Millions of Americans experience trouble sleeping at night. In fact, the issue has become so prevalent that the National Sleep Foundation has created a Sleep Health Index designed to track sleeping habits of the American adult population.
A whopping 45% of Americans indicated that a lack of sleep, either in quantity or quality, detrimentally affected their ability to complete daily activities at least once over the period of one week.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Poor sleeping habits can have devastating impacts on your overall health, physical fitness, and psychological state. While your body is resting at night, it also uses that time to repair its systems.
When you don’t get enough sleep, or don’t sleep restfully through the night, you restrict your body’s ability to recover sufficiently from the day’s activities and to prepare for the next.
Some of the more obvious side effects of sleep deprivation are psychological. You will be inclined to feel drowsy or sluggish, may have difficulty remembering information, and can struggle to make important decisions.
A poor night’s sleep frequently also leads to mood swings and increased irritability.
However, poor sleeping habits can also contribute to the deterioration of your physical health in the following ways:
- Without sufficient time to repopulate infection-fighting antibodies and cells, your body’s immune system can weaken and leave you vulnerable to infection and illness
- A weakened immune system increases your risk of contracting a respiratory infection or a cold
- Sleep deprivation is a contributing factor to weight gain and obesity
- Extended periods of poor sleeping habits have been linked to the incurrence of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease
What Constitutes “High Quality” Sleep?
Every adult has unique needs when it comes to their sleeping patterns. Some adults function well with as little as 5 or 6 hours each night, while others require as much as 9 hours.
As a general rule, most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. It’s important to get enough sleep, but you should also be careful not to sleep too much as this can lead to lethargy the following day.
Understanding your sleep cycle patterns is just as important as recognizing how much sleep you need each night. Sleep cycles last approximately 90 minutes, so in a healthy night’s sleep you can expect to experience anywhere between four and six cycles.
Waking up in the middle of your sleep cycle, particularly in one of the stages of deep sleep, can feel like waking out of a dense for and leave you sluggish for most of your morning.
If you have a sleeping disorder and cannot stay asleep at night, then constantly waking at various points of your sleep cycle can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional health.
Why Can’t I Sleep At Night?
Sleeping disorders can take many forms, and can be caused by a number of factors. Temporary and long-term pain can result in discomfort that prevents you from falling or staying asleep at night. Other medical issues can have a similar effect.
Sleep quality can similarly be affected by psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety, or by bad habits such as alcohol use or consuming meals too close to your desired bedtime.
Sometimes altering your bedtime routine can help you to correct negative sleeping patterns.
Using light-blocking curtains, establishing a regular bedtime routine, avoiding backlit screens (TVs, iPads, cell phones, etc), and increasing your daytime activity level are just a few lifestyle changes that you could try to improve your sleeping habits.
However, some sleep disorders cannot be corrected by lifestyle changes alone.
The Problem With Sleeping Pills
Some adults turn to medications to ease their sleeping problems. Sleeping pills are designed to chemically alter your body’s function to put you to sleep. Some examples include:
- Diphenhydramine, which induces drowsiness by reacting with histamine receptors
- Cycle modifiers that stimulate the production of melatonin in the brain
- Benzodiazepines which bind to GABA receptors
- Antidepressants that act as a sedative
All of these types of medication interact directly with your brain receptors to trick your body into falling and staying asleep. While this method can be effective, sleeping pills and antidepressants run a high risk of creating dependency on the medication, which can interfere with your ability to sleep on your own in the long run.
Most medications come with a laundry list of side effects, such as daytime drowsiness, dizziness, or prolonged feelings of sedation.
You can also build up a tolerance to sleeping medications, which means that you will need to increase your dosage for the drug to continue to be effective, which further throws your system out of balance and increases your risk of developing a dependency.
Home Remedies For Sleeping Problems
Utilizing a natural solution to your sleeping troubles can help you to train your body back into a more normal sleeping pattern. Natural remedies have a number of advantages over prescribed medications, including:
- No debilitating side effects
- No risk of dependency
- Lower costs, both in the short-term and the long run
- Greater potential to be able to sleep without aid in the future
Here are a few home remedies for sleeping troubles that we recommend.
5 Home Remedies for Trouble Sleeping
Drink a glass of tart cherry juice
Cherry juice is chock full of tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps to induce feelings of drowsiness. It is commonly found is cheeses, yogurt, and eggs, as well as meats such as turkey – which may contribute to the fact that everyone gets so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner!
Tryptophan reacts with other chemicals that your body produces naturally to increase production of serotonin, which is what ultimately makes you tired.
