We’ve all experienced those terrible nights of restless sleep or feeling wide awake at 2am with every single thought running through our mind. With nearly 60 million Americans reporting poor sleep quality, you certainly aren’t alone.
There’s no shortage of advice on what to do for better sleep and sleep medications are a common treatment for those experiencing insomnia. In 2020, 6.3% of adults took sleep medication every day in the last 30 days, while 10% took medication some of the days in the last month.
If you’re not wanting to add a prescription to your daily routine for sleep, what other options are out there? There may not be just one answer or solution to better sleep. Instead, to address the root cause of sleep issues, it’s important to consider dietary choices, exercise habits, managing stress and our sleep environment. In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia may be necessary.
What are some simple habits you can start trying this week, maybe even tonight before heading to bed? Here are 5 home remedies that can actually help with sleep:
1. Warm milk. Grandma really may have been on to something with this tip for getting a good night of sleep. This night time ritual has been touted for generations for good reason. The nutrients in dairy foods, like milk, can promote muscle and nerve relaxation, which is an important part of drifting off to sleep. Milk contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D, each of which play a part in good sleep. There’s also something about drinking warm beverages that provides a calming effect. If you’re lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free milks available so that you can still benefit from all of the great nutrition in this dairy food.
2.Exercise. Physical activity during the day can lead to better quality sleep at night so aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity a day at least 5 days a week to improve overall health and sleep hygiene. A brisk walk after dinner can help with digestion and is often an easy way to get movement in without any gym equipment. Try to avoid doing aerobic exercise close to bedtime though, as the release of endorphins could keep you from falling asleep. Give yourself at least 2 hours between aerobic exercise and going to bed. Some light stretching or gentle yoga is a great way to wind down with movement.
3. Calming herbal teas. There are endless options of herbal teas that help promote sleep but what should you look for in a sleepy tea blend? Keep an eye out for a blend that includes chamomile, lavender, and Valerian root for a sleep-inducing combination. Chamomile has been used for centuries to calm anxiety, relieve digestive issues, and promote good sleep. It contains apigenin which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain to create a sedative effect. Valerian root works in a similar way as chamomile. Other sleepy herbs are licorice root, peppermint, and lemon balm.
4. Lavender. While lavender is a great addition to a sleepy tea blend, it can also be helpful as an oil to diffuse in the bedroom, or other lavender scented items like a candle or bath soaking salts. Lavender is one of the most studied compounds and studies have found that as a sleep aid, it can help. Look for products made by companies testing the potency and purity with gas chromatography or mass spectrometry analysis. This process is called GC-MS and you should be able to find this information on a company’s website.
5. Warm bath or shower. While having the bedroom cool while sleeping can help you stay asleep, before you climb into bed, a warm bath or shower can help you to fall asleep. Being in a warm bath or shower before bed can bring about drowsiness because the body is working to keep you cool internally, which can lead to fatigue. Try a 10-minute warm shower about 1-2 hours before bedtime tonight to see if it helps you fall asleep a little faster.
Karman Meyer is a Registered Dietitian, speaker, and author of Eat To Sleep: What To Eat & When To Eat It for a Good Night's Sleep and The Everything DASH Diet Meal Prep Cookbook. She speaks to groups across the country about simple changes they can make to sleep better and feel more energized day-to-day! Visit her at karmanmeyer.com or on Instagram @karmanmeyer.