Want home remedies for sleep to try? Read on. It is no fun tossing and turning at night, when you waken up in the early hours and just can’t get back to sleep, it is no laughing matter. Suffering for mild to severe insomnia can lead to many problems and functioning during the day can be hard.
I wanted to share with you why insomnia happens, why you should refrain from taking sleeping pills and why you should consider home remedies to help you get a great night’s sleep.
About Insomnia & Why it Happens
The dictionary tells me that insomnia is habitual sleeplessness or the inability to sleep. What it doesn’t say is that insomnia can be temporary but alas it can also be long term depending on what we do about it.
I know a lot of people – including myself – who at one point or another has experienced insomnia. This can be linked to stress and worry, but it can also be linked to changes in your life such as moving home, changing jobs or a new baby. What I would like to say is that there are things you can do, home remedies and action you can take that will help you improve your sleep and say goodbye to insomnia.
There are times though that insomnia can be a result of poor sleep habits, from drinking too much tea/coffee to using your phones at night time. Whatever the reason though, not getting enough sleep can have you feeling totally and utterly exhausted, it can lead to you being irritable and in a bad mood, it can also lead to you not being able to function properly during hte day. I can remember when my children were babies, I was all of these things and went around like a bear with a sore head because I wasn’t getting a good night’s sleep.
To be honest, if you can deal with the root cause of your insomnia and put bedtime routine practices in place, you will be helping yourself and will start to sleep better.
Home Remedies for Sleep: The Problem with Sleep Meds
A disclosure here and now – I hate meds, any kind of meds, if I can use something natural then I will. The problem with using sleeping bills is that it only offers you a quick fix, it doesn’t address the underlying problem and if you get used to the pills they will stop working. Not to mention the unpleasant side effects they give you such as headaches, sore muscles, constipation, dry mouth, daytime fatigue, trouble concentrating, dizziness, and so the list goes on! To be honest I think I prefer the insomnia to all these symptoms!
As I’ve mentioned there are the side effects but then there is also the fact your body will start to get used to the sleeping pills. Your body builds up a tolerance for most pills and especially sleeping pills. This means that you won’t be able to use them for long before you feel like you are popping candy for all the good they are doing you.
Taking sleep pills doesn’t help you start a healthy sustainable way to get to sleep and stay asleep. If you want to build up your sleep routine and healthy sleep habits then read on. Indeed you can also head over to my post on developing an adult sleep routine for more inspiration.
Below I have listed all the things you can do to help you have a good night’s sleep, there are some easy things and some things are more difficult. It is really up to you which options you choose and how severe your insomnia is. I have also listed some herbal remedies that will help you relax before heading to bed – there’s no side effects with these which is a huge bonus!
Home remedies for sleep: Exercise
In April I was obese, I was tossing and turning every night and I couldn’t sleep because my back was killing me especially in bed. I started a walking schedule, I knew that being physically active was going to help me in sleeping better. There is so much evidence out there that proves regularly exercising helps you sleep better and it also helps to eliminate insomnia. I have to admit to hating exercise but walking I could do! I now walk at least 10,000 steps a day, have started to shift some of the weight and am sleeping so much better. You can read more on my walking journey by heading over to my other blog Walking Body & Mind.
I like to fit walking in to my daily schedule as I have a desk job so can get out during my lunch break and also walk the 40 minutes to the train station every evening. There is one word of caution though on exercising, don’t be doing a heavy workout close to bedtime. It will get your heart pumping and you will find it difficult to calm down if it is close to bedtime so opt for a morning workout or walking like me.
So why is exercise so beneficial to a good night’s sleep? I have looked up this question and found that the National Sleep Foundation seems to have an idea. They say that exercise promotes feelings of relaxation and at the same time it reduces any feelings of stress or anxiety you may be feeling. This seems to be true as when I do feel stressed at work, a brisk walk at lunch time allows me to feel re-energised and ready to take on the rest of the day. It also allows me to forget about work and clear my mind.
