With so much stimulation and daily stressors, it is no wonder that sleep problems have become overwhelmingly common today. Despite the fact there are so many prescriptions and OTC options for sleep aid, many of them can come with unwanted side effects, drug interactions, and long term dependency.
Even when these products keep you asleep, it is common for the quality of sleep to still be inadequate. Often with sleep issues, it’s not just getting to sleep that is the problem, but staying asleep and getting through all necessary phases within the sleep cycle.
Thankfully, more and more options for natural alternatives are available for consumers looking for a safe and effective alternative. In this article we will explore the 10 most powerful natural sleep supplements and how they work – so you can get back to sleep, and stop counting sheep!
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Plant based supplements could be the ticket to restful sleep
Herbalists have derived centuries of knowledge from ayurvedic and chinese medicine practices to utilize herbs to help people sleep more easily, with science to support these claims.
Some plants are rich in compounds that interact with our nervous system in ways that stimulate processes necessary for sleep, while others are rich in sedative or hypnotic compounds to help ease anxiety or pain that could be keeping you from falling asleep.
It can be easy to implement plant-based sleep aids into your lifestyle, but it will require an evaluation of your environment and underlying symptoms that may be impacting the quality of your sleep.
How sleep works, and why it sometimes doesn’t
Sleep is critical for vital functions in the body and specifically the brain. It consists of REM and NREM sleep, two distinct states that alternate in cycles, differing in brain nerve cell activity.
These processes are crucial to our health, as they provide the foundations for storing new information in the brain, repairing and building new cells, filtering out toxic waste in the body, and the release of molecules like hormones into the body.
There could be a myriad of reasons as to why you aren’t getting restful sleep. Some of the more common causes look like:
- Issues with hydration
- Imbalance in sleep scheduling
- Dietary issues
- Lack of exercise or movement
- Excess caffeine
While some of the more complex reasons look more like:
- Side effect of medication
- Thyroid or Endocrine imbalance
- Chronic pain
Insomnia can often be caused by hyperthyroid, emotional or mental stress, physical pain, hormonal imbalance, or even issues with frequent urination. Even medications like stimulants, beta blockers, decongestants or thyroid hormones can impact your ability to sleep.
How can natural supplements improve sleep?
When looking at natural sleep aid options, it is important to identify whether you’re struggling to fall asleep vs. having difficulty staying asleep. Depending on what challenges you face around sleep, some herbs will work better in different applications.
Difficulty falling asleep
Strong hypnotic herbal remedies taken an hour before bedtime can often be the best solution when struggling to fall asleep at night.
Difficulty staying asleep
Trying nervine and sedative herbal remedies will be helpful to keep you asleep at night. It can be beneficial to take relaxing herbs throughout the day, like ashwagandha, while also sticking to a routine for both falling asleep and waking. This can help your body adjust naturally to get more restful sleep. If you are waking up every two hours, it is possible your issue could be liver related.
The best natural alternatives for restful sleep
Below is a list of the ten best natural remedies to help improve your sleep. It is always encouraged to seek guidance from your doctor before trying any of these supplements for sleep aid, as many of them may interact with other medications.
Widely regarded as a mild tranquilizer and sleep-inducer, chamomile is a safe and easy herb to help you fall asleep at night. Its effects are due to a flavonoid, apigenin in the flower that when consumed, binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain – resulting in drowsiness and relaxation. This helps in the brain’s natural process of creating melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland to induce sleep. Rather than taking melatonin as a supplement, chamomile helps our body produce its own hormone naturally (avoiding long term dependence on the supplement).
One of the best options for sleep aid, as it works universally to aid with anti-anxiety, pain relief, and overall nervous system function. This is the ideal plant medicine for relaxation and restful sleep, and can be taken any time of day to receive all the benefits of CBD. It is recommended to avoid taking too high of a dose prior to bedtime, as this could actually act in a more stimulating way. The average dose is between 5-50 mg for sleep and mood stability. CBD gummies for sleep are a great option to consider.
Valerian root extract has been studied for its use as a sleep aid. Research claims that it can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, while also keeping you asleep through the night. This is both a sedative and hypnotic herb, with anti-anxiety properties used to calm the nerves and treat some cases of insomnia.
4. Passion Flower
A simple but effective sedative herb, passion flower tea is an excellent bedtime option for anyone suffering from insomnia or difficulty falling asleep. It is relatively safe to dose, however it should never be mixed with MAO inhibitors and may have drug interactions with other anti-anxiety medications.
A classic soothing sleep aid, lavender can be used as an aromatherapy option to support you while trying to fall asleep. Terpenes in the lavender flower (or extract) work by calming the central nervous system. However, it is recommended to avoid it if you are actively battling sickness or infection, as it actually may slow down the body (including your immune response).
6. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a gentle nervine and restorative herb. It contains a number of aromatic compounds that offer sedative and calming effects. These effects are amplified when lemon balm is paired with other herbs such as valerian, hops, or chamomile.
Rich with sedative terpenes and flavonoids, hops is a relaxing alternative to cannabis essential oils to aid in relaxation. Studies have found that hops have a sedative action that aids nocturnal sleep. It is important to remember that alcohol may disrupt the body’s natural processes to fall asleep and stay asleep, meaning the hops should be consumed as a non-alcoholic extract for sleep.
8. Kava Kava
Kava Kava is extracted from the Piper methysticum plant that is traditionally served as a beverage, and has been used in ceremonies for relaxation. It is excellent for mood stability, and in higher doses it can be used as a strong sedative. Kava kava shows promise as a treatment for symptoms of anxiety and other nervous system disorders, however it should be dosed properly to avoid any unwanted side effects. This is not an ideal long term remedy, and should typically only be taken for three months at a time to avoid possible liver damage.
Also known as Holy Basil, tulsi is an incredibly nourishing and relaxing herb. It can help balance hormonal and nervous system functions in the body that support restful sleep rhythms. Tulsi does not have sedative qualities and can be taken any time of day.
10. California Poppy
More subtle than its cousin that produces opiates, the california poppy can be extracted into a tincture to gently aid with anxiety, chronic pain, and issues with staying asleep at night.
Rest easy with natural alternatives
It can be stressful trying to find the right sleep aid that works for you, especially if you are experiencing sleepless nights already. Thankfully, many of these herbal remedies act quickly, and over time they become more effective. Plant based supplements help your body restore its balance so you aren’t reliant on supplements and prescriptions to keep you asleep long term.
Many of these herbs support your body in both nervous system and hormonal functions, to improve your quality of sleep, and how your body manages stress.
Consider trying natural supplements to better your quality of sleep and support the health of your body and mind.
Any statements made in this post are not intended to replace advice from a medical professional. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any CBD product.