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Published on November 16, 2018

15 Natural Sleep Remedies for Insomnia That Are Backed by Science

15 Natural Sleep Remedies for Insomnia That Are Backed by Science

Insomnia is something of a modern curse. Our lives are more hectic than ever before. When not working overtime, we’re at home staring at our smartphones right up until the moment we try to go to sleep.

With the stress of modern life, we’re doing ourselves no favors by also ensuring we don’t unwind properly at night. Our natural slide towards sleep suffers thanks to disruptive issues such as social media, video games, Netflix, and family life.

How do you find time to ensure you get a good night’s sleep? Here are 15 science-backed natural sleep remedies to help you nod off in style.

1. Get comfy

Make sure your bed is comfortable. This can vary person to person, but do whatever it takes to ensure your bed helps you drift off to sleep properly.

Trying to sleep on a mattress that’s like a plank of wood will not help your insomnia. So invest in something comfortable to reap the benefits. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Experiment with pillows to find what works best for you, but you can also add fun and inviting new pillows in to make your bed look more inviting.
  • Make your bed – don’t leave it looking like a mess.
  • Try out a heated mattress if the cold winter months are a bit too much.
  • Try out some essential oils to make your bedroom more relaxing.

2. Drink herbal teas

I’ve championed tea for the last decade thanks to its health benefits and relaxing qualities. Herbal teas are the way to go as they lack caffeine. It helps you to relax and unwind.

What varieties should you consider? Well, here are a few:

  • Chamomile
  • Valerian root
  • Mint
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

You can get cheap organic herbal tea with a mix of herbs to add some variety to your nighttime routine. Nettle and mint, for example, I’ve always found particularly useful for easing anxiety and aiding relaxation.

The science backs it up. In 2011, a paper published on the US National Library of Medicine titled Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future stated:[1]

“Traditionally, chamomile preparations such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy have been used to treat insomnia and to induce sedation (calming effects). Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.”

3. Switch off your devices

Do smartphones cause insomnia? Dr. Andrew Weil answered this question back in 2015. His response:[2]

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“One problem is that the blue light these devices emit can suppress production of the sleep regulating hormone melatonin, promoting insomnia. This effect is more pronounced than exposure to the light from a television screen in the bedroom because we hold smartphones and other electronic devices close to our faces, intensifying the light exposure.”

Whilst it may seem like a modern luxury to lounge around in bed watching YouTube or Netflix on your smartphone, the reality is it disrupts your sleep.

4. Read

Whilst it’s tempting to lounge around in bed watching Netflix or YouTube clips until you pass out, you’re doing yourself no favors. Staring at those devices suppresses melatonin.

The solution? Read!

Reading a book for an hour before you go to bed is a brilliant way to get through some novels you’ve been meaning to get through. It’s also a great way to calm down your brain and get it ready for a night of sleep.

5. Get napping to a T

Launching into napping without a plan isn’t a good idea. If you head off and nap for a few hours, you may emerge feeling great, but you’ll mess up your sleep pattern for your proper rest at night.

Getting napping to a T isn’t difficult, though. It just takes some good timing.

Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan’s book Fast Asleep, Wide Awake points out that you should take “controlled naps”. Her advice is to take a nap of no more than 20 minutes to lift some fatigue off your mind. It can help you feel recharged. And it also won’t disrupt your night’s sleep later in the day.

6. Get your timing right

If your sleeping pattern is all over the place, then you can wave goodbye to any hope of sleeping properly. Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Although this does mean you’ll have to kick the concept of a weekend lie-in.

Going to bed, and waking up, at the same time every day is an absolute must if you want to avoid sleep troubles.

As reported on Bustle:[3]

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“Scientists who work in sleep health have a term for the period of time it takes you to get to sleep: it’s called your sleep latency. And it turns out that maintaining a regular sleep schedule, according to several small studies, may cut down on the amount of time you spend tossing and turning before drifting off.”

You can try this out yourself to see the benefits. On my schedule, I go to bed at 11pm every day. I wake up at 7am each morning. Once you’ve got your routine set, you’ll notice differences such as:

  • Getting to sleep faster
  • Improvement in your mental abilities (essential for work, studying etc.)
  • Mood improvements
  • Health improvements (sleeping well is essential for weight loss, for example)

7. Lay off the alcohol

This may seem a bit unfair if you want to unwind after a day of hard work with a glass of wine. But the unfortunate truth is alcohol disrupts sleep patterns.

