Meditation And Relaxation Techniques
Meditation may help you sleep. Regular meditation can slow breathing and reduce stress hormone levels.
During meditation, you direct your attention to a point of focus. This could be your breathing, a sound, or a word. Meditation can help:
- Increase awareness of your body
- Relax your body
- Guided meditation, where someone else’s voice helps you relax
- Vipassana meditation, a Buddhist mindfulness practice
- Yoga Nidra, a kind of guided meditation
- Body scan, where you focus your attention on the feelings in different parts of your body
You can also try:
- Visualization: This involves imagining a relaxing scene. Try this for 20 minutes while lying in bed. Involve all your senses. For example, picture yourself on a tropical island. Think of the way the warm breeze feels on your skin. Imagine the scent of the flowers. Look at the water and listen to the waves. The more vivid the image and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
- Relaxation response: This is a way to counter daily life’s “fight or flight” stress. It is usually achieved by sitting quietly for a few minutes while concentrating on a single focus word.
- Mindfulness: This type of meditation involves focusing on your mind in the present.
Early evidence suggests meditation may improve sleep. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says there’s good evidence that these techniques can be helpful for insomnia. More research is still needed, though.
Gaba For Anxiety And Stress
While research is still limited, more data supporting GABA as a stress and anxiety reliever continues to emerge. Although, relieving anxiety and stress before bed isn’t to be taken lightly, as it can significantly impact sleep latency and overall sleep quality.
- One study from 2012 showed that after 30 minutes of taking GABA, it helped ease stress in participants.
- Low levels of GABA can result in anxiety and depression and is prevalent in individuals with mental health conditions.
- There’s a high dose of GABA in the supplement Chlorella as the neurotransmitter has shown to lower blood pressure.
Best For The Bedroom: Indie Lee Pillow Mist
Courtesy of Amazon
Thinking about adjusting your bedtime routine? If so, you might want to consider adding a pillow mist as part of your wind-down ritual. We all have an innate cue to tell us when to start winding down for sleep called the circadian rhythm however, there are other ways we can also cue our body to know sleep is coming. One way to signal sleep is through scent.
Indie Lees Pillow Mist combines chamomile and lavender essential oils to support a soothing, calm sleep. Indie Lee is a clean skincare brand, so you can feel good about bringing it into your bedroom or adding it to your travel packs for moments of jetlag.
The brand keeps their products free of 1,300+ banned ingredients, including parabens, mineral oil, sulfate-based detergents, synthetic fragrance, petroleum-based ingredients, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, formaldehyde, and GMO ingredients.
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Why Melatonin Supplements May Not Work For You
Melatonin’s main job is sending the signal that it’s time for bed. As such, Harris has seen melatonin supplements be most effective for those looking to adjust to bedtimes their bodies are not used to .
For these purposes, she says melatonin is best consumed in low doses in the 30 to 60 minutes leading up to your intended bedtime. “If you’re taking more than 3 to 5 milligrams nightly, then melatonin isn’t likely for you. There’s just no data suggesting that more than is indicated for sleep issues, and sometimes more is just more,” she notes.
When taken on a nightly basis, there is limited evidence5 that melatonin will improve sleep quality. While it may make it easier to fall asleep slightly quicker, Kennaway notes it won’t necessarily make it easier to stay asleep or reach deep sleep stages. All this to say: If melatonin has not worked quite as you wanted it to in the past, you wouldn’t be alone.
Kennaway notes that he’s seen many people expect melatonin to make up for bad habits like eating heavy meals or drinking alcohol too close to bedtime, using electronics late at night, and keeping an inconsistent bedtimeâwhich it definitely cannot do.
“It can help some people, but it isn’t the cure-all for everyone that it frequently is thought to be,” Harris echoes.
Amazon Basic Care Sleep Aid Tablets
There’s no bells and whistles when it comes to this sleep aid option, but more than 15,000 five-star ratings prove that this generic pick is totally worth the buy. Thanks to the active ingredient doxylamine succinate, just one tablet will help you get a better snooze. How exactly does it work? Doxylamine succinate is a sedating antihistamine that blocks certain brain chemicals, which can cause you to feel sleepy. This formulation is also free of gluten and pain relievers and customers love the affordable price tag.
One reviewer wrote: “This is the ONLY product that has work for my husband and me. He was prescribed sleeping pills and those didn’t even work as good as these! They are amazing. They also help you stay asleep! If you want a good night’s rest, order these now!”
One study found that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with a higher risk of sleep disorders. The Sleep Doctor, Michael Breus, agrees and says vitamin D is one of the vitamins that needs to be at a non-deficient level before considering alternative options. If your doctor has already cleared you to take a vitamin D supplement, this is a great option or schedule an appointment with your doctor, who can order a blood test to measure your levels of vitamin D before considering supplements.
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Should You Take Melatonin For Jet Lag
Jet lag is a circadian rhythm disorder, albeit a temporary one, so melatonin may help. To alleviate the worst effects, doctors recommend consulting one of several online calculators available, which ask you for your destination and arrival points, your flight time and your normal sleep patterns. Two sites that Dr. Avidan recommends are Jet Lag Rooster or the calculator from Fleet Street Clinic.
