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9 Natural Remedies for Insomnia to Help You Achieve Quality Sleep

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

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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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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