Are you finding it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep? I know I do. The good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is nearly a third of the UK’s population suffers from sleep deprivation. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to get you off to the land of nod, I have put together a list of tried and tested natural sleep remedies that have worked for me over the past couple of years.
Sleep Deprivation On The Rise
Sleep is the most essential and basic of human functions that helps our bodies and mind recover in order to function and battle another day.
The ever increasing usage of smart-devices; iPad’s and tablets; an accumulation of diets rich in processed sugars, flours and fats along with farming methods that is full of pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s. Mix in sedentary and stressful lifestyles and pollutants in the environment – it’s not surprising that a vast majority of us can’t sleep.
What used to be my place of sanctuary, peace and relaxation became a place of dreaded tossing and turning – my body was physically tired but my mind was racing and couldn’t switch off.
My main reason for developing insomnia started when I pregnant.
Frequent trips to the toilet through the night along with heartburn kept me up from the third trimester. After my son was born, the broken sleep continued with nightly breast-feeds, crying, itching (because of his eczema). I just had a child that wouldn’t sleep more than three hours before waking up! I scoff at the phrase “sleep like a baby!”
Then the potty training started at age two, waking up for the toilet through the night, or waking up for a drink or because he was itchy – whatever the reason, I was always woken up! He is nearly five and thankfully sleeping a bit better and longer but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t still have the odd night where he would wake me up!
Lack Of Sleep – The Negative Effects It Can Have On You
Regular sleep deprivation can have a startling impact on your health including:
- high blood pressure
- weakened immune system
- decreases fertility
- decreases sex drive
From my personal experience, I know that a constant lack of sleep also affects you mentally, fogs the brain and makes it incredibly hard to concentrate and focus. In my case, I found it difficult to concentrate whilst I was driving. Dangerous and risky especially with a little one on tow.
I struggled to remember certain conversations I had with family and friends and found it difficult to think clearly and react quickly in certain situations.
It also made me extremely irritable, snappy, moody and generally not a nice person to be around. Think Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and you can begin to understand what happens when your sleep is broken almost every night for five years!
In my haze of fuzziness and tiredness, I felt constantly zapped and had zero energy. I found myself yawning through most parts of the day and a battle to entertain and play with my son. This had a profound effect on me especially as it was his stage of growing, learning and developing. Something had to be done.
Being the all-natural and organic addict that I am, I began my research into sleep deprivation with natural and chemical-free ways to combat it. Through trial and error, some have worked and some haven’t and below is a list that have worked for me.
8 Natural Sleep Remedies That Work – Tried and Tested
1. Black Seed Oil (Nigella sativa)
Chock full of healing and therapeutic goodness, Black Seed is the only plant on the face of the earth which has had the highest number of studies carried out by a large number of modern scientists. Over 500 university and laboratory studies conducted since 1959 have confirmed the positive effectiveness and traditional uses of this powerful little seed.
Problems with sleep can be due to psychological causes or by an over-stimulation of the nerves. Research reveals that Black Seed oil can help eliminate sleep disorders and according to different studies, it seems the plant can affect the nervous system and related diseases. [Source]
I was taking a spoonful of the oil with honey an hour before bed and within two weeks, I noticed I was falling asleep more quickly than before and that was after taking the MILD strength oil. For something that is herbal and natural, I was really surprised at how quickly it started to work.
My sleep is also much deeper which means I’m having dreams again that are actually quite vivid and surreal!
2. Turmeric Golden Milk
I found drinking this before bed really helped to warm and soothe my body before entering the land of nod. The drink is primarily made with the age-old cooking spice, Turmeric, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Add the milk, honey, black pepper and coconut oil and you have yourself a powerhouse healing blend that helps to relax you and boost the immune system whilst you sleep.
It’s main active plant chemical is ‘curcumin’ (which gives the spice its vibrant golden hue) and has been known to protect the liver, stimulate the gallbladder and scavenges free radicals. Plus, it can help ease digestion and lower blood sugar levels which leads to a better night sleep.
3. Herbal Sleep Tea
At times when I’ve been plodding away researching and writing my articles at night, I love to make myself a herbal sleep tea and sip away whilst I do my work.
The hours of staring and working at the computer can take a strain on the eyes and the mind, so this blend works a treat. I usually use dried herbs so I can adapt and control how much I put in.
- ½ teaspoon Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis (Roman); Matricaria recutita (German)
- ½ teaspoon Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
- ½ teaspoon Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
- ¼ teaspoon Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Add all the herbs into a strainer (I love using these silicone teabag ones as you can fit a nice amount of dried herbs/tea leaves in them and they’re non-toxic too), add hot water, cover and infuse for 10-15 minutes.
