Brilliant Homemade Sleep Aids That May Surprise You
One of the most common things that stops people from being productive and energized each day is a lack of sleep. Technology, stress, too much caffeine, medications, stress, incompatible sleep partners…
…these all can contribute to our lack of sleep each night.
Rather than turn to pharmaceutical sleep aids that can have serious side effects or cause addiction, consider some of the following homemade, natural sleep aids.
Let’s look at a few common and scientifically-backed, brilliant homemade sleep aids you can try as soon as this evening.
Brilliant Homemade Sleep Aids
1. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice is an effective sleep aid because it contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which converts to serotonin. The serotonin then converts to melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycle. Melatonin is the hormone that causes body temperature to lower and cause sleepiness.
It does more than cause sleepiness, however. Researchers from Louisiana State University presented new data at the Experimental Biology Conference 2014 showing that drinking tart cherry juice also led to additional sleep each night.
In the study, seven adults drank two, eight-ounce servings of Montmorency tart cherry juice twice per day for two weeks. They then drank no juice for two weeks and then a placebo beverage for two weeks.
Results showed that the cherry juice drinking weeks led to an average 84 additional minutes of sleep per night (practically one entire sleep cycle!).
Drink one-half cup to one cup of tart cherry juice to help you sleep each night. If you want to test the results of the Louisiana State University study for yourself, try two, eight-ounce servings per day to increase sleep duration.
2. Valerian Root Infusion
Valerian is a well-known homeopathic herb which is used as a sleep aid and a sedative. It is believed to create a calming effect by way of increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the system. Not only does it reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, but it may also increase your quality of sleep as well.
The National Institutes of Health suggest that valerian is taken for no longer than four to six weeks at a time, and it is not safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You can take valerian either in a tincture, tea, or capsule form. I like this valerian infusion as the warmth of the tea is additionally relaxing.
- One teaspoon dried valerian root
- 8 ounces of boiling water
- Honey or another sweetener if desired.
- Put the valerian root in a tea ball/infuser and place in a mug.
- Add boiling water to the mug.
- Cover and steep for 15 minutes.
- Remove tea ball/infuser from the mug.
- Add sweetener of choice (optional).
3. Chamomile Tea
Used to treat more than 100 maladies, chamomile tea is easily the most popular choice for calming and sedation. It is most often used as a mild tranquilizer and sleep inducer. Many studies conclude that the compound apigenin in chamomile is what makes it so relaxing.
Fun Fact: Medieval monks once directed people to lay in chamomile flower beds to reduce depression and promote relaxation.
Those who are allergic to ragweed, asters, daisies, or Echinacea, or those on blood thinners may not be able to use chamomile.
You can, of course, pick up a box of chamomile tea anywhere, but there is something a little more special about brewing the fresh flowers if they are available to you.
- ¼ cup of fresh chamomile flowers or 2 rounded teaspoons of dried flowers
- Boiling water
- Honey, Milk, or Lemon to taste (optional)
- Put the heads of the flowers (or dried flowers) in a teapot with a straining device.
- Add boiling water to the teapot (approximately 4 cups).
- Cover and steep for 5-6 minutes.
- Drink hot—pour into a mug.
- Add sweetener of choice, milk, and/or lemon (optional).
4. Hoppin’ (into bed) Tea
Hops, the female flowers of Humulus lupulus, have long been used to treat many an ailment. During the European olden days, people noticed that the field workers who cultivated hops tended to “fall asleep on the job” more often that other field workers. Since all field work was pretty equal, the only conclusion people could make was that the hops made them sleepy.
Enter scientific studies years later, and researchers have discovered that hops do have calming effects and also lead to better sleep quality. Now don’t run off to find your bottle opener just yet! Alcohol has been shown to make sleep more difficult, so enjoy your sleepy time hops alcohol-free with this make-ahead tea.
- Three tablespoons dried hops
- 6 cups of boiling water
- Honey, Milk, or Lemon to taste (optional)
- Put the hops in a jar with a tightly fitted lid.
- Add boiling water to the jar.
- Cover and steep for no less than five hours.
- Drink hot or cold 30-45 minutes before bedtime.
