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Published on May 24, 2021

10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep

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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.

Does Depression Make You Tired And How? How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? Can Coffee Cause Anxiety Or Depression? 10 Best Natural Sleep Aids to Help You Sleep

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

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Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

1. Water is a Wise Choice

Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

2. Eggs — The Most Complete Protein

Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

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Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

5. Garlic is Really Good for You

This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

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Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

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9. Ginseng Tea — Chock Full of Ginsenosides

Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

10. Green Tea Fights Aging

Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

11. Dark Chocolate — The Delicious Superfood

Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

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You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

13. Raw Honey — A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

Indulge in Better Health

But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

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Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Journal of Immunology: Curcumin
[2] NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue

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