Natural Sleep Aids for Better R and R
It probably wouldn’t shock you to read that more than half of Canadian adults say they get poor quality sleep. Over fifty percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 report trouble falling or staying asleep. Forty-three percent of men report the same thing. Getting proper R and R is difficult for many, many people, but it doesn’t have to be the case for you.
We preach the importance of sleep and recovery often. It’s essential for a happy, healthy life. Many people don’t realize that both are also essential for meeting fitness goals. However, understanding the importance isn’t always enough to solve the problem. For many of us, sleep remains elusive.
So many people choose to experiment with natural sleeping remedies and herbs to tackle the two most common issues: trouble falling asleep at the start of the night or trouble staying asleep through the night.
What are Natural Sleep Aids?
We can define natural sleep aids as substances designed to promote sleepiness or support the brain and body conditions that lead to it. For example, a natural sleep aid could be a synthetic version of a hormone that naturally occurs in your body, or it could be a natural sleeping herb.
Other sleeping natural remedies include aids or modifications to your environment and sleep routine to get you ready to drift off to sleep.
What are Natural Sleeping Herbs?
Natural sleeping herbs are plants with therapeutic properties, these being the most popular:
- holy basil
- St. John’s wort
- lemon balm
Natural sleeping herbs can be used independently but are often the main ingredients in supplements designed to be sleeping naturally remedies.
How do Natural Sleeping Herbs Work?
Natural sleeping herbs work to promote sleep in various ways. For example, some natural sleeping herbs contain high doses of tryptophan, which is an amino acid that aids the body in synthesizing serotonin. Disrupted serotonin levels are responsible for chemical imbalances leading to insomnia and other sleep conditions.
It is common for stress and anxiety to cause sleeplessness or poor-quality sleep. Other natural sleeping herbs help promote sleep because they reduce anxiety and promote relaxation by slowing the heart rate and relaxing the muscles.
How to Use Natural Sleeping Herbs
There are several ways you can reap the benefits of natural sleeping herbs. You can enjoy them in a tea, in a relaxing warm bath, with a massage, or with natural sleeping herb supplements. You can also get the same benefits from diffusing herbal essential oils or lighting aromatherapy candles that contain natural sleeping herbs.
Who Can Use Natural Sleeping Herbs?
Most people can enjoy natural sleeping herbs in any way we mentioned to promote healthy sleep and act as a sleeping natural remedy. Many herbs like chamomile and lavender are safe to use for children as well. If you have concerns, you should always talk to your primary care physician before adding a natural sleep aid into your routine.
Sleeping Natural Remedies
Other sleeping natural remedies include other natural sleep aids that aren’t necessarily from plants but still qualify as natural.
Melatonin is one of the most popular and effective natural sleep aids. We briefly mentioned melatonin above, but it will help to know a little more. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that naturally occurs in the body. It plays a crucial role in mitigating the circadian rhythm; as the light begins to diminish, hormone levels increase.
Ideally, as the sun goes down, your pineal gland produces more and more melatonin, which makes you feel sleepier until you eventually doze off. Unfortunately, because we can be affected by the artificial and blue lights we use, our brains may not produce the ideal amount of melatonin. That’s where the natural sleep aid comes in. It helps your body feel more tired by increasing the sleep hormone.
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is the lesser-known natural sleep aid. It is a neurotransmitter that reduces the brain’s nerve, which helps to relax the mind and body, improve mood, and improve sleep. GABA supplements used as a sleeping natural remedy increase the brain’s receptor sensitivity to the neurotransmitter making the effects more noticeable.
Other Natural Sleep Aid Tools
There are other sleeping natural remedies to consider if you aren’t ready to try natural sleep aid supplements.
There are many ways to meditate, but in general, meditation is the act of encouraging a heightened state of awareness or focused attention. Meditation practices are used worldwide, and recently, the western world has begun to incorporate these ancient practices into daily life. Regular meditation can reduce anxiety and depression, which in and of itself can promote better sleep. However, it is also a powerful relaxation technique that is an excellent natural sleep aid. Before adding natural sleeping herbs and supplements, you may want to experiment with adding a meditation practice into your bedtime routine.
Another great natural sleep aid is white noise or a sound machine. White noise is a product of playing every frequency sound wave detectible to the human ear in random order at the same volume. The result is a gentle “shh” noise that many people associate with radio static. White noise, and the less harsh pink noise, is proven to work as a natural sleep aid tool, as it masks the disruptive sounds that might otherwise wake you up.
Who Can Use these Natural Sleep Aid Tools?
Virtually everyone can use mediation and white noise as a sleeping natural remedy. White noise can be particularly effective for infants and young children, while it may take kids some practice to meditate for more than a few minutes.
Sleep is a natural part of life, but you might be wondering, “How does sleep work? Why is it important?” Let’s discuss below.