Theyre trying to tell you when to take the melatonin so your body knows: Oh, its dusk where Im going, Dr. Rosen said, explaining how you can use the supplement before your trip to readjust your body clock.
Other Popular Natural Sleep Aids
All other sleep supplements are like melatonin in that they can’t make up for poor sleep hygiene. Nor can they treat recognized sleep disorders like insomnia. Instead, they are meant to serve an adjunctâsupplementaryârole in an otherwise healthy nightly routine.
There is limited research on how various ingredients affect sleep in healthy people, but here are a few non-melatonin sleep aids that have gained popularity in recent years, and the science we have on them:
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Relaxation Techniques As An Alternative To Sleeping Pills
Relaxation techniques that can relieve stress and help you sleep include simple meditation practices, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, and the use of deep breathing. With a little practice, these skills can help you unwind at bedtime and improve your sleep more effectively than a sleeping pill or sleep aid. Try:
A relaxing bedtime routine. Turn off screens at least one hour before bed and focus on quiet, soothing activities, such as reading, gentle yoga, or listening to soft music instead. Keep the lights low to naturally boost melatonin.
Abdominal breathing. Most of us dont breathe as deeply as we should. When we breathe deeply and fully, involving not only the chest, but also the belly, lower back, and ribcage, it can actually help the part of our nervous system that controls relaxation. Close your eyes and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Make each exhale a little longer than each inhale.
Progressive muscle relaxation is easier than it sounds. Lie down or make yourself comfortable. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10, and then relax. Continue to do this for every muscle group in your body, working your way up to the top of your head.
For a guided progressive muscle relaxation meditation, .
What About Tryptophan As A Natural Sleep Remedy
Tryptophan is a precursor in the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. That means it’s a biochemical substance that is necessary for the formation of the more stable serotonin.
During the late ’60s and early ’70s, sleep studies suggested that the neurotransmitter serotonin may play a role in sleep induction. Later on, research in animals showed that destruction of parts of the brain that housed nerve cells containing serotonin could produce total insomnia. Partial damage to these areas of the brain caused variable decreases in sleep. The percentage of destruction of these particular nerve cells correlated with the amount of slow-wave sleep.
Because tryptophan is present in milk and warm milk helps some people feel drowsy, tryptophan became a much sought-after item for the treatment of insomnia at natural food stores. Yet some people who took tryptophan as a natural supplement developed a syndrome eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome . Some people died. Scientists later believed the deaths were the result of taking the amino acid tryptophan. Not everyone who took tryptophan, however, experienced these side effects. In addition, not everyone who took tryptophan received help for insomnia.
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Are There Risks Associated With Taking Valerian
Valerian is usually well-tolerated for up to a month to six weeks. Sometimes there may be headache or a “hangover” feeling after using valerian. A few studies indicate valerian impairs thinking for a period of time after it is used.
There are no reports of drug interaction with alcohol with valerian. Because it is possible, however, that valerian might have a sleep-inducing effect, or may cause dizziness, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating, it should not be taken along with alcohol or sedatives.
Also, there are no reports of “valerian addiction,” like you might find with some pharmaceutical sleep aids. Some people report a stimulating effect with valerian.
Are There Any Side Effects Of These Natural Sleep Aids
Compared to those of prescription drugs or OTC medicines, side effects will be much less risky for the natural sleep aids. Of course, you shouldnt take too much of anything, even if it is a nutrient that occurs naturally in your body. Everything should be taken in moderation.
If you accidentally overdose with one or more of these natural ingredients, you are most likely to experience mild to moderate nausea, intense or vivid dreams, or impaired judgement. It is also possible that each individual ingredient could cause an allergic reaction, so make sure that you are not allergic to any of them before you supplement.
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Naturalistic Sleep Vs Natural Sleep Aids
If you’re having trouble sleeping but want to avoid the side effects of sleep medications, you might have heard of using homeopathic or natural remedies like valerian root, passionflower, lemon balm, essential oils, magnesium supplements, gamma-aminobutyric acid , l-theanine, tryptophan, or 5-HTP. Clearly, there is no shortage of over-the-counter sleep supplements claiming to give you better sleep.
While herbal supplements and other dietary supplements may feel safer than sleep medicines because theyâre labeled and marketed as ânatural,â they often aren’t closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration . That means thereâs no way to know if theyâre completely safe, if they actually work, or if youâre even getting whatâs printed on the bottle. The good news? You really donât need them.
Hereâs the thing: Most of us are biologically good sleepers . Itâs the things we do on a regular or even irregular basis that can impede our sleep â such as keeping an erratic sleep schedule, drinking caffeine too late in the day, using bright lights at night, and staying up too late â and make us think we need external help to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.
In reality, you just need to remove those obstacles so that your body can do what it was born to do: get the naturalistic sleep you need to feel as good as possible and fuel your day.
Plus Tips To Get A Better Night’s Rest
Sanja Jelic, MD, is board-certified in sleep medicine, critical care medicine, pulmonary disease, and internal medicine.
