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Published on May 24, 2021

10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep

10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep

I often find myself saying, “what a difference a day can make,” especially after a good night’s sleep following a bout of poor sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well, you probably aren’t doing well. Sleep is one of the most important ways your body heals from the mental and physical rigors of your day. Both your body and mind regenerate and restore, allowing your brain to literally clear out waste from the central nervous system for improved thinking and learning.

Needless to say, sleep is essential, and if you want to be able to perform during the day, you need to be able to get adequate rest at night. Fortunately, there are some good remedies for poor sleep. This article will highlight ten of the best natural sleep aids for you to consider.

Take note: These natural sleep aids can all be bought over the counter and are generally safe to use. However, it is always good to consult with your doctors before introducing any kind of new supplements into your regime. Depending on your unique health, different supplements can have less desired side effects, such as increased blood pressure, or have dangerous interactions with medications.[1]

1. Melatonin

Perhaps one of the best-known natural sleep aids—which, by the way, is also naturally produced by the body—melatonin plays an all-important role in sleep regulation. It is for this reason that it is one of the more highly recommended supplements when indications of sleep troubles arise.[2]

The body’s natural melatonin production waxes and wanes throughout the day, which is in large part triggered by natural light exposure. Modern life has disrupted what nature intended, and we are often waking and working in dark or artificially lit environments that alter the naturally occurring circadian rhythm connected to melatonin production. It is important to note that cortisol, the stress hormone, is one of the signals that wakes you up in the morning and is in the opposite relationship to melatonin. When one is high the other is low, and if either is off-kilter, sleep trouble will often be the result.

Therefore, during particularly stressful times in your life, sleep is bound to be disrupted by increased cortisol in your body. You can help regulate that sleep cycle with melatonin supplements, which will help your body naturally find its sleep cycle.

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2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian herb or adaptogen that is known for its stress reduction effects. When coupled with melatonin, ashwagandha might just be the other half of a very efficient natural sleep remedy.

As it is noted above, melatonin helps induce sleep but does not address the higher-than-average cortisol levels that may be a big contributor to your sleep troubles. Ashwagandha enhances the body’s stress-fighting abilities and promotes good health in the brain and central nervous system. It can be taken in powder form known as churn or in the form of a capsule.[3]

3. Chamomile

This yellow flower is hailed for many health benefits and is being studied for ailments that range from treating diabetes and lowering blood sugar to reducing menstrual cramps and preventing cancer. Additionally, it has been found to induce sleep and help the body relax.

I would say that chamomile is anecdotally renowned and clinically inconclusive at this point, but more research is being done around these optimistic benefits. Chamomile is also found to relieve symptoms of anxiety, working in a similar function as benzodiazepines, affectionately called “benzos” for short. Benzos are sedatives used to relax the body and are often prescribed for anxiety, panic disorder, seizures, and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and, for this reason, often used as a last resort.[4]

Therefore, a natural alternative like chamomile would be most beneficial for many! Chamomile is best taken in the form of a tea about an hour before heading to bed, but you can also find it in the form of oil for aromatherapy.

4. Lavender

Lavender doesn’t just smell nice, it can also be a major support to making sure you are getting the zzz’s you need to stay fresh and at your best day in and day out. It is one of the best natural sleep aids out there. The soothing aroma of lavender can be enough to enhance your rest by maintaining sleep through the night, warding off those less desired 3 am wake-ups.[5]

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Lavender can be used in the form of aromatherapy, which is the safest and most widely used. However, there are oral supplements as well, though some are known to cause stomach upset.[6]

5. Frankincense

Frankincense is another effective natural sleep aid. This is one of those biblical scents and essential oils that have been used for millennia to treat physical and mental ailments. Its relaxing properties also make it a nice addition to your relaxing evening routine to help stimulate melatonin production and relax the body as well as the mind.

Frankincense in the form of aromatherapy or incense is most commonly used. However, many people apply the oil directly to their skin as well.[7]

6. Valerian Root

Not actually a reference to the fictitious ‘Valyria’ from GOT, but valerian is a flower that could bring you to the ancient city of wonder through your deep sleeping dreams! Sorry, I couldn’t help the Game of Thrones reference there, but it does make this one a little more enticing. Valerian root is a widely used sleep aid as it has been found to help with relaxation. Moreover, it can greatly help induce sleep while at the same time increasing the quality of your sleep.[8]

If you decide to look into this supplement, it would be advised to discuss this with your doctor as there are a range of doses and preparations for this natural sleep remedy. There are also warnings around how it may interact with your medication regime.

7. Tryptophan

One way to address your sleep deficiencies is through your diet. If this is a route you want to look into, try to eat more whole foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that supports the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter often connected to depression.

