15 Science-Backed Natural Sleep Aids and Remedies

Sleep troubles are frustrating, no matter what form they take.

If you’re among the third of the population that’s not getting enough shut-eye each night, try one of these 15 natural remedies to help you get back on a healthy sleep schedule without turning to more drastic solutions.

Quality rest will keep you feeling your best, and many of these strategies are beneficial not only for your sleep but for your overall health.

 

Avoid Screens Before Bed

 

Experts agree that the blue light emitted by phone, computer, tablet, and television screens prevents your body from naturally producing melatonin — the hormone your body naturally creates before bedtime to encourage sleepiness.

Your device’s brightly lit screen mimics daylight, deceiving your brain and stopping it from producing the melatonin you need to feel drowsy in the evening.

The more time you can spend away from screens before bed, the better, but avoiding them for at least 30 minutes will make sure you don’t trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

If you need to start less drastically than that, try switching your phone or tablet into a night-specific mode.

While not as good as avoiding screen time entirely, night modes filter out bluer tones in favor of warmer ones, which are less likely to disrupt your body and brain.

 

Read Before Bed

 

Instead of reloading your social media feeds repeatedly before bed, try trading mindless screen time for the pages of a real book — not an e-reader.

The benefits are twofold: you’ll avoid the sleep-hindering glow of a screen and give your mind the chance to actually escape before you go to bed.

Unlike stressful emails or mindless social media posts, both fiction and nonfiction stories give your mind freedom from everyday stressors.

Incorporate reading into your evening routine to encourage relaxation, and you’ll likely experience a host of other benefits, including greater empathy, a better shot at avoiding Alzheimer’s disease, and improved cognitive function.

Need some inspiration? This summer delivers a host of enticing reads to choose from.

 

Practice Gratefulness Journaling

 

Another alternative to screen time before bed, putting pen to paper encourages your mind to slow down before sleep, while also helping you reflect on the previous day or week.

Mental health professionals advocate using journaling to manage anxiety, depression, and stress in your life.

If a blank white page looks overwhelming to you, start small.

Writing about three things you’re grateful for gives your journaling some direction at first, and it also helps you end the day thinking about positive parts of your life.

There’s no better way to set yourself up for a good next day than by ending the previous one with positive reflection and a good night’s sleep.

 

Drink Tea

 

Sometimes, just smelling a cup of herbal, non-caffeinated tea signals to your body that it’s time to relax.

Many people also find holding a cup of tea to be a relaxing, calming ritual, and many herbs have the same effects.

While studying specific herbal teas has proven difficult, scientific research has found that glycine, a chemical found in chamomile tea, reduces anxiety in animals and can promote sleep when consumed in larger quantities.

Most sleep-focused teas contain chamomile with a blend of other herbs including lavender, mint, or passionflower, so don’t feel confined to pure chamomile teas only.

Whichever tea you choose, just be sure that it’s listed as caffeine-free so you don’t end up with your mind whirring right before bed.

 

Use Essential Oils

 

Essential oils deliver a strong concentration of herbs that you can apply on your skin or diffuse into a room, offering another way to derive benefits from herbs besides consuming them in tea.

While many are touted for their relaxing properties, lavender and ylang ylang have been proven to be especially effective at it.

To help yourself relax before bed, try spritzing lavender oil on a pillow or behind your ears.

The National Institutes of Health Research found that lavender can help your skin feel cooler, in addition to reducing blood pressure and heart rate.

Researchers logged similar results when studying ylang ylang oil as well.

The oil comes from flowers of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, and it has been proven to have a calming effect on the nervous system, especially when applied directly to the skin.

 

Develop an Evening Routine

 

If every night of the week finds you arriving home at a different time, rushing around doing chores, and eating dinner before collapsing into bed with your tablet and a TV show, try adding some consistency in the form of a dedicated night time routine.

Though you can’t always slow down a busy daytime schedule, you can develop a pre-bed ritual that signals to your body — and mind — that bedtime is near.

Instead of worrying about a long to-do list while you try to fall asleep, set aside a few minutes to pack a lunch, pick out an outfit, and organize your work bag to take away pressure for the following morning.

After you’ve been productive, switch to more relaxing activities, like listening to calming music, lighting candles, drinking tea, reading a book, or moving through a few calming yoga poses.

No matter what you choose to do, your routine should be simple and easy to integrate into your evening.

 

Only Use Your Bed for Sleep

 

Your bed should be a place you relax, but that doesn’t give you the green light to use it at any time of the day.

Whether you’re working from home, watching TV, or having a post-dinner snack, resist the urge to do so in bed.

Your bed should be reserved for sleeping and as few other activities as possible.

If you treat your bed like any other piece of furniture, your mind and body won’t associate it exclusively with sleep and winding down.

That being said, sleeping on a mattress that’s the right fit and feel for you plays a crucial role in your ability to get quality sleep.

When you upgrade your mattress, make sure it’s the right size for your needs, or if you want to make the mattress you have even better, try a mattress topper to improve support and cushioning for the time being.

