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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

15 Natural Insomnia Cures That You Haven’t Tried But Actually Work

15 Natural Insomnia Cures That You Haven’t Tried But Actually Work

It’s been another sleepless night and now you’re miserable. After all, you’ve tried all the natural insomnia cures you can think of and yet nothing seems to work.

You’ve tried cutting out out alcohol and caffeine.

You’ve tried setting a regular bedtime routine and avoiding naps during the day.

You’ve ever tried getting a brand new bed and luxurious new pillows so that you can be as comfortable.

Yet there you are, still tossing and turning night after night.

But don’t despair too soon.

Just because you haven’t yet found a way to cure your insomnia without medication that doesn’t mean you never will.

Today, we look at a number of natural insomnia cures that have proven to be effective time and time again.

Not only that, but they work with none of the side effects or negative consequences that typically come with prescription sleep aids.

Ready to finally enjoy a peaceful night’s rest?

Here are some natural sleep remedies you can try to help you start sleeping better from tonight onwards.

1. Get the right amount of exercise at the right time

Time and time again, studies show that people who exercise on a regular basis enjoy much better sleep quality than those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Just before you let out a large groan and drag yourself wearily to the gym, there is some good news:

Getting exercise doesn’t have to mean running a marathon every day or spending every waking hour lifting weights.

Most experts recommend that moderate aerobic exercise such as walking or even an easy bike ride can do just as much -if not more- good for your sleep than strenuous exercise.

So far, so good, but that mean getting the bike out or doing push-ups just before you hit the sack?

Not exactly.

To benefit the most from exercise, schedule it for earlier in the day.

Mornings are always best, but afternoons will work in cases where that’s not possible.

If you leave aerobic exercise too late in the day, it’s likely that all the adrenalin you built up will linger on and still be there at bedtime.

The result, of course, is that when you’re trying to sleep, your brain and body are still pretty wired from the exercise and thus insomnia strikes.

The earlier you do it, the more chance the adrenalin has to wear off, leaving you feeling perfectly sleepy and ready for a long night’s rest.

2. Manage your exposure to light and dark

Here’s another good reason for taking your exercise early in the day rather than late at night:

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Exposure to natural daylight can significantly increase our energy through the day and help us sleep better at night.

So, wherever possible, it’s a good idea to get your exercise outdoors and get double the benefits you get from it.

Here’s why:

Light and dark influence the body’s circadian system which regulates our sleep.

Get plenty of light early on, and we have plenty of energy to burn off during the day, which leaves our body ready for a natural period of rest later on at night.

However, if we then stay up well into the evening in bright environments, say with the light bulb on, the television on and your smartphone screen emitting light, that could mess with the circadian signals that tell the body it’s time to rest.

With that in mind, aim for as much daylight as you can and then reduce artificial lighting as the day comes to an end to improve the chances of finally beating that insomnia.

3. Enjoy a long soak

Is there anything more enjoyable than a long, relaxing soak in the bathtub after a long and stressful day?

How about a long, relaxing soak followed by an even longer, peaceful night’s sleep?

Researchers at Kyushu University in Japan found that exposure to warm water can make us feel sleepier, thus making it much easier to fall asleep properly.[1]

Again, this has a lot to do with our circadian system, which is very sensitive to body temperature.

When we start to cool down after a bath, it causes our circadian rhythm to signal to the body that it’s time to prepare for our rest. Our body responds by slowing down our heart rate and our breathing rate, putting us into the perfect state for a good night’s sleep.

It doesn’t have to be a soak in the bathtub either. The Kyushu University study found that a shower, or even a footbath, could help make us sleepier.

4. Drink chamomile tea

Of all the natural insomnia cures on our list today, this one is no doubt the tastiest.

Perfectly safe and usually delicious, chamomile is often referred to as a mild type of tranquillizer, and its effectiveness as a remedy for insomnia has been proven time and time again.

In 2011, a study was conducted involving people dealing with chronic insomnia. Those who were given 270 mg of chamomile extract twice a day for 28 days were found to fall asleep 15 minutes than those who didn’t have any chamomile extract.[2]

That’s just one of many studies conducted over the years which shows what a powerful remedy chamomile can be.

One of the reasons for this is that it contains plentiful amounts of Apigenin, an antioxidant which can reduce anxiety and help us drift off faster. Once our eyes are closed, chamomile’s other components get to work on ensuring we stay well rested through the night.

