The Top 20 Natural Sleep Remedies For Better Sleep & Improved Health
Adults are supposed to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night. Teens are supposed to sleep 8 to 10 hours each night. Is that how much you regularly get?
Sleep is one of those things we often take for granted until we struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep.
We don’t realize how precious those resting hours are until we stare up at the ceiling in total tossing and turning frustration. Whether you have trouble sleeping once in awhile or you are seriously in the midst of total insomnia frustration, I know you are desperate for help.
And those of you with very serious sleep-related troubles like sleep apnea – you can benefit from these tips too.
These 20 sleep remedies are just for you. And here’s what makes them so fantastic – they are all 100% natural. This means no nasty side effects and no sleeping pill dependency.
Bonus: These sleep remedies will actually improve your overall health. A big win/win! I have herbal remedies, nutrients you should take through supplements and diet changes, and lifestyle choices that will help you get your sleepy time. So let’s get started.
Herbal Remedies for Better Sleep
We are going to start out with some herbal supplements that you should consider taking to improve your sleep.
Our bodies are set to a rhythm, the circadian rhythm to be exact.
It’s why we feel sleep somewhere around the same time each day (give or take an hour) and why we wake up around the same time each day (give or take an hour).
But modern life makes it incredibly easy to fall out of that rhythm. Not only do thinks like shift work and travel tweak our circadian rhythms, so do things like streetlights.
There used to be a time where soft candlelight was all that was lighting up the night sky (which signaled to your body, “Hey, it’s time to be sleepy.”) Melatonin is a chemical in your brain that regulates when you fall asleep and when you wake up (AKA: that circadian rhythm.)
In fact, melatonin is a light sensitive chemical that registers the morning sunlight and tells you it’s time to wake up. So when your rhythm is all messed up, taking more of this chemical can help you get back to normal.
P.S. As we age, our melatonin levels naturally start falling. This is one of the main reasons why the prevalence of insomnia increases the older somebody is.
2. Valerian Root Extract
Valerian root is a sedative herb from Europe. That natural sedation can help with two big things:
- Sleep troubles
Don’t get this confused with a prescription sedative. It won’t knock you out. It won’t leave you out of control of your senses. It won’t make you groggy tomorrow morning. It simply helps your body relax so it can naturally drift into sleep.
Multiple studies have shown that not only can it help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but your actual sleep quality improves too. And a recent study showed that valerian was just as effective as a prescription sleep aid – without the nasty side effects.
3. Passion Flower Extract
Passion tea really came into trend when Starbucks started offering it years ago. But it’s more than just a tasty caffeine-free and calorie-free drink.
One study looked at 41 participants who were even given either passion flower or a placebo. The findings showed that the passion flower offered, “sleep benefits for healthy adults with mild fluctuations in sleep quality.”
Here’s what that means: these benefits are largely short-term and they probably won’t fix severe, chronic insomnia. But passion flower extract CAN make it easier to relax and sleep each night.
A hot passion flower tea also makes a great evening ritual to calm your mind and body before bed.
4. Chamomile Flower Extract
This one should come as no surprise. Every sleepy tea mixture from every tea brand seems to have chamomile in it. The smell, the taste, the effects – most of us already know them so well.
But science shows us that the power of chamomile may be even deeper. It can actually help those with symptoms of anxiety and depression – two mental conditions that exacerbate and even cause insomnia in many teens and adults.
Taking the extract helps you get a potent punch of this relaxing plant.
But you should also keep your chamomile tea as part of your nightly ritual. It is often best to choose an organic brand that is not filled with additives. You want real chamomile.
In fact, if you want to make your own chamomile tea blend from scratch, here is a great video for a honey and chamomile tea:
(Pro tip: diffusing the essential oil Roman Chamomile allows you to benefit from the aromatic calming properties of this herb too!)
Remember when green tea was the “superfood” drink of the decade? There was a reason for that! One of the amino acids of green tea is called L-Theanine, and it has lots of effects that can help sleep:
- Prevents high blood pressure
This won’t make you drowsy. But it will help calm your system enough that you can sleep comfortably.
Don’t drink green tea before you go to bed to enjoy the benefits of L-Theanine; it has caffeine. Just take the supplement form. (Remember, even decaf coffee and tea normally has a lose dose of caffeine.)
6. Magnolia Bark Extract
Magnolias offer more to humans than just their beauty. For years the flower buds and the bark of this tree have been used to treat all sorts of medicinal problems – from menopause all the way to insomnia. One study in particular looked at menopausal women who were dealing with sleep troubles. Magnolia bark (along with magnesium) helped sleep disturbances… which brings us to our next supplement….
Nutrients for Better Sleep
Now I’m going to talk about 3 nutrients that help improve sleep. You will want to boost your intake through supplements and diet choices. Remember, your diet will play a huge role in your health – which includes sleep.
Magnesium is one of the most overlooked nutrients when it comes to overall health; we normally focus more on calcium. But our bones, our hearts, our sexual organs – and yes – our sleeping rhythms need magnesium to function properly.