What I do know is that when I’ve had day of hitting over my 10,000 steps to say 15,000 I am so ready for bed that evening and I’m often out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow. My body is ready for sleep and getting ready for the next day. So there really is a lot of benefit to exercise and I’m not talking going to the gym, all you have to do is put on a comfortable pair of shoes and start walking!
Home remedies for sleep: Get your daily dose of sunshine
I live in Northern Ireland and honestly the sun doesn’t often shine here! In winter too, I leave in the dark for work and am getting home when it is dark. It can make me feel really down during this period which is why you will find me walking during my lunch break. Our bodies rely on natural light to figure out what time of day it is and it helps our body to decide whether it needs to produce hormones such as melatonin which can make us feel sleepy.
Our bodies have a natural clock that works on a 24 hour cycle. It knows when we are awake and when it is time to sleep. The gland that is responsible for regulating our sleep patter is called the hypothalamus. It senses the light and it senses dark which signals your brain to either waken up or get ready for sleep. With the daylight – or sunshine if you are lucky – you feel alert and ready to go because your body is not producing any melatonin, however as it gets dark your body starts to produce the melatonin and your body responds by feeling sleepy and ready for bed.
As I’ve mentioned winter is hard when you are getting up in the dark so I opt for a wake up alarm that simulates the sunrise. It sends my body a clear message that it is time to get up. I can’t function without it now and would certainly recommend it if you find it tough getting up when it’s dark outside.
Even at work, while others may have their blinds closed, I keep mine open to bathe in the natural light coming in. There isn’t much during the winter but whatever little there is I’m going to make the most of it. I also head out at lunch time to get a dose of sunshine.
Home remedies for sleep: Manage stress levels
Stress and anxiety can have a major impact upon your sleep. It can mean your mind is racing when you are trying to get to sleep or you waken up in the middle of the night and your mind switches on with the stress you are under.
The vicious circle continues, if you are stressed and can’t sleep you then become stressed and worried about not getting enough sleep. This can build up over time to the point where you feel you can no longer function. It’s important therefore to take steps to manage your stress levels. I can often think I’m not stressed until the twitch in my eye starts again – it is then that I know I’m stressed and I can takes to manage it to ensure it doesn’t impact upon my sleep.
Below I have listed some of the things I do to help me if I am feeling stressed or anxious. It’s all about relaxation and promoting feelings of being able to deal with the levels of stress you are feeling: S
- Notebook. One thing I can’t recommend highly enough and that’s having a notebook and pen by your bed so you can write things down especially before you go to sleep. This can be anything from things you have to remember, to your thoughts, concerns or indeed things you are grateful for. This allows you to acknowledge that what you have put in the notebook can wait until the next day. It allows your brain to forget about the worries and chores and get a good night’s sleep.
- Meditation/Yoga. I don’t mean all those poses that are difficult to get in to! Yoga is first and foremost a meditation that you can use to help you keep stress at bay. There are so many meditation videos or podcasts you could try. If you have a FitBit you could also use the breathing guide on there to help you relax too.
- Bath time. A relaxing bath with all the bubbles you can manage is another great way of relaxing before bed. I would highly recommend popping in some lavender essential oil too which helps aid sleep.
Home remedies for sleep: What you eat
When I was researching how to get a good night’s sleep when I was having problems I never realised that food can have an impact both positive and negative. Some foods can actually aid sleep as properties contained within them makes us feel relaxed – more of this please!
Below I’ve listed the foods that will help aid sleep:
- Cheese. It is rich in tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps your brain produce serotonin. It is this release of serotonin that makes you feel more relaxed and indeed sleepy and ready to go to bed.
- Almonds. Again they contain tryptophan to help you feel sleepy but also they are a great source of magnesium and calcium which help promote good quality sleep. These really are worth taking although not too much as they are also high in calories!
- Salmon. I love salmon and during Christmas I love chomping on smoked salmon. It wouldn’t be Christmas otherwise! Salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acid which helps promote sleep. If you don’t fancy salmon then tuna, sardines or mackerel are just as good. I love them all!
- Bananas. Bananas are often under rated. I love them and they are good for producing tryptophan too. They also contain potassium and magnesium which helps to relax your muscles. It really is a great all-rounder.
