14 Natural Sleep Remedies That Actually Work
We all experienced those sleepless nights when nothing could help our eyes get closed.
There is nothing worse than being active for the whole day long and then staying up all night instead of getting the rest we deserve.
However, there are plenty of tricks that all of us can do at home to fall asleep faster. And many of us realize too late how easy they are.
There are so many things we do wrong and never ask ourselves if they could be done differently.
If you’re too lazy to experiment with your habits and rituals, we suggest you take a look at our list of 11 sleep remedies that work for everyone.
1. GET NATURAL SUNLIGHT DURING THE DAY
Most people heard of a hot shower and hot milk as the top remedies for better sleep, but how many of them know that the sleep quality can be affected by natural sunlight?
Our circadian rhythm – body’s time-keeping clock – controls some important biological processes while we sleep.
It works with the whole body and our hormones, trying to determine when and what the right time for sleeping is. The quality and duration of our sleep depend mostly on it.
In order for our circadian rhythm to stay healthy, we need to be exposed to natural sunlight during the day as much as possible.
As we spend too much time in rooms with artificial lights, we don’t get much of the necessary light to be ready for the night.
Many people choose to go camping in the best way to reset their biological clocks and change bad daily habits. No medical remedy helps the way living with nature does.
And for those who are not able to spend some time in the wild, there are ways to improve sleep by simply staying outside as much as possible or at least when it’s not necessary to be inside.
For those with insomnia or sleeping disorders, it’s proved that poor overall sleep quality can be removed or at least greatly improved if they’re exposed to enough light during the daytime.
The research had shown how those who spent more time on sunlight managed to fall asleep for 83% less time than usual.
Another study for older adults proved that at least 2 hours of natural light exposure every day increased the sleeping efficiency by almost 80%. This change not only affected those with sleeping disorders but it also affected people with average sleep.
How does this happen?
When it reaches our face and our eyes, natural sunlight increases the production of serotonin as well as melatonin.
The serotonin regulates everything related to our sleep, including the behavior of our body during the night and the duration of the sleep. It also helps melatonin which is necessary for deep restorative sleeping.
Melatonin, the dream hormone, is released by the pineal gland which has photoreceptor cells that react on light, especially natural sunlight and blue light.
The other way to put it is to say that these cells react to the presence or absence of light.
The largest amounts of melatonin are released when there’s absolute darkness in the room and when your body hasn’t been exposed to light for a while.
That’s why it’s important not to turn on the electronic devices at least 2 hours before sleep, but more on that later.
For now, you’re advised to have curtains that provide you good cover at night, but that is easily pulled back or removed during the day, allowing the sunlight to reach every corner of the room.
Let your body get as much light as possible, especially when you’re tied up to your office all day long.
2. REDUCE DAYTIME NAPS
People usually speak of the importance of getting enough sleep, but how often we speak about the right time for falling asleep?
Many people consider taking a nap right when they feel unfocused and tired, without even considering how it will affect their normal sleeping schedule. They feel exhaustion – they lay down and get some rest.
And while it’s quite natural to feel sleepy in the afternoon, it’s not really recommended to instantly get some sleep every time you feel your eyelids falling down.
Sometimes short naps during the day can be beneficial, but long and irregular ones can lead to some serious health and sleep issues.
Daytime naps confuse your biological clock, leading to bad sleep quality at night. If you sleep all day, it’s kind of obvious that you won’t feel tired anymore when bedtime comes.
It’s a vicious cycle wherein, if you stay awake through the night, you will have to compensate for that lack of sleep during the day.
According to the research, sleeping for less than 30 minutes during the day can have a positive effect on brain functions, but sleeping for any longer can ruin your nighttime sleeping experience.
This disruption can trigger many negative changes in our bodies and lead to obesity, diabetes, and similar health problems.
However, those who have regular daytime naps and still sleep well at night, are allowed to keep sleeping during the day since their body knows the schedule and has no problems pursuing it.
If the circadian rhythm has, however, been reversed, you’ll probably need to keep yourself awake for 24 hours or even more.
That means that if you spend a sleepless night, you’ll have to find a way to stay awake during the day so that you hit the pillow somewhere around 10 pm.
If you can’t hold it that long, you’ll need to limit your daytime sleep to 1 or 2 hours top, but that’s hard to do because once your brain gets a taste of dreaming, it doesn’t want to be interrupted in the process.
3. EXERCISE AND GET TIRED
One of the best things you can do to make sure you’ll sleep at night is exercising during the day. Researchers still can’t explain why exactly does physical activity has positive effects on our sleep, but they’re sure it boosts our sleeping experience if done properly.