Cherry juice does contain other amino acids as well, but eating a small amount of carbohydrates (such as a slice of bread) along with the glass of juice can actually help to filter competing amino acids out of your system to increase the effectiveness of the tryptophan.
Directions: Drink ½ cup to 1 cup of tart cherry juice shortly before bedtime. Consider eating a small amount of carbohydrates along with the glass of juice in order to “pave the way” for the tryptophan to begin its chemical reactions.
However take care not to eat too much, as eating before bedtime may stimulate the body and mind and prevent expedient sleep.
Take a melatonin supplement
Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces naturally which influences your “sleep and wake” patterns. Your body clock is mostly responsible for determining how much or how little melatonin your body produces; typically your body will produce more of the hormone in the hours leading up to your bedtime and less as the morning approaches.
Some of us do not produce sufficient levels of melatonin to induce regular sleep cycles. It is also possible that you are undergoing other contributing factors, such as stress or chronic pain, that keep you awake in spite of a relatively normal level of production.
In either case you can take an over-the-counter supplement (available in most drug stores) to support your naturally produced melatonin and naturally encourage your body to settle down to sleep for the night.
Directions: Take 1 melatonin supplement pill approximately 1 hour prior to your desired bedtime. For optimal results, avoid overly stimulating activities prior to falling asleep.
Use aromatic lavender essential oil to promote feelings of relaxation
Lavender essential oil can be used as a natural remedy for a number of physical and psychological conditions. It promotes rapid healing of cuts and scrapes, eases negative feelings of anxiety and stress, stimulate the respiratory system to remove phlegm and congestion, clear up pesky acne breakouts, and so much more.
It can also be used aromatically as a powerful sleep aid.
The pleasant scent of lavender oil is a well-known tonic for the nervous system. Reducing the weight of tension and anxiety helps create an aura of relaxation and dispel a common barrier to deep, restful sleep, making this essential oil a popular natural remedy for insomnia.
Its gentle scent can lull you to sleep and even improve the quality of your sleep, helping you to wake up feeling refreshed.Directions: Add 2-3 drops to a diffuser of your choice and diffuse for approximately 30 minutes prior to going to bed. Alternatively, massage a single drop directly onto your pillowcase.
Add a drop of Roman chamomile essential oil to a cup of tea
From a psychological standpoint, many people find the experience of drinking a warm beverage to be relaxing, whether it be hot chocolate, heated milk, or a cup of tea.
However, you can take this remedy one step further by adding a drop of chamomile essential oil to your glass of tea to intensify its relaxing effect.
Chamomile has also been used medicinally for centuries because of its powerful health benefits and lack of negative side effects. Several of these benefits can be leveraged to improve the quality of your sleep.
Chamomile contains a host of antioxidants which, among other things, are incredibly effective at calming nerves and anxiety. It also has sedative properties which give it a strong propensity for fighting depression and improving mental acuity.
This, paired with its ability to invoke feelings of calm and restfulness, can help you to fall asleep more easily and make chamomile a popular natural treatment for insomnia.
Remember to be deliberate when selecting the type of tea that you drink before bed. Most varieties are caffeinated, which will produce a stimulating effect rather than the desired sedative effect.
Directions: Add 1-2 drops of Roman chamomile essential oil to a cup of decaffeinated tea. Either hot or cold tea may be used, but the warm liquid may intensify resultant feelings of relaxation.
For best results drink approximately one hour prior to going to bed.
Increase your magnesium intake
Magnesium has long been touted as an effective supplement to ward off sleeping troubles.
It suppresses cortisol, which is colloquially known as the “stress hormone” and can leave you tossing and turning all night. With the decrease in cortisol comes a subsequent decrease in muscular tension.
The best way to increase your magnesium intake is to take a 200mg supplement each day. Some find themselves unusually energetic immediately after taking a magnesium supplement; if this applies to you, then you will see the best results by using the pill in the morning.
Directions: Take one 200mg magnesium supplement each day, either in the evening or in the morning with breakfast.
At least 40 million Americans are afflicted by some sort of sleep disorder. Another 20 million on top of that have some difficulty sleeping occasionally, even if not to the point of having a full-blown sleeping disorder.
Whether you have a sleeping disorder or merely some difficulty falling asleep at night, you should take action to ensure that you regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep. Extended periods of poor sleeping habits can lead to a host of negative physical and psychological effects, including weight gain and irritability in the short term and increased risk of developing heart disease or diabetes in the long run.
Before turning to prescribed medications to correct your sleeping troubles, try one of these 5 home remedies. By naturally increasing your body’s production of the chemicals that promote healthy sleep, and decreasing the presence of stress and anxiety that can prevent it, you can improve your overall health and finally sleep peacefully at night.