There’s nothing worse than realising it’s time to get up again when your eyes still sting and your head feels fuzzy from the night before. Whilst it’s normal to experience the occasional sleepless night, it’s not normal to experience them on a nightly, chronic basis.
So whether you’re suffering with long term insomnia, or are going through a stressful period and just need to find a way to wind down for the night, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’ve handpicked the best sleep remedies – both behavioural and natural – and enlisted the help of health specialist editor, Anna Magee to help ease you into a deep slumber.
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Nature vs Narcotics
Whilst Valium and Xanax are well-known, and often popular, choices to help you snooze, research from Stanford University suggests that nature is a far more powerful and potent alchemist than narcotics. All of these natural remedies for sleep have been scientifically proven, and will help to restore and energise your body without the nasty side effects that come with man-made chemicals.
1. Up Your Magnesium or Supplement.
Magnesium is nature’s natural tranquilliser, plus it’s a natural mineral that our body’s need for a healthy nervous system. ‘Magnesium is necessary for normal energy metabolism,’ says dietician Prof. Hobson, ‘and can leave you feeling tired and sluggish without it’.
US and UK food surveys suggest that as many as one in ten people are not getting adequate amounts of magnesium from their diet.
You can increase your daily intake of magnesium by eating foods such as kale, spinach, broccoli, nuts, seeds and pulses, or you can simply supplement with a 100% RDA (recommended daily allowance) Magnesium tablet.
2. Take Melatonin Supplements.
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that helps to regulate the sleep cycle in the brain. Melatonin supplements may improve sleep quality and morning alertness in adults suffering with insomnia. For best results, take the supplement 2 hours before bedtime. It may take up to 13 weeks to kick into full effect.
3. Try Headspace to Clear Your Mind.
If you prefer to try non-medical treatments, try Headspace, an app which offers free and paid breathing exercises and meditations to help you wind down and relax at the end of the night. If you struggle to sleep because your thoughts are racing, this might just work for you.
4. Try Valerian, or Kalms, an Herbal Remedy.
Valerian is an effective herbal home remedy for insomnia. It helps to improve sleep quality and acts a mild, but natural sedative.
Studies with Pennsylvania University found that people who took valerian as a supplement reported that their sleep quality improved greatly over a 10 week period. Valerian works by affecting GABA, one of the calming neurotransmitters in the body.
For best results, take 450mg (a standard dose) one hour before bed. Try Kalms Night Valerian Root Extract, a natural herbal supplement.
5. Drink Chamomile Tea.
Traditionally, Chamomile is used to reduce muscle tension, soothe digestion, and ease anxiety, which has been proven useful in inducing sleep. Try sipping a cup of hot chamomile tea after dinner to experience its full benefits.
6. Watch or Listen to ASMR.
You may have already heard of this whispering craze that’s taking over the internet, but Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR for short has millions of people nodding off to sleep within minutes of watching a video.
Whilst it’s not exactly clear why this works, there’s a theory that the tingling sensations it causes helps the body to relax rapidly, sending you into a deeper sleep. Search for ASMR on Youtube and you’ll find thousands of videos to choose from.
7. Tackle the Temperature.
According to sleep scientists at the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal room temperature for sleep is just over 18 C (65 F), with around 65% humidity.
Togging yourself up too much to go to bed can cause hot flashes in the middle of the night, and hence disturbed sleep. It’s better to opt for a cooler environment for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Too much humidity will make you sweat and can create mold that irritates allergies, but too little humidity can completely dry out your nasal passages.
8. Bring a Weighted Blanket to Bed.
A 2015 study proved that the use of weighted blankets resulted in longer periods of sleep when used by insomniacs, leaving participants feeling extremely rested and calm in the morning. Get one from Amazon here.
9. Wear Blue Light Filtering Glasses a Few Hours Before Bedtime.
Scientifically, blue light has been proven to dampen your melatonin production, the hormone associated with sleep regulation. TV screens, laptops, smartphones, all of these emit blue light and can keep you awake.
If you need to work late, dim your phone screen and pop on these snazzy looking blue light blocking glasses, which have improved many people’s sleep, and reduced eye strain.
10. Watch your Sleeping Patterns.
Sleep cycles happen in 90 minute intervals, and you should have at least 6-9 cycles per night.
Professor Wiseman of University of Edinburgh says, ‘’You will feel most refreshed when you awake at the end of a 90-minute sleep cycle because you will be closest to your normal waking state.’’
The trick with this isn’t to track how many hours you sleep, but rather how many 90 minute cycles you go through. Starting from when you wake up, count back 90 minute intervals to figure out when you should go to sleep, or you can use sleepy time to do it for you.
E.g. if you want to wake up at 6am, you’ll want to go to sleep either at 9pm or 10:30pm.
11. Keep a Problems Journal.
Can’t sleep because you have too many thoughts on your mind? One way to tackle this is to keep a problems journal by the side of your bed. Every night just before your head hits the pillow, write down everything that’s troubling you.
One study conducted by Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that when one group of volunteers wrote down their problems onto a piece of paper and came up with possible solutions to those problems, they had a better night’s sleep than those who didn’t write anything at all.
12. Introduce Something Lavender Scented into the Bedroom.
Admittedly, this one sounds like one of those weird hacks that never works, but there is research to back it up.
The European Sleep Research Society in Glasgow in 2008 reported a study in which lavender oil sprinkled on bedclothes helped volunteers to drift off easier. A Japanese study from 2012 also backed up those findings.
Why not try using an essential oils diffuser in the room or a pouch of lavender on your night stand.
Word of caution if you’re pregnant, the US National Institutes of Health recommends not using it, as there’s not enough research surrounding the effect of lavender on pregnant women.
13. Introduce the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Into Your Night Routine.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is an ancient yogic breathing pattern which helps to give your organs and tissues a much needed oxygen boost, and gain control over your breathing.
There’s some evidence to suggest that using this technique regularly could help people fall asleep in a shorter period of time.
Simply inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This is one breath, or rep if you like.
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