Insomnia is something of a modern curse. Our lives are more hectic than ever before. When not working overtime, we’re at home staring at our smartphones right up until the moment we try to go to sleep.
With the stress of modern life, we’re doing ourselves no favors by also ensuring we don’t unwind properly at night. Our natural slide towards sleep suffers thanks to disruptive issues such as social media, video games, Netflix, and family life.
How do you find time to ensure you get a good night’s sleep? Here are 15 science-backed natural sleep remedies to help you nod off in style.
1. Get comfy
Make sure your bed is comfortable. This can vary person to person, but do whatever it takes to ensure your bed helps you drift off to sleep properly.
Trying to sleep on a mattress that’s like a plank of wood will not help your insomnia. So invest in something comfortable to reap the benefits. Here are a few ideas for you:
- Experiment with pillows to find what works best for you, but you can also add fun and inviting new pillows in to make your bed look more inviting.
- Make your bed – don’t leave it looking like a mess.
- Try out a heated mattress if the cold winter months are a bit too much.
- Try out some essential oils to make your bedroom more relaxing.
2. Drink herbal teas
I’ve championed tea for the last decade thanks to its health benefits and relaxing qualities. Herbal teas are the way to go as they lack caffeine. It helps you to relax and unwind.
What varieties should you consider? Well, here are a few:
- Valerian root
You can get cheap organic herbal tea with a mix of herbs to add some variety to your nighttime routine. Nettle and mint, for example, I’ve always found particularly useful for easing anxiety and aiding relaxation.
The science backs it up. In 2011, a paper published on the US National Library of Medicine titled Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future stated:
“Traditionally, chamomile preparations such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy have been used to treat insomnia and to induce sedation (calming effects). Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.”
3. Switch off your devices
Do smartphones cause insomnia? Dr. Andrew Weil answered this question back in 2015. His response:
“One problem is that the blue light these devices emit can suppress production of the sleep regulating hormone melatonin, promoting insomnia. This effect is more pronounced than exposure to the light from a television screen in the bedroom because we hold smartphones and other electronic devices close to our faces, intensifying the light exposure.”
Whilst it may seem like a modern luxury to lounge around in bed watching YouTube or Netflix on your smartphone, the reality is it disrupts your sleep.
Whilst it’s tempting to lounge around in bed watching Netflix or YouTube clips until you pass out, you’re doing yourself no favors. Staring at those devices suppresses melatonin.
The solution? Read!
Reading a book for an hour before you go to bed is a brilliant way to get through some novels you’ve been meaning to get through. It’s also a great way to calm down your brain and get it ready for a night of sleep.
5. Get napping to a T
Launching into napping without a plan isn’t a good idea. If you head off and nap for a few hours, you may emerge feeling great, but you’ll mess up your sleep pattern for your proper rest at night.
Getting napping to a T isn’t difficult, though. It just takes some good timing.
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan’s book Fast Asleep, Wide Awake points out that you should take “controlled naps”. Her advice is to take a nap of no more than 20 minutes to lift some fatigue off your mind. It can help you feel recharged. And it also won’t disrupt your night’s sleep later in the day.
6. Get your timing right
If your sleeping pattern is all over the place, then you can wave goodbye to any hope of sleeping properly. Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Although this does mean you’ll have to kick the concept of a weekend lie-in.
Going to bed, and waking up, at the same time every day is an absolute must if you want to avoid sleep troubles.
As reported on Bustle:
“Scientists who work in sleep health have a term for the period of time it takes you to get to sleep: it’s called your sleep latency. And it turns out that maintaining a regular sleep schedule, according to several small studies, may cut down on the amount of time you spend tossing and turning before drifting off.”
You can try this out yourself to see the benefits. On my schedule, I go to bed at 11pm every day. I wake up at 7am each morning. Once you’ve got your routine set, you’ll notice differences such as:
- Getting to sleep faster
- Improvement in your mental abilities (essential for work, studying etc.)
- Mood improvements
- Health improvements (sleeping well is essential for weight loss, for example)
7. Lay off the alcohol
This may seem a bit unfair if you want to unwind after a day of hard work with a glass of wine. But the unfortunate truth is alcohol disrupts sleep patterns.
