7 Natural Sleep Remedies You Probably Haven’t Tried
By Nicole Charky
I don’t know about you—mostly because I don’t know you yet!—but my sleep is sacred. My room, a temple.
I used to be nocturnal. It wasn’t by choice, but because I had to for my job. I also come from a long line of overthinkers. And one thing I’ve learned, over and over again, is that worrying and taking your big thoughts to bed are probably the worst things you can do to yourself. But you can undo bad sleep habits and sleep train yourself—just like a big baby.
So with that, allow me to be your sleep spirit guide. I will walk you down a path of natural sleep remedies—advice from experts, and also me, the expert of my body.
*These recommendations do not include every option or solution for natural sleep aids, but if you have tried others that are not mentioned, leave a note in the comments.
WHATEVER YOU DO, JUST GET YOUR RITUAL STARTED
Sleep shouldn’t actually be considered self-care, but it kind of is. Without sleep, your immune system suffers, along with your mood. It’s important to really discuss any major sleep concerns with your doctor or a health professional and work toward a goal.
For me, I attempt to use rituals and patterns to help calm my mind and tell my brain, “Yo, it’s time for bed.” For example, there are a few methods I turn to when it’s crucial for me to simply chill. If I’m not out late (partying, raging, doing extreme work things) and really at home, I light a candle (or multiple candles—using safety precautions), turn on relaxing music, and take a shower or bath. After, I put lotion on, brush my teeth, and get into bed all in one sweep. I try to make sure this all happens with very limited screen time. I put my phone in the kitchen, just out of reach from my bedroom area. Cell phones and TVs give off blue light, and studies suggest that this light emits wavelengths similar to daylight. In order to really sleep, experts recommend either powering down or fully stepping away from your phone for at least two hours before bed. These types of relaxing bedtime rituals have a ripple effect, which can help you if you’re trying to lose weight or overcome a health challenge.
Experts recommend pausing on work before bed. It’ll be there in the morning. Stepping away and decompressing with meditation can also be huge aides in preparing for bed. Studies show that meditation can improve sleep. You can also try planning out your sleep schedule by writing it down ahead of time, which has been shown to improve sleep patterns.
There are many forms of insomnia that researchers are still trying to understand. Some people have problems getting to bed; others have issues staying asleep. Depending on you and your sleep cycle, you might have an issue related to anxiety. Either way, natural remedies can be great to try.
Here are a seven other things to either try or consider when you’re taking the natural approach to adjusting, or focusing on, your sleep:
Caffeine has sleep disrupting effects and can disrupt your sleep quality, according to the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine in Michigan. Limiting caffeine consumption to only before 2 p.m. (and none after 2 p.m.) can help your sleep in the evening. Cut. The. Caffeine. Cord.
Melatonin is a hormone that effectively plays a trick on your body to make it think it’s nighttime. There’s mixed evidence on how well this works for certain people; however, it has been shown to help regulate sleep rhythms. My experience is that using melatonin for a short period of time can help you get back in the mode of sleeping at a certain time, as well as waking up. My issue has sometimes been waking up too early. That said, I’ve found in my personal use that it can make me somewhat groggy the next day, unless I’ve had some time between my sleep, waking up process, and heading to business.
3. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea can become a ritual in the evening to help calm you before bed. It promotes relaxation and many people swear by it in online forums. One study shows it helped people feel more relaxed, and in a clinical trial, it helped people fall asleep within 90 minutes of drinking it.
Valerian is an herb that has a sedative effect. I’ve never tried it, but people who use it describe it as a great way to fall asleep quickly. The smell, however, is very potent. People sometimes experience side effects. For example: headaches, dizziness, itchiness, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green and black tea, known to have a calming effect. It can be taken as a supplement. It works directly on sleep and helps promote relaxation. Some small studies indicate it can also help to decrease anxiety without sedating you.
Studies show that worrying literally keeps you awake. One way to stop that is to stop thinking about all the things you have to do by writing them down. Or, really, writing anything down that bothers you. In one study from Baylor University and Emory University, people who journaled or spent some time writing before bed fell asleep on average about 9 minutes after they put the pen down. The reason is because we have thoughts cycling throughout our brains each day, all day. By physically writing them down, we can decrease cognitive arousal in the evening and knock down the barriers preventing you from sleeping at night. It’s also a wonderful exercise and process to get to know yourself better and learn how to manage emotions and tasks.
Rupi Kaur says that you’re your own best friend. For all your life, you are the closest relationship of anyone or anything you will ever know. So it’s important to nurture that relationship with yourself and your mental health.
Lavender can potentially help you relax, and has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In one study, people who sniffed lavender before bed had more deep sleep and felt more energized by the morning. It’s not the end-all cure to insomnia. However, oils, candles, or dried lavender in your bedroom could help calm you in your bedtime routine.
Nicole Charky is a 30-year-old journalist and producer living and working in Los Angeles. She is a contributor to Do The Good Stuff. She writes, creates and manages video content and social media for author and journalist Maria Shriver. Nicole also produces and directs shows and music videos, including Snapchat’s “Phone Swap” and Grammy award-winning artist Bekon’s “Cold As Ice.” Her work has been featured in Snapchat Discover channel Brother, ATTN:, The Los Angeles Times, AOL and Glamour. Her health quest is new, and she's only getting started.