 

Eat a Salad

 

As it turns out, your mother was right about eating your vegetables, but you knew that already…

In addition to delivering a host of vitamins and minerals, lettuce also contains lactucarium, a mysterious, naturally occurring substance that encourages sleep by acting like a sedative — albeit to a far milder degree than any drug would.

Eating a side salad with dinner just became more beneficial than ever.

 

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

 

Instead of looking outward for solutions to your insomnia, mindfulness meditation encourages you to use your own body and mind to achieve a calmer mental state.

Researchers have begun to study the practice as a viable treatment for sleep disorders in the hopes of helping the 6–20% of the population suffering from chronic insomnia, and they’ve seen positive results.

In a Rush University study, participants who received eight weeks of mindfulness meditation therapy exhibited lower indicators of insomnia both during the course of the study and up to six months after it ended, proving that mindfulness can be much more than just a short-term fix.

 

Exercise

 

Morning, noon, or night — it doesn’t matter when you get your sweat on, only that you do.

Exercise at any time of the day has been proven to positively impact your sleep.

Getting exercise out of the way in the morning could help clear your schedule in the evening, encouraging you to get to bed earlier.

In the evening hours, on the other hand, the rise and fall of your body temperature during and after exercise encourages feelings of sleepiness.

Even if you start by adding just a half hour of walking in the morning or evening, five times a week, you’re likely to see changes to your sleep and your overall health, and you’ll be meeting the American Heart Association’s recommendation of exercising for at least 150 minutes per week.

 

Keep Your Bedroom at the Ideal Temperature for Sleep

 

Having trouble sleeping during the summer months? It might be time to invest in an air conditioner.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be sleeping in a room between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you let the temperature rise above 67 degrees regularly, you could be compromising your sleep.

Even on a bone-chilling winter night, resist the urge to crank up your thermostat before bed — instead, keep the air temperature cool and cover up with warm blankets.

And in the summer, don’t try to suffer through a heat wave without A/C.

 

Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary

 

As your place of rest, your bedroom should amplify feelings of relaxation and repose when you’re in it.

Piles of laundry and general clutter inspire stress and anxiety, which can subtly affect your state of mind before bed.

In fact, a recent study found a link between messy spaces and poorer sleep quality.

Make cleaning and tidying your bedroom regularly a priority so that you aren’t staring at a pile of chores to be done from bed each night.

Then, think about what other elements might make a room feel tranquil and peaceful to you, and add them to your space.

If you live in a city and can see the faraway glow of lights while falling asleep, invest in a set of blackout curtains to ensure those lights don’t affect your ability to sleep.

While you’re relaxing before bed, try lighting candles with calming aromas and switching off harsh overhead lights in favor of soft bedside lamps to make your space feel more special.

 

Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule

 

Did you know that switching up your sleep schedule throughout the week essentially makes you jet lagged?

Shifting your sleep schedule, in a new time zone or your own bedroom, goes against your internal body clock, even if you still log seven to nine hours of sleep.

This phenomenon is so common that it’s earned its own name — social jet lag.

Studies have shown that around 70% of the population is missing their biological sleep time, or the ideal time frame for sleep for their body, by over an hour each night.

Experts assert that this phenomenon has led to chronic, widespread sleep deprivation and is closely linked with higher BMI’s.

To avoid those complications, hold yourself accountable to a bedtime and wake-up time that you can maintain each night.

 

Tune Into Pink Noise

 

Want to improve your memory while getting more shut-eye? Try pink noise.

White noise — anything from a fan to the sound of waves crashing on the beach — has long been used as a successful sleep tool.

More recently, however, researchers have been paying closer attention to its more diversified cousin, pink noise.

Pink noise includes a blend of frequencies both high and low, which gives it a more balanced sound than strictly high-frequency white noise.

After a successful study at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, researchers concluded that listening to pink noise while falling asleep improved memory in older adults, in addition to helping them achieve more slow-wave sleep.

Further evaluation revealed that those two results were closely related: with the increase in slow-wave sleep, participants were able to better retain memories, performing up to three times better on memory tests than they did when they didn’t listen to the pink noise.

Pink noise machines aren’t as widespread on the market just yet but watch for them soon.

 

Get Some Sun

 

Sometimes, the things you do during the day make a far greater impact on your sleep at night than you realize.

Vitamin D is a crucial player in overall health, impacting everything from your mood to your weight to your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

If you’re deficient in it, you risk experiencing a host of negative health consequences, including a decrease in sleep quality and quantity.

Your body produces Vitamin D in response to sunlight, but you can get it from other sources as well.

Other sources of Vitamin D include egg yolks, certain types of fish, and fortified foods, but the easiest way to get it is to spend some time outside in the sun each day.

Better yet — log your 30-minute workout outside. You’ll set yourself up for sleep benefits from both exercise and a boost in your Vitamin D.

 

Conclusion

 

Frustrating, mysterious, and downright disruptive — insomnia is a difficult condition to deal with.

But with a well-rounded focus on your overall health, these 15 natural remedies could be just the approach you need to win back your sleep.

As always, do your research and consult with a medical doctor first if you’re unsure whether a specific suggestion is right for your body.

With the right strategy, you’ll have years of quality shut-eye in your future.

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