The Most Effective Natural Sleep Aids
By Lisa Pecos
November 4, 2010
Have you been suffering from insomnia but you do not trust prescription sleep aids? If so, you are not the only one who feels this way. Prescription sleep medications have widely varied results, and the companies that make these drugs even admit to this. A drug that works perfectly for your spouse or a friend may have no effect on your sleep whatsoever. Even worse, some sleep medications can actually cause insomnia, and many have highly undesirable potential side effects. Ambien, for example, has been known to cause strange, self-destructive behaviors and blackouts, and these side effects are not as uncommon as you might think.
There is no denying that prescription sleep aids do help millions of people, but they are not for everyone. If you have been having trouble sleeping but prefer to address this problem through natural means, you have many options. Natural sleep aids can be just as effective as prescription medications. In fact, you can actually achieve deeper and more sustainable benefits form natural remedies than from prescription drugs, which address the symptoms of insomnia rather than the causes.
Natural sleep supplements
There are a number of natural and herbal remedies that have been shown to help with insomnia. The research on many of these supplements has yielded mixed results, but that is because herbal remedies are more subtle than prescription drugs and affect everyone differently. The key to finding an effective natural supplement is to keep trying different ones until you find the supplement that works for you. Rather than taking multiple supplements at once, try one for about a month, and then move on to the next one if the first does not work.
- Valerian: Extract from valerian root has been used for centuries to treat insomnia and nervousness. The exact nature of valerian's effectiveness is not known, but experts suggest that the root actually contains numerous organic compounds that may combine to create the supplement's sleep-encouraging effects.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is actually a natural hormone produced in the brain and is thought to help regulate the body's sleeping patterns. It is effective in treating minor sleep disorders such as jet lag and occasional insomnia, but it may not be the best choice for anyone who has chronic, nightly sleep issues.
- Chamomile: Chamomile is another herb that has been used for centuries to fight insomnia and to treat a variety of other health problems. A good chamomile tea is effective for calming the nerves and helping you feel relaxed at the end of the day. It is likely that its anti-insomnia effects result from this relaxation.
Another way to fight insomnia naturally is to use relaxation techniques to combat stress in general or to help you calm down in the hours before bed. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and aromatherapy can go a long way in helping you achieve a more relaxed state. However, the disadvantage of these therapies is that you cannot do them every day. Most people who participate in these treatments only go on average once per week.
There are also things you can do on a daily basis to help treat yourself. Meditation prior to going to bed can be effective for calming the mind and preventing your thoughts from racing as you are trying to get to sleep. Yoga performed 1-2 hours before bed can work in a similar manner, relaxing the body and contributing to a calm mind.
Lifestyle and sleep habits
In addition to these natural sleep aids, it is also a good idea to adopt certain daily habits that help encourage sleep. Perhaps most importantly, anyone who has been having trouble sleeping should make sure to get plenty of exercise and to eat a healthy diet. In many cases, insomnia is related to sleep apnea, which most commonly results from overweight. Plus, getting plenty of exercise tires you out so that sleep comes more easily.
Other habits that can help fight insomnia include:
- go to bed and wake up at the same times every day;
- avoid caffeine after noon;
- avoid television, computer screens, and other lights for an hour prior to bed;
- try not to take naps;
- have a designated sleep area that is removed from other activities.
Lisa Pecos writes about natural remedies and natural approaches to family health. More of her work can be found here.