Rosie Osmun | HealthGreatness
It’s no secret that when your mind is racing, it can feel almost impossible to fall asleep. Luckily, there are ways to clear the mental clutter and fall asleep faster that are both natural and effective.
From herbal remedies to breathing exercises, take your get-a-great-night’s sleep plan to the next level with these natural, medicine-free strategies.
1. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is a longstanding herbal remedy for a host of skin and digestive ailments. When served as a tea, it also acts as a mild sedative—helping to calm the nerves, reduce anxiety, and aid in fighting insomnia, said a 2010 review.
According to researchers, the sleep-promoting effects may come from apigenin, an antioxidant believed to have a calming, almost hypnotic effect on the brain. The trick to making chamomile work for you: Make a strong brew.
“Use two or three tea bags. Then put a lid on the pot to keep oils in the water — so you get the medicinal effects of the tea,” says Sharon Plank, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Center for Integrative Medicine.
2. Guided Imagery
If your mind gets stuck due to stress or running thoughts, a strategic mind game might do the trick. An Oxford University sleep study found that people using guided visualization fell asleep an average of 20 minutes sooner than people counting or doing nothing.
Lying down, picture yourself in a peaceful place and imagine that you’re actually there by seeing, feeling, hearing, and smelling your surroundings – essentially distracting your mind from sleep stealing thoughts as you drift off. If you are unsure where to start, MIT’s Community Wellness page has several helpful recordings you can try.
Herbal and folk medicine practitioners have long used the roots of this flowering plant to treat sleeping trouble and anxiety. And science lends support, too: several clinical studies and reviews have found that valerian root may help people fall asleep faster and improve the quality of their sleep.
Valerian is easy to find in capsule and tea form at many health and natural food stores, and experts say it’s safe to take for up to six weeks at a time. But before you begin taking any herbal supplement, it’s important to talk with your doctor. He or she can determine whether the herb is right for you and help you use the product safely.
4. Warm Bath and Cold Bedroom
Temperature plays a big role in sleep and wakefulness – ever notice how you start yawning in a cold office? Your body’s internal clock also naturally lowers body temperature close to bedtime, and your internal thermostat further drops during sleep.
You can help encourage this natural shift by taking a warm, calming bath one to two hours before bedtime. One study of elderly women with insomnia found that a hot bath 1.5 hours before bed significantly improved sleep quality.
Before you bathe, drop the thermostat. Ideal bedroom temperatures for sleeping are between 60 and 70 degrees. As you step out of the bath into the cool room, you’ll help encourage drowsiness and relaxation over the next hour or so.
5. Bee Breath
Don’t let the name fool you: This yogic breathing technique (named so because it sounds like the hum of a bee) can help you unwind and calm down, making it easier to start snoozing.
Here’s how to do Bee Breath:
- In a quiet room, sit up straight with your eyes closed.
- Place your index fingers on the cartilage between your cheek and ear.
- Breathe in deeply. As you breathe out, gently press on the cartilage while making a loud humming sound, like a bee.
- Breathe in again, and continue the same pattern 6-7 times.
The hormone melatonin is produced naturally in the brain to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Although research is somewhat mixed, many people report success with melatonin supplements in treating insomnia (always talk with your doctor to determine the right dose for you).
If you aren’t keen on supplements, try drinking tart cherry juice instead. Though tart cherry juice contains less melatonin than many supplements, studies published in the European Journal of Nutrition and the Journal of Medicinal Food both found modest improvements in sleep time and/or efficiency.
In addition to helpful breathing techniques like Bee Breath, a regular yoga practice can help reduce stress and tension over time, which could help you achieve better sleep overall.
But if you’re lying in bed with your eyes wide open, like, now, certain restorative poses—like cat pose, child’s pose, and legs up the wall —can have a near-instant relaxation effect.
8. Music Relaxation
If you’re not in the mood to get your stretch on, try zoning into relaxing music instead. A study published in the Journal of Music Therapy found that music relaxation was more effective at improving sleep than progressive muscle relaxation.
Try a calming classical song, harmonic nature piece, new age track or any other relaxing and positive tune. Turn off the lights, get cozy and turn the music on, focusing on the notes and sounds while letting the music fully absorb your attention.
Many of these natural remedies can also be combined in your evening routine to help you get the best sleep possible. For example, you could begin with a warm bath, then make yourself a cup of chamomile tea, do some stretches or read, and then relax with visualization or music until you drift off. The key is to be consistent in your evening routine so your body knows what to expect and when it’s time to fall asleep.
Share: What have you found helpful for falling asleep faster or beating occasional insomnia?