Getting a good night’s sleep can be tough at the best of times but if you’re really struggling to fall asleep at night, it can begin to affect your waking hours too. A lack of sleep can lead to a number of problems beyond just lethargy so ensuring you’re getting a regular 40 winks is vital to your wellbeing.
But what do you do if, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t switch off? There are a number of natural sleep remedies you may want to consider from exercise to meditation. Below, we’ll go through some of the best to help you find your new natural sleep aid and get some much-needed rest.
When the sun goes down and it gets dark outside melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel sleepy) is released from the pineal gland. Sometimes our body isn’t as efficient at releasing melatonin as it could be, but there are a variety of ways of encouraging melatonin production, such as dimming the lights inside your home an hour before bed, and not using devices that release blue light such as laptop or phone screens for as long as possible before bedtime. Melatonin is also available as a supplement and is thought to help ease sleep issues such as jet lag and trouble falling asleep. It is best taken before bedtime to ensure a solid night’s rest but make sure you read the instructions and make yourself aware of the potential side effects.
Playing some gentle, slow music at a low level is a great sleep remedy that can help to improve sleep. Music therapy has been found to improve sleep quality, decrease nightly awakenings, lengthen sleep time, and increase satisfaction with sleep so if you find it difficult to stay asleep once you’ve drifted off, try playing some soothing music to help.
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise from India, made up of performing and holding many different ‘positions’ that engage muscles all over the body and is often paired with breathing exercises to clear the mind and gain mental clarity. The calming and soothing atmosphere that practicing yoga creates can be very beneficial to help your mind and body be ready for sleep so you may like to consider taking an evening yoga class or following an online tutorial at home.
If yoga isn’t your thing, you can take part in some gentle exercise to help burn off extra energy, release stress, and promote relaxed muscles. Activities such as going for a short walk or doing some light stretching are ideal but be careful not to overdo it - too much vigorous exercise too close to bed can get your adrenaline pumping and lead to an even less restful sleep!
Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand and pair really well with yoga but can also be practiced on their own. It is a technique that involves consciously directing one's attention to a point of focus (such as breathing, a particular sound, or repetition of a word) in order to relax the body, and calm the mind. It’s thought that regular meditation practice may help to promote sleep by slowing breathing and potentially reducing the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, a hormone that plays a key role in keeping us alert and awake and would have historically helped earlier humans focus when hunting.
Some easy types of meditation to try are:
- Visualization: Visualisation meditation involves actively imagining a relaxing scene. It can be done in bed for about 20 minutes before you fall asleep. Make sure to involve all of your senses. Think about what you can feel beneath your feet, what the scene sounds like, and imagine what it smells like too. The more vivid the visualization and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
- Body scan: Another excellent meditation method to do as you lie in bed, body scan or progression meditation can help make you more aware of your body and give your mind something to focus on other than your important meeting the next day. Lie in bed on your back as comfortably as you can. Starting from your feet and working your way up, focus on relaxing each body part as you go. Wiggle your toes and let them rest naturally. Feel any tension in your legs and let them relax. Continue all the way up to your neck and head. You may need to repeat this a couple of times the first time you try it but you’ll be feeling sleepy in no time.
- Breath awareness: This is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing. This can be performed anywhere, not just in bed but it helps you to slow down and stop worrying about the past or future, keeping you in the present moment. To begin, sit comfortably with your hands resting gently on your legs and begin to breathe slowly and deeply. Count your breaths and try to only focus on your breathing. If your mind wanders (which it’s bound to do) simply let the thoughts wash over you and away and bring your focus back to breathing. By regularly practicing breath awareness, you may find that you feel much less anxious, have more concentration, and have a better handle on your emotions.
These examples are just a few options from a plethora of different meditation techniques. You may need to try out a few different types to find one that works for you.
Herbs and plants
Nature provides us with some of the best sleep remedies around and there are plenty of herbs and plants out there to assist with promoting better sleep.
- Chamomile: Chamomile is a herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. It has been consumed for centuries as a natural remedy for sleep and is considered to be so effective due to a flavonethan it contains that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness.
- Valerian: A herb that has been used for centuries to help promote good sleep, valerian is used in our Nightcap elixir. The plant contains high levels of valerenic acid which is thought to be the reason why it helps you feel calm and sleepy.
- Lemon balm: When enjoyed as a tea or in a beverage, lemon balm is thought to have a great calming, de-stressing, and soothing effect on the mood which can help lead to better sleep thanks to its mellowing properties thought to come from a compound called rosemarinic acid. Best of all, this ingredient is added to our Nightcap!