Natural sleep remedies include meditation, yoga, supplements, and essential oils. Whether you are dealing with the occasional poor night’s sleep or long-term insomnia, many people find these natural sleep aids helpful.
This article discusses 14 natural sleep remedies. It also explains the evidence to support the claims for natural sleep aids and other ways to get a good night’s sleep.
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What Are Ways To Fall Asleep Naturally
A range of practices can help encourage sleep naturally, including:
- Regular exercise: People can engage in physical activity several hours before bedtime to encourage sleep.
- Avoiding stimulants: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
- Sleep schedule: Maintain the same sleep schedule where possible, even on days off, going to sleep and waking up at the same time.
- Sleep environment: Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and slightly cool to encourage comfortable sleep.
- Avoid screens: People should stop using screens, such as smartphones, TVs, and personal devices, at least 1 hour before bed.
Best Sleep Aid Remedies Without Melatonin
Trouble sleeping is one of the most common conditions that first world citizens deal with today.
For some hopeful sleepers, prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs for sleep aid can be intimidating. There is always potential for dependency, withdrawal, and the risk of getting a little bit too drowsy.
This might be the reason why so many people with sleeping troubles prefer to try more natural solutions to calm their restlessness. Natural remedies seem to be much more gentle on the body, wont cause any type of physical dependency, and could perhaps add a few side benefits for your health.
One of the most popular natural sleep alternatives is melatonin. However, is that your best bet for a natural sleep aid, or are there better options out there?
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Risks And Side Effects Of Sleeping Pills
All prescription sleeping pills have side effects, which vary depending on the specific drug, the dosage, and how long the drug lasts in your system. Common side effects include prolonged drowsiness the next day, headache, muscle aches, constipation, dry mouth, trouble concentrating, dizziness, unsteadiness, and rebound insomnia.
How To Choose The Best Sleeping Pill
The best type of sleeping pill for a person will depend on the cause of sleep issues and a persons sleep patterns. People with insomnia may benefit from one medication, while those with jet lag can experience the best results from another.
People may want to start with a low-dose melatonin product or a valerian root supplement. If they do not experience improved sleep, they can look into a higher dosage.
The best way to determine the most suitable sleeping pill or dosage is to consult with a doctor for personalized recommendations.
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Can Melatonin Treat Migraines
Yes, while melatonin can potentially trigger headaches, its also used to treat them. Studies have shown that certain amounts of melatonin were effective in treating migraines even though its unclear if that has to do with the melatonin itself or improved sleep, she says.
That said, it shouldnt be considered a first-line treatment for migraines or other headaches. You should contact your healthcare provider first to pinpoint the reason youre having these headaches, Dr. Horvat adds. It could also mean that you have another condition that needs simultaneous treatment.
Are Sleep Aids Safe
Anything you takeincluding natural sleep remediescan have unexpected side effects and risks. And since the regulation of supplements isnt nearly as strict as that of pharmaceuticals, the products you buy could even contain fluctuating amounts of the active ingredients in each batch. If youre going to try a supplement, Grandner recommends sticking with a major supplement manufacturer to increase the likelihood of better quality control.
And remember to check with your doctor before taking any supplementespecially if you have a preexisting health condition or if you take prescription medications.
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Does Melatonin Affect Our Dreams
Far and away, the most common side effect that I have patients report to me is that their dreams just become much more vivid, Dr. Abbott said. Scientists arent sure why that happens.
Dr. Kolla has also seen patients who have nightmares or disruptive dreams, which are also common with sleeping pills. In that case, you want to try to lower the dose, he said. Or, if its too problematic, stop.
How Do Doctors Use Melatonin
Sleep doctors may use melatonin to help patients with circadian rhythm disorders regulate their sleep-wake cycles. For example, during the pandemic, Dr. Avidan said, weve seen those people who become super night owls unable to fall asleep until 2 or 3 a.m.
Experts also suggest people use a bright light in the mornings to help them wake up, which has alerting properties and can suppress any remaining melatonin production, said Dr. Abbott.
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Why Not Melatonin As A Natural Sleep Aid
When talking about natural sleep aids, melatonin is usually the #1 which comes to mind. Melatonin is the natural hormone which our bodies produce in response to darkness. But, just because melatonin in our bodies is natural, it doesnt mean taking melatonin pills is safe and healthy.
First off, lets clarify that melatonin is a hormone. Our bodies produce it from serotonin. You need healthy levels of both serotonin and melatonin to sleep well. Melatonin is primarily responsible for regulating the circadian clock whereas serotonin triggers sleep and REM . Just taking melatonin isnt going to solve your sleep problems. The one time when taking melatonin may be okay is when you need to reset your sleep schedule, such as when starting a new job with different hours or recuperating from jet lag.
Melatonin is a hormone, and taking melatonin pills means you are taking hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is very controversial because it causes your body to produce less of the hormone being taken. If you take melatonin, your body will stop producing so much melatonin! You soon become dependent on the melatonin pills to get to sleep.