Are your drinking days over, then? Well, according to The Sleep Doctor:
“Does this mean you need to abstain from drinking altogether? Nope. But part of a smart, sleep-friendly lifestyle is managing alcohol consumption so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep and circadian rhythms … Circadian rhythms regulate nearly all of the body’s processes, from metabolism and immunity to energy, sleep, and sexual drive, cognitive functions and mood.”
A circadian rhythm is a naturally occurring process every 24 hours. As it turns out, although it’s not too surprising, alcohol disrupts this process. But as The Sleep Doctor confirms, the more you drink, and the closer this is to bedtime, the more you’ll disrupt your sleep pattern.
It also greatly increases your chance of snoring. So, consider skipping alcohol most nights, or keep your intake to a minimum.
8. Monitor temperatures
This is kind of obvious. If it’s searing hot (often the case during summer), it’s difficult to sleep. Similarly, if you’re freezing cold you’ll struggle to stay asleep.
Getting temperatures right is a big part of a sleeping routine, then, so experiment around with finding the right temperature to suit you.
Take a look at how body temperature can seriously affect your sleep here:
The Relationship Between Body Temperature and Sleep
9. Take up regular exercise
The National Sleep Organization (great to see there is such a thing!) champions regular exercise for better sleep. It states on a guide titled How Exercise Affects Sleep:
“Want to fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more rested? Get moving! As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.”
10. Embrace magnificent magnesium
In another excellent piece from The National Sleep Organization, magnesium receives a recommendation for improving your sleep.
Promote better sleep with magnesium – it’s an essential mineral for keeping us health. It can also, potentially, help us fall to sleep.
“Other research shows that magnesium increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which is responsible for slowing your thinking down and helping you fall asleep. If you are curious about the effects of magnesium, consider focusing on your nutrition first.”
Foods rich in magnesium, which is a good starting point to get more of the stuff into you, include:
- Green, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach
- Vegetables in general!
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruit such as bananas
- Whole grains like brown rice
11. Try out other sleep-promoting supplements
Healthline backs mag nesium, too, but there are other supplements that are worth considering. These include:
- Valerian root (as with the herbal tea mentioned above)
- Passion flower
- Ginkgo biloba
12. Treat your bed as a bed
It’s tempting to turn your bed into a piece of everyday furniture. You can lounge around on it, take in the latest films, eat your meals, call friends.
But if you aim to associate your bed with just bedtime, then this can help you speed up your sleep cycle.
Harvard Medical School, in 2015, were quick to point out that mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep. It states:
“Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.”
There are plenty of modern apps that can help you start off on your mindfulness path. There’re plenty of meditation apps for sleep. Why not try a few out?
You can also take a look at this guide on how to meditate before bed to supercharge your sleep.
14. Embrace the shadows
In the great Japanese writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadows (1933), the author lamented the arrival of electric lights into the world.
Architecture, natural light, shadows, and a well-placed candle, he championed, are what it takes to send a person towards a natural night of sleep. His famous quote reads:
“If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty.”
Tanizaki certainly would have hated the modern world, but we can take his wisdom and embrace the shadows in our home. Get some candles on the go, turn off the lights, and let the natural flow of evening surround you. Some candles have relaxing scents in them, too, such as lavender or vanvilla.
15. Try a 30 day sleep challenge
The Sleep Council has a 30 Day Better Sleep Plan you can try. Over the course of a month, this free starts with a brief questionnaire on your sleep pattern, health, and lifestyle:
The site also provides various sleep tools, such as free leaflets, stress tests, a sleep diary, and bed MOT (basically, to see if your bed is up to the task of providing you with a good night’s sleep).
- Mol Med Report: Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future
- Dr. Andrew Weil: Do Smart Phones Cause Insomnia?
- Bustle: Going To Sleep At The Same Time Every Night Can Make You Smarter, & There Are A Lot Of Other Surprising Benefits
- Sleep Doctor: The truth about alcohol and sleep
- Sleep.org: How Exercise Affects Sleep
- Sleep.org: Power (Down) Vitamins: Promote Better Sleep With Magnesium
- Healthline: 9 Natural Sleep Aids That Are Backed by Science
- Harvard Health Publishing: Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep