The worst feeling in the world is when you just can’t sleep. You’d do just about anything to go to sleep, but aren’t comfortable with sleeping medication. And that’s why you’d rather try some natural sleep remedies first!
Listen… I totally get it! There are some scary side effects to sleeping meds.
But that doesn’t fix the ongoing problem you’re having of being wide awake while the world around you rests.
It’s utterly one of the most frustrating experiences.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just turned off the light for the night or your eye popped open mid-way through.
Your body and even your mind just aren’t cooperating.
And leaves you feeling just as awful the next day!
One night of poor sleep now and then isn’t such a big deal. BUT when you can’t sleep more often, it can really through a wrench into your healing journey or just general sense of wellbeing.
How can I get better sleep is one of the most asked questions in my clinical nutrition practice. I want to share some of the reasons WHY your sleep may be a mess and what you can do about it!
Why Is Getting Quality Sleep So Important?
Getting good quality sleep (almost) every night should be filed under the category of “life goals”.
There is almost nothing that compares to waking up feeling incredibly refreshed and profoundly energized to start your day!
Yet according to a report by the CDC in 2016, more than 1/3 of US adults reported not sleeping enough.
I’d argue that this figure seems shockingly low because of how many people describe themselves as tired and rely on caffeine to get their day started.
Thanks to ongoing research, we know how important sleep is to maintaining good health!
Getting plenty of rest influences your…
- Glucose and insulin regulation (1)
- Ability to feel full after eating (aka. satiety) (1)
- Waistline and ability to lose weight (1)
- Cortisol output and how well you manage stress (1)
- Human Growth Hormone production (most of which is made by your pituitary while sleeping) (2)
And the list goes on… but for now, this should be enough to help you see that getting good quality sleep is a priority!
Hidden Reasons That Disrupt Your Sleep
If you’re not getting good sleep, here are some of the common (and not so obvious) reasons why your sleep is disrupted…
- Exercising at night too close to bedtime. I realize that sometimes the only class you can attend is in the evening, but working out too late may not wind you down.
- Liver detoxification is “kicking on”. If you wake up sweated and hot in the middle of the night, there’s a good chance that your liver detox system is being put to work when your body is supposed to rest. It can certainly be a sign of hormone imbalance, but it can also happen due to hidden GI issues. Read more on your liver detox system HERE.
- Monkey mind is keeping you up! It could be a sense of anxiety or worry or running lists. No matter what the exact issue is, your mind just won’t settle down. (Here are some breathing exercises that can be helpful!)
- Restless legs won’t settle down. This is typically a surefire sign that your system is in need of magnesium.
- You can’t get comfortable! Whether your mattress is too old, or you’ve got physical injuries (and pain) to deal with, this can certainly keep you up.
- Bedtime is all over the place. Routine is so so important. When you don’t heed that advice, it’s hard for your body to know how to react because, frankly, it likes routine. So does your brain. Having a consistent bedtime provides a natural rhythm to work off of.
- “I’m a night owl!” — I too used to be a night owl soaring high on my second wind. The only problem is that you’re tuning out your body’s natural cues that it is tired. This can lead to HPA axis dysregulation down the road.
How To Fall Asleep (And Stay Asleep) With Natural Sleep Remedies
I want to be entirely transparent with you… I’m a very Type-A person.
I have a hard time shutting down and find that my most productive hours can often be later in the day into the night.
While I prioritize sleep, I’m not going to completely unplug and go live in a cave. That’s just not realistic.
I do not have lots of time for “self-care”.
I don’t have much interest in sitting in a bath infused with lavender essential oil relaxing to soothing spa music as candlelight flickers around me.
Nor do I wear those blue-light blocking glasses.
What I have done is, in my mind, practical and reasonable.
One key way to improve sleep is to pay attention to your body when it’s tired. If I’m feeling sleepy at 8 pm, I’ll head to bed. That way I can get up earlier to take care of what I’d missed the night before.
Minimize the blue light on your computer with a free program called f.lux. It’s a program that makes the screen increasingly orange the later it gets. I also have a “night light” feature on my mobile that produces the same effect from 10 pm to 6 am.
Keep your bedroom cool, remove the TV from your bedroom, and reduce whatever light pollution you can.
Reading can also be a great way to help fall asleep. Pick a fun and interesting book or story that draws you in and tickles your imagination. I typically read for 15 to 20 minutes in bed.
This suggestion isn’t for everyone, but I’ve personally found that an increase in the window between the last meal of the day and bedtime is very helpful for me to STAY asleep. I will wake up at 2 or 3 am if I don’t stop eating by 4 pm overheated and sweated.
A lot of my clients have the same issue! That timeframe in Chinese medicine is attributed to the Liver. My experience has been that the liver is overstimulated and needs to be better supported. I discuss liver detoxification and support in this podcast.
One of the biggest things to help me fall and stay asleep is thanks to my Sleepy Milk Recipe. It makes a massive difference in how good my sleep is too!