If you’re not a fan of drinking chamomile as a tea, you can also get it as an extract from most health stores.

5. Practice meditation or breathing exercises

For many people, it’s anxiety, worry or racing thoughts that keep them up at night.

Often, this can even be at a subconscious level. We go to bed fully expecting to sleep, only to find that the stress and anxiety that we’ve built up throughout the day leaves us too wired to rest.

This is where meditation or simple breathing exercises can really help out.

Focusing on our breathing and practicing mindfulness meditation makes us feel relaxed, alleviating stress, depression, and even physical pain.

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Like many of the insomnia cures we’re looking at today, this is one you can start using right now without spending any money.

The web is a great place to turn for scores of tools to help with meditation and breathing. Take a look online and see try different ones to see which work best for you.

You can also try this meditation guide: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

Or these breathing exercises: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

6. Try valerian root

If chamomile wasn’t to your liking, good old-fashioned valerian might do just the thing.

A mild sedative, valerian root has been one of the most widely used insomnia cures for centuries, with recorded uses dating all the way back to Hippocrates in the 2nd century.

Not only that, but it also proves incredibly effective to help alleviate nerves, tension and anxiety.

In fact, back in World War 2, the English would regularly use it to alleviate the stress caused by air raids.

We may live in less frightening times today, but valerian is no less effective than it was back then.

In a study published back in the late 1980s by the Foellinger Health Center in Sweden, some 89% of those taking part improved their sleep after taking it, all without any of the side effects typically caused by prescription medication.[3]

Though dried valerian root is often sold as a tea, it’s also widely available in capsule or liquid form.

7. Use lavender

To anyone familiar with lavender’s calming properties, it’s inclusion on our list today should come as no surprise.

Whether used in a bath, applied to your skin as an oil or inhaled as steam, few plants can help you relax in as many ways as lavender.

As well as providing you with lots of good stuff like vitamin A, calcium, and iron, lavender is often used to reduce anxiety, fatigue and nervousness.

Naturally then, it also works very well as a natural insomnia cure, helping to lower the heart rate and breathing rate so that you can achieve optimum sleep conditions faster than usual.

As well as all the methods listed above, lavender can also be added to foods and eaten or drank as a tea.

8. Turn on some soothing sounds

Remember when you were little, your parents helped send you off to dreamland by singing a gentle lullaby?

There’s a reason so many parents do this with their children:

It works.

When the brain hears a sound, its first action is to asses whether that sound represents a threat. For example, the slow, repetitive pattern of rainfall is simple, predictable and gently persistent, meaning our brains are unlikely to see it as a problem.

A loud, sharp, noise going off at random intervals, however, can be quite alarming, and signal to the brain that there’s danger.

So, if we surround ourselves with gentle, repetitive, low-frequency sounds when we go to bed, our brains are going to be in a much more relaxed state.

It’s for this reason that so many people struggling to find a natural cure for insomnia turn to white noise machines.

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These handy little devices block out the kind of background noises that are likely to keep them awake and instead replace them with calming sounds that help with inducing sleep.

That being said, the same sounds don’t necessarily work for everyone.

So, if you’ve tried a white noise machine (or used one of the many white noise apps available for your phone) and found that it doesn’t work, there’s plenty of other sounds you can try.

Rainfall, ocean waves, thunderstorms, crackling fires, the list goes on.

Try out different sleep sound apps or download sounds to your devices and see which one works best for you.

9. Enjoy a little passionflower

For years, passionflower tea has been used as a natural cure for insomnia, anxiety and stress.

If that alone isn’t enough to make it worth a try in your efforts to finally reclaim your sleep, this will. It tastes delightful.

Typically found in southern parts of the United States and in South America, this tropical plant comes from the same family that gives us the passion fruit, so you can imagine how delicious it is.

In this instance, the plant’s leaves, flowers and stems are dried and used to create a tea that has natural relaxing properties.

In one study conducted in 2013, a combination of passionflower and valerian was proven to be just as effective at improving sleep quality as Ambien, a prescription medication used for curing insomnia.

10. Try journaling before bedtime

If it’s worrying thoughts that are keeping you up at night, you might find journalling incredibly helpful.

Rather than giving you more things to dwell on as your head hits the pillow, writing in a journal actually allows you to effectively dump all those thoughts out, lock them away in a book and forget about them.