Even if it is the absolute opposite of sleep, we know that physical activity enhances many aspects of sleep and helps reducing insomnia or other disorders. It also regulates the natural circadian rhythm that we previously spoke about.
Speaking of insomnia, National Sleep Foundation found that exercise lowers anxiety and depression which reflects significantly on the quality of sleep.
Regular exercises also reduce the body’s primary stress hormone – cortisol.
For those with common cases of insomnia, physical activity was more beneficial than most of the drugs available.
According to this article, the time for falling asleep can be reduced by 55% with exercise, but the duration of the sleep is increased by 18%.
However, it’s very important to understand when and how to exercise since doing it too late at night can cause even worse sleep problems.
For most of us, being active close to our bedtime can give the opposite results of falling asleep.
Exercising can increase alertness and adrenaline, boost energy and actually help waking up. It all depends on the individual, but we suggest working out in the morning and afternoon, or at least an hour before getting ready for sleep.
A good alternative for your daily exercise routine could be Tai chi.
This technique made people fall asleep much faster and get almost 50 minutes of sleep bonus every night.
4. TAKE A HOT SHOWER
The most popular option for improving sleep quality is definitely a relaxing warm bath or shower.
As most people claim, a hot shower truly helps relax your body and prepare you for sleep.
Besides, you don’t even need a full bath before bedtime – bathing feet and face only do the same for your body.
According to one research, people who took a hot shower 90 minutes before sleep had deeper sleep without disruptions and felt fresh in the morning.
Another study, published by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, was done on two women who had different rituals before bed. One of them who took a hot shower fell asleep easier and slept better than the other one who skipped the bath.
5. DRINK TEA
It’s hard to imagine that drinking tea can help you fall asleep instead of waking you up. Well, it contains caffeine, right?
The fact is, it depends on the herbs you choose to have in your cup of hot water.
While there are those who contain high levels of caffeine which will certainly boost your energy and prevent sleeping, there are herbs like chamomile with very low or no caffeine at all. They relax your body and prepare you for the rest.
According to one research in the American Journal of Medicine, consumption of valerian tea reduces the time we need to fall asleep and allows us for deep rest. It also lengthens the amount of sleep and decreases the number of awakenings at night. Some researchers also claim that this herb can reduce the effects of menopause symptoms during the night.
However, the absolute queen of the herbs when it comes to sleep remedies is chamomile.
It’s been known for a while for its calming effect on the brain and body. It contains flavonoids that react with receptors in the brain responsible for the sleep-wake transition.
Unlike green tea and similar ones, chamomile tea does not have caffeine, allowing it to manage a healthy sleeping cycle.
6. DRINK WARM MILK
Have you ever been told to drink a warm glass of milk right before going to bed to have a better sleep? This old controversial advice has now been scientifically proven right.
A warm cup of milk with honey is one of the most efficient sleep remedies we all have in our kitchen. The secret is in the mix of carbohydrates and tryptophan found in milk.
It’s an amino acid that can improve sleep quality, and also a precursor to serotonin. The tryptophan helps serotonin naturally relax the brain and work as a sedative.
Besides that, milk also contains a lot of calcium that helps our muscles relax and rest.
Warm milk should be consumed at night with honey which helps transmit hormones to the brain at higher speeds. This combination is a real solution to your sleeping problems.
7. CONSUME TRYPTOPHAN FOODS
As we already said, tryptophan interacts with specific brain chemicals connected with the sleeping schedule and circadian rhythm. It produces melatonin, as well as the serotonin, leading to natural calming effects when consumed.
There are tryptophan supplements available, providing double doses of sleep. And while it is being found in many everyday food sources, it has been associated with sleep remedies for a long time now.
A good example of tryptophan effects is Thanksgiving Day.
On the dinner that night, all guests feel sleepy and tired because turkey they eat has a high amount of tryptophan.
Also, foods like chicken, yogurt, nuts, and seeds are rich in this substance.
8. TAKE MELATONIN SUPPLEMENTS
How is a melatonin supplement a natural remedy, you may ask?
Well, the answer is you already have melatonin in your body. It’s produced mainly in your central nervous system or in your pineal gland.
As you may know, melatonin is a hormone that controls our sleeping functions – in other words, it indicates the brain when it is time to get some rest.
It’s often used in the treatment of insomnia because it’s the fastest way to fall asleep at night. Moreover, it improves sleep quality by helping us sleep without interruptions.
The absence of light usually triggers the production of this hormone which naturally regulates the body’s biological clock.
