The Best Natural Sleep Remedies
As a society, we are overscheduled and overworked. We have countless responsibilities filling every single waking minute of the day. Is it any wonder why we’re just plain tired?
In fact, nearly a third of Americans consider themselves sleep deprived. And, an estimated 70 million suffer from chronic sleep disorders.
This is a huge problem. And it’s worsened by the fact that, as we age, several factors impact sleep even more. Medication side effects, sleep apnea, and hormone imbalances can contribute to sleep issues.
The hormone most closely linked to sleep is melatonin. Melatonin regulates your sleep/wake cycle. Just as sex hormones decline with age, melatonin production declines, too.
Light controls how much melatonin your brain releases. During the day, levels are barely measurable. But as the sun sets, higher amounts of melatonin are released to prepare the body for sleep. During the middle of the night, levels peak, then slowly fall again as dawn arrives, helping to nudge us awake.
Without adequate melatonin, insomnia and shallow or disrupted sleep can result. Electronics also take some of the blame. With constant exposure to blue light from phones, tablets, and computers, your brain doesn’t get the proper signal to increase melatonin at night.
This lack of sleep has far more serious consequences than irritability and bags under the eyes. Research shows it can actually increase the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, and many more serious conditions.
When you sleep, your body has the chance to heal, repair, recharge, and restore. When you don’t get this important downtime, it makes perfect sense why illness or disease can result.
Sleep Aids: A Band-Aid, Not a Real Solution
Over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids may seem like the perfect solution for getting more sleep. It’s so easy—you take a pill, fall asleep in 15– 30 minutes, and wake up eight hours later.
Unfortunately, a lot of these drugs come with their fair share of side effects, including dependency and bizarre/dangerous behaviors like eating, walking, even driving while asleep.
Moreover, sleep aids just mask the symptom—insomnia—rather than addressing the underlying root of the problem.
Address Some Root Causes
Here are some root causes of insomnia that you should look into addressing.
- Medications. Drugs for asthma, blood pressure, and depression are a few categories that affect sleep. If you have to take these, do so in the morning. Or talk to your doctor about finding an alternative.
- Sleep apnea. If you have it, treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can be life changing. This device delivers a steady stream of air into the lungs while you sleep. CPAPs do take some getting used to, but they are well worth the initial inconvenience.
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can nervousness, irritability, night sweats, and frequent urges to urinate, all of which can disrupt sleep. Get your thyroid hormones checked, and work with a specialist if your levels are too high.
- Hormone imbalances. Declines or Imbalances in sex hormones can affect both men and women. Get your hormones checked and work with your doctor to get them balanced.
- Low melatonin levels. Supplementation melatonin can work wonders if you’re deficient. There are two forms—fast or slow release. If your main concern is trouble falling asleep once you lay down, the fast-acting form may work best for you. But if your issue is frequent waking, the slow release may be a better option. Experiment to see what works best for you. You can also support your body’s own production of melatonin by taking a multivitamin every day. Many of the nutrients you’ll find in a good multi—like vitamin B6, folic acid, and magnesium—are essential for the natural production of melatonin.
- Poor sleep environment. If you don’t have an environment conducive to sleep, it’s hard to get good quality rest. Limit your exposure to light from electronics or the TV. Better yet, take the TV out of your bedroom. Keep the temperature in your house cool overnight (around 68 degrees F). And eliminate noise by using ear plugs, a white noise machine, or fan to drown out any outside commotion.
- Stress. Stress can lead the body into a state of hyperarousal, which is obviously not conducive to sleep. There are many ways to deal with stress; from exercise to yoga and meditation to journaling and therapy. Find what works for you and stick with it!
Additional Supplements for Sleep
Here are some additional supplements that can help you fall, and stay, asleep.
- GABA. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid acts as a calming neurotransmitter. It reduces stress and anxiety and promotes a sense of calm. GABA helps balance out the “excitatory” neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, that keep you awake and at “high alert.”
- L-theanine is another amino acid. Not only is it involved in the production of GABA, it helps soothe and quiet the mind so that you can more easily fall and stay asleep.
- 5-HTP. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is another potent sleep enhancer. It is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin has several important roles, including sleep and appetite control, memory, learning, and temperature regulation. Supplementing with 5-HTP can help reestablish healthy sleep patterns.
- Magnolia bark stimulates production of GABA as well. At least one compound in magnolia bark has been identified as being as effective as diazepams (such as Valium) in calming anxiety and aiding sleep. Magnolia bark also helps reduce adrenaline levels when they’re no longer needed, and may suppress elevated levels of cortisol, another stress hormone that is strongly associated with increased anxiety, depression, irritability, and other symptoms that can interfere with sleep.
- Astaxanthin is a pigment in the carotenoid family. It is an antioxidant thought to be more powerful than beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, and up to 100 times stronger than vitamin E. Some studies show that astaxanthin may reduce stress and improve sleep, most notably in people who have depression.
You can find all of these at your local health food store or pharmacy. Or, you can try a product specifically formulated for sleep. Newport Natural Health’s Sleep Solution Plus contains many of these compounds to help soothe your mind and gently lull you to sleep. You can also find astaxanthin in Newport Natural Health’s Omega D3 with Astaxanthin.