The act of taking worries, stresses and anxieties from within us and physically putting them down on paper can be very powerful. The effect is literally like taking a weight off your mind.

As such, you’re left feeling lighter, more relaxed, and ready to rest.

11. Use melatonin supplements

Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. It’s produced naturally according to our exposure to light and dark, which is why managing that exposure ranked so highly earlier in our list.

The more sunlight we get through natural sunlight, the more melatonin we’re able to produce once we’re in a properly darkened place, such as in our bedrooms with the curtains drawn, the lights off, and our devices switched off.

If we’re still not getting enough sunlight, the body will struggle to make enough once we’re in that darkened bedroom.

Conversely, if we spend all our nights in brightly-lit bedrooms with the lights blazing, our bodies won’t have the exposure to darkness that they need to produce the right amount.

If you think a melatonin deficiency could be the cause of your sleepless nights, you can buy supplements that help your body get just the right amount to regulate your sleep-wake cycle properly.

The result, of course, is that you feel sleepy when it’s the right time to feel sleepy and ultimately enjoy a much better rest.

12. Buy some lemon balm

A 2011 study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that people who use a 600 mg of lemon balm extract every day for 15 days saw a 42% reduction in insomnia symptoms.[4]

Of course, while we’d all like a 100% reduction in our symptoms, using lemon balm in conjunction with some of the other remedies we’ve mentioned today can work wonders.

Lemon balm extract is normally used in aromatherapy for its soothing properties. You can buy lemon balm extract oil and put a little in an oil burner before using it as a massage oil or dropping a little in your bath to help wash away the stress of the day.

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13. Enjoy a simple cup of warm milk and honey

It’s sometimes said that the only reason warm milk helps us to sleep is that it reminds us of our childhood.

For some people, that in itself may be enough, but milk does much more than bring back warm, cozy memories.

It also contains plenty of tryptophan, which converts into the hormone serotonin. Serotonin acts as a natural sedative and helps induce sleep.

So why include the honey?

Well, for one thing, it makes that warm milk taste that much nicer. For another, it helps carry the serotonin to our brains much quicker, reducing the amount of time it takes for us to get into an optimum sleep state.

You can also drink it as a tea just before bedtime to help ease away anxiety and relax into the perfect conditions for quality sleep.

14. Attend a yoga class

Whilst much of yoga’s increasing popularity is down to its physical benefits, it can also prove incredibly helpful in getting you to sleep.

How?

By reducing stress.

Even at a subconcious level, stress is one of the major causes of insomnia, so anything you can do to reduce it is only going to work in your favour.

If the thought of attending a yoga class with other people fills you with more anxiety than it relieves, there’s nothing to say you can’t do it at home.

YouTube videos or DVDs can teach you the basics, and that can be more than enough to leave you with the kind of calm, easy feelings you need to finally banish your insomnia.

You can also take a look at this article for some simple yoga poses:

No More Insomnia: 5 Simple Yoga Poses For Better Sleep

15. Snack on almonds and bananas

Finally, if you prefer to take in your tryptophan by eating something rather than drinking milk and honey, then these foods are the way to go.

Almonds and bananas contain plenty of sleep-inducing tryptophan as well as magnesium. A lack of magnesium can cause sleep problems, as can calcium, which can be found in almonds as well as milk.

Bananas are also a great source of potassium, which proves very useful for muscle relaxation.

Finding natural cures for insomnia that really work for you

From delicious things to eat and drink to tips, tricks and techniques to try, we’ve covered a whole range of effective insomnia cures here.

Whilst any one of them alone might be just the thing to help you sleep, you might find that combining a number of them produces the best results.

You might, for example, try a light jog in the mornings, then take a warm bath at night before dimming the lights, sipping chamomile tea and finally retiring to a darkened room with your favourite white noise sounds.

Experiment with the different remedies featured here today and you’ll soon find an approach that finally helps you to make sleepless nights a thing of the past.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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Last Updated on April 26, 2021

6 Health Benefits Of Probiotics (Backed By Science)

6 Health Benefits Of Probiotics (Backed By Science)

Probiotics are often touted as an important component of our daily health regime—and for good reason. There are hundreds of probiotic brands on the market, and many more websites and blogs dedicated to the benefits of probiotics on the internet. But how much do you really know about probiotics and their benefits?

