Getting enough sleep is a vital part of living a healthy lifestyle. If you’re not sleeping sufficiently each night, it can have an adverse effect on your general well-being, and you may also be at increased risk of a range of disorders and health conditions.
Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than a third of US adults regularly get less than six hours of sleep each night. It’s recommended that adults sleep for eight hours, so there are millions of men and women who are falling short of the amount of sleep necessary for good health and wellbeing.
Sleep problems are something that affects many of us throughout our lives. Perhaps you’re experiencing stress which is making it hard for you to switch off. Maybe you’ve just moved house and are having trouble falling asleep in a new environment. Trouble sleeping can also be caused by a multitude of things – poor diet, lifestyle, certain medications, or other factors.
We’ve put together a list of ten home remedies for those who struggle to fall asleep at night. From white noise machines for sleep to Epsom salt baths, there are plenty of ways you can help your body to get the rest it needs. If you’ve ever experienced sleep problems, read on to discover some simple home remedies that may help.
Why Do We Need Sleep?
Before we look at the remedies for sleeplessness, let’s examine why sleep is so essential for our bodies.
When you’re asleep, the body and mind can repair and restore itself, ready for the next day. It gives your body time to rejuvenate and recharge, and sleep is when memory consolidation occurs.
This is when the pieces of knowledge we accumulate during the day are ‘archived in the brain, so they can be reaccessed when needed. Without sleep, this archiving process doesn’t occur, which can cause memory problems and issues with learning. Lack of sleep has a lot of adverse effects, including:
- Slowing down the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you can have trouble with problem-solving, concentration, and focus the next day.
- Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. A study in the European Heart Journal found that those with sleep problems are three times more likely to develop heart failures over an eleven-year period.
- Increased appetite and weight gain. Studies have found that hunger is increased with sleeplessness, and people who regularly get less than six hours of sleep are 30% more likely to be obese.
- Depression and other mental health problems. People who struggle to sleep are five times more likely to develop depression. Unfortunately, sleeplessness can also be a symptom or side-effect of depression, so this can become a dangerous cycle that is hard to break.
- Premature aging. If you’re tired of not getting enough sleep, your body might secrete more cortisol, the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol in the body can lead to fine lines and wrinkles, speeding up the aging process aesthetically.
Home Remedies for a Better Night’s Sleep
Read on to discover our top ten remedies and solutions for better sleep at night.
Epsom Salt Baths
Many naturopaths recommend an Epsom salt bath before bedtime, to help you relax and wind down. Epsom salt isn’t salt – well, not the kind of salt you’d put on a meal, anyway. It’s made up of magnesium sulfate, which breaks down in water and allows your body to absorb the magnesium.
Magnesium is renowned for its ability to soothe muscle aches, relieve joint pain, and relax the muscles. Many of us are deficient in magnesium too, so an Epsom salt bath can help balance out the minerals in your body, as well as helping you relax before bed.
The instructions for creating an Epsom salt bath are simple. Draw your bath as you usually would, and add between 100g – 200g of the ‘salt to the water. Make sure it’s all dissolved before you get in. Soak in the bath for around twenty minutes, and repeat the process a few times each week. This should help you relax before bed and fall asleep more easily.
An oil massage is another way of helping you to relax and de-stress before you get into bed. Coconut oil is an excellent oil to use for this, though you can use any oils that you have to hand around the house – olive oil, for instance, or perhaps almond oil. You may want to enlist the help of a partner or housemate for this remedy.
Warm up the oil you’ve chosen – not too hot, or it could cause discomfort. Rub the warm oil into your neck and shoulders for a few minutes – you can try this yourself, but it may be easier to ask another person to help out. The soles of your feet are also a good area to massage. Rub in circular patterns for up to ten minutes, and you should feel your body relaxing. Oils like lavender can also help to soothe you and prepare your body for sleep. You can try this remedy daily before you go to sleep.
You may have heard of this remedy before, perhaps in childhood when your parents were trying to get you to sleep. Warm milk is a great way to help relax the body and mind. Firstly, it’s a great source of calcium, which our bodies require. Calcium helps to regulate melatonin production – and melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating our internal body clocks and our sleep.
To try this remedy, simply warm up a glass of milk and drink it about an hour before you go to bed. You can also add some additional ingredients if you don’t like the idea of drinking plain milk – a sprinkle of cinnamon powder is a great choice or a drizzle of honey.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant. Most people drink tea or coffee in the morning to help themselves wake up and feel more alert – that’s the last thing you want before you go to sleep! Cut out caffeinated drinks after 12 PM for a better night’s sleep.
Alcohol is not a stimulant – in fact, it can make you feel drowsy a lot of the time. However, as the alcohol wears off, it’s likely that you’ll wake up later with a headache or a full bladder.
You may also experience a ‘rebound effect when the alcohol wears off, which can make it difficult to fall asleep again. Alcohol dehydrates the body, too. Without the hydration it needs, your body won’t be able to effectively ‘recharge during sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling groggy and sluggish.
Keep a Sleep Schedule
Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning can be life-changing for those who suffer from sleep problems. This even applies on weekends – it will help your body to fall into a natural rhythm.