Studies have shown adding a magnesium supplement to your regimen will not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but it will also calm stress and anxiety – a leading cause of insomnia symptoms. Beyond supplement form, it is also important to eat magnesium-rich foods throughout the day like:
- Leafy greens
- Seeds (especially pumpkin seeds)
- Dark Chocolate (be careful with this one after dinner – the traces of caffeine can make it hard to sleep)
Replace your typical dessert (all that sugar and chocolate caffeine are not helping you sleep) with these magnesium-rich foods. My favorite is a parfait:
- Find an organic yogurt without any added sugar
- Slice up ½ of a banana and add it to your yogurt (save the other half for the next night so you aren’t eating too much sugar)
- Toss in a handful of sliced almonds
One slice of avocado toast can be a great treat too.
Zinc is a trace mineral that many of us simply do not get enough of. And we should be. Not only does a zinc deficiency hurt sleep, it can also do all sorts of things like weaken your immune system, encourage food allergies, cause leaky gut, inflame acne, and even thin hair.
One study showed the combo of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc “appears to improve the quality of sleep and the quality of life in long-term care facility residents with primary insomnia.”
Taking a zinc supplement is super important for those who struggle with the quality of sleep, but so is boosting your dietary intake. Great food choices include:
- Oysters and crab
- Beef, chicken, and pork
- Garbanzo beans
Since meat is provides a lot of dietary zinc, vegans and vegetarians should make a zinc supplement a priority.
9. Vitamin B6
The B vitamins have the reputation for boosting energy, so does that mean they are the enemy of a good night’s sleep? Not at all!
Vitamin B6 in particular can help with anxiety and serotonin production, both of which will help with insomnia. Taking B6 as a supplement is a good start, but you should also boost up some of these foods in your diet:
- Turkey, beef, and tuna
- Sunflower and sesame seeds
So this means the B vitamins are a great alternative for caffeine during the day. They can boost your energy levels and at the same time help you get a restful sleep each night.
Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep
Now let’s focus on some lifestyle choices you can make that will help make you healthy and ready for bed! Maybe you’re dreading the though of exercising everyday or remembering to meditate, but all of these activities are better and easier than not sleeping.
10. Start Meditating
Meditation seems too mysterious or scary for many people, so they never get to take advantage of all its glorious, sleepy benefits.
First off, meditation truly does calm your mind and ease your anxiety. When you get into bed and your mind is not racing in the million things it has to do or the long list of things that are worrying you, you can drift off.
But there are also some direct connections. In fact, researchers have discovered that mindfulness meditation directly improves sleep, prevents insomnia episodes, and limits fatigue during the day.
It’s really easy.
- Sit somewhere quiet
- Breathe deeply from your stomach (shallow breaths from your chest only promote more stress)
- Focus on the breath and/or choose a mantra or focus (Some of my favorites are “I am enough,” “I will be joyful and peaceful today,” and “I breathe in calm.”)
- When your mind wanders or stressful thoughts pop up, notice them and then let them go
11. Get Regular Exercise
Our body has this amazing system. We spend energy, we get tired, we sleep, we create more energy – and this cycle keeps going around and around.
But many of us forget that spending that energy is key for a restful night’s sleep.
Since most of society works desk jobs these days, many of us may go an entire day without being active. Studies show that continual exercise is just as effective for insomnia has hypnotic drugs.
The goal should be to get frequent, moderate exercise. And never do it right before bed (it will pump you up too much).
This can include:
- Lifting weights
- Yoga/Pilates/group fitness classes
- Ballroom dancing
If you don’t have time or money for a gym membership, take advantage of the thousands of YouTube workout videos. In fact, this is one of the best ab workouts I have ever tried:
Then be super intentional about being active in your life even beyond the gym. Take your kids for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Take the stairs. Bike to a nearby store instead of drive. Stretch before bed.
12. Do Away With Caffeine
We are a coffee-obsessed society. We are tired and overworked and that hot cup of Joe in the morning gives us that boost of energy we crave so much. But when morning coffee turns into a morning pot of coffee and afternoon coffee and evening coffee – your sleep will suffer.
Many people think “Well, I just won’t have coffee after dinner.” Or maybe they cut it of at lunch. But the effects of caffeine are extremely long lasting.
If you are struggling with your sleep in any way, tapering off your caffeine usage should be one of the very first things you do.
To prevent headaches or other negative side effects, wean yourself over a week. For example: If you normally have two cups in the morning and one cup in the afternoon.
Do 1-½ cups in the morning and a ½ cup in the afternoon for two days.
Then do 1 cup in the morning and none in the afternoon for 2 days. Then see how your sleep is.
You may even want to try cutting it out all together and sipping on a hot herbal tea when you wake up. (Start with some of the herbal teas I mentioned above like chamomile or passion flower.)
13. Limit Alcohol
Alcohol is a trickster when it comes to sleep. A glass or two of wine or a can of beer before bedtime may make you feel drowsy. It may even help you fall asleep.
