With the scary side-effects of prescription sleeping medications, natural sleep aids are more sought after than ever. Effective natural sleep aids make those nights of counting sheep a distant memory. The source of sleeplessness may be stress, illness, pain, or even troubled thoughts. No matter the source, we all experience nights when we can’t sleep.
The natural sleep rhythm of the body is called the circadian rhythm. The only time the body performs repair and maintenance is when we sleep. Recuperative sleep is necessary for health and well-being. When we don’t get proper sleep, our physical and mental health suffer.
How much sleep is enough?
A minimum of eight hours is ideal. I know some people who say, “I don’t need eight hours, I only need seven. I do just fine.” Maybe so, for now, but it’s scientifically proven it takes an eight-hour period of sleep for the body to fully perform necessary tasks of repair and maintenance.
Sleeplessness is an epidemic in our country. I know you’ve seen commercials for prescription sleep aids. Have you listened to all the side effects? Is it any wonder there is so much interest in natural sleep aids?
There’s a long list of natural sleep aids, but I can only share those we use and can say work for us. Before I share them with you, I have to tell you I’m not a doctor, nor am I making a prescription. You alone are responsible for the health and well-being of your family. Sadly, our American society makes it impossible for me to just share what I’ve experienced with you without making a disclaimer.
Relaxing Lavender tea
To make lavender tea, I use organic lavender flowers. If you like a stronger flavored tea, as I do, use 2 teaspoons of lavender flowers in 6 to 8 ounces of boiling water. If you prefer a weaker tea, use 1 teaspoon lavender flowers. Place the lavender flowers in the infusion ball of your choice and put it in your cup. Pour boiling water into the cup and cover it. Let it steep for 6 minutes. Remove the infusion ball and add the sweetener of your choice. I don’t like a very sweet tea so I only add one-half teaspoon of organic honey.
Using the infuser of your choice, place the lavender flowers in your cup. Pour the boiling water over the infuser, cover it and let it steep for 6-10 minutes. Remove the infuser and add the sweetener of your choice. I only add one-half teaspoon of organic honey because I don’t like it too sweet.
It’s important to cover any tea you make while steeping. This keeps the health benefits from escaping with the steam.
Essential Lavender oil
I use Lavender oil to create a calm, relaxing atmosphere in our bedroom. I do this in a few different ways.
I pour a little lavender oil in the palm of my hand, rub them together and wipe them over our sheets and pillowcases. Allow the oils to dry before you lie down.
A diffuser is the perfect way to have the calming scent of lavender fill the air. They can be inexpensive and there are even diffusers available for the car
I make a spray I use as an air freshener and fabric spray. I mix 6 ounces of water, 2 tablespoons of witch hazel, and 25 to 35 drops of lavender oil in a glass spray bottle. You could use a plastic spray bottle. Shake well before each use to combine. Mist the air and bedding. Be sure the sheets are dry before you lie down.
Epsom Salt with essential oils
Almost every home in the U.S. has Epsom salt in it. There are so many benefits and uses. I don’t believe we even know all of them. It’s an excellent natural sleep aid.
Add 1 cup Epsom salt to a tub of the warmest water you can stand. Now add 15 to 20 drops of lavender oil and 10 to 15 drops of rosemary oil. Take deep breaths as you climb in. Inhale the relaxing, calming scent of the oils for maximum benefit.
Have you smelled Valerian root? Shew! It smells like stinky feet to me. As a natural sleep aid, valerian is effectively used in a few forms.
You can buy it in capsule form. You can also buy valerian powder and make your own capsules. Some people mix valerian with their tea or warm milk.
Now, I’ve not tried it in tea or milk. I just can’t get past the smell. I do have a couple of friends who add it to their chamomile tea and swear by it. We use it in capsule form.
Calming Chamomile tea
Best known for its calming effects, chamomile is an effective natural sleep aid. I enjoy chamomile tea made with organic chamomile flowers, but my favorite way to drink it is to mix it with lavender flowers. The smell alone is calming and relaxing.
To make chamomile tea, use 1 teaspoon chamomile flowers in your favorite infuser. Pour 6 to 8 ounce of boiling water over the tea, cover and steep for 5 minutes. You can sweeten your tea with what you prefer. I use 1/2 teaspoon raw, organic honey, if I sweeten it at all.
To make a strong chamomile-lavender tea, the way I prefer it, put 3/4 teaspoon chamomile and 1 teaspoon lavender in your infuser. For a weaker tea, use 1/2 teaspoon chamomile flowers and 1/2 teaspoon lavender flowers. Then steep for 5 minutes and sweeten as you like.
Warm milk works
We’ve heard it all our lives, but have you tried it? It does work. Warm milk contains tryptophan, the same amino acid as the Thanksgiving turkey which makes you so sleepy! It’s important to not boil the milk, just heat it. We are also concerned with buying the healthiest milk available.
It’s not just the tryptophan which helps warm milk work. It takes large doses to work by itself. With warm milk, a psychological influence is involved.
Milk is associated with the love and care of a mother. For this reason, it brings us comfort and, for some, warm memories. Since these subconscious influences are part of our genetic makeup, the effects are the same regardless of our childhood experiences. The comfort and relaxation stimulate the secretion of serotonin by the brain. Serotonin brings us the feelings of relaxation and well-being. In turn, this brings us restful sleep.
On the physical side, warm milk warms the stomach which relaxes and warms the body. The warming of the body relaxes our muscles. As our muscles relax, our body systems slow down. This slowing down is natural as the body prepares to enter its repair and maintenance mode.
Tips to avoid sleepless nights
- Turn on soft, relaxing music, while sipping on the teas or warm milk.
- Avoid watching television, working on the computer or any other electronic device for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before going to bed. Your natural circadian rhythm is disrupted by the stimulation of the blue light.
- Having a bedtime routine is the best thing you can do to ensure a restful nights sleep. By performing the same routine every evening, your body becomes queued. Once the habit is formed, your body will know when you perform your routine it’s time to sleep and take care of itself.
- Do 5 – 10 minutes gentle, relaxing stretches just before going to bed.
- Remove alarm clocks, cell phones, nightlights, any source of light in your bedroom. You can place your alarm clock in another room or you can place your clock face down so the light isn’t shining in the room.
- Wi-fi signals in your home should be turned off when you’re sleeping. If you choose to leave your router on, don’t leave your cell phone beside the bed. Wi-fi signals are proven to disturb the body’s natural rhythm as they penetrate the body.
- If you want to read before bed, read a paper book, not your electronics.
- Play nature sounds, white noise, or relaxing music while you drift off to sleep. You can set it on a timer or let it play all night.
I hope these natural sleep aids allow you to avoid sleepless nights. Have any of these helped you? Do you have a natural sleep aid you prefer to use?
Safe and Happy Journey and Sweet Dreams,
Rhonda and The Pack