In our 24/7 society, far too many Americans see sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. We have no problem spending long hours at work and then adding other activities on top of it. Something's got to give, so we delay our mental and physical recharge and skimp on sleep. When we finally do lie down, our busy minds aren’t always so willing to rest.
“Insomnia is a complex condition often caused by a number of factors,” says Qanta Ahmed, MD, a sleep specialist at the Winthrop-University Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Mineola, N.Y. “Addressing those factors often requires lifestyle and environmental changes.”
No matter what its cause, insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30% to 40% of adults say they have occasional insomnia. And 10% to 15% of Americans say they have trouble sleeping all the time.
When insomnia strikes, one option is to try prescription sleep aids. But several natural sleep remedies might help you, too. Lifestyle changes, as well as foods, supplements, and herbs may help you get restful sleep.
Try these when you’ve counted your last sheep.
Natural Insomnia Remedies: Foods, Herbs, and Supplements
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle, an internal pacemaker that controls the timing and our drive for sleep. It causes drowsiness, lowers body temperature, and puts the body into sleep mode.
Research on melatonin in people with insomnia is mixed. Some research shows that taking it restores and improves sleep in people with insomnia. Other studies show that melatonin does not help people with insomnia stay asleep.
Melatonin might be of benefit to people with issues such as jet lag or shift work. It is not regulated by the FDA and can have problems with purity. You should only use it under close supervision by a doctor.
Warm milk. You can put a tasty spin on your grandmother’s natural insomnia remedy by sipping warm milk before bed. Almond milk is an excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin. Plus, warm milk may spark pleasant and relaxing memories of your mother helping you fall asleep.
Sleepy-time snacks. The best sleep-inducing foods include a combination of protein and carbohydrates, says Shelby Harris, PsyD. She's the director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.
Harris suggests a light snack of half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a whole wheat cracker with some cheese. Eat one of these snacks about 30 minutes before hitting the hay.
Magnesium apparently plays a key role with sleep. Research has shown that even a marginal lack of it can prevent the brain from settling down at night. You can get magnesium from food. Good sources include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. Check with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements. Magnesium can interact with many different medications, and too much of it can cause serious health issues.