Having consistent, adequate sleep each night is considered one of the top three pillars of health. We all recognize the importance of a good night’s rest, and how much better we feel when we sleep well. Still, we all have nights when falling asleep or staying asleep is a struggle.
Sleep disturbance is common, and greatly affects our quality of life. Luckily, research shows certain compounds, vitamins, and herbs effectively induce relaxation of the mind and body to prepare us for sleep. Supplementing with sleep aids rising in popularity as an integral part of a sleep hygiene routine.
Why Is Sleep Important For Health?
Science shows a clear correlation between sleep and our cellular health, including the functioning of our brain cells. When sleep deprived, our bodies heal more slowly, our mood lowers, our volatility increases, and our concentration and attention span are compromised. Though it is recommended that we sleep more than seven hours a day, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on sleep disturbance shows that more than one-third of people in the United States get less than seven hours.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society also “recommends that adults sleep at least seven hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”
What Are The Main Causes Of Sleep Disturbance?
Sleep disturbance and dysfunction have many shapes including an inability to fall asleep, frequent waking, and night waking without returning to sleep. There are a plethora of causes for this lack of quality sleep.
If a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy is not present, you are most likely experiencing one of these reasons for lack of healthy sleep:
- Short sleep duration (not allowing enough time for sleep)
- High daytime stress or an overly active sympathetic nervous system
- Over intake of caffeine, nicotine, and/or alcohol
- Stimulation from electronics and blue light disrupting
- Anxiety, depression, and hormone imbalance
- Circadian rhythm disruption due to irregular schedules (from travel, work, and social engagements)
- Eating late at night directly before bed
3 Effective Natural Sleep-Aids
Magnesium is one of the most essential nutrients for the human body as it aids the formation of over 325 enzymatic processes used for necessary cellular function. Despite its importance, there are millions of Americans in the United States and across the world who are deficient in magnesium.
This rich mineral is thought to help muscle relaxation, hydration, energy production, and the deactivation of adrenaline. Supplementing with around 500 mg a day was shown by the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences to help ease your insomnia and boost sleep efficiency.
Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone released at night by the pineal gland in our brain to provide a sleep-wake daily rhythm called the circadian rhythm. There are several ways to get more melatonin when your lifestyle does not support your body to produce enough.
Certain foods contain melatonin or tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to increase melatonin levels and include the following:
- Morello cherries
Supplementation is the more common way to get more melatonin. Most physicians recommend melatonin supplementation after medical evaluation of sex, stress, and thyroid hormones because hormone imbalance often involves multiple hormones.
3. Lemon Balm Leaf
Lemon balm, Melissa officialis, is a member of the mint family and is commonly used as a medicinal herb and as a fresh flavor in the culinary world. Its active constituents are health-promoting antioxidants.
Several clinical studies show lemon balm is effective for calming and enhancing sleep. One double-blinded study showed a dose of 600 mg of standardized extract not only maintained a balanced mood but also supported overall calmness.
Lemon balm can be ingested as a tea, tincture, and capsule and is found in some combination of gummy sleep-aids.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene in 7 Simple Steps
Just as we know the importance of dental hygiene to prevent cavities, sleep hygiene is a must to support healthy sleep. Sleep preparation routines help you find your best snooze. Here are a few tips:
- Activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the state of “rest and digest”) through relaxation techniques such as journaling, meditation, mindful eating, deep breathing, and yoga.
- Eat clean foods at least two hours before bed, avoiding processed foods and chemicals that cause blood sugar spikes.
- Cool and darken the room to enhance deep sleep, maintaining a temperature range of 62-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lower digital stimulation by turning off devices at least two hours before bed or using blue-blocking glasses.
- Avoid exercise within three hours of bedtime to prevent stimulation and cortisol bursts.
- Set a consistent sleep time eight hours before your waking time to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
- Utilize sleep-aid supplements containing minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and plant compounds known to support restful sleep.
As digital stimulation and expected work and family demands seem to be at an all-time high, sleep disruption is common. Luckily, some natural options for slumber can be easily obtained and effective for that relaxation we all dream of.
Summary Table of Natural Sleep Aids and Sleep Hygiene Tips
|Natural Sleep Aids
|Muscle relaxation, hydration, energy production
|Regulation of sleep-wake cycle, improved sleep quality
|Lemon Balm Leaf
|Calming effect, mood balance, enhanced sleep
1. How much magnesium should I take for better sleep?
The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences suggests supplementing with around 500 mg of magnesium per day for improved sleep efficiency.
2. Can melatonin supplements help with sleep?
Yes, melatonin supplements can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep quality, especially if your body does not produce enough naturally.
3. Are there any natural foods that can increase melatonin levels?
Yes, certain foods like bananas, cherries, rice, ginger, tomatoes, and radishes contain melatonin or tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in melatonin production.
4. How can I enhance my sleep environment?
To create an optimal sleep environment, ensure your room is cool and dark, maintain a temperature range of 62-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and minimize digital stimulation by turning off devices at least two hours before bed.
5. Is it better to exercise before bed or earlier in the day?
It’s best to avoid vigorous exercise within three hours of bedtime, as it can be stimulating and interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
6. Can sleep-aid supplements be taken regularly?
Yes, sleep-aid supplements containing minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and plant compounds can be taken regularly to support restful sleep, but it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before long-term use.
7. How can I establish a consistent sleep routine?
Set a consistent sleep time eight hours before your waking time and practice relaxation techniques like journaling, meditation, and deep breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and promote restful sleep.