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Published on December 7, 2018

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 August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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