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9 Natural Remedies for Insomnia to Help You Achieve Quality Sleep

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9 Natural Remedies for Insomnia to Help You Achieve Quality Sleep

I’m sure you would agree that whenever you can take the natural root for something, you should go for it. The more you can keep things natural in your life, the better your overall health and wellness will be for it.

Insomnia is a condition that affects 60 million people[1] and probably yourself hence why you’re here checking this article out. You’re probably also interested in natural remedies for insomnia and we’re here to help you out!

What Exactly Insomnia Is

Insomnia essentially is the inability to fall, and stay, asleep. But it goes a bit deeper than that. Researchers are starting to recognize insomnia as as a problem of your brain unable to stop being awake.[2]

There are also a bunch of factors that may be involved in your inability to sleep including:

  • Psychiatric and medical conditions
  • Specific substances
  • Biological factors
  • Food (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, heavy meals late at night etc)
  • Depression and anxiety

Why Is Sleep so Important?

Sleep is when it all goes down. This is when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself. It’s also the time where your mind basically files everything that’s been happening in the day creating your memories.

Even though you’re asleep, your body springs into action when a ton of different processes that are critical to keeping you alive and healthy. But there’s a big problem when you don’t get enough sleep.

When you deprive yourself of sleep, you can elevate your stress hormones, primarily cortisol. Stress hormones are really important, they are involved in your fight of flight system. For our ancestors, that was needed for out running a saber tooth tiger. For us today, it helps us jump out of the way of a speeding car or plowing through the crowds at a Black Friday sale…

The Problem With Cortisol

So a little stress hormone is actually needed but when something like cortisol is constantly elevated over the long term, this is when you’re looking at trouble. Cortisol is raised by lack of sleep because your body thinks it must be facing some sort of trauma, or else why wouldn’t you be sleeping?

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Your body doesn’t know if you’re facing famine, environmental disaster or you’re just up all night watching a House Hunters marathon. All it knows is there must be some significant issue keeping you from sleeping and in turn it releases all this cortisol. Over time, this elevated stress hormone which is higher in insomniacs level, can lead to a lot of nasty problems such as:[3]

  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • IBS
  • Weight gain & obesity
  • Immune system dysfunction

13 Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Trust me, this is just scratching the surface. But hopefully you can see why you don’t want to deprive yourself of sleep. So now you’re understanding this, how do you deal with that dreaded insomnia? Let’s look at a few way:

1. Start Going to Bed Earlier

Seems pretty straight forward and simple, but you really need to make it a point to get going to bed at least an hour before you normally do.

You might feel that you may as well stay up late due to your insomnia but you have to give your body a fighting chance and that means starting to turn in earlier.

2. Create a Wind down Routine and Stick with It

Sleep experts say this is the most important thing for helping your body get to sleep. Your body craves routine and structure and the main thing with a routine at night is your body recognizes that sleep is about to happen.

So it may be a warm bath, then reading or writing in a journal and listening to some relaxing music. The main thing is with whatever routine you have stick with it and begin it at the same time each night.

3. Cut out the Electronics Later in the Evening

This may be at the root of a lot of people’s sleep problems including yours. Your electronics: phone, tablet and T.V etc give off a blue light that is really disruptive in the brain. Blue light throws off your circadian rhythm and prevents your brain from releasing melatonin which is really important with sleep.

When you use electronics and bright lights late at night, it’s like standing outside at noon on a bright sunny day according to your brain. Start to eliminate or reduce screen use 1 to 2 hours before you’re wanting to go to bed.

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4. Exercise

This is one of the best insomnia cures and it’s free, the best price anything can be!

People who exercise regularly report better sleep. It also doesn’t have to be that much even just 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a week can help to combat insomnia and improve sleep.

Exercising earlier in the morning also seems to help. When you exercise early, it helps to naturally engage your circadian rhythm and that in turn means your body will more naturally wind down later in the day helping you sleep.

5. Get Sunlight Earlier in the Day

This has the same effect as early morning exercise. The sun forces you to wake up and makes your body realize what time of day it is. It pumps out wake up hormones and allows your body clock to be engaged properly leading to better melatonin release later at night when you need it.

Basically daylight tells your body when to feel awake and when to feel tired.

6. Keep Your Room as Dark as Possible

These last few tips are all interconnected. Remember when I mentioned about your house springing to life with all the electronic light late at night? You want to combat this by keeping things as dark as possible.

Ideally, you’ve cut out light from screens an hour or so before bed; and now you want your bedroom as dark as possible. Since most people don’t go to bed when it gets dark out, keeping your room dark tells your body the day is done. Darkness also helps to secrete melatonin which it can’t do if there’s always blaring light coming through your eyes.

6. Watch out for the Caffeine

You’re aware of the effects of caffeine I’m sure, but you might not know it can last in the body a lot longer than you realize. The noticeable effects of caffeine kick in within 10 to 20 minutes and can last 2 to 3 hours.

