Before you rush to the drugstore to buy an over-the-counter sleep medication, try one of the following natural sleep remedies. They are safer and have fewer side effects. Many of these can not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but they can also promote muscle relaxation.
Magnesium and calcium
Magnesium and calcium are both sleep boosters, and when taken together they become even more effective. Plus, by taking magnesium you cancel out any potential heart problems that might arise from taking calcium alone. Take 200 milligrams of magnesium (you can lower the dose if it causes diarrhea) and 600 milligrams of calcium each night.
If you’ve suffered anxiety, headaches, or muscle or joint pain, you might already be familiar with wild lettuce. It’s also effective at calming restlessness and reducing anxiety, and may even quell restless legs syndrome. When using a wild-lettuce supplement, take 30 to 120 milligrams before bed.
Yoga and Meditation
Choose gentle yoga or stretching, not vigorous power or ashtanga yoga, which could energize you instead. Try easy yoga stretches in bed followed by simple meditation. Close your eyes and, for 5 to 10 minutes, pay attention to nothing but your breathing.
NSF recommends getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but you should always tailor that to your individual needs. Of course, many are not so lucky … anywhere from 30-40 percent of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia that make it difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Over time, trouble sleeping will lead to a sleep debt that can become increasingly difficult to repay, and can lead to health problems ranging from obesity and high blood pressure to mood changes and decreased productivity.
So for times when sleep is difficult, the natural remedies above may indeed help and are far safer than sleeping pills of any kind.
I personally believe that melatonin is one of the best options on the list, as it occurs naturally in your body. It’s produced by a pea-sized gland in the middle of your brain called the pineal gland.
For most people, the pineal gland is totally inactive during the day. But, at night, when it gets dark, the pineal gland is switched “on” and it begins producing melatonin to be released into your blood.
Melatonin makes you feel sleepy and less alert, and in a normal night’s sleep, your melatonin levels stay elevated for about 12 hours (usually between 9 pm and 9 am). Then, as the sun rises and your day begins, your pineal gland turns “off” and the melatonin levels in your blood decrease until they’re hardly measurable at all.
The amount of melatonin you create and release every night varies depending on your age. Children usually have much higher levels of melatonin than adults. And as you grow older, your levels typically continue to decrease. Researchers believe this may explain why many older adults occasionally experience disrupted sleep patterns. Even turning on a light in the middle of the night (such as when you get up to go to the bathroom) will disrupt your melatonin production and interfere with your sleep.
Still, all supplemental remedies are only short-term solutions.
The best option if you regularly have trouble sleeping is to try to find out the root cause.
Common Causes of Sleep Trouble
Insomnia, which can occur intermittently or for several days or months at a time, is classified as:
2. Waking frequently during the night
3. Waking too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
4. Waking feeling unrefreshed
Insomnia will affect your hormone levels and accelerate aging, and may also play a role in diabetes, depression and cancer. While it may be tempting to look for a pill to quickly help you sleep, these will not address the top underlying causes of such sleep disorders, which include:
Stress: All types of negative emotions, including worry, fear, anxiety, etc., can keep you up at night. Stress tops the list when it comes to pinning down the cause of insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
Overactive adrenals: Increased levels of stress hormones in your body can lead to a hyperaroused state that makes it difficult to sleep.
Eye problems: People with damage to their optic nerve can have problems sleeping, including difficulty falling asleep, waking up at strange times, sleepiness during the day and insomnia at night.
Cell phones: Using a cell phone before going to bed could cause insomnia, headaches and confusion, and may also cut your amount of deep sleep, interfering with your body‘s ability to refresh itself.
Tried-and-True Methods to Help You Sleep
If you are having trouble sleeping, please do not ignore the problem or simply wait for it to go away. You need quality sleep just as much as you need food, water, and pure air — and there are very simple methods to help you get yours.
To start, make certain you are exercising regularly. A Stanford University Medical School study found that after 16 weeks in a moderate-intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall asleep about 15 minutes earlier and sleep about 45 minutes longer at night. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake.
Next, address the emotional component of insomnia by using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT can help balance your body’s bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to the insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and the improvement is remarkably rapid.
Also be sure that your sleeping environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep. This includes keeping the temperature cool, adding in some white noise if you need it and making sure your room is pitch-black. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. For this reason, I highly recommend adding room darkening drapes to your bedroom, or if this is not possible wearing an eye mask to block out any stray light.
These are just three tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep each night. For 30 more, please read my comprehensive sleep guide 33 Secret’s to a Good Night’s Sleep.