5 Natural Sleep Aids
For years I spent the better half of the night reading, watching TV, going out dancing, sitting in a cafe chatting with friends, but sleeping? Nah, you can sleep when you're dead. At least that's what my mother always said when the first activity I wanted to undergo on vacation was a nap. Who wants to sleep on vacation? With so much to do and so much to see...
For me, it was't a matter of wanting to sleep; I was exhausted from my chronic insomnia. Those long nights were fun, but eventually the dark circles under my eyes caught up and I was stuck nursing the coffee pot.
When we realize how precious our sleep is, sometimes it’s too late. Records show that prescription sleep meds such as Ambien are often relied upon and abused. Unfortunately sleeping pills do not address the root cause of insomnia, and once you stop the medication, you are still left with the original problem.
Not to mention the list of side effects that read like a description for end of life.
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- abnormal or decreased touch sensation
- abnormal sensation of movement
- appetite disorder
- balance disorder
- binge eating
- bladder pain
- bloody or cloudy urine
- blurred vision
- burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
- change in hearing
- chest discomfort
- confusion about identity, place, and time
- continuous ringing, buzzing, or other unexplained noise in the ears
- daytime drowsiness
- difficult, burning, or painful urination
- difficulty with moving
- difficulty with swallowing
- double vision
- drugged feeling
- dry mouth
- eye redness
- false or unusual sense of well-being
- feeling of unreality
- feeling sad or empty
- frequent bowel movements
- frequent urge to urinate
- hearing loss
- hives or welts
- itching ears
- joint pain
- lack of appetite
- lack of feeling or emotion
- lack or loss of self-control
- lack or loss of strength
- longer or heavier menstrual periods
- loss of balance
- loss of interest or pleasure
- memory problems
- mood swings
- muscle aches, cramping, pain, or stiffness
- nightmares or unusual dreams
- redness of the skin
- redness or soreness of the throat
- sense of detachment from self or body
- slowing of mental and physical activity
- stuffy or runny nose
- swollen joints
- trouble concentrating
- vision changes
Once you understand that insomnia is a symptom and often a side effect, we can begin to address the root cause. Whether it’s high stress, extreme consumption of caffeine, over stimulation of screens late at night, high sugar consumption, side effects from medication or drugs, depression, or an unruly circadian rhythm, there is likely a reason for your disturbance.
Finding root problems is what I practice in one on one consultations. I investigate your symptoms, daily diet, and health history to help put the pieces together of your unique puzzle. I can tell you why these things are happening to you and how you can alleviate them naturally.
Until you uncover your root cause and learn how to resolve it, let’s look at 5 safe, natural alternatives to sleeping pills.
5 Natural Sleep Aids
Valerian is safe in tea form without side effects or contraindications. Valerian is known for its sedative effects and concentrated doses may slow down the processing of medications by the liver or increase the sedative effects of other medications so consult a practitioner before using a tincture or capsules.
Valerian is believed to increase GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for calming down anxiety and irritability. Try drinking the tea first or consult a practitioner who can recommend a dose appropriate for you.
Melatonin is a sleep inducing hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland. In a healthy circadian rhythm it is released at the end of the day when we are exposed to darkness. However, constant exposure to fluorescent lights, graveyard shifts, and abusing screen time late in the evenings can offset your melatonin production.
Unfortunately, taking melatonin has its risks. It is often in synthetic form and can interfere with the bodies own production of melatonin. I recommend you consider melatonin like a morning after pill. It is acceptable in rare occasions such as jet lag, illness or an occasional stressful event; otherwise work on increasing your own natural sources of melatonin with a dark room at night or an outdoor walk in the evening.
3. Coffea Cruda
Coffea Cruda is a homeopathic remedy that can be bought over the counter in a health food store. It is entirely botanical and has no side effects. Homeopathics work like vaccines except they are not harmful and full of toxins. They contain a minute amount of the stressor, that when ingested triggers an opposite response. For example if you have watery eyes, you take onion (allium cepa), which would make your eyes water, so a drying mechanism is activated.
Coffea cruda is the botanical of coffee and can work magic on someone who is experiencing restlessness. A typical dose is 5 tiny pebbles, dissolved under the tongue, before bed.
4. Warm milk
Laugh if you will, this traditional remedy packs a punch. Gently warm a mug of whole fat organic milk, sip it in a dark room and you may be lulled to sleep before you know it. Casein, the protein in milk, has morphine-like substances called casomorphines, that act like opiates when they enter the bloodstream.
I recommend starting here for a child. Not only will the opioid calm your child, but sipping a warm drink together creates a perfect bonding moment. Curl up on the couch and read a good book by a lamp.
5. Winding down
Most of us are racing around trying to complete projects, start new ones, get caught up at work, and tag our friends on our social networks at the end of our hectic day. Then we top it off with a few glasses of wine, (full of sugar) and maybe some ice cream or dark chocolate, both stimulants. These are the opposite of calming and it's no wonder why we can't sleep.
Adults are no different than children; it is important for us to find a bedtime routine that works. The sleep we get before midnight is twice as important as the sleep after, so try to set a bedtime before 12a. Make sure there is at least 2 hours before you head to bed as digestion can stymie sleep and avoid late night sugary snacks because the sugar will hyper-adrenalize your body.
A few of my favorite tried and true methods for winding down are reading a boring book, taking a warm bath with lavender essential oil, trading massages with a partner, drinking warm sleepy time tea with warm milk, and lying on a blanket outside to search for stars.
No matter what it is that helps you rest and relax, try to schedule it into your nightly routine. Did I forget a method that you swear by? Please share it in the comments below and help us find our dreamy slumber.