All the herbs are notorious for their calming, soothing and sedative properties.
A chemical found in Chamomile called ‘apigenin’ helps calm the nervous system and can help soothe frayed nerves before bedtime and make it easier to drift off to sleep.
Valerian is also known as ‘nature’s tranquillizer’ and contains sedative and anxiety actions that can help soothe the brain and nervous system. (CAUTION should not be taken with sleep-inducing drugs as it can enhance their effect). It’s nicknamed ‘Phu’ due to its incredibly strong and unpleasant smell!
Lemon Balm is nicknamed ‘the nerve balm’ and is often used to treat anxiety and stress – both of which are the main culprits of restless sleep. It is well known as a sedative and anti-anxiety herb that works well when combined with Valerian.
The aroma from Lavender has been highly treasured for its use in calming the central nervous system. (see Remedy #7)
4. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose
This is a great yoga pose that is both relaxing and calming. It’s exactly what is as described – legs propped up a wall, (with your bottom as close to the wall) for a good 10-15 minutes before bed. Our legs take the strain of our body weight throughout the day and elevating them above the heart for a short period of time has many benefits including:
- helps calm the nervous system
- helps blood and lymph circulation
- improves digestion
- relieves lower back tension
- helps to quiet the mind
Because of this type of pose, it’s also hard to use your smart devices, which leads to my next remedy.
5. No Smart Devices An Hour Before Bed
With our age of technology, we have literally become surgically attached to our devices – day and night. We have become a nation of smart-device junkies. And this is having a startling impact on our health.
There have been tons of studies into the effects of using smart devices before bed and the negative effects it has on sleep, which in some studies, can lead to depression and anxiety. [Source 1,2,3,4,5]
The blue light emitted from the screens of the devices disrupts ‘melatonin’ – a hormone that affects your body’s internal clock (a.k.a your circadian rhythm). This blue light keeps the brain stimulated and alert thus making it harder to fall asleep.
Whether its checking your emails, checking the weather or checking your latest bid on Ebay, no smart devices an hour before bed can definitely help with improving your sleep and better for your health in the long run.
6. Bathe In Magnesium Bath Salts
But in my quest to find healthier alternatives for a better night’s sleep, I’ve discovered magnesium bath salts or Epsom salts. Although they’re not actual salts but made of naturally occurring minerals of magnesium and sulfate, both of which can benefit and improve your health in many ways.
Dubbed “the original chill pill” in Psychology Today, it’s essentially an anti-stress mineral that can help :
- regulate blood sugar levels
- eliminate toxins
- help nerves and muscle function properly.
- reduce inflammation
- ease muscle ache and joint pain
- improve sleep
- alleviate PMS and hormonal migraines in women
- reduce stress [Source]
Even after a short 10 minute soak, my body felt relaxed, my skin noticeably smoother and my mind calmer with fewer intrusive thoughts. Being a victim of a racing mind, having a calmer mind definitely helped me to fall asleep more quicker.
If you haven’t tried soaking in bath salts before, I urge you to. Forget thinking it’s something associated with your gran’s bathroom shelf – and even if you do, she obviously knew the benefits of using it!
7. Lavender Oil On The Pillow
Lavender is also known as ‘the herb of harmony’ and has a reputation of being a mild tranquillizer. The aroma from the plant comes from the airborne molecules called ‘linalyl esthers’ which are the oils that stimulate the olfactory nerve in the brain.
With its sedative and relaxant properties, I love getting whiffs of this on my pillow. The soothing scent helps to calm the mind, body and central nervous system and aid in restful sleep. Due to the anti-spasmodic actions, it’s also commonly used to ease anxiety, tension, headaches and dizziness.
Created by physician and homeopath, Dr Edward Bach who developed a complete system of plant and flower-based essences in the 1930’s.
A firm believer that medicine should treat the individual rather than symptoms of disease, he developed 38 flower remedies, each prepared from the flowers of wild plants, trees or bushes that are safe and gentle to use. They work specifically on the emotional aspect of the person concerned, by transforming negative attitudes to positive attitudes.
The spray is a unique combination of the famous five Bach Original Flower Essences (Rock Rose; Impatiens; Clematis; Star of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum) plus the Bach Original Flower Essence of White Chestnut. The flower essences are combined to help switch the mind off from unwanted repetitive thoughts. It’s prepared with glycerine which gives it a sweet taste.
The RESCUE Night Spray sits permanently on my bedside table, as at times when I’ve woken up through the night, a few sprays of this works a charm to help me drift off quickly.
Do you have problems with sleep? What have you used to battle those sleepless nights? Have you tried any of the remedies mentioned? If so, did they work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on the subject. Thanks for reading and if you found it useful, please share!
Peace be with you