So as we know, there is no substitute for good sleep hygiene in improving both your sleep quality and quantity. For more specifics on improving your sleep hygiene, please see my post How Can I Cure My Insomnia: 7 Tips to Ensuring A Good Night’s Sleep.
However, sometimes we just need that little extra help to get us to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer and that is where sleep aids come into play.
Now there are different types of sleep aids, broadly divided into the natural sleep aid category that includes things like herbs, minerals, plant extracts and hormones that are produced naturally either in our environments or our bodies and that are known to have the natural effect of inducing sleep. As well as exercises and techniques that can be performed without having to take any physical supplement.
Then there are the prescription sleep medications that are artificially designed and produced to help induce sleep. While both can be helpful for insomnia, prescription pills can often come with some potential side effects that may make natural methods more desirable for many suffering from insomnia. That is not to say that some prescription aids are not beneficial for insomnia and some with few if any commonly experienced side effects, but for the sake of this post we will be focusing on the natural remedies.
So if you are interested in ways to help cure your insomnia naturally or just improve the sleep you’re already getting, continue reading below.
So let’s start by defining what essential oils are. Essential oils are concentrated liquids or compounds that are taken from plants. They have been used for many years in alternative medicine practices as many plants are known to have natural properties that can promote healing, soothing, relaxation, etc.
These natural properties are retained during the extraction process and used to help people with things like Sleep!
The essential oil that is probably most commonly used to help people fall asleep faster is lavender oil. The scent of lavender oil has been shown to promote a calmness and relaxation. It is often used by massage therapists for that reason and has also been shown to reduce stress as well, making it a great product to be used for improving sleep.
Another essential oil known to have sleep promoting qualities is Jasmine oil. Studies have shown that jasmine oil can calm nerves and relax muscles as well as improve mood.
Vanilla is a scent that is known to promote relaxation and in some studies have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress by stabilizing the heart rates and improving the blood pressures of the participants in the studies.
All of these oils have been shown to improve anxiety and stress and even help with depression.
There are several other essential oils known to have a sleep promoting effect, but these are my personal favorites!
How to Use Essential Oils to Help You Sleep
- You can rub the oil on your temples, back of your ears or neck to help you smell the scent and fall asleep more quickly
- You can put the oil into a diffuser that works by dispensing the oil into the air so that it can be easily absorbed. You can find a link to the diffuser I currently use here *.You can put the diffuser in your bedroom at night and allow the oil to get to work!
- You can add the oil to distilled water and create a spray to apply to your pillows before bed at night and help you drift off into sleep!
There are certain teas that are formulated specifically to help with sleep often referred to as sleepytime teas. These teas are packed with herbs that act as sedatives (things that help you fall asleep). One of the most common types of sleepytime tea is Chamomile tea.
Chamomile is an herb derived from the chamomile plant that acts by making you feel more relaxed along with having sedative effects, making it easier to fall asleep.
Some other common herbs used in sleepytime tea are valerian root, which has been proven by multiple studies to have a positive effect on sleep and is actually a stronger sedative than chamomile, as well as that good ol lavender and vanilla we discussed in the essential oils section.
There are also sleepytime teas that contain multiple herbs in one to really pack in the pro-sleep benefits. Feel free to test the waters with multiple kinds of teas and find the one that works best for you. I personally enjoy the Celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time Herbal Tea.
How to Use Sleepy Time Teas to Help You Sleep
- You should steep the tea for at least 5 minutes but no more than 10
- Best to drink 30 minutes before going to sleep
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by your body to signal to your body that it is time for sleep and create a sleep promoting state. The levels of melatonin in your body change throughout the day and can be affected by things such as sunlight, blue light from your cell phones and televisions as well as a disruption in your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) that occurs in situations such as jet lag.
Because melatonin is naturally produced in the body, it is thought to be generally safe. Studies have shown that melatonin can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer, although some do report continued difficulties with staying asleep while taking melatonin. It also works best if you do things to help with melatonin’s natural functioning such as keeping the lights low before bed and avoiding phone and television use.
How to Use Melatonin to Help You Sleep
- Melatonin comes in several different dosages, including 1mg, 3mg, 5mg and 10mg doses. I recommend starting at the lowest dose and going up if necessary
- You should take it about 30 to 90 minutes prior to going to sleep
- For jet lag, you can take it 2 hours prior to your new bedtime to help your circadian rhythm adjust to the new time zone
Meditation and Relaxation exercises
Meditation is an exercise or technique that focuses on your breathing to help regulate your awareness and attention. It has been shown to affect your physical state by slowing down your heart rate and your breathing leading to improvements in your feelings of stress and anxiety.
Meditating before bed can help rid yourself of the stress and anxiety that can interfere with sleep and allow you get a better night’s rest. The beneficial effects of meditation on sleep have been shown in several studies and have been used in many sleep clinics as an alternative to medication.
How to Use Meditation for Sleep
- You can use guided meditation right before bed during which another person guides you through a meditation exercise
- Use mindfulness meditation apps or books to learn how to practice mindfulness meditation and complete the exercises 10 or 20 minutes before bed
- Start with a few minutes a day and work your way up
There are other relaxation techniques such as progressive relaxation in which you progressively tense and relax different muscle groups one at a time to decrease stress and help you fall asleep faster.
There are also different breathing exercises such as the 4-7-8 breathing pattern that entails breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds. This technique has similar effects as meditation in making you feel more relaxed, helping you to fall asleep quicker.
These are some of my favorite natural sleep remedies to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. You can feel free to try to them all and see which one (or ones) work best for you and your sleep.
* some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I get a commission if you click through and make a purchase.