Are you having trouble getting quality sleep? Are you sleeping enough? Many of us don’t get a solid night’s sleep on a consistent basis, nor do we get the 7 to 8 hours that is recommended. Would you like to change that scenario? Well, we have some great suggestions for you, and all of them are natural! So get ready to enjoy restful sleep!
Why you need to sleep
Although we realize we need sleep, many of us push the envelope. Whether it’s because we try to cram too much into our day, we party a bit too much, our workload is overwhelming, or we just can’t relax enough at the end of the day, a lack of sufficient sleep is all too common.
In fact, 60 percent of adults say they experience sleep problems at least a few nights every week. On top of that, more than 40 percent of adults are so sleepy during the day, it interferes with their daily activities at least a few times a month.
Yet your body needs quality sleep because:
- It helps your brain process new information to your memory.
- It helps you with weight control. If you are chronically sleep-deprived, you may gain weight because lack of sleep affects how your body processes and stores carbs and changes how your hormones affect appetite.
- It helps you stay alert. Without enough sleep, you may fall asleep during the day, which may result in falls, vehicle and machinery accidents, and medical errors.
- It changes how your immune system functions, which can weaken your resistance to disease.
- It can cause you to be irritable, impatient, moody, and aggressive.
- It has a negative impact on your heart health, as it can raise your stress hormone levels and blood pressure as well as trigger an irregular heartbeat.
Let’s manage sleep problems naturally
Fortunately, there are numerous natural ingredients that can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up more refreshed. In fact, there are so many natural options, we didn’t have room for all of them, but here are ones worth knowing about.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): This ayurvedic herb may reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as improve cognitive function and memory.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): Similar to Rhodiola rosea, astragalus is an adaptogen, so it has an ability to fight off stress. This quality makes this herb a plus as a natural sleep aid.
Catnip: Fortunately people are not cats, so this herb actually helps calm us rather than trigger excitement.
Chamomile: This herb is one of the most popular natural sleep aids. It can be such a big help with sleep because it helps increase levels of glycine, an amino acid that has mild sedative properties and can relax muscles and nerves. [Editor's note: We love Chamomile tea from Bigelow Tea in the evenings to help calm us.]
Chinese jujube (Ziziphus jujube): These berries contain two types of phytochemicals that impact neurotransmitters, including GABA and serotonin, which help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. They also contain spinosin, which seems to trigger sleepiness.
D-ribose: According to a study of individuals with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome responded well to D-ribose three times daily for three weeks. Nearly one-third showed an improvement in sleep and more than a third experienced an increase in overall well-being.
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuflorum): Also known as tulsi, this herb may lower cortisol, which in turn can help reduce anxiety and stress. One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that holy basil relieved fatigue and sleep problems.
Hops: Hops have sedative qualities that can help boost sleep time and support the body’s natural biorhythms. It also can lower body temperature, which is helpful for falling asleep.
Inositol: This carbohydrate can have an impact on serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain, and therefore may have a calming effect.
L-theanine: Found in green tea, L-theanine is an amino acid that can boost alpha brain-wave frequency, which in turn reduces anxiety. It accomplishes this by stimulating production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical that blocks factors that contribute to stress.
Magnesium: This mineral is known for its calming effect, which is why eating foods high in magnesium before bedtime, such as cashews, almonds, coconut water, and bananas, is often suggested. An effective form of supplement is magnesium bisglycinate, which helps the nervous system.
Magnolia (Magnolia officinalis): The bark of the magnolia tree has an ability to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It also acts as a sedative, which promotes sleep. One reason for these effects is that magnolia boosts GABA, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect.
Melatonin: This hormone, available in supplement form, is known for its ability to aid in regulating sleep cycles.
Oats (Avena sativa): Do you like oatmeal? Then perhaps you should have it before you go to bed. Research shows oats have a balancing effect on the brain and can improve sleep duration and quality.
Passionflower: This herb is similar to chamomile in calming qualities. It helps the production of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which suppresses too much brain activity that can keep you awake.
Phellodendron (Phellodendron amurense) bark: This is a traditional remedy for relieving stress and anxiety. Modern supplements are intended to help induce sleep and relaxation.
Qiye Shen’an Pian: This Chinese herb provides the body with isolates that may help manage anxiety and insomnia.
Rhodiola rosea (Rhodiola rosea): This cold-weather herb is an adaptogen, which means it has an ability to adjust to the body’s needs. The anti-stress qualities of Rhodiola rosea can help with sleep disturbances, problems with concentration, and decreased memory.
Skullcap: This herb supports the nervous system function and aids sleep.
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, biotin: These B vitamins may help you achieve restful sleep because they have a role in regulating tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body make melatonin.
Nature has provided us with a wealth of natural sleep aids. If you are experiencing difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or not feeling rested, supplements containing these natural ingredients may be the answers you’re looking for. You also should establish regular times for going to bed and getting up, avoid exposure to electronic devices for at least 60 minutes before retiring, and practice other healthy pre-bedtime habits to help you get a good night’s sleep every night.
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