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Caffeine has what’s called a ‘half-life’ which can extend its effects on your blood stream. There can still be an impact 6 or more hours later. So if you’re having a coffee at 4-5 pm, this may be why you can’t fall asleep at 11 pm that night.

You might have to play around with when you cut off caffeine, but ideally you wouldn’t have any past 2-3 pm.

7. Drink herbal tea

Chamomile Tea

While we’re talking about beverages, here are a few that can help combat insomnia. Chamomile tea has been used for relaxation for quite a long time now. It can help calm the nerves, combat anxiety and also works like a mild sedative.

Valerian Root

Similar to the chamomile, valerian has been used for a long time. It’s seen to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep. It might be something to discuss with your doctor as it may not be best to use in the long term even though it’s natural.

St. Johns Wort

You’ve probably seen this too as it’s in most health food shops and even grocery stores. St. Johns wort, even though it sounds like a great name for a band, is a flowering plant that can help with depression, anxiety, and insomnia — three things that tend to be connected a lot of the time.

You can find capsule forms but also fresh to make tea out of.

Passion Flower

Another natural sedative that’s technically a tropical flower. You can steep a teaspoon of it in boiling water for ten minutes to help with sleep.

California Poppy

This one you might not have heard of but it’s not the name of an exotic dancer.

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The bright orange leaves from California poppy can be steeped in hot water for about ten minutes and will help to combat anxiety along with making you feel relaxed.

8. Try a Warm Shower

Again, it’s about giving your body the signals that it’s time to sleep. A warm shower naturally helps to slow down and relax your nervous system and encourages you to feel sleepy.

You know how a warm shower in the morning can make you feel drowsy when you need to be waking up? You might want to forgo it then and start showering before bed.

9. Keep Your Room Cool

Your body temperature drops when you sleep and keeping a cool environment can encourage your body to get to sleep, and stay asleep, quicker.

You want your room between 60 to 72 degrees so you may have to play around with thermostat (that I’m still not allowed to touch) or keeping your windows open.

Basically, your sheets should feel cool to the touch when you lie down.

The Bottom Line

If you’re suffering from insomnia, realize that you are definitely not alone. It’s frustrating but can be managed. There are a lot of great natural remedies for insomnia to help get your body to sleep and stay asleep.

More Resources to Help You Sleep Better

Featured photo credit: Victor Hughes via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] National Public Radio: Can’t Sleep? Neither Can 60 Million Other Americans
[2] National Sleep Foundation: What Causes Insomnia?
[3] Sleep Med Clin.: Chronic Insomnia and Stress System

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Published on December 15, 2021

What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

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What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

Having quality nutrition every day is key to staying healthy and fit. Many people wonder if taking supplements is needed to supply their needs. The answer to this question lies in a lot of factors. Here’s the thing: there is no black and white approach when it comes to taking supplements, but if you’ve been wondering whether you need supplements or not, I will help clarify some of your concerns.

Sometimes, having too many options of supplements on the market can be overwhelming. If you’re still asking yourself what supplements to take, then keep reading.

What Supplements Should I Take?

When you reach for that bottle of vitamins or fish oil, for example, you wonder if any of these will work and if they are safe. Well, the main thing you should be asking yourself is if you need them in the first place. And the truth is, there are tons of supplements for different needs.

Our body requires all the necessary nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fat, and fiber every day. The best source for these nutrients is real food. Nothing beats having a balanced lifestyle that includes quality whole foods. But the reality is that most people are not meeting the minimum requirements of certain nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.

Even with fiber, people struggle to eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, for instance. That’s why you can see many symptoms like digestive issues and lack of energy.

Supplements come into the picture to help your body meet all the necessary nutrients. They also help avoid any deficiency. Supplements can even strengthen your body and enhance your metabolism. There are many benefits of taking supplements. The answer to whether you’ll need to take them depends on many other things.

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Should I Invest in Supplements?

Before I suggest a list of the types of supplements you should take, this is what you should bear in mind. Supplements are just an aid to a healthy eating lifestyle. In other words, you should always aim to eat healthier, vary your plate, and have enough whole foods in your diet. That is crucial to ensure that you are meeting at least the minimum nutrient requirements.

You shouldn’t invest in supplements to get your main nutrition. Always focus on quality foods before you supplement your diet. Now, supplements can reinforce what you’re lacking in your eating lifestyle. Because of that, I love to always have some sort of multivitamin complex.

In general, if you have a proper eating lifestyle, it’s not mandatory to invest in supplements. However, there are specific cases, for example, pregnant women, in which we recommend taking supplements. Always make sure that you check with your doctor or nutritionist before taking any form of supplement.

Why Do I Need Supplements? Which Ones Are Important?