Melatonin maintains our feeling of tiredness at night and alertness in the daytime. Often it’s used by travelers who need to adjust to a new time zone because it makes the body’s circadian rhythm get back to normal.
One study showed how people who took 2mg of melatonin before sleep, slept better and had more energy the day after.
Another study proved that almost half of these people fell asleep much faster and their sleep quality was improved by 15%. Both of these studies reported that there were no side effects of taking the melatonin.
For those who don’t produce much melatonin naturally, there are varieties of melatonin supplements to try. In most countries, we don’t even need a prescription for it and it’s available in many stores.
It is recommended to take around 1,5 mg at least half an hour before sleep. Also, keep buying the medication from the same company.
The melatonin-per-pill dosage is different for different brands. Stick with the one you like the most. Avoid buying online too, since you don’t know if the source is safe or not.
9. USE ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are extracts from flowers, fruit, leaves, seeds, roots and other natural grows.
They are well known and widely used for different causes because of their health benefits.
This includes sleep improvement as well.
If you’ve tried everything else and still didn’t find a way to fall asleep, there are high chances that the essential oils will fix the issue.
It is known that just smelling some essential oils can help you calm down, relax and have a rest.
Most of them are inexpensive and easily found at any store or market.
There are many varieties to choose from, depending on your taste and goal.
We offer you a list of oils to add to your nighttime routine, which will certainly boost your sleeping quality and help you relax mentally: lavender oil, valerian oil, clary sage, roman chamomile, and bergamot.
10. KEEP THE ROOM COOL
Those who believe that the bedroom environment is a key factor for getting good rest at night are absolutely right. Obviously, dark and cold rooms are much more comfortable for sleeping than too hot and light-exposed ones.
Speaking of the environment, the most important factor for good quality sleep is the body and room temperature.
As you already know, sleeping in the summer in hot places can easily become a nightmare.
Hot air doesn’t allow our body to lower the temperature to the level normally needed at night.
Research from UniSA’ Centre for Sleep Research discovered that people with insomnia have a higher body temperature at night, which explains why it is so hard for them to have a rest without waking up the whole night.
“Temperature regulation is a significant factor in each of the two types of insomnia. The difference is when insomnia occurs,” said Dr. Cameron Van den Heuvel.
In fact, our bodies drop the temperature even before we manage to fall asleep.
Our core temperature is lowered by a few degrees during the sleep to conserve energy.
We need to sleep in colder rooms since they help the body drop the temperature faster, meaning we’ll fall asleep easier.
The most comfortable temperature for sleeping is around 20°C, but it still depends on your habits. Some people find it more comfortable to sleep at much lower temperatures, like the ones in the winter.
11. TURN OFF LIGHTS AND DEVICES
During the day, exposure to light is crucial for having a good rest at night, but exposure to light at night has absolutely opposite effect.
This is because of the light’s effect on circadian rhythm. Light can trick our brain and make it think that it’s still daytime.
The worst light of all is the blue light which is mostly emitted by electronic devices such as phones, computers, TV, etc. It not only prevents our brain from resting and preparing for sleep, but it also has negative effects on the eyesight.
Removing phones, laptops and other glowing devices is highly beneficial for our sleep and relaxation at night time. That way, they can’t interact with our circadian rhythm and disturb the natural processes in the body and brain.
In case you still need to use your smartphone or computer at night, we suggest protecting yourself from the blue light it emits by doing one of these: wearing glasses that can block this light, downloading an app which filters the light your computer can emit, installing an app to block the blue light on the phone.
12. GET THE RIGHT MATTRESS
Sleep disorders are quite often related to physical inconveniences such as an uncomfortable mattress might be.
Most of us often roll around in our sleep to optimize the position of our bodies.
It’s actually a misconception that the mattress should be as soft as it can. While there are hi-tech soft mattresses that correlate to your physique, firm mattresses are often better for your back which means they are better for the rest of the organs in your body. Be careful as you don’t want to make it too firm though.
Think about the material, design, thickness and the overall quality of your mattress. If it gets worn out, you should replace it.
13. MEDITATE AND CLEAR YOUR MIND
Although there’s nothing wrong with yoga, you don’t have to go all yogic, psychic and spiritual nor are you required to do rituals with candles and such.
There are many kinds of meditation and some of them work instantly.
Try Zen meditations or Mindfulness meditations to clear your mind before you get the shuteye.
Because when your brain gets hyperactive and when you think too much, it messes with the brainwaves that are supposed to slowly change as you fall unconscious.