Why is Sleep so Important?
The body regulates sleep through a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm. Hormones and natural light are the factors that influence the circadian rhythm. There are four stages of sleep, each playing a unique role.
What Happens in Each Sleep Stage?
Stage 1 is a transition stage often referred to as light sleep. The heart rate and respiratory rate slows as the muscles relax. The brain waves also begin to slow down. This stage lasts for a few minutes.
Stage 2 is slightly deeper, and the heart and respiratory rates continue to slow. Body temperature lowers, and brain waves continue to slow except for a few higher frequency moments. Stage 2 is the longest of the four sleep stages
Stage 3 is characterized by the heart rate, respiratory rate, and brain wave activity dropping to their lowest levels. The body is as relaxed as it can be. This stage is responsible for leaving you refreshed and alert come morning time. This stage gradually decreases in length through the night as you cycle through the stages.
REM is the rapid eye movement stage. The eyes move back and forth beneath the eyelids, and heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure will all begin to increase as you dream. In the REM stage, the arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed to protect from physically acting out dreams. As the night goes on, the length of the REM stage increases. The REM stage converts short-term memories from the recent past into long-term memory.
While some things about our sleep are still a mystery, we are certain that the following necessary things happen as you transition through the sleep cycles for the recommended seven to nine hours a night.
Why Does Sleep Matter?
- While you sleep, the brain can sift through the short-term memories of the day, organize and store important memories in your long-term memory, and get rid of insignificant memories. This organization aids in problem solving and cognitive function—it really does pay to “sleep on it.
- As the heart rate and respiratory rate slow, the heart and blood vessels can take a rest and recover damage.
- As the heart and blood vessels relax and recover, so do the muscles, organs, and other cells. This is where those fitness results come in—much of the muscle recovery process happens as you sleep.
- Chemicals that strengthen body functions like the immune system circulate through the blood to help fight illness and disease and keep you healthy.
- Hormone levels fluctuate. Some hormones, like the growth hormone, increase while others like cortisol lower.
Why Can’t We Sleep?
If we know that getting enough sleep is critical for our brains and bodies to function properly, why can’t we sleep? According to Elizabeth Klerman, the head of the Analytic and Modeling unit in the Sleep and Circadian Disorders division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, there are many factors at play.
- Substances and Schedules
Firstly, lots of sleep conditions and disturbances have a genetic component. This could be true for slight circadian disruptions due to low melatonin levels or even clinical insomnia. Scientists don’t fully understand the role that genes play in our sleep, but it’s clear that if a blood relative struggles with sleep, you might, too.
Genes have always played a role in our sleep and haven’t drastically changed within the past century, so they’re likely not totally to blame for our species-wide problem. Instead, it’s more likely that our environment or lack of “sleep hygiene” is to blame. When you think about it, this is a good thing because we can control our environment more than we can control our genes.
Substances and Sleep Schedules
Popular substances like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine all negatively affect sleep, and the closer to bedtime you use, the more significantly you will be affected.
People benefit from regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedules, as we are creatures of habit. Small disturbances in your typical schedule, like going to bed hungry or eating too close to bedtime, can disturb sleep. It’s also best to go to sleep at the same time daily, instead of staying up late on certain days and trying to “catch up” on sleep on others. Scientists agree that “catching up” makes up only for a small percentage of the damage done when you lose hours.
This is quite possibly more influential than genes, substances, and schedules combined. The human eye has photoreceptors designed to respond only to changes in light and dark and influence the circadian rhythm. Moreover, these melanopsin receptors work in even those individuals who cannot see due to blindness.
The problem is that artificial, and more notably, the short wave “blue light” emitted from all our electronics, trick the photoreceptors and prevent the circadian rhythm from working as it should. The receptors in our eyes interpret the blue light as daylight, which can lead to a surge in energy instead of increased drowsiness until we fall asleep.
How Can We Solve Our Sleeping Problems?
It’s no surprise that many people look for natural sleeping herbs and other natural sleep aids to cure their sleeping woes. Not only do some pretty scary risks develop with a lack of sleep, but you also generally feel pretty terrible without proper rest.
Some easy natural sleeping remedies include better sleep hygiene practices like reducing your use of blue light-emitting devices in the hours leading up to bedtime. Keeping your bedroom dark and cool can help as well. Let’s explore other natural sleep aids.
Sleeping well is something we should all strive for, whether we’re trying to get in the best shape of our life or just trying to stay healthy. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to slow down and create the right conditions for a long night of quality sleep. There are many natural sleep aids on the market today that can help., many of which can truly improve the quality and conditions of your sleep. If you’re not comfortable introducing melatonin or natural sleeping herbs and supplements, start with adding a meditation practice or purchasing a white noise machine. Small changes can make a big difference in your quality of sleep!