Scientific studies have provided evidence for many of the benefits of probiotics that you have probably already read about. The important thing to know is which benefits are real and which are not! It’s also important to understand that there are many different strains of probiotics, and each strain performs different roles within the body.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live within your intestines. They play a huge variety of important roles in many bodily processes. They help with digesting food, absorbing nutrients, reducing inflammation, producing hormones, and much more.[1] They’re also important for energy production, immune function, healthy detoxification, and proper digestion.

You can get your probiotic bacteria from supplements or food. Popular probiotic foods include sauerkraut, probiotic yogurt, and kefir, but there are many more.[2]

Let’s look at the six most popular health benefits of probiotics and the evidence for each.

1. Give You Energy

Yes! The billions of microbes residing in your gut play a vital role in breaking down the food you eat and absorbing the nutrients within.

Probiotics break down the food you eat into energy-boosting B vitamins. These B vitamins play important roles in releasing energy from carbohydrates and fat, as well as breaking down amino acids and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body.[3]

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Each B vitamin plays an important role in producing energy.

  • Vitamin B1 is involved with the cellular production of energy as part of glucose metabolism. It also helps convert carbohydrates to fat, which can be stored until needed.
  • Vitamin B2 is a building block for two coenzymes that help carry hydrogen, which is used to create ATP when carbohydrates and fats are metabolized.
  • Vitamin B3 is involved with two coenzymes that play a key role in glycolysis in which energy is created from carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Vitamin B5 is also part of the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates and fats to create energy.
  • Vitamin B6 aids the release of glycogen from the liver and muscles so your body can use it for energy.

The strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium assist with the absorption of minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese, which are crucial for energy production.

Research has also shown that some Lactobacillus strains help to produce vitamin K, which is important for producing prothrombin, a protein that plays a crucial role in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and heart health. Vitamin K also assists with energy production within the mitochondria.[4]

2. Help With Constipation

Yes! Although the exact mechanisms of probiotics are not fully understood, there are several ways in which probiotics are thought to help prevent and alleviate constipation.

First of all, it’s important to know that intestinal bacteria not only affect the motility of the gut but are also involved in the function of the enteric nervous system (ENS). A slow bowel transit time often occurs due to poor gut motility, particularly in the large intestine, which is also linked to abnormalities of the enteric nerves.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) can also help with constipation. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli assist in the production of SCFAs by fermenting carbohydrates in the gut.[5] These SCFAs can improve the motility of the digestive tract by stimulating neural receptors in the gut wall smooth muscle, stimulating peristalsis. Probiotics have also been suggested to increase levels of serotonin, an excitatory neurotransmitter that also improves peristalsis.

Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli also help to increase the breakdown of bile salts in the gut, which are important for fat digestion, peristalsis, and intestinal motility.

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Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that Bifidobacteria were especially effective in increasing the number of weekly bowel movements and helping to soften stools, which makes them easier to pass.[6] Other research suggests that using a supplement containing multiple strains of probiotics is also effective in treating constipation.[7]

3. Help You Lose Weight

Although there is no such thing as a “magic pill” that makes you lose weight, it’s now well-established that gut health plays a major role in healthy weight management.

Scientists now know that the composition of your gut microbiota can influence the way your body breaks down carbohydrates in your food, as well as how it uses and stores energy. Moreover, slim people tend to have different species of bacteria in their gut compared to people who are overweight or obese.

Research has also shown that when obese people lose weight, the diversity of their gut microbiome changes and becomes more like that of slim people.[8] These findings have led scientists to believe that gut bacteria not only affect the way you store fat but also the balance of glucose in your blood and how you respond to hormones that make you feel hungry or satisfied. An imbalance of these microbes can help set the stage for obesity and diabetes throughout life.

Two specific strains have been linked to lower body weight: Akkermansia muciniphila and Christensenella minuta. These strains are often present in slimmer people.

It’s believed that these microbes also produce acetate, a short-chain fatty acid that helps regulate body fat stores and appetite. Studies in mice have shown that higher levels of the Akkermansia muciniphila species are associated with lower body weight and that it may also reverse fat mass gain, improve insulin resistance, and reduce adipose tissue inflammation.[9]

4. Help With Gas

Yes! In fact, the composition of your gut flora is crucial to the production of intestinal gas.

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An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. That can seriously impact the way that you live your life.[10] Some beneficial bacterial strains such as Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridia are known for their gas-producing properties. Fortunately, probiotics can help.

