Summer is upon us, which means warm nights and erratic schedules. Compounded by late evenings in front of bright screens, our sleep routines are hard-pressed to survive during the warmer days of the year. That means falling asleep (and staying asleep - a challenge by its own right) gets a little trickier. Though we regularly rely on our seasoned sleep routines to pull us through long days and much-needed schedules, few of us opt to seek out the help of remedies when that routine is interrupted. Instead, we toss and turn and ultimately prolong the problem.
That’s because most of us regard our sleep routines as both all-important and incredibly delicate. It’s for this very reason that we typically opt to suffer lost sleep over medications or treatments that jeopardize the organic nature of falling asleep. It’s no joke that the wrong sleep aid or supplement can alter your ability to fall asleep unassisted.
But in the wake of that reality, natural (and effective) supplements that are proven to lend a hand with sleeplessness have fallen to the wayside. In our pursuit of highlighting the most effective, natural remedies for any given condition, we’re looking at five common supplements that will help you fall asleep.
One of the most important hormones when it comes to the consistency of your sleep cycle, melatonin influences how your body knows when to wind down, and when to wake. Think of it as your body’s internal clock, which comes complete with an alarm. Though the body naturally produces melatonin in the evening, it can also be leveraged as a supplement to assist or enhance the effect.
Relevant to recent changes in our nighttime habits, it’s important to note that varying degrees of exposure to blue light, which is generated by the screens on all of our devices, disrupts our melatonin levels. That’s right - in case you hadn’t heard, staring at your phone, tablet, laptop, or tv before bed is actually reducing your ability to dip into a restful sleep right away.
As lovely looking as it is to smell, the aromatic nature of lavender is actually an effective solution for restlessness, anxiety and headaches alike. It’s true that what you inhale will inherently affect how you sleep, and the essential oils derived from lavender flowers naturally cause muscles to relax.
By breathing aromatic lavender into the amygdala, a gland in the brain that controls our emotional output, we are eased into a state of relaxation. In doing so, lavender oils and fragrances actually amplify our ability to withdraw into a deeper form of sleep known as slow-wave, where our muscles fully relax and our heartbeat slows significantly.
For a more potent delivery of lavender, capsules provide an easy and smell-free way of improving your sleep. One placebo-controlled trial found that lavender significantly reduced the restlessness impacting your ability to get to sleep. Even more interestingly, the worse your restlessness was before starting the supplementation, the better your results. The capsule variation was also found to help you sleep longer and make it easier for you to both fall asleep and wake up in the morning.
5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is derived from the seeds of Griffon simplicifolia plant, and is used to treat sleep disorders ranging from insomnia to depression or anxiety, and many others in between. For a full list of applicable uses, consult with your naturopathic doctor. It works by increasing the creation of serotonin in the central nervous system, a chemical that affects sleep and temperature, among others. Think of 5-HTP as a natural supplement that amplifies the serotonin communicating with your brain and advocating for sleep.
Fuelled by a formidable legacy and age-old wisdom passed along from parent to child, warm milk is indisputably in it for the long haul as a sleep aid. Whether you subscribe to its effectiveness or not, the fact is that warm milk is home to high levels of a protein known as alpha-lactalbumin which increases levels of tryptophan in your plasma.
Tryptophan can be particularly effective as a sleep-inducing agent (it’s also high in turkey… think about how you feel after a Thanksgiving dinner), and foods that contain it or raise plasma levels it can make your sleep endeavour entirely more realistic. It may not be the most realistic solution to your insomnia, but warm milk is typically a good place to start, and may be the only remedy you need!
Herbal tea & chamomile
Obviously caffeine is counterintuitive to falling asleep, but a range of herbal teas contain helpful supplements like chamomile. Far from new to the scene, dried flowers of chamomile have been effective, historically, because of their many medicinal properties. A mild sedative when consumed in liquid form, aqueous chamomile can calm anxiety as well as insomnia.
The next time you’re lying in bed frustrated by a lack of sleep, don’t resign to the situation. Instead, consider these five supplements as the first step to reclaiming the restful routine that’s rightfully yours, the natural way! For a deeper look at natural remedies for everyday ailments or more complicated conditions, make a consultation appointment, today.