If you struggle to sleep for one night, you should continue to maintain the pattern. Get up at the usual time and try not to nap throughout the day. You should certainly feel tired enough to sleep at your regular scheduled time the next day.
You can monitor your activity with a sleep tracking device.
This medicinal herb is used all over the world to aid sleep and treat insomnia. It works as a mild sedative, which helps you to fall asleep and ensures you stay asleep for longer – perfect for those who have trouble making it through the night without waking up.
The chemicals which act as relaxants and sedatives are called valepotriates, and the highest concentration of these chemicals is found in the roots of the valerian. If you want to use this herb to overcome insomnia, all you’ll need is some dried valerian root and a cup of hot water.
Simply steep the dried root in the water for up to ten minutes, just as you would with loose leaf tea. Drink the herbal mixture around two hours before you go to bed. Relaxing chemicals will be released into your brain, producing a calming effect that will help you sleep. You can use this herbal tea every night with no adverse side effects.
The soothing aroma of lavender is renowned for its ability to help us relax. That’s why it’s used in so many cosmetic products like night creams and bath soaks.
Many people believe lavender has a sort of placebo effect – but a study at the University of Southampton proved otherwise. Researchers studied the sleeping patterns of ten adults for two weeks. Half the adults slept in a room with lavender essential oil diffused in the air – the other half slept in a room where sweet almond oil was diffused. They slept for a week in these rooms before swapping over. On average, the quality of sleep was 20% better when sleeping in the room with lavender oil.
To use lavender to help your sleep, you have plenty of options. A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow each night should help you drift off to sleep. A sachet of dried lavender under your pillow may also help. Pick up a lavender-scented moisturizer or cream and rub it into your hands and temples before you get in bed. You should notice better sleep quality and improved ability to fall asleep.
White Noise Machine
Many people find it hard to sleep because they live near a busy road, or in a flight path near an airport. Others discover that total silence is too oppressive for them – they need some background noise to help them drift off.
The answer to both of these issues is a white noise machine. These simple electronics play white noise or ambient sounds (falling rain, waves lapping the shore, rainforest noises) to help block out intrusive noises and provide pleasant background sound. You can program them to play all night long, or set them on a timer so that they switch off after a few hours when you should already be asleep.
If a white noise machine is out of your budget, you can also use an app or a track on your smartphone. Just make sure you switch off any blue light coming from your device or place it face down. The light can interrupt your sleep cycles and trick your body into thinking it’s time to wake up.
If you’re deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, you may find it harder to fall asleep. These include:
- B-Vitamins (B3, B5, B9, and B12 particularly). These vitamins have been linked to insomnia and fatigue.
- Vitamin A plays a substantial role in the brain’s healthy function, especially memory and sleep.
- Vitamins C and E. These are antioxidants, which are crucial for preventing oxidative stress from messing up your sleep pattern.
- Vitamin D – known as The Sunshine Vitamin. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause chronic fatigue and trouble sleeping. Make sure you’re exposing your skin to the sun for at least fifteen minutes a day, or take a supplement.
Suitable Sleep Space
Creating optimal conditions for sleep in your bedroom is important. There are many ways you can do this. Firstly, try to make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible. Invest in high-quality pillows that provide support for your head and neck, and make sure the mattress you buy offers the support you need for your back.
Next, try to ensure your room is at an appropriate temperature for sleep. You don’t want to aim for high temperatures, as cozy as it may feel – the National Sleep Foundation recommends a temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit for the best sleep.
Finally, block out all light. Invest in some blackout curtains to prevent any street lights or light pollution from getting into your bedroom. Cover up all LED displays – the standby button on your TV, for example, or the display on your alarm clock. Make sure your smartphone doesn’t beep or flash during the night. This can cause a disruption in your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
As well as these home remedies to help you get to sleep, here are some tips to ensure you’re getting the rest you need:
- Put on some socks. A study in 1999 seemed to confirm a correlation between cold extremities and the time it takes you to get to sleep. Keep your hands and feet warm to fall asleep more quickly.
- Power down an hour before you go to bed. Gadgets like tablets and smartphones can keep the brain overstimulated, and the blue light isn’t good for the body’s circadian rhythm.
- A few minutes of increased activity each day can help you get better sleep each night.
- Ensure the bedroom is for sleep only. Don’t work there, don’t exercise there, don’t study there, and don’t entertain there.
- Try deep breathing or meditation. A short session of guided breathing before bed can help you start to wind down.
As you can see, there are dozens of tips and tricks you can try in your quest for a better night’s sleep. Many of them can be tried in conjunction with each other – so, for example, you could take an Epsom salt bath, drop some lavender oil onto your pillow and enjoy a valerian root tea before you go to sleep, to see if the combination is helpful at all.
Most of these remedies and solutions are very cost-effective. Essential oils, Epsom salts, and warm milk are all very cheap. Vitamin supplements won’t break the bank, and even white noise machines can be found to suit all budgets. Give each of these methods a try to see which one works best for you, and enjoy a future with better quality sleep.