- Add sweetener of choice and/or milk (optional).
- This tea keeps up to three days in the refrigerator.
5. Warm milk and honey (also known as HOM)
There is little more comforting before bed than a warm glass of milk and honey. While milk does contain small levels of tryptophan, the psychological impact of warm milk before bed is what makes us fall asleep. The cultural phenomena of giving children warm milk with honey before bed has little scientific rationale; however, the results are still there!
Those who are lactose intolerant or just trying to reduce or eliminate dairy intake can substitute coconut, almond, or other nut milk for cow’s milk in this recipe.
- 1 cup milk
- One tablespoon honey (more or less suited to your taste)
- One teaspoon real vanilla extract (optional)
- A few shakes of ground nutmeg (optional)
- Heat milk in a saucepan over low heat.
- Using a whisk, add honey (and optional ingredients) to the warmed milk and softly blend until all ingredients are mixed.
- Pour into a mug.
- Enjoy 10-15 minutes before bed.
6. Lavender Sleep Sachet
Lavender is a gorgeous purple flower that has been widely used since the Middle Ages for a range of things including as an aphrodisiac, a relaxant, and for “pains of the brain.” Today lavender is synonymous with relaxation and sleep. Think about it; how many lavender-scented candles or aromatherapy products do you currently have in your home? Probably quite a few!
Lavender acts as a mild sedative and induces drowsiness, but has also shown to increase the quality of sleep.
Psychologists from Wesleyan University found that sleep study participants ranked their sleep quality as 20% better on the days they slept in a lavender-scented room versus the placebo, almond-scented room. In fact, researchers have found that it increased slow-wave sleep.
You will need:
- A premade muslin or cheesecloth sachet (you can purchase these at craft stores or make your own)
- Dried lavender flowers
- Lavender essential oil
- Fill the sachet about ¾ of the way full with dried lavender flowers.
- Add a few drops of lavender oil to the flowers depending on your personal preference.
- Tie the ribbon around the top ¼ of the sachet, securing it closed.
- Place on a bedside table or under your pillow.
7. Epson bath soak with lavender
Continuing our lavender adventure, we combine all the great sleep-inducing qualities of lavender with the addition of a relaxing, magnesium-rich bath. The major player of this sleep aid is the Epson salt. Epson salt is magnesium sulfate and is a natural muscle relaxant.
No doubt your parents had you take an Epsom salt bath after a softball game or during a growth spurt to ease muscle pain. This works by moving calcium out of the muscles (where it is causing tension) and back into the bloodstream to be utilized. Once the muscles are no longer tense, the body then initiates its relaxation response (the opposite of fight-or-flight) which is critical to good sleep.
- 2 cups of Epsom Salts
- Lavender Essential Oil
- Lidded Container
Directions: (I find this works best to distribute the scent evenly)
- Add 1 cup of Epsom salt to the container.
- Add 7-10 drops of lavender oil.
- Shake vigorously until well-blended.
- Repeat steps 1-3.
- Put the lid on the container and store until ready to use.
- To use: Add to warm bath water and enjoy!
Hint: This recipe also makes a great gift!
8. Lavender Bed Spray
Finally, a lavender bed spray is an excellent way to freshen sheets and enjoy the aromatherapy benefits of lavender in an all-natural way. This sleep aid distributes a light amount of aromatic fragrance all around you to whisk you off to sleep.
- 2 ½ cups boiling water
- Four tablespoons dried lavender (buds and/or flowers)
- Coffee filter
- Mason Jar
- Two tablespoons vodka
- Lavender essential oil
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
- Add dried lavender.
- Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
- Place the funnel in the Mason jar.
- Place the coffee filter inside of the funnel.
- Pour the water and dried lavender combination into the coffee filter/funnel slowly.
- Remove coffee filter/funnel and discard strained lavender.
- Add 1 ½ cups of boiling water to the Mason jar.
- Add the vodka and 10-15 drops of lavender oil to the Mason jar (depending on your preference).
- Shake vigorously.
- After the mixture cools, transfer to a spray bottle.
- Spray sheets, pillows, and even furniture or clothes as desired.
Do you have a homemade sleep aid that works great for you? What are a few of your favorites?