the stressor is present, then your sleep problems will likely continue.
So if you’re looking for a natural sleep aid that can teach you how to sleep, then the natural sleeping aids on this list should help you. If one remedy doesn’t work, then something else may work. What may be the best natural sleep aid for one person may not necessarily be the best for another. It may take a bit of trial and error to find a natural sleep aid that works, but it can be done as long as you keep looking. You might be surprised at how effective something as simple as deep breathing or a nice tall glass of tart cherry juice can be. Sleep is important in many ways, and as long as you find the natural remedy that helps you get high quality sleep on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter which specific remedy you find.