Insomnia - Part 2:

Natural Remedies for a good night’s sleep


Restful sleep helps the body to reset and start the morning with a burst of energy. During sleep, our body goes into “mending mode” when it repairs damaged tissue, builds bones, secretes growth hormones, stores energy, and consolidates memories.

So, what happens when you don’t get sufficient sleep?

Part 1 in this series, titled ‘How Bad Can Insomnia Get’, explored the health risks associated with insomnia. In the second part, we cover the ways we can restore balance to a disturbed circadian rhythm.

Are you tempted to go straight to the sleeping pills to find that elusive night of sound, restful sleep? This is understandable. In fact, many people find the very thought of bedtime, and a night of tossing and turning, anxiety-inducing. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is an issue you must simply learn to live with (and become reliant on sleeping pills as that really isn’t advisable). The great news is that there are some practical (and amazingly effective) ways you can adjust your routine to usher in those much-needed “zzzz”. 

Here are some easy and effective natural remedies for insomnia.

Create a sleep schedule

Sunrise is when we should naturally wake up, and sundown signals the body to start preparing for rest. Exposing the body to a regular pattern of light and dark can help to tune our biological clock and get our circadian rhythm back to a healthy pace.

To do this, choose a time to go to bed and a time to wake up, and stick to these times. Yes, life may get in the way and disrupt this routine but try your best to stick to it even on weekends.

Plus, if you suspect that your afternoon naps are the reason why you struggle to get to sleep at night, it might be time to say goodbye to siestas and daytime napping. 

Sleep in total darkness

The human brain is programmed to perceive light as a signal to wake up. Small amounts of light, even from devices such as laptops, iPads, and phones can disrupt melatonin release, (melatonin is the hormone that signals that it’s time to sleep). An easy natural treatment for insomnia is to make sure your bedroom is completely dark. A dark room cues the brain to produce more melatonin, meaning you fall asleep faster. What’s more, melatonin is an incredible anti-aging hormone.

Stay cool

The temperature of your room may make or break the quality of your sleep. Research suggests that a healthy body lowers its core temperature as it prepares for sleep. Therefore, it makes sense that people with a warmer core body temperature find falling asleep more difficult [1] [2].

The Sleep Foundation recommends that your bedroom should be between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius (about 60 - 67 degrees Fahrenheit). A cool environment helps the brain to produce more melatonin, further improving sleep.

Exercise regularly

Research suggests that people who exercise regularly sleep better, feel less depressed, and enjoy more energy throughout the day [3] [4]. Exercise may promote healthy sleep in several ways. For example, it first increases the body temperature followed by a drop in temperature after exercise, ushering in sleep faster.
Exercise supports the circadian rhythm, promoting alertness during the day and drowsiness at night. Studies show that exercise improves the amount of sleep we get, and also the quality of sleep; it promotes longer periods of slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most healing phase in our sleep cycle.

Exercise is one of the best natural ways to cure insomnia, but it also helps with mood by helping the body to release stress-alleviating hormones.

Be careful though, as any kind of exercise within four hours of bedtime can have stimulating effects that disrupt sleep and remember that the body doesn’t have enough time to cool down, an important factor in the initiation of sleep. For these reasons, early morning or early evening are the best times to get in your daily workout.
Studies show that exercise may not immediately bring relief to people struggling with insomnia and sleep deprivation, but be patient. It may take time for your body to adjust and experience positive changes in sleep patterns.

Top up your magnesium levels

Magnesium is among the must-have natural insomnia solutions when it comes to minerals, especially if you want to relax your body and mind after a hectic day. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals our body needs to perform functions such as energy production, calcium regulation, glutathione synthesis, protein synthesis, and more. Another important yet lesser-known function of magnesium is stress management.

Healthy levels of magnesium nourish the nervous system, promote restful sleep, and reduce depression and stress. Magnesium works on many levels to fight stress:

  • Regulates healthy levels of stress hormones
  • Keeps the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis balanced
  • Regulates calcium levels in the intracellular mix (excess calcium can send the nerves into “firing mode”, causing hyper-excitement and feeling highly strung)
Interestingly, most of us are magnesium deficient. Poor nutrition and changing agricultural practices are the main reasons for this common deficiency. Eating a well-balanced diet including nuts, grains, and seeds should offer sufficient magnesium. However, our fast-paced lifestyles and packed schedules can make the perfect diet hard to achieve, so magnesium supplements - magnesium oil and liposomal magnesium in particular - are a great way to boost your intake of this relaxation-enhancing mineral.

Indulge in aromatherapy

Studies show that essential oils, especially lavender, help to promote deep sleep. Essential oils can be used in a diffuser or sprayed onto your pillow using a spritzer. The relaxing aroma will help to signal your body and mind to fall into a restful sleep. If you’re partial to an evening bath, add a few drops of lavender essential oil (or your favourite oils) to your bath before bed. Feeling sleepy yet?

Sip on something warm

A nightly routine of sipping something warm and soothing can usher you into a state of calm. Whether it’s warm milk or soothing chamomile tea, a warm drink may help you to wind down physically and mentally, preparing you for deep, restful sleep.

Jiaogulan tea is a herbal aid that helps you to relax and get rid of stress. Jiaogulan is an adaptogenic herb that works to bring harmony and balance in the body, even during stressful times. It has a restorative, calming effect on the nervous system, therefore, it helps to reduce anxiety and depression that can compromise health sleep.

Say no to...

...cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks consumed within four hours of sleep time. Some people find that a glass of wine or sherry helps them to sleep better. However, alcohol messes with REM sleep, a deep stage of sleep that makes us feel more rested upon waking. Plus, alcohol and coffee are both diuretics, meaning you’ll be likely to wake during the night to go to the bathroom, further disrupting your sleep quality.

Take time to wind down

If you feel as though sleep is going to be hard to come by, don’t stress. Don’t feel you need to immediately crawl into bed if you are thinking you are going to lay there wide awake. Instead, take a moment to relax by preparing for tomorrow, listen to soft music, or read in the comfort of your bed. And finally, one of the best natural cures for insomnia is relaxed breathing. Take slow, deep breaths as this will help to relax your body, priming it for a night of deep, restorative sleep.

References:

  1. Lack et al. The relationship between insomnia and body temperatures. Sleep Med Rev. 2008 Aug; 12(4): 307-17.
  2. van den Heuvel C, Ferguson S, Dawson D. Attenuated thermoregulatory response to mild thermal challenge in subjects with sleep-onset insomnia. Sleep. 2006 Sep; 29(9): 1174-80.
  3. Hartescu I, Morgan K1, Stevinson CD. Increased physical activity improves sleep and mood outcomes in inactive people with insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. J Sleep Res. 2015 Oct;24(5):526-34. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12297. Epub 2015 Apr 21.
  4. Reid et al. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia.  Sleep Med. 2010 Oct; 11(9): 934–940.