It’s true that dreaming is a form of neural hyperactivity per se, but it’s a totally different type of hyperactivity than the one during which you’re rewinding your life and repenting for not making the right choices, etc.
The point of a significant portion of meditational practices is to clear, quiet and calm your mind.
How do you do that? You just do it. Shut off the inner narrator. Don’t even tell yourself not to think.
Don’t tell yourself anything. Don’t think anything.
Find something to listen to, like the sound of wind, rain or electrical buzzing. Let it fill your whole mind as you slowly drift away into the dream world.
14. HAVE SOME GOOD OL’ SEX
Is there a need to explain this one? Aside from it just feeling good and lowering your stress levels, a good ol’ marathon sex, which is to say sex that actually lasts more than 15 minutes, can significantly drain you so to speak.
Besides, if you think in terms of evolution and psychoanalysis, once you do the deed, you’ve done your chores for the day. Your to-do list is all checked out.
If you like to think of yourself as more than an unconscious matter that reproduces itself ad infinitum, think of that warm fuzzy feeling that you have when you start dozing off next to your significant other.
Ok, ok, it doesn’t necessarily have to be significant, just significant enough for you to doze off after you’ve… dozed in?
If you truly want to become a sleeping guru, check out this slick list of things you can do to make your sleep-life meaningful.
WHY IS SLEEP IMPORTANT?
Sleep plays a vital role in our health and performance throughout life. It protects both our physical and mental health and has dozens of benefits for our bodies.
Here is how good quality sleep can enhance the quality of our lives:
- It helps us live longer
- It maintains a healthy heart
- It helps clear waste from our brain
- It can reduce the risk of getting diabetes
- It can enhance memory, productivity, and concentration
- It regulates our mood
- It strengthens our immune system
- It prevents depression and anxiety
- It lowers the risk of weight gaining
- It regulates calories
- It increases athletic performance
- It helps with emotional intelligence…
Basically, sleep helps our brain and bodywork properly by preparing the brain for the next day while the body rests. It helps us remember new information the next day.
Sleep also has a crucial role in our physical health, it’s what all the athletes know. It helps with the healing of our heart and blood vessels and helps compensate what our body spent or lost during the day as well.
Bad sleep quality and disruptions during the night can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious medical conditions. It results in a much higher blood sugar level because sleep affects the hormone controlling this.
Healthy growth and development are absolutely impossible without good quality sleep. It is very important for younger people since it makes the body release the hormone which helps to grow. The hormone also boosts muscle mass of children and helps with cells and tissue repair.
But many factors have a part in preparing the body to fall asleep or wake up in the morning.
One of them is our internal biological clock which controls when our body is prepared for the sleep.
This body clock has a 24-hour rhythm which repeats all the time without interruptions.
We call it the circadian rhythm. It forms pressure to sleep for every hour we spend awake in the daytime, explaining why most of us get tired and sleepy in the evening.
PHASES OF SLEEP
In order to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, you need to know a thing or two about phases of sleep.
Knowing what goes on in your brain at night will make you more aware of the delicacy of the whole process and hopefully, you won’t fool around with sleeping patterns anymore.
Most people go through five stages of sleep every night. In other words, there is light sleep (stages 1 and 2), deep sleep (stages 3 and 4) and REM sleep – rapid eye movement (the 5th stage).
The first stage is the lightest sleep, where we’re allowed to drift in and out of sleep.
We can wake up easily from this one. The eyes through this stage move slowly and the muscle activity is slowing down.
The second stage slowly prepares the body for deep sleep.
This is when the eye movements and brain waves start to slow down and calm.
The body temperature drops and the heart rate slows down while we enter the next stage. We should not wake up at this stage.
The third stage is deep sleep. All processes in our body are slowed down and reduced to the minimum. In this stage, it’s almost impossible to wake up on your own. Here we get the deepest rest, and our body heals and prepares for the next day.
The fourth stage is still a part of the deep sleep. The only thing that changes is the number of waves our brain produces. It’s preparation for the last stage.
The fifth stage is called REM sleep. It’s when our eyes are closed but they’re allowed to move from side to side.
This happens due to the intense brain activity that happens during this stage.
Also, this is the time we enter our dreams.
Body movements are also possible, and some people can even get up, walk and function normally, but they won’t remember what they’ve done as soon as they wake up.
A few fun facts about the dreams:
- 5 minutes after waking up, we forget 90% of our dreams
- Blind people can dream too
- In dreams, we see faces we already seen in reality
- Some people can’t dream in color
- You can have multiple dreams in one night.
Life goals are not what they used to be. We used to think more materialistic, more short-term. More …