We all know that sleep is an important component for maintaining good health. Poor sleep has been linked to health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and anxiety and depression. Quality sleep is especially crucial for those of us with autoimmune disease, or anyone healing from a chronic health condition. As a self-proclaimed “insomniac,” I’ve worked hard to find methods that help me achieve better sleep, so I’m excited to share these natural sleep aids with you!
I’m sure you’ve been there before: lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, but it’s just not happening. You toss and turn, and as the minutes pass, you become more and more painfully aware that you’re still not falling asleep. That adds on to whatever anxiety you might have been experiencing in the first place, and now you’ve started a vicious cycle of anxiety and insomnia.
I know this pattern all too well. It doesn’t happen every night, but I definitely go through phases where I have trouble sleeping. Yes, I’ve even used medication, but some meds have undesirable side effects, leave you groggy in the morning, or may not work at all. It’s times like these when I turn to my favorite natural sleep aids to help me enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Of course, it’s important to consult your doctor if you’re having chronic sleeping problems to rule out any serious health conditions, such as sleep apnea. That being said, if your struggle with sleeping seems to be an occasional challenge or unrelated to a serious health condition, there are some home remedies that can help. I’ve tried many sleep remedies, but the following are the natural sleep aids that have helped me the most. Sometimes I find success with just one of them, and sometimes I have to use all five. Many of these steps have also helped me reduce the frequency and severity of my migraines (yay!).
So here are my five favorite natural sleep aids (spoiler alert: #3 is probably my favorite!).
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5 Natural Sleep Aids
1. Magnesium Supplementation
Magnesium deficiency can lead to a wide array of health ailments, and it’s believed that many of us are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is critical for optimal health and can play a large role in encouraging better sleep. I have increased my magnesium intake and have noticed an improvement in my sleep (as well as reducing the frequency of my migraines). While I do take a daily magnesium supplement, I also use magnesium oil and magnesium lotion topically, since topical applications can often be more effective than oral supplementation (particularly for those that may not absorb magnesium well). One can also get a healthy dose of topical magnesium by taking epsom salt baths before bed. If you do decide to take oral magnesium supplements, remember that most forms of magnesium have a laxative effect. I personally choose to take magnesium glycinate because it does not have the laxative effect that other versions of magnesium do.
(Please remember to consult a medical professional before starting any supplementation, especially if you have a medical condition. The information here is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor.)
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang, and frankincense, can be helpful in managing stress and anxiety and helping the body relax prior to bedtime. I like to apply lavender oil topically to the bottoms of my feet and my hands and/or dab a few drops on my pillow. I also like to diffuse a relaxing essential oil blend in an aromatic diffuser near my bed. A warm epsom salt bath at bedtime with a few drops of lavender is also a great way to relax and prep your body for a good night’s sleep.
3. Eye Mask
I’ve found that even the smallest amount of stimuli can affect my ability (or inability) to sleep. Who knew that the smallest amount of light while sleeping can make a huge difference in one’s quality of sleep? It may seem like a pain the you-know-what, but wearing an eye mask has drastically changed my sleep patterns for the better. I tend to fall asleep much faster, and I no longer wake up early with my famous morning migraines. Even though my bedroom is fairly dark, we don’t have blackout curtains, so some light still gets through. My eye mask solves this issue. Of all these natural sleep aids, my eye mask has provided the most dramatic improvement in my ability to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
Speaking of external stimuli, I also have the issue of being sensitive to every single noise I hear when the our home is quiet. Even the quietest sound of breathing can become magnified in my mind, and then that’s all I can focus on! With a large dog that snores (I’m looking at you, Spencer!), I often have to pop in a pair of ear plugs to be able to fall asleep.
That being said, ear plugs may not be the best option for everyone (like for parents who have to keep an ear out for small kids, for example). But if you’re a light sleeper, they may help tune out background noise just long enough for one to fall asleep (I usually pull them out by morning time anyway!).
4. Deep Breathing (4-7-8 Breathing Exercise)
Deep breathing helps calm and relax the body naturally and almost instantly. In particular, I like the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, which basically involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. While it can be used at any time of the day and is typically meant to be done in a seated position, I find it especially helpful at bedtime, and I often do the breathing while lying in bed. For me, it works either way. After a minimum of three rounds of this breathing exercise, I feel notably more relaxed.
5. Limiting Blue Light Exposure at Night
Many studies show that exposure to any kind of light at night can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, which in turn, affects sleep quality. Blue light (which is emitted from computer, tablet, smart phone, and television screens) is found to be particularly harmful. Scientists recommend avoiding exposure to blue light devices 1-2 hours before bedtime. If you do have to look at your devices, dimming the screen might help. Since I like to watch TV late at night, I’ve been wearing these blue light-blocking glasses. (Not only do they help block the blue light coming from the television, but they also look really cool. 😉)
What natural sleep aids have helped you sleep better? Please comment and share!