So I’ve listed the things that are great to eat that will help you sleep but what about the things that can impact upon your sleep? Well below are a few of the ones that if you cut out will help you get a good night’s sleep:
- Caffeine. I know I’m no fun at all! But honestly coffee or any other drink containing caffeine is a nightmare if you want a good night’s sleep. The coffee can stay in your system for up to six hours so even drinking a cuppa after your dinner could impact upon your sleep. I would recommend staying clear of coffee after 6pm. Instead opt for a herbal drink such as Chamomile tea which can also help you feel sleepy.
- Alcohol. Of course alcohol can help you fall asleep but it will be the worst sleep you will ever have. Not to mention you will waken up all hours with a dry mouth or needing to visit the bathroom. And that’s before you waken up in the morning with a hang over! I’m not saying you need to stop it completely but moderation is key.
- Large meals. Any large meal – specially one with spicy and high fat food will impact upon your sleep. The heavy meal will mean your digestive system is working extremely hard to digest the food when it should be relaxing and trying to sleep. Keep any large meals to a limit to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
If you are following the tips above to get a good night’s sleep then you are well on your way. However there are other things you can do too which will also help. All these things add up to a great sleep routine and above all else getting a good night’s sleep:
- Leave screens outside the bedroom. This is a tough one for all of us these days as we seem to be connected 24/7. However the blue light from your screen (tablet, smartphone, computer) stops your body from relaxing and getting ready for sleep. It stops your body producing melatonin which is needed for sleep. Leave your screens outside the bedroom or turn them off at a certain time so you are not tempted to check your social channels during the night!
- Take a bath. The hot water, bubble bath and lavender essential oil is a great way to unwind. It helps you to relax, slow down and make you feel sleepy – ready for bed. It also saves you time if you do this in the evening, meaning in the morning you just need a quick shower.
- Lavender. The scent of Lavender is fantastic. I used it with my two children. I bathed them in the evening in it and also used it on their pillows. It is a fantastic scent that promotes relaxation.
- De-clutter. I don’t know about you but when my bedroom is cluttered and there is piles of ironing sitting I don’t feel like relaxing. Make sure your bedroom is a sanctuary, one where you can relax and unwind.
- The right temperature. To get ready for sleep our bodies start to drop in temperature. If our bedroom is too hot then it can affect our sleep. It is thought that the ideal temperature for sleeping is around 60 and 72 degrees. I would try this out to see what is best for you and what works.
- Black out curtains. Any exposure to light can stop you from sleeping. Buy black out curtains or blinds to eliminate any unnecessary light. This will mean your body will product melatonin which is the sleep hormone and have you sleeping in no time at all. You could even opt for an eye mask instead of black out curtains.
Home Remedies for Sleep
While I have suggested you stay away from sleeping pills, I would recommend you try natural remedies for improving your sleep. They are yet another tip to help you achieve good sleep. Like all the tips above I recommend it’s trial and error as to what will work with you. And like sleeping pills, your body may build up a tolerance for the natural sleep remedies which is why it’s a good idea to rotate what works for you. The thing is at least you won’t have any of those horrible side effects.
Here are some sleep-promoting herbal remedies that you could try:
- Chamomile tea. This works for me, in fact it works so fast that I often stagger to bed I’m so sleepy! It has been used for centuries as an aid to relaxation. It helps reduce stress and anxiety and will help promote sleep. I would use one tea bag and see how you go and if it isn’t as strong as you would like then opt for two.
- St. John’s wort. I have often used St John’s Wort when I need to calm down if I have a speech at work or feeling stressed. When you take this in the evening it will help you unwind and get your body ready for sleep.
- Valerian. It is very much the same as Chamomile tea in that it has been used for many years to easy stress and anxiety. It also helps you to relax.
- Melatonin. You can get supplements for melatonin, it is this that your body produces to make you sleepy. You can find the supplements help aid sleep.
I hope the above tips help you to achieve a good night’s sleep. Are there any other natural sleep aids that you have come across? I’d love to hear about them.