But it’s faking you out.
A few hours into sleeping, the effects of alcohol can wake you right back up again. In fact, researchers found that, “total night REM sleep percentage is decreased in the majority of studies at moderate and high doses.”
Insomniacs normally do better without alcohol. If you do not want to cut it out completely, limit it to no more than one serving and have it earlier in the evening.
14. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are trendy right now. And sometimes with things are trendy, it starts making people question their effectiveness.
But there’s no doubt about it – scent is powerful. So powerful that it can relieve stress, calm your mind, and encourage peaceful sleep. Here are my favorite essential oils to help me sleep through the night:
- Ylang ylang
You can buy an essential oils diffuser to breathe in these scents aromatically. Some people like to add a few drops to some lotion before bed. You can also create a pillow spray.
Here’s a short video that shows you how to make a lavender/vanilla spray.
15. Say No To Bedroom Screens
Keeping your electronics in your bedroom does a whole bunch of things that makes it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep:
- They are distracting: How many times have you wanted to watch “just one more” episode before bed or found yourself scrolling mindlessly through Facebook
- They are stimulating: When you grab your phone because you are struggling to fall asleep, you are engaging your brain instead of calming your brain
- They are bright: Our bodies are wired to start the sleeping process in the dark. Melatonin is actually light sensitive. When you add all this bright, blue artificial light, you are messing with that system
Make your bedroom a screen-free zone. It’s a great place for books, journals, and a sound machine.
16. Try Sleep Relaxation Techniques
Stress is one of the main causes of insomnia. And so many of us have the hardest time actually getting our minds and bodies to relax.
Luckily, there are some proven methods that can give you a helping hand. Here are 9 of my favorite (research-backed) sleep relaxation techniques.
- Yoga and stretching
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided imagery
- Deep breathing
- 4-7-8 breathing
- Autogenic training
- Sleep sounds
Learn about how to perform each one on our post here. In that article, I go into step-by-step instructions for each.
17. Get Up After 30 Minutes
If you have been tossing for turning for more than 30 minutes, get out of bed.
Here’s why: have you ever felt that growing frustration/anxiety when you realize it won’t be an easy sleeping night? Once you got to that point, did it make it easier or harder to fall asleep? HARDER!
Instead, get out of bed and start a calming, soothing activity to calm any built anxiety and settle your mind. Some of my favorite options are:
- Coloring in my adult coloring book
- Writing in my journal (if life stress is keeping you up, this is a great way to process through it)
- Reading a book (But it can’t be a gripping, suspenseful book where I get wrapped up into the story line. I personally like non-fiction or short story collections.)
Once you feel calm and drowsy again, then head back to bed and give it another try.
18. Keep Your Room Cool
The temperature of your room plays a huge role in how well you sleep. When it is too warm, sweat and overheating can wake you up in the middle of the night.
Sleep.org recommends setting your air conditioning somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees (or not allowing your heater to heat your home more than that).
If you do not have an A/C unit, or if it makes your bills too expensive, invest in a stand up fan that you can position at the foot of your bed. Then sleep only with a sheet and pajamas with thin fabric.
If it is cool outside, sleep with the window open (as long as it is safe to do so). If it is hot outside, do not leave your curtains open all day for the sun to bake your house.
19. Keep A Sleep Schedule
This is the story for most people: we are so tired from waking up early and not sleeping well during the week, that we sleep in for hours and hours during the weekends. What is an 11pm to 7 am schedule during the week may turn into a 2am to 10 am schedule on the weekends.
This will always, always, always mess with your sleep cycles.
From childhood to our elderly years, it is imperative that we keep to consistent sleep schedules. This allows our body to know when it is the proper time to be sleeping.
20. Sounds For Sleep
Finally, we get to my last tip for encouraging sleep naturally. I want you to try a sound machine. Find a sound that feels soothing (often that doesn’t include water, because it may make you want to visit the bathroom). And use it consistently.
If you don’t want to buy a sound machine, you can download sound apps to your phone. Just make sure that your ringer is off and the screen is fully dimmed.
One of my favorites is the Brain FM app.
You do have to pay for monthly subscription, but the app developers collaborated with neuroscientists to find just the right sounds that help your brain find peaceful sleep (there is also nap and relax sounds, which can be good for prepping for bed.)
Not only will these sounds soothe you, but they will also block out any noise that may wake you up in the night. Like a noisy neighbor or a snoring spouse.
Getting Better Sleep to Improve Your Health
You may think that a good night’s sleep feels like a fantasy – you’ve been tossing and turning for so many nights and nothing seems to help. But that’s not the case.
Give these sleep remedies a try. They are backed by research as effective in moving you from tossing and turning to happily dreaming.
Be patient through your trial and error period. Try new remedies, see how they work. Then try some other remedies. and see how they work. Eventually, you will land on a sleep remedy cocktail that allows you to fall asleep and stay asleep each night.