Natural Sleep Aids
The best natural sleep aids are those that get to the root of the problem. The first and most important step is to identify your causes of insomnia or disrupted sleep with the tests recommended below. By doing this you can work with your health care provider to create a plan that will help you find the relief you desire. Then make the changes in diet and lifestyle as suggested to enhance your results even further.
These tests will help identify the most common causes of sleep disorders, which include too much norepinephrine in the brain, not enough serotonin, dopamine or endorphins/enkephalins, a deficiency in melatonin (our primary sleep hormone), nutritional deficiencies, adrenal fatigue, food sensitivities, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, disrupted methylation, hormone imbalances, heavy metal toxicity or other detoxification problems, poor diet and exposure to toxins.
Use functional medicine testing to have melatonin and other neurotransmitter (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins) levels assessed and supplement with amino acids and other nutrients accordingly. Amino acids are the precursors for neurotransmitters and amino acid therapy is quite effective for bringing neurotransmitters back into balance.
Test for adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, methylation and thyroid problems and address as instructed.
Have testing for nutritional deficiencies and supplement the diet accordingly.
Have food sensitivity testing and adjust diet accordingly.
Remove alcohol, drugs, sugar, caffeine, white flour and other refined foods from the diet and eat organic (foods that aren't organic contain environmental toxins that alter neurotransmitters, hormones and adrenals and ultimately disrupt sleep.)
Clean up environmental toxins. They all stimulate the brain, activate your fight or flight and result in insomnia or disrupted sleep.
Switch to non-toxic environmentally friendly products in your home, garden and yard.
It is especially important to keep your sleeping environment clean and free from toxic chemicals such as perfumes, cleaning supplies, pesticides etc.
Use sheets and blankets that are made of natural fibers. Synthetic fibers are a chemical and can stimulate the brain and prevent you from sleeping. Don't wash your bedding with bleach or scented laundry products for the same reason.
Herbicides and pesticides are especially crucial to avoid. They are exceptionally toxic and cause excessive disruption and damage to neurotransmitters, adrenals and hormones. I once didn't' sleep for almost an entire year after an herbicide exposure got in my home. When I finally left that environment and went into a clean one, I couldn't' stop sleeping for three months as my body tried to catch up on what it lost.
Turn out all the lights. Studies suggest that the brain can't produce enough melatonin, the hormone required for sleeping, if we are exposed to light while sleeping.
Get regular exercise daily.
Exercise should not be too strenuous or extreme, because if it's too extreme it can deplete adrenal glands and neurotransmitters further. Also be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime, as this will prevent you from becoming sleepy.
Eat a diet that is low in carbohydrates, (yes even complex ones) and high in meat protein. I recommend the Paleolithic diet, as it is the diet that restores balance to all organs and systems.
Try and maintain a regular routine of getting up and going to bed around the same time. This will help those with self-imposed sleep deprivation to be more disciplined and it sets a sleep cycle that the body will become accustomed to following.
Make sure room the temperature is not too cold or too hot. Extreme heat in either direction can disrupt sleep.
Take a warm bath or shower just prior to bedtime.
Read or watch TV if these are relaxing for you, if they are stimulating then you would want to avoid.
Avoid conversations on the phone right before trying to go to sleep.
Some people who are experiencing a bout of transient insomnia may find particular natural sleep aids like valerian root or chamomile to be helpful, but personally I don't like promoting herbs for sleep, because they can be just like drugs and only cover up the problem. Herbs are also not very effective when exposure to pesticides or a diet high in sugar and caffeine is the culprit of insomnia.
Relaxation techniques like breathwork or meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing exercises right after lying down are very helpful in encouraging sleep. Deep breathing exercises and meditation increase alpha and theta brain waves, which result in a more relaxed state of mind and body that allows you to drift into delta sleep. It also stimulates inhibitory neurotransmitters in a healthy manner, calms down excitatory neurotransmitters and turns off the sympathetic nervous system. They also stimulate melatonin, your primary sleep hormone.
If you're having difficulty getting to sleep or wake up in the middle of the night, having an orgasm can help you. After having an orgasm, endorphins and other brain chemicals like oxytocin, vasopressin, prolactin, serotonin and melatonin are released that make you relaxed and sleepy. It also turns off your stress hormones, thus providing more relaxation. You must be lying down at the time of the orgasm and then immediately close your eyes and attempt to sleep, before natural hormones wear off.
Find effective ways of minimizing and coping stress, like walking, gardening, music, yoga, meditating, deep breathing exercises or venting with a friend, mentor or counselor.
Sleep deprivation and insomnia can be successfully addressed with the use of these natural sleep aids. What's even better is that beyond the initial testing for neurotransmitters, adrenals and hormones the majority of these remedies don't cost you anything. By making simple changes in your diet, lifestyle and home environment, sleep deprivation, insomnia or other sleep problems can often be overcome.
I can personally attest to their effectiveness, as I overcome my insomnia and improved the quality of my sleep by following the suggestions I have shared on this page. I personally have found that following the Paleolithic diet, cleaning up environmental toxins and getting regular exercise are the three most crucial steps for prevention. Additionally, I practice deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation every night to relax, unwind, stimulate melatonin, and turn off the sympathetic nervous system. With these practices, I am out like a light typically within ten or 15 minutes of lying down. You can achieve this too.