Sleep is an essential measure of our overall health throughout life. Unfortunately, sleep difficulties are commonplace, affecting up to 35% of adults. When sleep quality is poor, most aspects of health and well-being suffer.
In fact, research tells us that sleep deprivation is associated with impaired memory, increased stress, decreased work performance, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality 1.
Whether you have difficulty falling asleep, wake up frequently throughout the night, or do not feel rested upon waking, read on for tips to improve overall sleep.
A holistic approach to addressing insomnia and sleep issues involves basic self-care practices, as well as natural sleep aids for your unique needs.
Step 1 – Self-care
- Set up a routine! Go to bed and wake up at regular hours every day. Also, adopt a relaxing bedtime ritual: warm bath, herbal tea, reading, or meditation are great options.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine close to bedtime. Also, limit alcohol, which can reduce melatonin production 2.
- Blue light can disrupt the circadian rhythm 3. Avoid all blue light 2 hours before bed (TV, phones, tablets, and computers).
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day (but, refrain from exercising in the evenings).
- Limit daytime naps to no more than 30 minutes. Longer naps can leave you feeling groggy and disrupt nighttime sleep quality.
Step 2 – Natural, non-habit-forming sleep aids
5-HTP: As an immediate precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP plays a role in sleep regulation 4.
Catnip: Effective herbal for nervousness and agitation 5 .
Chamomile: Classic phytotherapeutic for restlessness and / or nervousness 6.
Hops: A plant with scientifically validated sedative properties, typically used as a sleep aid 7.
L-Theanine: An amino acid found in tea leaves, L-Theanine boosts GABA, Serotonin and Dopamine in the brain8a, 8b.
Magnesium: An essential mineral, magnesium has been shown to improve subjective measures of insomnia 9.
Melatonin: Among the most popular sleep aids, melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, increases total sleep time and prevents/reduces jet lag 10.
Passionflower: A herbal ingredient traditionally used as a sleep aid, for restlessness and/or nervousness11.
Skullcap: A plant of the mint family with demonstrated calmative and sedative properties 12.
Valerian: A classic herbal indicated for nervousness, agitation, and sleep difficulties13.
Obviously, stress is a big factor in your ability to sleep. Click through this link to learn more about helping your body adapt to stress!
- Goran Medic, Micheline Wille, Michiel EH Hemels. (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 9: 151–161. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S134864.
- Tracy L Rupp, Christine Acebo, Mary A Carskadon. (2007). Evening Alcohol Suppresses Salivary Melatonin in Young Adults. Chronobiol Int. 24(3):463-70. doi: 10.1080/07420520701420675.
- Leena Tähkämö, Timo Partonen, Anu-Katriina Pesonen. (2019). Systematic Review of Light Exposure Impact on Human Circadian Rhythm. Chronobiol Int. 36(2):151-170. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2018.1527773.
Health Canada. 5-Hydroxy-L-tryptophan Monograph. Accessed May 25th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=5htp&lang=eng
Health Canada. Catnip Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=passionflower.passiflore&lang=eng
Health Canada. German Chamomile Matricaria Chamomilla Oral Monograph. Accessed May 20, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=cham.germ.oral.orale&lang=eng
Health Canada. Hops – Humulus lupulus Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=hops.houblon&lang=eng
Health Canada. L-theanine Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=l.theanine&lang=eng
8b. Pradeep J Nathan, Kristy Lu, M Gray, C Oliver. The Neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): A Possible Neuroprotective and Cognitive Enhancing Agent. (2006). J Herb Pharmacother. 6(2):21-30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17182482/
- Behnood Abbasi, Masud Kimiagar, Khosro Sadeghniiat, Minoo M Shirazi, Mehdi Hedayati, Bahram Rashidkhani. (2012). The Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Primary Insomnia in Elderly: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. J Res Med Sci. ;17(12):1161-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635/
Health Canada. Melatonin Oral Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=melatonin.oral&lang=eng
Health Canada. Passionflower – Passiflora incarnata Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=passionflower.passiflore&lang=eng
Health Canada. Skullcap – scutellaria lateriflora Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=skullcap.scutellaire&lang=eng
Health Canada. Valerian Valeriana officinalis Monograph. Accessed May 20th, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=valerian&lang=eng