A Word Of Caution Using Melatonin
If you’re wondering if I use or recommend melatonin, the answer is no.
I realize that melatonin seems to be the go-to of natural sleep remedies. But I urge you to tread cautiously.
The reason is that it is a hormone that your body should naturally produce. By supplementing it, you essentially tell your body that it no longer needs to make melatonin.
So melatonin supplementation shuts down the feedback loop — which isn’t good.
That’s why I do not reach for melatonin as a first line of defense when you can’t sleep. Also, I believe it’s smarter to naturally increase your own melatonin production before adding in this sleep supplement.
One example of this is adding in some sweet cherry juice to your routine because they actually have melatonin in them!
But if you’re still deadset on taking melatonin, get your levels checked!
You can do that through the at-home urine Dutch Complete test from Precision Labs. It’s a simple test that you can order yourself and it looks at various hormones including sex, cortisol, and melatonin as well as metabolites!
Natural Sleep Remedies That I Use (And Recommend) For Improving Sleep Starting NOW
My personal experience with sleep issues has been quite a lengthy one. When I realized just how unproductive and grumpy I am when I don’t sleep well, that’s when I got serious about creating habits that support a better night’s rest.
My natural sleep remedies include:
Magnesium Citrate – Magnesium has this incredible ability to help your body calm down and rest!
I will often suggest clients take Magnesium Citrate before bedtime unless they suffer from chronic diarrhea because another thing it does is to loosen stools. Someone with diarrhea should stick with the next option instead.
If you have normal or more constipated stools, you can use this starting at 1tsp per night before bed in about 1/2 cup of water.
Reacted Magnesium Powder from Ortho Molecular – If you have increased magnesium needs OR are prone to diarrhea, this form of magnesium is best to take before bedtime. It will not affect the GI tract like Magnesium Citrate will since it is better absorbed.
You would take 1 full scoop in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water before bed.
In order to get this for yourself, you’ll need to create a free account in my Practitioner Dispensary and do a quick search for the product.
CBD Oil – I’ve been taking CBD oil orally since earlier this year. While it doesn’t knock you out at all, I’ve found that it’s helped me not wake up in a panic in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep. If I wake due to drinking too much water, I can easily fall back asleep again. In my personal experience, I’ve not found it to be addictive and that it improves the quality of my sleep.
To know what dose to take, I started with just 1 drop each night and have found that my body is happy with only 8 drops! With something like this, I like to take the minimum effective dosage possible.
NOTE: CBD (and THC which is missing from commercially sold CDB products) can cause significant drug interactions due to its effects on the Cytochrome P450 Detoxification system in your liver. Medications include: “macrolides, calcium channel blockers, benzodiazepines, cyclosporine, sildenafil (and other PDE5 inhibitors), antihistamines, haloperidol, antiretrovirals, and some statins (atorvastatin and simvastatin, but not pravastatin or rosuvastatin)”… “SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta blockers and opioids (including codeine and oxycodone)”. (3) If you are taking any of the drugs listed or other medications not listed, you should discuss this with your doctor before giving CBD a try.
Intellibed Mattress + Pillows – Beds and pillows all have a lifespan. And many are also made with very toxic materials that off-gas and further expose you to harsh chemicals for many hours every day! Additionally, it’s a great option if you’ve got back problems! Both my husband and I have pretty serious back and neck issues. Getting an Intellibed about 3 years ago has completely changed the quality and comfort of our sleep.
Foam Roller – This one might seem odd, but a foam roller can do wonders to keep your back healthy. When you’re uncomfortable, it’s incredibly difficult to get a good night’s sleep. This one inexpensive roller has saved my husband and me thousands of dollars in chiropractic visits!
And of course, I have to share this one…
Lavender Essential Oil – While I do not use this since my husband is very sensitive to scents of any sort, I have had several clients who have found this helpful. Lavender is known for its relaxing superpower. A dab on each wrist before bedtime can be helpful!
Here’s HOW I Put Natural Sleep Remedies Into Practice
If this all seems like a lot, let me show you my own sleep routine! Natural sleep remedies shouldn’t feel like a chore, but instead a routine that helps your body feel supported as it makes its way towards rest.
- Make and drink Sleepy Milk (link to recipe) about an hour before bed.
- Mix Magnesium in water and drink before heading to the bathroom to get ready for bed.
- After brushing my teeth, then take CBD oil orally.
- Roll out my back (and hopefully get a good few pops).
- Get in bed and read for 15 or 20 minutes.
- Lights out!
Now you see that it’s not THAT complicated.
If these natural sleep remedies don’t help and you still can’t sleep, it’s time to dig deeper to discover what root causes issues are messing with your sleep.
REFERENCES FOR NATURAL SLEEP REMEDIES IF YOU CAN’T SLEEP
3. https://doh.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/doh/publication/attachments/Medical%20Cannabis%20Adverse%20Effects%20and%20Drug%20Interactions_0.pdf (specifically see slides 11 and 12)