Getting a good night’s sleep is important for so many reasons but it’s not uncommon to find that many adults struggle to drift off. The answer may lie in natural sleep remedies. But what are they and do they work?
What is a natural sleep remedy?
The occasionally disturbed night of sleep or struggling to get to sleep is not uncommon. From being overtired to worrying about things, to what we’ve eaten or drunk during the day, the reasons for a bad night’s sleep can be identified and changed.
However, some people find that they suffer from poor sleep on more than one occasion. And if this goes on for some time, they may look at a natural sleep remedy.
In essence, these kinds of sleep remedies – and there are a few – can be anything from a change in routine to supplements using natural ingredients, such as chamomile.
Sleeping pills or medication can be beneficial in that they help people drift off to sleep and stay asleep. But you may find their side effects, such as feeling groggy during the day, unpleasant. You may also not like the idea relying on medication to ‘put you to sleep’.
With natural sleep remedies, there is no guarantee they will work for you. But there are plenty of options to try and when you do hit on a combination of natural sleep remedies that work, you’ll find your quality of life improves beyond measure when you enjoy better sleep.
Natural sleep remedies – lifestyle changes
Two-thirds of UK adults say they suffer from disturbed sleep with around a quarter getting less than five hours of quality sleep a night. Poor sleep patterns impact both physical and mental health, including weight gain and hypertension. Worryingly, there is also emerging evidence that sleep disruptions in the long term contribute to the development of illness, including cancer.
Factors that cause sleep disruption can be split into medical, for which you should seek the help of your doctor, lifestyle and environmental factors which contribute to difficulties getting to and stay asleep.
Changes in lifestyle may help reduce the likelihood of poor sleep and are counted as natural sleep remedies.
A sedentary lifestyle is known to impact sleep and the quality of sleep we get every night. This isn’t about exercising until you are exhausted, however.
Including more exercise in your day, from a moderate half an hour walk in the sunshine to a jog around your local park can help to ward off common sleeping problems.
Evidence suggests that it is the post-exercise drop in temperature that helps us drift off. Enjoying brisk exercise later afternoon or early evening appears to be the best time to exercise to promote better sleep.
We are, so the saying goes, what we eat. A healthy, balanced diet – a mix of fish, meat, vegetables and fruit – nourishes the mind, body and soul, a fact we know. Make even the smallest of changes to what you eat and you’ll notice a difference in how you look and feel.
Poor diet, especially one in high sugar, high carbohydrate and high in processed foods, has been shown to affect sleep.
As a natural sleep remedy, making a change to include less sleep-sabotaging foods is key, replacing them with less processed, sugary foods. Combine this with daily exercise and you have a natural sleep remedy that could deliver.
Parents are encouraged to introduce and encourage children into adopting good bedtime routines. This ‘winding down’ at the end of the day has long been held aloft as a means of promoting good sleep.
In adulthood, however, pressure of everyday life doesn’t always lend itself well to a relaxing bedtime routine. It sounds heavenly soaking in a warm bath before bed but do you always have the time? The fast-paced of modern life and high-pressure careers also means that late at night when we would love to be curled up with a cup of cocoa and a good book, we are sending emails on our smartphone or tablet.
If this is a pace of life that is more usual than not, it is time to make a change. Another natural sleep remedy is to once again adopt a nightly routine that sends a clear signal to the brain it is time to slow down and switch off.
Pillows and duvet
It is also important that you are comfortable and warm at night in a bed with a pillow that keeps your spine and neck in alignment.
A poor night’s sleep doesn’t always mean you don’t sleep but that your sleep is uncomfortable, with lots of tossing and turning. Waking up stiff and aching, or feeling groggy, are sure signs you have not slept well and that the problem is your sleeping environment – i.e. your bed.
You may want to consider:
- Replacing your mattress – if you’ve had your mattress for some years, it may no longer be offering the support you need
- Supportive pillows – if your pillows are not offering the support you need, you’ll spend a lot of time each night trying to get into a comfortable sleeping position. Consider whether you have the right pillow for your sleeping position and how a memory foam pillow will transform your sleep. And it may be that the stack of two, three or even four pillows are pushing your neck out of alignment, and that means spending time tossing and turning. You should only be sleeping with one pillow, so it makes sure it’s the right one.
- Duvet and bed linen – if your duvet has a high TOG rating, you could be too warm and synthetic materials are also not the best for helping us regulate our temperature at night. Opting for natural materials – a wool duvet, for example – along with high-quality, soft and comfortable is also a great move for helping get over sleepless nights.
Do lifestyle changes work for bad sleepers?
Yes, they can, especially when poor or interrupted sleep has started to happen recently. For some people, however, poor sleeping patterns have become a habit. People who work shifts or work night shifts often find that they struggle with an ‘ordinary’ sleep pattern of seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.
That said, being more aware of what you eat and when you eat it – the same is true for what you drink – can help to reduce the likelihood of difficulty getting to sleep. Improving your diet along with regular exercise will improve your overall physical and mental health, with better sleep being a welcome side effect of these changes.
Natural sleep remedy - supplements
If after making lifestyle changes, you are still struggling to get and/or stay asleep, it might be time to have a look at some natural sleep remedies. But what?
A pretty, daisy-like flower, chamomile is nature’s natural soother. Without a strong taste, many people turn to chamomile tea as a refreshing drink. It is also a calming brew and one you should swap for caffeine-laden drinks before bed. Chamomile has been used for centuries as a relaxation aid and one that naturally calms anxiety as well as being a mild sedative. If you try this, give it a few nights to work and opt for a high-quality chamomile tea. Some people suggest using two to three bags for maximum effect.
St John’s Wort
A yellow flower, St. John’s Wort is used to ease depression, including symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. Available in different forms, you can opt for tea or drops. Always read the label as this natural sleep remedy is not always compatible with some medications. It can also make your skin more sensitive so you’ll need to wear sun cream in bright sunlight.
This is a root that, like chamomile, has been used for centuries to promote relaxation. Often used to ease anxiety, it is also used to help with sleep. If you struggle to nod off, there is evidence that shows valerian can help you snooze soundly. But it is not ideal for long term use and you should have a chat with your GP before you use it.
Another pretty flower, it too has mild sedative properties and also tastes delicious. Use a teaspoon of passionflower in boiling water, allow to steep for 10 minutes, drink and enjoy a trouble-free journey to the land of nod. You can also buy passionflower tea in a bag.
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. You can find this in cherries but you don’t want to eat a bowl of tart-tasting cherries every night before bed. A good quality melatonin supplement will do the same job but you’ll need to find the right dose for you. Again, if you have medical conditions or are unsure as to whether it is right for you, talk to your doctor.
Aromatherapy and insomnia
Aromatherapy is a ‘science and an art’ that has been around for centuries. Used by ancient civilisations to alleviate common ailments there is some suggestion that the use of essential oils can help insomnia and other sleep disturbance issues.
There are various ways you can introduce essential oils from opting for a relaxing massage to using a demister or diffuser in the bedroom.
You must use the right essential oil, however. You’ll know that lavender is thought to have relaxation properties which is why many pillow mists and other sleep products contain this delightful oil. Choose a high-quality oil for your diffuser in the bedroom so that you have a pleasant lavender aroma.
Natural remedies for sleep problems can work
Depending on why you are finding it difficult to sleep, some of the natural sleep remedies mentioned could help you.
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