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Tryptophan is found in a variety of healthy whole foods that can also promote a positive sleep routine. It is found in foods such as eggs, turkey, chicken, milk, peanuts, and cheese, to name a few.

8. Magnesium

Magnesium is another natural sleep aid that can be obtained through a healthy balanced diet. Studies indicate that when sleep disturbance takes place, there are lowered levels of magnesium, which is a mineral needed for over 600 cellular reactions in the body.

Magnesium will show up on many healthy food lists for its array of health benefits on the brain, heart, and skeletal systems, as well as sleep support. Magnesium is also found to help regulate the production of melatonin production and help your muscles relax.[9]

If you are looking to boost your magnesium intake, you can do so by incorporating more nuts, legumes, avocados, tofu, and whole grains, among many others. You can also take magnesium in the form of a capsule.

9. GABA

GABA is a neurotransmitter that when attached to a protein, creates a relaxing, calming effect and, for this reason, can decrease stress. Low levels of GABA are found in people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic disorder, all of which are known to coincide with sleep irregularities.

We know that when the body is stressed, there is more cortisol and this negatively impacts the sleep cycle. Therefore, GABA assists by relaxing the body, which should reduce cortisol levels and promote better sleep. GABA can be taken as a supplement, but it can also be found in foods such as tempeh, beans, berries, tomatoes, and potatoes to name a few.

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10. Mediation

Though this is not an actual substance that you will absorb through aromatherapy or ingestion, meditation can be a major support in helping you to find your happy sleep space.

Incorporating a little mediation or mindfulness in the hours before bed can help relax the body and prepare it for an evening of rest, which just might make it the best natural sleep aid out there, and it won’t cost you anything more than the time and energy you put into it. It is a practice that can also help if your sleep cycle was disrupted by jet lag or a temporary change in routine.

Closing Thoughts

After reading this article you may have noticed that all of these natural sleep aids share a few similarities. They either stimulate melatonin production in the body or help your muscles relax. Anything that does one of these two functions—better if done together—will probably yield some benefits when it comes to stabilizing your sleep routine.

However, there are lots of reasons why you might be experiencing sleep disturbance, and we all go through bouts of poor sleep. If you find that you are experiencing a sudden change that goes on for more than a month, it might be good to consult with your doctor as this could be due to an underlying issue and an indicator that something else is amiss.

Speaking with your healthcare professional will help you rule out any other major concerns and help you get your sleep cycle back on track. Here’s to sunny days and sleepy nights!

More Tips to Help You Sleep Better

Featured photo credit: Vladislav Muslakov via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Meredith Flanagan

Embracing a strengths-based approach to life, passionate about creating opportunity out of adversity.

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Last Updated on May 14, 2021

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

One of the most serious – and common – causes of chronic disease is inflammation.

High levels of inflammation in the body cause your cells to deteriorate and lose their ability to function properly. In turn, this leads to the development of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune dysfunction, and other disorders.

Inflammation is a necessary biological process that kickstarts your immune system. Chemical mediators alert the body to the areas that need defending or repairing. Unfortunately, when inflammation continues for too long, it can have serious consequences.

The level of inflammation in your body is influenced by a number of factors, including diet, lifestyle, and environment.[1]

In the gut, inflammation can also be caused by an imbalance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. When harmful microbes or yeast such as Candida grow and spread, they can severely damage the lining of the gut. The resulting immune response can cause further inflammation and damage.

Fortunately, reducing gut inflammation can be a matter of altering the choices you make in everyday life. In fact, there are three simple steps you can take today to reduce inflammation in your gut. Let’s take a look!

1. Drink More Water to Get Rid of Toxins

Every single day, we are exposed to toxins. Air pollutants, heavy metals, mold, and airborne pathogens are around us all the time – without us even knowing it.

Many of our foods are full of toxins too, like pesticides, antibiotics, and even added sugars.

These toxins are serious contributors to inflammation. They ‘turn on’ genes that promote inflammation causing cancer, heart disease. In the gut, these toxins can cause imbalances in your gut flora that allow inflammatory chemicals to be released. This inflammation promotes changes elsewhere in the body that can lead to chronic diseases.

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One of the best ways to flush toxins from the body is also one of the simplest. Drink more water! Drinking plenty of water each day is an effective and essential way to help your gut and body detoxify:

  • Your intestinal tract needs water to function optimally, moving waste efficiently through the gut and out of the bowels.
  • Your liver and kidneys are two of your body’s most important detoxification organs. Both of these require a constant supply of water in order to function properly.
  • Your sweat also flushes toxins out of your body. Sweat is largely made up of water.