Below are the most common reasons why you may need to take supplements and which ones you should try.

1. Restricting Eating Lifestyles

As a nutritionist, I rarely recommend anyone going through a restrictive diet. In fact, I discourage it altogether. The best thing is that you embrace a balanced eating lifestyle since this is the way to ensure you stay at a healthy weight and have a good metabolism. That’s the reason why I don’t like removing entire food groups from people’s diets.

However, I also understand diverse eating lifestyles. For example, there is a vast majority of people that are actively changing to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re a raw vegan or strictly plant-based, you may need to supplement certain vitamins. Because animal foods like dairy, certain meats, and poultry have essential vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, and folic acid, then you may have less intake of these in plant-based foods. There is much debate in this area related to plant-based diets, but basically, experts recommend taking supplements.

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As I said about restrictive diets, eliminating entire food groups can cause you to suffer certain problems like lack of energy, constipation, less muscle, and lower brain function.[1] Before you try any type of diet out there, make sure you have a better relationship with food and check with a health professional. Overall, a good multivitamin complex should be good enough to supply all your needs. Go for the ones that provide vitamin B complex and minerals like iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

2. Reinforcing Nutrient Intake

It’s true that eating the right foods is essential for your body. Apart from that, certain processed foods, like dairy, cereals, and others are fortified with certain vitamins and minerals. Take advantage of these types of healthy foods as well.

If you feel like you could lack a certain nutrient, then taking multivitamins is a good option. Not only because it will help you meet your goals, but it will also ensure that your body has more energy and better performance. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with taking a supplement to reinforce your healthy eating lifestyle. Apart from multivitamins, you could also take fiber supplements in case you struggle with digestive issues or you feel like you’re not eating enough plant-based foods.

3. Special Conditions

There are certain cases or stages in life when you may need to take supplements. For instance, pregnant women require higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, like iron and folic acid.[2] Elderly people should also consume some supplements since their body absorbs less nutrients compared to younger people.[3] That’s why certain protein drinks, multivitamins, and omega-3 are prescribed to this age group. Also, people who have certain chronic health problems or underwent surgery may need supplements.

Women going through menopause are also often required to take supplements.[4] If you belong to this age group, you may need to talk to your doctor about supplements to balance off your hormone levels. Remember that not all supplements are made equally, and some ingredients may have side effects. This is especially true if you’re on prescriptions. Always check first.

4. Fitness Goals

Who doesn’t want to boost their fitness results? People that train at the gym often ask if they need to have protein supplements. It all goes down to the basics: eat healthily and put that as a priority. However, you can also take supplements based on your goals.

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Whether you want to burn some fat, build muscle, or are an athlete, supplements can reinforce and speed up your results. But here’s the thing: you should always do it the right way and not rely only on supplements for fitness results. Everything goes hand in hand, and it’s a matter of balance and moderation.

Now, here are some supplements you can take to improve your muscle performance, growth, and fat burn:[5]

  • Whey protein
  • L-glutamine
  • Branch chain amino acids
  • Multi-vitamin complex and fish oil
  • MCT oil

These supplements, coupled with a good diet, help provide steady muscle development, shed fat, and keep a healthy metabolism for better results. You have to be active to see their benefits, though. This will ensure your body is using up the nutrients effectively and not stored as fat.

There are some other great supplements made to boost energy levels and increase muscle efficiency. Here are some examples:[6]

  • Guaraná
  • Gingko biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Creatine
  • Citrulline

These are natural energy boosters. Caffeine also does a good job when it comes to improving your energy levels. These supplements should be a compliment to a healthy diet, or if you struggle with low energy performance when working out.

Speaking of energy, sometimes, simple lifestyle habits like sleeping better can make a huge difference in how you feel. So, make sure you are also working on these other areas of your life and not relying exclusively on supplements.

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5. Beauty and Self-Care

You can also find supplements for personal care. Some help to enhance your skin health, others are for hair and nails growth.

For example, collagen and multivitamins are commonly used for beauty and skincare. Because collagen is our skin’s main protein, we need to ensure our body has enough to stay glowing and healthy. Collagen also has powerful effects on skin beauty and anti-aging. You can easily add this protein to your drinks and foods to enhance your own skin’s collagen.[7]

If you didn’t know, adding collagen to your regimen after you’re 25 can help slow down the effects of aging. At that age, our skin produces less collagen, and we lose skin elasticity. Therefore, it’s a nice addition to your supplements and skincare routine.

Final Thoughts

You should always aim to have a healthy eating regimen before thinking about what supplements you need. Second, assess what are your lifestyle and health goals. Also, determine if your health and/or fitness condition requires you to add supplements.

Remember that your objective is to get enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If your diet lacks any of these, look for an assessment on how to get these nutrients.

More Tips on Taking Supplements

Featured photo credit: Mika Baumeister via unsplash.com

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Reference

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