Falling asleep isn’t always as easy as we would like. Difficulty sleeping has been an issue for humans since sleep was “invented”. The more prescription drugs that are developed to help us fall asleep, the more publicity we see about unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to enjoy a good night of sleep without prescription drugs.
First, take a look at your sleep environment. Most people have trouble falling asleep in a cluttered room. If you need to, clean your room. Avoid keeping soiled laundry in your bedroom as it may produce an odor that interferes with sleep. Be sure your mattress is suitable for you. You may need to go shopping. One way to tell that your mattress is not serving you well is by how you wake up. If you always have a backache, you probably need a different mattress. Your sleeping room needs to be exactly that. If you do a lot of reading, eating or homework in bed, you may be setting yourself up for a sleep problem.
Try soothing sounds. There are many different tapes available that offer the sounds of nature. Birdsong at twilight, a soft rainfall, a quietly bubbling brook, the lapping waves on a sandy beach – all these are known for being popular sleep aids that work. There are several self-hypnosis tapes available, or look for a guided imagery tape to help you relax before dozing off. Performing a bedtime relaxation ritual that includes deep breathing and muscle constriction/relaxation may be just what you need.
Another easy sleep aid is warm raw milk. Milk contains tryptophan, a substance known to induce drowsiness. It is released when the raw milk is gently heated. Put the milk in a sauce pan and warm it up, but make sure it doesn’t get too close to boiling as this will kill off the sleep inducing properties. Avoid use of caffeine for at least six hours before trying to sleep.
Lavender is known for its relaxing aroma effect. You can buy a spray for your pillow or oil for your bath. You may want to try a lavender potpourri in your sleeping room.
Make a cup of tea about an hour before bedtime. Chamomile is probably the most well known sleep aid tea, but you can also use valerian, ginger or peppermint. Use honey to sweeten rather than sugar.
If outside noises keep you up, try a fan. The humming noise of a small fan shuts out distracting noises and can help you fall asleep more quickly. Ear plugs can also be helpful, but be sure you check yours out with your primary care provider to make sure you have a good fit that still allows your ears to “breathe”. A sleep mask can be used to remove window light and shadows.
No matter what you decide to use to help you fall asleep, remember to not distract yourself from the activity. Don’t perform your sleep-easing remedy and then decide to do a load of laundry. In other words, avoid sabotaging yourself. Be sure the dog has been out, the children have been checked, the door is locked, etc. You will fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer if your mind is as uncluttered as possible.
Breus, Michael J. 10 tips to get better sleep. WebMD. Feature archive, 2004.
Lewith, G.T., Godfrey A.D., Prescott, P. A single-blinded randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Aug: 11(4):631-637.
Lutton, Corinne. Natural Sleep Solutions. Suite101.com Jan5, 2008.