Just as importantly, each of your cells requires adequate hydration to carry out its proper functions. Studies have shown that inadequate cellular hydration can contribute to the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals and even lead to inflammatory disorders.[2]

In general, the more hydrated you are, the less inflammation will be present in your body.

What to Do:

Try to drink 2-3L of water each day, or six to eight glasses. Make sure your water is fresh and filtered, or at least free of contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals.

It may be helpful to carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day, so you can keep sipping it instead of guzzling a large amount of water at once.

One of the healthiest ways to drink water is with a squeeze of lemon juice. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C and can boost your immunity.

Not sure if you’re properly dehydrated? There’s an easy way to find out! Check the color of your urine when you’re next in the bathroom. If it’s yellow, your body likely needs more water. If it’s clear, you’re properly hydrated.

2. Exercise Regularly to Keep Your Detoxification Organs Active

Daily exercise is absolutely essential for keeping your whole body in good working order, including your gut.

Physical activity stimulates your body’s major detoxification organs, including your intestines, urinary tract, sweat glands, circulatory system, and lymphatics.

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When these systems are able to move toxins and waste out of the body, inflammation is kept to a minimum.

New research shows that as little as 20 minutes of exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects on the gut and the entire body.

Exercise improves the body’s anti-inflammatory response by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This boosts your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. As a result, your body releases hormones including epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which have the job of activating the adrenal receptors of immune cells.

In a recent study, researchers examined the effects of a single 20-minute session of exercise on immune system activation. They found that even this small amount of exercise was enough to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by 5%.[3]

Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can lead to disease. Chronic inflammation may contribute to diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

It seems that even short periods of exercise can reduce the body’s inflammatory response, which may lead to exercise being recommended as a part of future treatment plans for inflammatory conditions.

Exercise also forces fresh blood to your tissues, which reduces inflammation by helping flush away metabolic debris. It provides nutrients to inflamed or damaged tissues, which facilitates repair and restoration.

Just like hydration, exercise also keeps your digestive system moving and promotes good digestive health, further reducing inflammation in your gut.

What to Do:

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s vital that you make a plan to walk, jog, swim, or stretch for at least 30 minutes every day.

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Most modern phones now come with some kind of activity tracker. For example, if you own an iPhone then you might already be familiar with the iOS Health app. This handy app will track the steps that you take each day. Many people aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is a very healthy goal to have.

Equally, try to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. If you work long hours, set a timer to get yourself up and moving on a regular basis, at least every hour.

And, as I mentioned earlier, be sure to follow your exercise with plenty of water!

3. Take Curcumin — a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Remedy

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, a bright orange spice. It’s one of the most powerful, natural, anti-inflammatory remedies on earth, especially for the gut.

Curcumin aids digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles on the walls and helping with the movement of food through the intestines. It also helps to relieve the buildup of gas and bloating as food is being broken down.

In the colon, curcumin promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for your immune system to function optimally.  It also encourages cells of the intestinal lining to regenerate and heal following damage caused by pathogenic bacteria or yeast overgrowth such as Candida.

Recent studies have even shown that curcumin may an effective means of inhibiting intestinal fungal infections. Clinical trials have reported that high concentrations of curcumin have a powerful antifungal effect against this harmful yeast, as well as other fungal infections. There is evidence that curcumin can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans more effectively than common antifungal drugs.[4]

Research has shown that curcumin’s medicinal activity is largely due to its phytochemicals. These are plant chemicals that harbor antioxidative and antibacterial properties. These phytochemicals may also help to ease nausea caused by mental issues such as anxiety and stress.

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity in curcumin may also help reduce gut pain caused by spicy foods, alcohol, or pathogenic bacteria. The incredible compounds in curcumin support your natural digestive processes, which can mean that your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to break down food. 

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What to Do:

Taking curcumin is as simple as finding a quality supplement from a good health store.

You can also blend turmeric powder into smoothies, meals or a turmeric latte. Be sure to add a healthy fat such as coconut oil, as well as black pepper. This helps your body to absorb the active constituents of the curcumin.

The Bottom Line

When reducing inflammation in your gut, your first priority should be to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory factors in your diet and lifestyle.

The three steps mentioned above are very easy to incorporate into your daily routines, and will help to minimize the inflammatory processes happening inside your body.

By supporting your body’s detoxification functions with adequate exercise and hydration, you’ll be dramatically reducing the amount of harmful toxins that your immune system has to fight every day. Fewer toxins means your body can focus more on healing!

This is significantly improved by adding curcumin to your daily diet, whether as a supplement or in your meals. Curcumin is a remarkable ingredient for an inflamed gut: it will help soothe those irritated membranes, fight off yeasts such as Candida, and support the healing of the intestinal lining.

Take these simple steps and start to reduce your inflammation today. Your gut will thank you!

More Resources About Gut Health

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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