The microbiota in your colon is required to ferment food that you cannot fully digest and isn’t absorbed by the gut. This is why the amount of fiber you eat and the composition of your gut microbiota have a lot to do with how much gas you produce each day, as well as how often you go to the bathroom.

Specific strains of probiotics such as Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus have been shown to reduce the gas produced in the intestines.[11] It’s also been found that taking a multi-strain probiotic supplement can help to keep excessive gas at bay.

5. Help With Bloating

Yes! Bloating occurs when gas builds up in your gut, creating a feeling of fullness. This can be quite uncomfortable, painful, and also somewhat embarrassing.

Often, bloating symptoms can be linked to a specific food you have eaten—particularly onions, dried fruit, or gluten. However, some people may find they bloat up after every meal, which suggests all is not well in their gut.[12]

Probiotics can help to restore the balance of bacteria in the gut by supplying the “friendly” bacteria that counteract the bad. These bacteria modify the composition of gut flora, which may help to reduce the production of intestinal gas.

One particular strain associated with reducing gas and bloating is LGG, which proved to be more effective than placebo in reducing the severity of IBS symptoms. Another study showed that patients treated with L. Plantarum experienced significant reductions in their flatulence compared with a placebo group.[13]

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Remember that your diet is probably a cause of your bloating too. For example, it might be worth reducing the carbs in your diet in addition to taking probiotics.[14]

6. Help With Yeast Infections

Yes! Probiotics help to restore the balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, which often leads to the development of a yeast infection. These infections occur when yeasts, such as Candida albicans, grow out of control and spread throughout the intestines. However, probiotics may help to “crowd out” these harmful strains and restore the natural balance of your gut flora.

Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast—but a beneficial one. In fact, it has the power to fight Candida by inhibiting its ability to establish itself in the gut. It’s also been shown that S. boulardii may help to reduce the likelihood of Candida yeasts ending up in the digestive tract. This may be because S. boulardii produces caprylic acid, an antifungal substance with powerful anti-Candida properties.[15]

Don’t discount the possibility that your diet may be leading to those yeast infections. A low-sugar diet like the Candida diet can help to suppress intestinal yeast overgrowth and reduce the number of yeast infections that you experience.[16]

Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most-researched strains and has also been shown to promote the production of antibodies that fight C. Albicans. Most importantly, L. acidophilus can inhibit Candida albicans from forming a biofilm, which is the protective sticky covering that protects the yeast from other treatments.

Bottom Line

The health benefits of probiotics are undeniable, and they can be found in many supplements and foods. Their significant health benefits and accessibility make them an ideal part of your regular diet.

You should try out the best probiotic supplements in the market, and choose one that you think best suits you.

More About Probiotics

Featured photo credit: Daily Nouri via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BalanceOne: 16 SCIENCE-BASED HEALTH BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS
[2] The Candida Diet: 12 Probiotic Foods For Improved Gut Health
[3] Frontiers: Metabolism of Dietary and Microbial Vitamin B Family in the Regulation of Host Immunity
[4] NCBI: Vitamin K: the effect on health beyond coagulation – an overview
[5] NCBI: The Effect of Probiotics on the Production of Short-Chain Fatty Acids by Human Intestinal Microbiome
[6] NCBI: Intestinal microbiota and chronic constipation
[7] HealthLine: Should You Use Probiotics for Constipation?
[8] NCBI: The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity
[9] NCBI: Function of Akkermansia muciniphila in Obesity: Interactions With Lipid Metabolism, Immune Response and Gut Systems
[10] Millenial Magazine: Is Poor Gut Health Ruining Your Social Life?
[11] NCBI: Clinical trial: Probiotic Bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 Versus Placebo for the Symptoms of Bloating in Patients with Functional Bowel Disorders – a Double-Blind Study
[12] AskMen: How to Get Rid of Bloat in a Hurry, According to Experts
[13] Wiley Online Library: Meta‐analysis: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for abdominal pain‐related functional gastrointestinal disorders in childhood
[14] Eat This, Not That!: The Biggest Danger Sign You’re Eating Too Many Carbs, Say Dietitians
[15] Oxford Academic: Saccharomyces boulardii and Candida albicans experimental colonization of the murine gut
[16] US News: Does the Candida Diet Work – and Is It Safe?

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