Natural Sleep Remedies
Natural remedies to help induce sleep have been used for thousands of years all over the world. Natural sleep remedies tend to be used in teas, supplements, as well as forms of aromatherapy, and have been proven to help relax the mind and body.
Melatonin is the best know natural sleep remedy. Store bought supplements work by mimicking the natural melatonin that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin lowers core temperature and causes individuals to feel drowsy. 1 Melatonin is popular amongst older individuals because, as we age, we produce less melatonin naturally. Taking a higher dosage of melatonin will not necessarily help you to sleep better because the smallest dosage sold is at least three times higher than that which exists naturally in the human body. 1
In the form of a root, valerian is widely used in both Europe and the United States. 2 Valerian also helps with anxiety and most individuals who use it have reported falling asleep quicker and feeling more refreshed upon awakening. Some users report feeling stimulated when using valerian while others experience headache. There is evidence that using valerian consistently over a short period of time may be more effective than using sporadically.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to increase serotonin, which helps to regulate relaxation and sleep. Tryptophan is not sold as a supplement but can be easily incorporated into the diet. Certain foods contain tryptophan naturally and are said to be good bedtime snacks. Dairy foods like cheese and milk are often teamed with carbohydrates like crackers or grain cereal to help induce sleep.
Hops is the dried flower used in brewing beer that has been shown to aid in anxiety, excitability, insomnia and various other disorders. Hops can be used as tea alone or teamed with valerian to help induce sleep. Avoid using hops as a sleep remedy when pregnant or suffering from depression as they tend to make symptoms worse.
The flower of the plant catnip is often used as a tea to help with anxiety and insomnia. The same remedy that keeps your cat preoccupied for hours can help you get to sleep sooner. Catnip is said to work similarly to valerian and is often teamed with other natural sleep aids. Drinking catnip tea in excess can cause sickness and headache and should be avoided. 3
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from roots, bark, leaves and seeds of plants. These oils are used through massaging into the skin, inhaling steam, or in bath water. 3 Lavender and chamomile are popular plants used in both aromatherapy, but can also be used in teas.
Caution: Many natural sleep aids come in teas that will sometimes contain caffeine. Teas can also be extremely sugary, so it is recommended to use honey as a sweetener because it contains tryptophan. Read the label on any tea you are considering buying as a sleep aid before you purchase as to not counteract any sleep aids with stimulants.
Natural sleep aids, while helpful, can prove harmful when used long term. Individuals should only turn to natural sleep aids once all other sleep methods such as making the room conducive to sleep and changing bedding, mattress and pillows have been attempted.
1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.
2. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993. 248
3. WebMD—Natural Sleep Aids and Remedies; http://women.webmd.com/pharmacist-11/natural-sleep-remedies