There’s a wonder drug hiding in plain sight!
It slows aging by keeping your genes healthy; it cuts your risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in a big way; it boosts memory and cognitive function, and helps you fight infections so much better. It even puts you in a fantastic mood every morning. And here’s the kicker… it’s free!
It’s called a “Good Night’s Sleep!”
Sadly, too many of us suffer from a lack of sleep nowadays, and the consequences aren’t pretty.
A Health Nightmare
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 1/3 of adults in the U.S. gets less than 7 hours of sleep a night, and research associates this with many health risks. About 12–18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, which keeps them up at night. Lives lost due to drowsy drivers may be as high as 5,000–6,000 each year, and productivity losses due to poor sleep weigh in at $5 billion annually.
Make Your Bed Right
What can we do when we can’t sleep? There’s no getting around the basics, so let’s go over those first.
- Eat healthy—get plenty of green vegetables and fruit. They have natural compounds that support the natural sleep cycle.
- Get exercise as appropriate for your age and health condition. Nothing knocks you out at the end of a day like a good workout during the day.
- Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid exposure to electronics for a couple of hours before bedtime. That late-night TV show may be tempting, but the blue light from the screen can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and rev you up when you should be winding down, contributing to your lack of sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals at night, especially those laden with proteins and fats. Your body has to stay up to digest it, and guess what that means for your night of sleep? If it’s a night out and you know you’re going to overdo it, consider using digestive enzymes to give your poor digestive tract a hand.
- Have a daily de-stressing ritual. Whether it’s yoga, knitting, music, a warm bath, or whatever else floats your boat, pick something to do that will help you wind down from the stresses of the day.
- Ayurveda recommends massaging dabs of warm oil (sesame seems to work best) on the soles of the feet, the crown of the head, and behind the ear for great sleep.
Gentle, Natural Sleep Remedies
If you’re still struggling, even with the basics in place, there are many natural supplements that can help. Remember: as universal as sleep is, the reason yours is disturbed could be different from others—sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, improper blood sugar balance, and the list goes on and on. See what applies to your unique situation the most, and try it.
A High-Quality Multi-Vitamin
If you’re wondering why a multi-vitamin would help you sleep better, go back to the first point listed in the basics—nutritious food. We know that’s not happening, even when we take the best care to eat right, because the soil, the crops and the livestock lack the vitamins and minerals we used to get from them a century ago.
- What works for many: a 2-a-day high-quality multi-vitamin. (Click here for what a multivitamin should ideally contain)
This brain hormone is a crucial part of the gentle sleep-wake cycle, peaking at night and going down in the morning. When the sun goes down, were it not for artificial light, melatonin would peak naturally in our bodies, signaling to all our systems that it was time to wind down for the night. It decreases naturally with age, making light sleep and insomnia a feature of old age.
- What works for many: 0.3–5 mg (start low and increase to a dose that gives you a good night’s rest without a heavy head the next morning)
Most swear by this herb that has been used for centuries to fall asleep and stay asleep. It takes between 1–2 weeks to show its effects but is very gentle on the system. Those on antidepressant or psychotic drugs must consult their doctor before using valerian.
- What works for many: 300–600 mg of the root extract, 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime
Magnesium And Calcium
This duo works best together to get you your Zzz’s. Magnesium relaxes our muscles, especially the ones in our airways and our legs. This makes it fantastic for sleep issues like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. And calcium levels naturally peak in our bodies when we sleep; so one way to sleep better is to get them to stay high at night.
- What works for many: 200 mg of magnesium with 600 mg of calcium
It’s a natural precursor to serotonin, the brain chemical that induces a feeling of being safe, satiated, and calm. Those on antidepressant or psychotic drugs must consult their doctor before using 5-HTP.
- What works for many: 200–400 mg, 45 minutes before bedtime
Sleep apnea can lead to very high levels of free radicals, the rogues that bounce around inside your body and damage cells. This, in turn, leads to oxidative stress and insomnia. Vitamin C can help reverse this process and give you that restful sleep that has been eluding you.
- What works for many: 1 g (watch out for diarrhea; every person has different stomach tolerance to vitamin C)
Literally able to “smoothen” brain waves in research studies, L-theanine is the substance found in tea and used over centuries to achieve deep, restful sleep. It is a great natural sleep remedy with the ability to balance the twin sleep-wake hormones melatonin and serotonin.
- What works for many: 200–400 mg (works better when paired with GABA)
This amino acid calms over-excited neurons. Insomniacs show consistently lower levels of GABA in lab tests. Studies seem to suggest that GABA does as much for waking tasks like prioritizing planned actions and that it is unlikely to be overdosed since it is self-limiting.
- What works for many: 250–1,000 mg, 45 minutes before bedtime
Try these natural sleep remedies one at a time (except when recommendations are for synergistic pairs), and let us know what worked for you. Nature’s treasure chest is vast, and you will surely find something that is just right for you. Remember to check back with you doctor if you are on antidepressants or other strong medications that alter brain chemistry. Sleep tight, and good night!