According to a recent survey, some 9 million American adults use prescription sleep aids to help with sleep issues. Why an increasing number of people don't sleep well enough is a topic with varied opinions. From aging body systems (e.g., the circadian rhythm) to health issues like stress, nobody is sure why sleep quality tends to decrease with age.
However, the good news is that there are several natural ways to enhance sleep. Music to the ears, given the recent safety warnings by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about some prescription sleep medications.
Besides improving sleep, natural fixes are safer and less costly than synthetic sleep aids. These are essentially natural supplements and/or techniques that can promote peaceful, nourishing slumber. So if this is something you've been looking for, read on.
Sleep problems can be caused by many factors, which can be grouped into medical, environmental, physical, and psychological.
Research findings are inconclusive as to whether cannabis promotes sleep.
On average, a person takes between 5 and 20 minutes to fall asleep
Research is ongoing, but some natural sleep remedies have significant potential to improve sleep quality.
Causes of sleep issues
We live in trying times, and there's no doubt day-to-day life can be difficult to manage. And there appears to be a link between our lifestyles and sleep quality.
Good sleep is a crucial aspect of good health; unfortunately, it's also one of the first health factors affected by our lifestyles. So, when you put in long hours to get that promotion, have a job that keeps you seated for hours on end, or procrastinate due to a tight schedule, your health is affected.
The causes of sleep problems are diverse but can be categorized into a few main causes:
- Environmental (e.g., working in bright lights, a snoring partner, extreme temperatures, noise)
- Physical (e.g., chronic pain, headaches)
- Psychological (e.g., stress)
Regardless of the cause of a sleep problem, the result is often the same – a disrupted sleep-wake cycle that ultimately impairs your ability to get enough sleep.
Other potential causes of sleep problems are medications, aging, genetics, and changes in sleep patterns (night shift work).
The bottom line is that disturbed sleep significantly reduces your productivity. It can also affect concentration, memory, and mood. Even worse, sleep deprivation is associated with serious health conditions. It's certainly an issue that deserves attention.
How long does it take to fall asleep?
People are different, so, realistically, they fall asleep differently. That said, there are certain commonalities that we can all relate to.
How long should it take to fall asleep?
Some people can fall asleep within minutes, while others may take longer. A person typically takes between 5 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you take longer, your body is probably communicating there is a problem. It could mean many things, including the onset of insomnia.
So, then the faster you fall asleep, the better, right? Not entirely. It turns out that if you're one of those people who fall asleep faster than you can say "Goodnight" you're probably not getting enough sleep after all. It's all about balance.
Perhaps we should also add that such estimations have a wide error margin. In other words, if it takes you slightly longer to sleep, say 30 minutes, you shouldn't be overly concerned. These deviations are expected due to slight variations in an ideal sleep-conducive environment.
For example, you may sleep marginally faster on warmer nights than on colder ones.
However, if it takes unusually long, like an hour to fall asleep, there's a problem.
Natural sleep remedies to beat insomnia
John Burroughs undoubtedly had an epiphany when he said, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." Nature-based solutions to health issues affecting millions globally have seldom disappointed.
Let's look at some natural sleep remedies that may help.
Herbal teas (hops, passionflower, chamomile)
If your nighttime routine involves winding down with a beverage, ditch the nightcap and go herbal. Herbal teas are an excellent alternative with numerous health benefits.
From reducing stress to treating headaches and calming the mind, herbal teas of valerian root, chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, Passionflower, and magnolia bark have been used for thousands of years to promote relaxation and sleep.
Try CBN for sleep
The effects of cannabinoids on sleep may be an incomplete area of research, but there are indications that certain cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, and THC may support sleep.
This happens when these cannabinoids bind to specific cannabinoid receptors like the CB1 receptors triggering a chain of physiological processes that promote sleep. Further, CBD is thought to regulate the levels of sleep-promoting hormones like serotonin and mediate dopaminergic activity, thereby inducing the calm needed for good sleep.
Moderate to intense physical activity may improve sleep quality. When you exercise, your body temperature rises, signaling the internal clock that it's time to be awake. When you stop, the body temperature gradually falls and induces sleepiness.
Exercising also tires you out, thereby increasing your sleep drive. Thus far, research suggests that exercise increases the length of the deep sleep phase during which critical body processes like brain development and metabolism occur.
Aromatherapy (chamomile, patchouli, ylang-ylang, lavender)
Inhaling essential oils may offer relief for disrupted sleep and improve its quality. Research suggests that aromatherapy of lavender, bergamot, and ylang-lang may significantly enhance sleep quality.
Similar findings were demonstrated by a 2021 study that showed that lavender oil could considerably improve sleep quality. Another study also indicated that this oil might help reduce sleeplessness and symptoms of fatigue.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Another way to get better sleep is through yoga and Tai Chi. Yoga combines spiritual, mental, and physical exercises to control and calm the mind. It can be an ideal way to wind down after a busy day. People who do yoga find it therapeutic, stress-relieving and sleep-promoting.
Also known as meditation in motion, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts with substantial benefits for the body and mind. It is thought to reduce stress, improve mood, ease pain, and promote better sleep.
Cut out screen time before bed
Do you know why you get sleepy when night falls? Because your body releases melatonin in response to the darkness. This hormone helps regulate the internal body clock and the sleep-wake cycle. Being exposed to bright lights at night confuses the brain leading to lower production of melatonin hence difficulty falling asleep.
For better sleep, switch off TVs and avoid using your phone for extended periods. You can also dim the lights in the room to create a conducive environment for melatonin production.
Valerian herbal supplements
Valerian is widely used as an herbal remedy. In ancient Rome and Greece, this herb was medicinally used to treat migraine, fatigue, stomach cramps, and insomnia.
Evidence of whether it helps with sleep problems is inconsistent, but recent studies suggest it may have a positive effect on stress and sleeplessness. These effects are attributed to a chemical called valerenic acid, which stimulates parts of the brain that process relaxation.
More research is needed to prove beyond doubt that valerian may have beneficial pharmacological effects such as sleep improvement. Nonetheless, emerging research findings certainly show promise.
Lemon balm herbal supplements
Lemon balm may have potential health benefits. It has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, improve appetite, ease pain, and promote sleep.
Eat foods rich in magnesium
Magnesium may help with insomnia if the findings of a recent study are anything to go by. In the study, elderly patients with insomnia recorded better scores after taking 500 mg of magnesium daily for two months.
So adding magnesium to your diet may potentially improve your sleep.
Worrying you may not fall asleep or stay asleep longer is in itself a reason some people have difficulty getting the rest they need. Luckily there are a few measures you can use to worry less about sleep. These include being distracted, having quiet time before bed, sticking to your bedtime schedule, and learning to relax.
Fall asleep naturally without medication
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