We've all been there. You go to bed right on time, knowing the alarm will jar you awake eight hours later. You've got a big presentation in the morning. Or your grad school interview is the next day. Or you just know the baby will be waking you soon. So it's critical that you fall asleep—now.
But the clock tick-tick-ticks by and your brain is buzzing. Times passes. Then more time passes. You try not to look at the clock, but you can't take the suspense, and when you finally do look, it's been two hours, and you're still wide awake. Now panic sets in. What if you can't sleep at all? What if you'll have to get through the whole next day on zero sleep? Freaking out only makes it worse.
So you count sheep. You read a book for a while. Nothing helps. So what do you do?
Here are some natural tips to help you snooze peacefully through the night.
- Dim the lights an hour or two before bedtime to allow your body to increase natural melatonin.
- Use window treatments to darken the room or wear a sleep mask.
- Establish regular sleep-wake cycles, even on weekends.
- Reduce the noise level around you and turn off the TV at least an hour before bedtime.
- Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and making love.
- Make your bed a sanctuary. Splurge on high thread count cotton sheets, a down comforter, a favorite pillow, or an extra-luxe mattress, like Tempur-Pedic. Surround your bed with flowers and candles.
- Eliminate or reduce caffeine, especially in the afternoon or evening.
- Increase light exposure during the day to promote healthy melatonin balance.
- Have sex or masturbate before bed.
- Use breathing and relaxation exercises, such as guided imagery CDs.
- Shut your brain off at night. Don't work, watch stimulating shows, or engage in thought-provoking activities just before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly.
- Do leg exercises just before bed to divert blood flow to your legs, rather than your brain.
- Visualize yourself asleep as you go to sleep. Practice deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing muscles all over your body.
- Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea before bed, using two to three tea bags.
- Consume no more than one serving of alcohol per day. Excess alcohol can disrupt sleep.
- Eat foods high in tryptophan before bedtime, such as lean turkey.
- Eat foods high in magnesium, such as halibut, almonds, cashews, and spinach.
- Eat foods high in Vitamin B complex, such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
- Taurine 1000-2000mg daily before sleep. You can repeat the dose if you wake up at night to help you get back to sleep.
- L-tryptophan, taken with taurine, helps promote sleep. Taurine has a calming effect and L-tryptophan has a more hypnotic effect. Take 500-3000mg before sleep. Begin with 500mg and increase every third day by 500mg as needed. If you wake up at night, take half your nighttime dose.
- Vitamin B6- 100-300mg/day with food.
- Magnesium glycinate 400-1000mg/day with food. Begin with the lowest dose and increase by 100mg/day. Reduce your dose if your stools are loose.
- Valerian root extract—use as directed on the label.
Here's to a good healthy snooze!
What about you? What natural insomnia remedies work for you?
Lissa Rankin, M.D. is the founder of OwningPink.com, a motivational speaker, and author of What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.