By Kate Harveston — There’s nothing like waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. But for years, I didn’t feel anything close to that, and fitful periods of sleep and lengthy stretches of wakefulness dominated my nights.
Peaceful rest had escaped me due to high levels of stress at work, and my thoughts would race through my head when I turned in for the night. The longer my anxiety-induced problems kept me awake, the more my productivity suffered in the office. I started nodding off in meetings, and the bags under my eyes were becoming an embarrassment.
On top of that, I was grinding my teeth in my sleep — another product of my anxiety that was hard to fight. I regularly woke up with a clenched jaw and lingering soreness throughout the day. And with the occasional headaches, I was in bad shape.
But as I read up on ways to fix my restless nights, I found I was not alone, and sleep issues are plaguing a substantial number of people.
For at least a few nights each week, 62 percent of American adults have sleep problems. From snoring to fellow teeth grinders, most of the American population undergoes challenges with their sleep. I found this both comforting and concerning. And you might, too, if you have sleep-related issues.
But a large portion also has severe sleep disorders. According to the American Sleep Association, approximately 50 to 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, night terrors and circadian rhythm disorders. And these disorders can affect your daily life now, as well as your health later.
While I found out about these widespread problems, I also researched and experimented with natural solutions. I found several toxin-free options through research, on the internet and by word of mouth. After testing them out, I had success with a few. Not only did I locate some remedies that achieved a better quality of sleep for me, but I landed on some that eased my teeth grinding, too. Check out the following all-natural remedies and my experiences with them below.
Our bodies naturally produce melatonin to keep the circadian rhythm flowing, and many people recommend it as a reliable sleep remedy. And it does help you fall asleep quickly. Essentially, melatonin supplements tell your brain it’s time to wind down, as it’s a circadian clock regulator. Doctors typically recommend you stop using it after a few weeks, so it’s not a long-term cure for sleeplessness.
Melatonin was one of the first things I tried when I encountered sleep issues, and it was highly effective. I would take it a while before bedtime to help me fall asleep quickly. But some can eventually see a diminished response to melatonin after a while, meaning you can’t continually take it. If you prefer an even more organic sleep aid, have some cherries as a bedtime snack, because they contain levels of melatonin.
Hot herbal tea has been a favorite of mine for a long time, so when I heard chamomile tea was a stress reliever and sleep remedy, I immediately incorporated it into my nightly routine. With its mild flavor and sweet smell, it’s extremely soothing.
In traditional medicine, people have long considered the chamomile flower a useful tool for relaxation. Doctors often prescribe benzodiazepine medications to induce sleep, but chamomile might work similarly, due to the flavonoids in it.
This plant-based supplement can function as a sedative to calm you to the point of dozing off. Chamomile continues to be an essential herbal aid for me, and I sip it about half an hour before I plan to turn in.
I hardly ever go without a cup of coffee in the morning, but I adjusted my continual intake throughout the day to account for my tense sleep pattern. A high caffeine intake, especially close to bedtime, can stimulate your muscles and lead to clenched teeth.
Restricting my consumption of coffee to one cup early in the morning reduced the times I would wake up with a tight jaw. I also stayed away from other caffeine-rich foods and drinks in the evening to give me a better chance of quality rest.
At first, I was hesitant about using lavender as a sleep aid, because I was worried the smell would be overpowering. But I started applying a spray mixture of lavender essential oil and water to my pillow at night, and I experienced deeper sleep without as much tossing and turning.
Applying lavender essential oil topically, orally or through aromatherapy can give you a longer duration of restful sleep. Turning on a diffuser at night or even using an organic lotion infused with lavender can provide relief from an uneasy sleep.
There’s a strong connection between stress, sleep, and magnesium levels. You consume magnesium, a natural mineral, through food to promote health. Essential to enzyme functioning, magnesium plays a role in everything from bone strength to heart health.
But when you don’t have enough magnesium in your body, your stress response can suffer, producing anxious behavior. Lack of this mineral can also lower your quality of sleep, but healthy levels reinforce your rest.
I increased the amount of magnesium-rich foods in my diet to take advantage of its ability to enhance sleep — not to mention its other health benefits. Spinach, almonds, bananas, and avocados are all high in magnesium and smart dietary choices for satisfactory rest.
I had cooked with the spice turmeric before, but I didn’t know about the valuable substance inside it — curcumin. This ingredient is what makes turmeric beneficial to insomniacs, as it has sleep deprivation-fighting properties.
The spice can manage anxiety and alleviate stress to produce better sleep. And if you end up having a bad night of sleep, turmeric can boost your mood and leave you less fatigued the following day.
It’s not the flavor you probably want before bed, but you can mix it into milk for a pleasant nighttime beverage. My daytime concentration and wakefulness also improved after trying this golden drink.
Passionflower, a purple bloom on vines, can take away nervousness that keeps you up at night. It has a decompressing effect that lessens nighttime anxiety and encourages sleep.
My tension at night subsided after I tried brewing a passionflower tea. The normal feelings of being overwhelmed without reaching a peaceful slumber weren’t as strong with this botanical aid.
As a tea, it has an earthy taste, but you can also use it in extract or tincture form to take orally or look for the supplement in tablets.
Participating in daily exercise can make you fall asleep faster and produce undisturbed shut-eye. A moderate workout is all you need to change your sleeping conditions, and it can reduce your risk of diseases and provide more energy during waking hours for overall wellness.
The endorphins you produce during a jog or a cycling session can help you relax later on. The time of day when you exercise can alter how smooth the transition into sleep is, though. Plan your fitness routine for a few hours before your bedtime, so your sleep isn’t fitful.
My workouts seem to prepare my body to rest without as much pent-up tension. I’ve found yoga can relax me before I go to sleep, too. The gentle moves and controlled breathing still my hectic thoughts.
Connecting your mind and body before bed is a beneficial de-stressor to end your day. You can dispel negative thoughts and emotions that create concern and prevent your sleep during meditative yoga. Because anxiety resulted in poor sleep for me, yoga’s focus on mindfulness and restfulness resonated with me.
Your circadian rhythm, which lets your body know when to wake up and go to sleep, responds to light. So an effective way to inform your body on the right time to sleep is to expose yourself to plenty of light in the morning.
When I wake up, I open my curtains and let in natural light to promote alertness. Sunlight can mark the start of your day, so make sure you reduce light at night to complete the effect.
Even electronics can trick your body into thinking it should stay awake if you’re using your smartphone at night. I turn my devices off an hour before bed to protect myself from added stimulants. I find guiding myself with light produces sleepiness at the right times.
Improve Your Quality of Rest
Once I found constructive supplements and practices for my sleep schedule, I finally regained a restful sleep cycle. My nightly routine includes these wholesome remedies, and I wake up feeling rejuvenated and energized for the day ahead.
My experience with sleep problems was primarily with restlessness and teeth grinding, but everyone’s experience is different. The same is also true for natural solutions, so test a few remedies until you find the most successful ones for you.
Kate Harveston is a health and wellness writer from Pennsylvania. She is passionate about teaching people how to live more all-natural and sustainable lives. You can find more of her work at sites like Greatist, Care2 and the Environmental News Network, as well as at her blog, So Well, So Woman.