The importance of a good night’s sleep for a healthy mind and body cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, most people in today’s hectic society don’t get enough sleep on a nightly basis. Subsequently, various forms of sleeping disorders disrupt sleep-wake routines, while unhealthy lifestyles and sleeping habits make the problem even worse. This is why many people seek sleep aids and remedies. Some opt for pills, while some choose for natural alternatives. If you are one of the latter then this entry is for you. So, what is the most effective natural sleep aid?
Why use natural sleeping aids
Difficulty falling asleep is quite a common problem. For those who experience it, it means difficulty sleeping from time to time, or for a short span of time. While this can be corrected by having a good sleeping hygiene (balanced diet, exercise, avoiding stimulants like caffeine, limiting daytime naps, etc.), in many cases home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be extremely beneficial. Some ask their doctors for prescription medicine to help them sleep. Most people of course, are aware of the negative effects of long-term use of sleeping pills. Thus, they opt for natural alternatives.
Non-prescription sleeping aids are usually made of natural ingredients. They work by encouraging relaxation, easing your mind of anxiety, thus, promoting a good night’s sleep. The good news is, many natural sleep aids are linked to many health-promoting effects, such as pain relief and improving digestion.
Melatonin is a hormone made in the body. Its function is to regulate the body’s night-day cycles, also known as the sleep-wake cycle, by signalling the brain if it’s time to sleep. The time of the day influences the levels and release rate of melatonin in the body and melatonin levels in the blood usually rise in the evening and drop in the morning.
This is why melatonin supplements have become popular, especially for people with a disrupted melatonin cycle, such as those with jet lag and shift workers. Melatonin supplements are particularly beneficial for people whose schedules require them to work at night and sleep in the morning, as it improves daytime sleep duration and quality.
Furthermore, melatonin supplements can help improve sleep quality in people suffering from sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, delayed sleep phase syndrome, etc.
Melatonin supplements are generally safe for short-term use. Of course, it is best to check with your doctor to get the right dosage for you.
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of the hundreds of chemical compounds found in cannabis. It’s a calming and relaxing compound that can help you feel relaxed. Unlike Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the principal psychoactive compound of cannabis, CBD is non-psychoactive and doesn’t cause the high sensation.
Study shows CBD can significantly reduce symptoms of insomnia and can improve the overall quality and frequency of sleep. CBD can also reduce insomnia caused by chronic pain, particularly chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Chamomile, especially in the form of tea, is a gentle herb that induces a calming effect and promotes relaxation and sleep. One study showed the benefits of the herb in improving sleep quality and duration among postnatal women.
Chamomile is also widely used for soothing and healing skin, relieving headaches and muscle aches, and as a digestion aid.
Chamomile isn’t found exclusively in tea form though. You can find plenty of different forms of chamomile, such as essential oil, topical plant tincture, capsule or tablet.
However, some people are allergic to chamomile (or anything from the daisy family). Thus, make sure you consult your doctor before trying this herb as a sleeping aid.
When taking chamomile capsules or tablets, make sure you don’t exceed the recommended dose. When using chamomile essential oils, make sure you dilute it with a carrier oil such as olive oil, and patch test (rub the diluted essential oil on the inside of your forearm and leave it for at least 24 hours) before applying the diluted mixture to your skin.
Most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. As a macro-mineral, magnesium plays an important role in the body’s enzyme-related functions. For one, it helps regulate cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. It also helps the body control its response to stress. As a sleeping aid, magnesium aids the production of melatonin.
Native to Asia and Europe, Valerian root is a herb commonly used for treating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and menopause.
Valerian root as a sleeping aid helps the production of GABA (the neurotransmitter that induces sleep), which calms the brain.
Passionflower is a popular alternative for treating insomnia. Though results from different studies are conflicting, participants in a 2-week study show significant improvements in total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and wake time after sleep onset.
The soothing fragrance of the lavender plant is widely used in different parts of the world in aromatherapy. Simply smelling the scent of lavender (especially lavender oil) before bedtime can help improve sleep quality, thanks to its soothing scent.
Lavender aromatherapy is considered safe. There are also oral supplement versions that are used for treating nausea and stomach pain.
Magnolia bark is a popular traditional medicine used for treating sleeping problems, stress reduction, digestive problems, weight loss, and even memory protection.
As a sleeping aid, the bark is packed with natural compounds that work as a natural and gentle sedative that promotes better sleep. These compounds can also reduce inflammation, anxiety and depression symptoms.
L-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in tea leaves. It works by elevating dopamine and serotonin levels, the neurochemicals that induce positive emotions, energy, cognitive skills, appetite, alertness, and concentration, making it a good wakeful relaxer.
As a sleeping aid, L-theanine promotes focus and relaxation, making it a good choice for people looking for daytime relaxation without feeling fatigued during the day.
The natural compounds found in jujube fruit help relax the mind and body by boosting the body’s levels of GABA (calming neurotransmitter) and serotonin. It’s basically a nutrient-rich sleep booster that improves sleeping time, REM sleep, and slow-wave sleep.