We all know the healing powers of sleep. We know how important it is to get adequate rest. We know the value of deep sleep, to recharge the brain and detoxify the body. But somehow, that hasn’t made it easier to get those precious zzzs! Collectively, we are facing an epidemic of sleep loss. Insomnia and sleep troubles are one of the top health complaints I hear from clients, and is a common reason why people visit their healthcare providers nowadays. Over 30% of Americans experience some kind of occasional sleep loss, and around 10% live with chronic sleep issues.
I personally have fallen into the latter category – my insomnia started when I was only 19 years old, and I quickly became reliant on OTC, and later prescription, medications to help me sleep. In recent years, I have done a lot of work to heal my sleep issues holistically, and have found many wonderful, natural products to help me do so. It’s important to know that there is not a magic bullet for everyone when it comes to sleep, especially in the realm of herbs and supplements. It’s good to work with someone who can help you tailor your treatments, and help you make adjustments to your daily routines, to promote better rest.
Sleep Loss Causes
There are many different causes for sleep loss, or unrefreshing sleep. Many people have one or more of these things, driving their insomnia. Whether you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up feeling rested, here are a few potential factors that may be at play for you:
- Overuse of caffeine, nicotine, and/or alcohol
- Chronic pain
- Overstimulation of the nervous system
- Anxiety, depression, and PTSD
- Hormone imbalances
- Non-traditional work hours/circadian disruption
- Indigestion or liver stagnation from improper diet
- Eating large meals late at night
- Sleep apnea, COPD, or other respiratory issues
- Lymphatic stagnation/congestion, especially in head/neck
Sleep Hygiene Tips
Before we jump into some natural products, it seems wise to bring up the healing practices of sleep hygiene. I’ve found that these form the foundation of getting rejuvenating rest, and should be prioritized before anything else! Some basic sleep hygiene tips include:
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool
- Avoid blue light for 2 hours before bed (turn off all electronics, or wear blue blocking glasses)
- Avoid caffeine completely if possible, or at least stop intake after noon
- Consider using white noise or nature sounds to mask disruptive noises
- Avoid alcohol, sugar, and strenuous activity 2-3 hours before bed
- Only go to bed when you’re truly sleepy- get up and do something relaxing if you’re not asleep in 20-30 minutes
- Get plenty of natural sunlight during the day
- Make a consistent wind-down routine each evening- don’t go straight from stimulating activity to bed
If after implementing good sleep hygiene, you’re still struggling to get the right rest, it might be time to incorporate some natural remedies. Don’t be discouraged if some of the options out there don’t work for you- remember that everyone’s version of insomnia is different. Also, keep in mind that some herbs and supplements take a little while to build up in the system, and may take a few weeks to really show whether they are effective for you or not. Patience is the name of the game when it comes to healing sleep issues, especially if you’ve had a rough time sleeping for many years, as I have! Stressing about lost sleep, or having anticipatory anxiety each evening isn’t going to help either.
When considering natural remedies for insomnia, it’s nice to cast the net wide, at least initially. Addressing things like neurotransmitters, nervous system regulation, and the adrenal glands is a great idea for many people. Here are a few options that you may wish to try, to finally get those zzzs:
One of my all-time favorite herbs, ashwagandha is a powerhouse when it comes to restoring the adrenal glands, balancing hormones, and promoting a restful mind. Because the adrenals are the source of most anxiety, this can be a key area of focus for anyone struggling with sleep. Over time, this adaptogenic herb allows the stress response to temper, meaning that you don’t feel as sensitive or negatively affected by the stimulation around you. It’s like having a nice buffer for your stress hormones!
Ashwagandha is easy to take in tinctures or capsules, and also has a mild flavor for mixing the powder into teas and smoothies. This is something you would take on a routine basis, for a longer term, to see the best effects.
2. Brain & Neural support
Since many people’s sleep problems originate from stress, and nervous system issues, I think going straight to the source (brain and nerves) is a smart move. Bringing in herbs that naturally enhance blood flow to the brain, boost cognition, soothe frayed nerves, and soften the stress response can create conditions for better sleep over time. I’ve found that I’m more likely to wake up at a reasonable time and feel more clear-headed when I do, during periods of taking a blend of brain and nervous system herbs.
I recommend working with the dose of these kinds of herbs, to find the right balance that is supportive for daytime energy, while still allowing for restful sleep at night. Nervine and spasmolytic herbs are especially calming, and are my favorites! Check out our Brain and Neural tincture here.
Thankfully, there are as many natural options out there as there are types of sleep problems. Be patient with yourself, as you try out some of these remedies- it may take time for you to find the perfect ones for you, or the perfect dose. Bringing in holistic herbs and supplements, on top of a great night-time routine, can set you up for success!