For many people, a good night’s sleep is considered a luxury. Our days are filled with responsibilities, work, and moving from one activity to the next. Then when we’re ready to lay down in bed and shut our eyes, something in our mind or body is preventing us from falling asleep or staying asleep.
Insomnia is the inability to sleep or excessive wakening throughout the night, negatively impacting our daily functioning. If we don’t get enough sleep, it can affect our mood, energy level, and brain function.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30% of Americans occasionally suffer from insomnia, and 10% of the U.S. population has trouble sleeping all the time. There are health factors that can cause insomnia, including age, diabetes, high blood pressure, high stress, and depression.
If you’re middle-aged or younger and don’t have any of these health issues, be getting in the way of restful sleep. These are small things that aren’t related to your health and can be easily fixed without a trip to your local pharmacy. Let’s look at what these are and how they can be fixed.
Uncomfortable Bedding. Maybe your mattress is too soft or too firm? Is your pillow not fluffy or supportive enough? Is it time to turn your mattress around? Investing in high-quality bedding which meets all your needs, is a wise investment. There are 24 hours in a day, and about 1/3 of that you spend in your bed, so make you are comfortable.
Overactive Mind. If your mind is going full-speed and you just can’t stop the thoughts that are swirling around in your head, try taking slow, deep breaths to help calm down. Stretching before bed also helps relax your mind.
Noise. If you live in a big city, have noisy neighbors, or a partner that snores, consider using a white noise machine. For some people, even using a fan in your bedroom can work wonders. Both of these devices offer constant, soothing sounds which help block out the noise that’s affecting your sleep.
Frequent Urination. If you are getting up often throughout the night to use the bathroom, and then can’t go back to sleep, try to limit what you drink before bedtime, especially alcohol and caffeine.
If none of the above sleep culprits apply to you, but you’re still having trouble sleeping, your insomnia may be caused by your diet, stress level, or body temperature. I have specific tips I’d like to share on how you can try to cure insomnia with natural remedies and eliminate the need for prescription drugs.
TIP 1: Reduce Carbohydrates
When you eat and what you eat can significantly impact the quality of your sleep. While you don’t want to go to bed feeling hungry because low blood sugar can interrupt your sleep, it’s also not beneficial to eat right before you hit the sheets. Therefore, it’s best to eat 2-4 hours before going to bed. There are certain foods consumed during this window that can be beneficial for sleep, while other types of foods can hinder your slumber.
Try to avoid foods that contain a high amount of carbohydrates and sugar. When you consume a lot of sugar and carbs, your body burns these as fuel, warming up your body. If you are feeling too warm, you’ll be uncomfortable and unable to sleep.
As most foods have at least a small amount of carbs and sugar that occur in it naturally, it’s difficult to eliminate carbs altogether. But you can certainly lower your intake. Foods that contain a high amount of carbs are sugary desserts, and processed grains like cookies, cakes, and bread, so those are the ones you want to avoid.
If you are a long-term sufferer of insomnia, it can help to consume foods in the evening that contain a combination of healthy fats, magnesium, and potassium, but are still low in sugar and carbs. Some examples of such foods are avocados, nuts, organic Greek yogurt (made of whole milk, not low fat), fish and soybeans.
Magnesium and potassium are both essential nutrients your body needs to feel relaxed and sleep better.
TIP 2: Reduce Stress
All sleep experts recommend turning off electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. Hit the off switch on your TV remove, shut down your computer, and put your cell phone away. The blue light from these devices activates your brain and makes it difficult to sleep.
Also, the use of electronics can increase your stress level. For example, watching the news, a scary or sad movie, or scrolling through social media, can make you feel strong emotions that may stress you out, making it harder to fall asleep.
Reading, however, has the opposite effect and is shown to be very calming. According to a study by the University of Sussex, reading is the best way to relax. Even doing it for as little as six minutes, can be enough to reduce stress levels by 68%.
Psychologists believe this is because of the amount of focus and concentration that’s required of the mind when reading. Also, the distraction of getting lost in a literary story helps relieve tension in the muscles and heart.
Keeping a written journal is another great stress reducer. Write in your journal each night, identifying the things which are causing stress in your life you can work on making changes to help reduce or eliminate those stressors from your life.
