We all know that sleep is important. Our bodies need to rest, relax, recharge and repair and this all happens when we sleep. It’s not just the hours that you spend in bed that matter however, one needs a proper good night’s rest. The best kind of sleep is when you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, and this is the type of sleep that is necessary for good, balanced health.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is when your sleep is unsatisfactory. If you suffer from any of the below, you most likely suffer from insomnia:
- Having a hard time falling asleep
- Difficulty in maintaining sleep
- Waking up too early
- Poor quality, non-restorative sleep
There are many different reasons why one may suffer from insomnia, such as environmental changes like new places or a new bed, anxiety, discomfort from pain, and drugs (some drugs can hinder normal sleep).
The remedies we list here can help but it’s important for you to make changes to areas in your life that have played a role in affecting your sleep quality, to get the best results as sleep is often a reflection of a person’s emotional, mental, physical and spiritual self.
There are general dietary changes you can make to get better sleep, such as:
- Avoiding all forms of caffeine – this includes some soft drinks and dark chocolate.
- Avoiding alcohol as it can affect quality of sleep.
- Eating light dinners that are easy to digest .
- Avoiding sugar, especially close to bedtime, as it’s a stimulant.
- Eliminating foods that you are allergic to as these can cause sleep aggravation.
- Eating protein-rich foods that are high in tryptophan (an amino acid that plays an important role in regulating sleep) for dinner. Some foods that are high in tryptophan are: halibut, salmon, almonds, pumpkin seeds, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, kidney beans and oats.
5 natural ways to improve your sleep
Magnesium is a relaxant so it will ease anxiety and stress and also any muscle tensions, some of the possible causes of insomnia. More importantly though, magnesium is required for the body to make serotonin, an important brain chemical that regulates sleep. If you are lacking in magnesium, you won’t be able to make enough serotonin and your sleep will suffer as a result.
Supplement with magnesium 250 – 750mg/day in divided doses.
2- B vitamins
B vitamins play many roles in the regulation of sleep. They are required by the body to manufacture serotonin. If we don’t get enough B vitamins, especially B3 (niacinamide) and B6 (pyridoxine), our body is unable to make serotonin. The resulting decrease in serotonin leads to sleep problems.
On top of being involved in the making of serotonin, the B vitamins are important for stress (stress can cause insomnia), as they help our body to convert food into fuel, providing us with the energy to support our body in times of stress.
Take a B complex supplement containing all of the B vitamins, preferably in their activated form.
3- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
It’s a popular herb for treating sleep disorders due to valerian’s sedative properties that relaxes the nervous system, alleviates pain, tension and anxiety and also induces sleep. It will help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep.
Randomised placebo controlled trials assessing the efficacy of valerian, undertaken by Fernandez-San-Martin, found a significant improvement in quality of sleep. A study by Schultz et al also showed positive results.
However, there are some studies that did not produce favourable results and in one randomised trial involving older women with insomnia, valerian worsened their sleep problem. In some people, valerian can increase nightime wakefulness.
Valerian should be taken under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner.
4- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower is useful for insomnia that occurs due to an over-active mind, restlessness or anxiety as this herb is calming and hypnotic; inducing sleep.
An Australian study found that sleep quality was significantly improved with one cup of passionflower tea when compared to a placebo, but it had no effect on the time it took to fall asleep.
Have a cup of passionflower tea at night to help you sleep. Best to take one hour before sleep to help you wind down. Steep 1 teaspoon of the dried herb in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, strain and allow to cool slightly before drinking.
5- Warm bath
Having a warm bath before bed increases sleepiness at bedtime, as observed by a study done by Horne et al which involved six volunteers sitting in baths of warm or cool water. Changes in their sleep parameters were monitored and those in warm baths had significant improvement in sleep parameters.
Take a hot bath in the evening. Add epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) and a few drops of lavender essential oil to the bath to further relax and de-stress you, prepping you for a good night’s sleep.
So if you’re suffering from insomnia, try some of the natural remedies above instead of reaching for those sleeping pills. They may just surprise you by giving you the best sleep that you’ve had in a long time. Let us know if they work for you!