Natural Diet Remedies for Sleep
If you’re wondering how to get a good night’s sleep the natural way, based on lifestyle, diet, and herbal remedies, check out these expert tips for natural diet remedies for sleep.
In the go-go-go society we all live in, it can be hard to unwind enough to get a good night’s sleep. Although it may seem like no big deal to cut back on the number of hours you sleep, not getting adequate sleep can increase your risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and obesity. Sadly, one in three adults do not get enough sleep. Without sleep in your life, you would not be able to function properly or enjoy this beautiful life with your loved ones around you. Luckily, there are natural methods to increase the quality and duration of your sleep without the side effects of sleeping pills. When it comes to a good night’s sleep, practicing simple diet and lifestyle habits can help ensure your sleep is allowing your body to fully recharge.
Why You Need Sleep
Sleep is an essential function that allows your body to repair, recharge your mind, and promote learning and memory. Everyone has an internal clock, the circadian rhythm, that regulates your sleep cycle, when you wake up, and when you start to feel tired. Unfortunately, many lifestyle and dietary factors can have a negative influence on your circadian rhythm and lead to insomnia. Insomnia, the difficulty of falling asleep, staying asleep, and oversleeping, affects 35% of adults in the U.S.
Insomnia and other sleep issues can be caused by high stress levels, frequently napping in the afternoon, exposure to screens before bed, and high caffeine consumption later in the afternoon. Dietary consumption of refined sugar and grains may also lower your energy levels and reduce sleep quality. Also, a lack of nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, D, E, and K have been linked to poor sleep quality and problems.
Although sleep disorders may be causing many people restless nights, there are many natural remedies for sleep, such as valerian, chamomile, melatonin, reducing screen time, enjoying a warm cup of lavender tea before bed, exercising in the morning, and avoiding certain foods before sleeping.
Natural Diet Remedies for Sleep: Botanicals
Several herbs are commonly used for their sedative, relaxing effects, including as sleep aids. Some can be sipped as tea, inhaled through a diffuser, applied to the skin topically as a cream, or taken in supplement form. Here are three of the most common.
- Valerian. Valerian is a medicinal herb that was used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat insomnia. This herb contains compounds that may help promote sleep and reduce anxiety. Although the direct mechanism of valerian is unknown, it has been shown to interact with a neurotransmitter, GABA, in the brain. Low GABA levels have been linked to poor sleep quality, thus taking valerian in a supplement form or as a tea may help boost your sleep quality and increase GABA levels in your brain.
- Chamomile. Chamomile is another herbal remedy that has been used for thousands of years to combat insomnia and promote a good night’s rest. This herbal is commonly consumed through tea, but can be used in an extract and in a topical form. Promising animal research has shown this herbal to be a safe, effective sleep aid; however, there has been mixed results in human studies. It’s still a good idea to drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed, which may help you relax and unwind for the night.
- Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is released by a gland in the brain, the pineal gland, to alert your body that it is time to start winding down for the day. Unfortunately, many people who consume a poor diet, are chronically stressed, or suffer from insomnia may have low melatonin levels. Taking a melatonin supplement may help improve insomnia symptoms and get you back in line with your natural circadian rhythm.
- Lavender. Drinking a cup of lavender tea before bedtime may improve sleep. Also, the smell of lavender can promote deep, restful sleep that may repair and restore you. Plus, lavender tea has been shown to help reduce stress levels and anxious thoughts that may be keeping you up late at night.
Lifestyle Tips to Help Sleep
- Say No to Screens. Although it may be relaxing to watch a few episodes of a TV show before bed, the blue light emitted from the screens can cause your body to think that it is morning and prevent melatonin from being released. Instead of watching your favorite show before bed, try reading a good book, taking a warm bath, or playing a board game with friends and family to help you unwind for the night. If you are dying to watch your show though, you can wear blue light blocking glasses that will help prevent the blue light from shifting your circadian rhythm, but non-screen activities are still best.
- Exercise in the Morning. Exercise provides you with so many health benefits, but working out later in the day or even a few hours before bed can disrupt sleep. After you work out, your body is energized and ready for the day, which may prevent melatonin from being secreted. Also, sweating a lot from a workout may cause your body to take a long time to fully cool down and relax for bed. It is best to work out in the morning or early afternoon, which will prevent your workout routine from disrupting your sleep.
Snack Smart before Bed
What you consume right before or a few hours before bed can dramatically impact your sleep quality. Some foods have been shown to help promote sleep, such as kiwi, tart cherries, walnuts, and rice. Other foods and beverages, like chocolate, coffee, alcohol, soda, and orange juice have been shown to interfere with sleep. If you decide to eat a small snack before bed, why not try a square of Pistachio Cherry Coconut Crisp, which will help satisfy your sweet tooth, prevent you from reaching for refined snacks, and reward you with the benefits that cherries have to offer you for a good night’s sleep.
Sufficient sleep is not only good for your body, but your overall well-being. Try adding some of these natural diet remedies for sleep to your nightly routine and see what works best for you.
Written by Michelle Naragon, dietetic intern, with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Images by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Main Image: Detox Chamomile Granola, from California Vegan, by Sharon Palmer
For other blogs on sleep, check out the following:
Foley, L. (2020). Why Do We Need Sleep? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep
Foley, L. (2020). What Causes Insomnia? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/what-causes-insomnia
Foley, L. (2020). The Best Foods to Help You Sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/food-and-drink-promote-good-nights-sleep
Matthiessen, C. (2021). Natural Sleep Aids. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/sleep-supplements-herbs
N.A. (2016). 1 in 3 Adult’s don’t get Enough Sleep. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html
Suni, E. (2020). Nutrition and Sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition
Spritzler, F. (2017). How Valerian Root Helps You Relax and Sleep Better. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/valerian-root#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3