TIP 3: Use Essential Oils
Many essential oils have calming properties which can serve as a natural cure for insomnia. In fact, there are 11 different kinds of essential oils which are known to promote better sleep. Here are just a few I recommend to my patients:
- Lavender oil eases tension and reduces relaxation. Two separate studies, one by Wesleyan University and the other by Britain’s University of South Hampton, both showed that diffusing lavender oil at night can improve sleep quality by 20%.
- Neroli oil, also known as orange blossom, helps calm down your nerves so you can fall asleep quicker. It also has a pleasing smell and has been used in perfumes for centuries.
- While there are many varieties of chamomile oil, all of which have calming properties, Roman chamomile oil is one that’s highly recommended. It’s been used for centuries, in both tea and oil form, for its sleeping inducing benefits. When combined with lavender oil, it offers a more powerful cure for insomnia.
- Patchouli oil is known for making one feel at peace. If your mind is at ease, then you can experience a more restful and peaceful sleep.
- Cedarwood oil helps relieve nervous tension and anxiety within minutes of smelling it. Feeling anxious is a top culprit for insomnia, so treat anxiety with cedarwood oil’s fresh scent for a good night’s sleep.
When using essential oils to treat insomnia, you can choose from one of several methods. Put a few drops on your pillow, waft the scent straight from the bottle, mix it into your bath water, use an oil diffuser, or mix with a carrier and massage it into your skin.
TIP 4: Lower Temperature
The temperature in your bedroom plays a crucial role in how well you’ll sleep. When you’re asleep, your body temperature naturally drops. Therefore, the colder your sleeping environment, the more comfortable and soundly you’ll sleep.
Always set your thermostat to below 70 degrees before getting into bed at night. Ideally, it should be in the mid-60s. In the winter months, turn your heat source down at night. A cold but comfortable environment can significantly help improve your sleep.
It’s also recommended to make your room as dark as possible. Do your best to eliminate or try to block out light coming from other places in your home, electronic devices, and traffic or street lights outside of your bedroom window.
TIP 5: Take Supplements
There are 4 types of supplements I recommend, all of which can offer wonderful benefits when it comes to getting the sleep your body desperately needs. Remember, it’s always best to buy high-quality supplements that are manufactured in the U.S. When using any of these supplements as a sleep aid, take it 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime.
Let’s look at each supplement and how it can serve as a natural cure for insomnia:
- Our bodies produce this hormone naturally, which helps control sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin supplements are often used for short-term insomnia, such as recovering from jet lag or adjusting to a new work schedule. As melatonin can be habit forming, try to take only a small amount on occasion.
- As one of the earth’s most abundant minerals and found in many foods, magnesium has been linked with many health benefits, especially for helping improve one’s sleep. It does this by aiding in the relaxation of our body and brain. Magnesium also can relieve anxiety and depression, both of which are a common cause of insomnia.
- Valerian Root. Valerian root helps relax the body, decrease anxiety, and regulate your sleep cycle. While it helps to induce sedation, it won’t make you feel groggy in the morning, which, unfortunately, can be a common side effect of other sleep-promoting supplements and Valerian root not only improves your quality of sleep, but it also helps you fall asleep faster.
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan. Also known as 5-HTP, this compound helps our body create more serotonin, which plays a crucial role in regulating our mood and sleep-wake cycles. Healthy levels of serotonin help promote a positive mood and restful sleep.
If you’re looking for an over-the-counter sleep aid, I highly recommend Melatrol. I’ve been recommending it to all of my pharmacy patients. It’s a drug-free sleep aid made with a combination of all natural ingredients, many of which I referred to above, including 5-HTP, melatonin and valerian root. Click here to go check out the product and read the testimonials of others who have seen major improvement in sleep.
Before turning to drugs and other medications to help treat insomnia, try one of these natural remedies first.
Keep in mind that practicing a healthy lifestyle can help improve your sleep. This includes daily exercise, eating a healthy well-balanced diet, quitting smoking, not using drugs, and limiting alcohol use.
If you continue to suffer from insomnia for more than a few weeks, it’s possible that your lack of sleep may be a symptom or side effect of another health issue. In that case, you should see a doctor or therapist who can help identify the underlying cause.