Can’t sleep? Popping a pill may knock you out for the night, but you may pay for it in the morning with grogginess and feeling hungover — not the ideal way to start the day. We asked health and nutrition experts for a few natural remedies that will help us get better sleep at night, and some of these might surprise you.
Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal that is necessary element for human nutrition. It’s so essential that if you don’t get enough, it may be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, certified holistic nutritionist Meg Hagar usually recommends magnesium first if her clients are having trouble sleeping.
Melatonin is a hormone our brain secretes, and it helps with — you guessed it — sleep. It’s sold over the counter in tablets, and many people swear by it for sleep help.
“When our natural sleep rhythms get disturbed (such as via jet lag or an altered schedule of staying up too late), melatonin can be used to get us back on track,” said Drs. Arielle Levitan and Romy Block, co-founders of Vous Vitamin LLC and authors of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. “Taking this natural supplement — make sure to get a good reputable brand — about 30 minutes before bed helps to naturally reset your body’s clock so you essentially relearn when bedtime should be.”
Another necessary element our bodies rely upon is iron. Levitan and Block say that iron deficiency not only makes you feel tired, but it can lead to restless leg syndrome. Get your iron levels checked, and if you’re deficient, take supplements.
“It’s common knowledge that Thanksgiving can make anyone nap-ready,” said Gabriel Smith, health and wellness expert for Mattress Firm. “This is due to high levels of tryptophan. Some recommended food sources include goat’s milk kefir, bananas, almonds and other nuts, honey, whole-grain bread, seeds, turkey, cranberries, cherry juice; chamomile, passion flower and valerian tea.”
Yes, your bedroom may be a huge factor in your sleep problems. Never fear, though — you can fix this. Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet, reserved for relaxation and sleep. Dr. Michael Carlston, author of Better Than Medicines — The Ten Essential Health Habits, said we should keep in mind that sleep is a habit, and if you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes or so, leave the bedroom and try again later. Positive association with your bed (as opposed to flopping around in the sheets for a couple of hours) will improve your sleep habits and keep you on the road to better sleep.
Noise can be a huge distraction to your sleeping brain, but you can use noise to benefit your slumber. Whether your sleeping cavern is dead silent or you can hear outside noises, you might consider running a fan or even investing in a white noise machine to keep sudden noises from disturbing your rest.
Avoid caffeine & alcohol
Yes, caffeine and alcohol can be a totally reasonable choice. But the closer the clock creeps to bedtime, the less reasonable a choice they may be. “Both caffeine and alcohol can adversely affect your sleep, even if consumed six hours before bedtime,” says Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and founder of Remedies For Me. “If you want to sleep soundly through the night, don’t drink caffeine after 5 p.m. and limit yourself to one small alcoholic beverage.”
More: Sleeping in weird places may just be the Japanese secret to everything
Essential oils have a variety of uses, but one of their most natural uses is smelling the heck out of them. Sydney Ziverts, health and nutrition investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, said that lavender oil in particular has calming and soothing effects and can help you go to sleep.
Sometimes, nothing we do can give us that quality sleep we’re craving, Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, a physician and sleep expert at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Sound Sleep Project noted. In fact, he said that despite being more than halfway through 2017, we still don’t have a great sleep remedy to offer the everyday person wishing to optimize their sleep experience.
“The simple answer for this is that sleep is, well, complicated,” he explained. “It’s asking an awful lot of a molecule — natural or synthetic — to assist our brains in maximizing the twists and turns of the unconscious state of sleep. If you struggle week after week with sleep problems, the best thing to do is discuss them with your doctor rather than experiment on your own.”