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Natural Insomnia Remedies: Foods, Herbs, and Supplements continued...

Lavender. Lavender oil is calming and can help encourage sleep in some people with insomnia, research shows. “Try taking a hot bath with lavender oil before bed to relax your body and mind,” Harris says.

Valerian root. This medicinal herb has been used to treat sleep problems since ancient times. “Valerian can be sedating and may help you fall asleep,” says Tracey Marks, MD, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist.

Research on the effectiveness of valerian for insomnia is mixed. Marks says if you try valerian as a sleep remedy, be patient. It can take a few weeks for it to take effect. Talk to your doctor before taking valerian and follow label directions.

L-theanine. This amino acid found in green tea leaves may help combat anxiety that interferes with sleep. A 2007 study showed that L-theanine reduced heart rate and immune responses to stress. It's  thought to work by boosting the amount of a feel-good hormone your body makes. It also induces brain waves linked to relaxation. Talk to your doctor before taking it.

Natural Sleep Remedies: Lifestyle Changes

The following changes to your lifestyle and environment can also help you combat sleep problems:

Turn off the TV. In some people, nighttime light can hinder melatonin and create “social jetlag,” which mimics symptoms of having traveled several time zones. To keep your sleep surroundings as dark as possible, Ahmed recommends moving the TV out of your bedroom and using a DVR or TiVo to record favorite late-night shows for later viewing.

Put other appliances to bed, too. If you want a good, restful sleep, turn your appliances away from your bed. Or better yet, turn them off altogether. If you must use bedroom electronics, choose those illuminated with red light, which is better for sleep than blue light.

Give it up. If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, sleep specialists recommend you get up and leave your bedroom or read. Then return to your bed to sleep when you feel tired again.

Exercise early. It’s no secret that exercise improves sleep and overall health. But a study published in the journal Sleep shows that the amount of exercise and time of day it is done makes a difference. Researchers found that women who exercised at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes each morning, 7 days a week, had less trouble sleeping than women who exercised less or later in the day. Morning exercise seems to affect body rhythms that affect sleep quality.

One of the reasons for this interplay between exercise and sleep may be body temperature. Your body temp rises during exercise and takes up to 6 hours to drop back down to normal. Because cooler body temperatures are linked to better sleep, it’s important to give your body time to cool off before bed.

Myths and Facts About Insomnia

Wide awake again? Get the facts and put these insomnia myths to bed.
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