Are your drinking days over, then? Well, according to The Sleep Doctor:[4]

“Does this mean you need to abstain from drinking altogether? Nope. But part of a smart, sleep-friendly lifestyle is managing alcohol consumption so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep and circadian rhythms … Circadian rhythms regulate nearly all of the body’s processes, from metabolism and immunity to energy, sleep, and sexual drive, cognitive functions and mood.”

A circadian rhythm is a naturally occurring process every 24 hours. As it turns out, although it’s not too surprising, alcohol disrupts this process. But as The Sleep Doctor confirms, the more you drink, and the closer this is to bedtime, the more you’ll disrupt your sleep pattern.

It also greatly increases your chance of snoring. So, consider skipping alcohol most nights, or keep your intake to a minimum.

8. Monitor temperatures

This is kind of obvious. If it’s searing hot (often the case during summer), it’s difficult to sleep. Similarly, if you’re freezing cold you’ll struggle to stay asleep.

Getting temperatures right is a big part of a sleeping routine, then, so experiment around with finding the right temperature to suit you.

Take a look at how body temperature can seriously affect your sleep here:

The Relationship Between Body Temperature and Sleep

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9. Take up regular exercise

The National Sleep Organization (great to see there is such a thing!) champions regular exercise for better sleep. It states on a guide titled How Exercise Affects Sleep:[5]

“Want to fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more rested? Get moving! As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.”

10. Embrace magnificent magnesium

In another excellent piece from The National Sleep Organization, magnesium receives a recommendation for improving your sleep.

Promote better sleep with magnesium – it’s an essential mineral for keeping us health.[6] It can also, potentially, help us fall to sleep.

“Other research shows that magnesium increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which is responsible for slowing your thinking down and helping you fall asleep. If you are curious about the effects of magnesium, consider focusing on your nutrition first.”

Foods rich in magnesium, which is a good starting point to get more of the stuff into you, include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach
  • Vegetables in general!
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruit such as bananas
  • Whole grains like brown rice

11. Try out other sleep-promoting supplements

Healthline backs mag nesium, too, but there are other supplements that are worth considering.[7] These include:

  • Valerian root (as with the herbal tea mentioned above)
  • Lavender
  • Passion flower
  • Glycine
  • Ginkgo biloba

12. Treat your bed as a bed

It’s tempting to turn your bed into a piece of everyday furniture. You can lounge around on it, take in the latest films, eat your meals, call friends.

But if you aim to associate your bed with just bedtime, then this can help you speed up your sleep cycle.

13. Meditate

Harvard Medical School, in 2015, were quick to point out that mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep.[8] It states:

“Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.”

There are plenty of modern apps that can help you start off on your mindfulness path. There’re plenty of meditation apps for sleep. Why not try a few out?

You can also take a look at this guide on how to meditate before bed to supercharge your sleep.

14. Embrace the shadows

In the great Japanese writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadows (1933), the author lamented the arrival of electric lights into the world.

Architecture, natural light, shadows, and a well-placed candle, he championed, are what it takes to send a person towards a natural night of sleep. His famous quote reads:

“If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty.”

Tanizaki certainly would have hated the modern world, but we can take his wisdom and embrace the shadows in our home. Get some candles on the go, turn off the lights, and let the natural flow of evening surround you. Some candles have relaxing scents in them, too, such as lavender or vanvilla.

15. Try a 30 day sleep challenge

 

The Sleep Council has a 30 Day Better Sleep Plan you can try. Over the course of a month, this free starts with a brief questionnaire on your sleep pattern, health, and lifestyle:

The site also provides various sleep tools, such as free leaflets, stress tests, a sleep diary, and bed MOT (basically, to see if your bed is up to the task of providing you with a good night’s sleep).

Featured photo credit: Jessica Flavia via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Alex Morris

Creative Writer, Copywriter, & Journalist for Business, Culture, Lifestyle, & Work

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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

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