We’ve all been there. You’re laying in bed at 3.00 AM, staring at the ceiling and counting down the hours till you have to get up and function in the outside world. Struggling to get to sleep is frustrating at best, but it can even be damaging to our mental and physical health if it becomes a chronic issue. With this in mind, it’s no wonder many of us are seeking out solutions to this problem. But what if you’re not prepared for the potential risks of prescription sleeping pills? If you’re desperate to get some quality sleep but prefer the natural route, take a look at this guide to the best alternatives to sleeping pills.
One of the main herbal remedies thought to help sleeplessness, valerian is definitely something to consider. Originally found in the form of a root, valerian is commonly available in capsules or as an ingredient in sleep inducing tea. Research shows that the main reason valerian can aid insomnia is due to its ability to increase the amount of gamma in the brain, a chemical known for its calming effect. Be careful with dosages if you plan on using valerian however, as high amounts can sometimes result in side effects such as changes in heart rhythm, blurred vision and vivid dreams.
A main component in green, black and matcha tea, L-Theanine is something a lot of people consume daily without realising the potential for its calming effects. L-Theanine is often used for relaxation, making it the perfect pre-bedtime remedy. Try sipping on some caffeine free green tea an hour or so before bed and see whether it has any effect. If not, you might want to try L-theanine capsules which are likely to contain a higher dose.
Perhaps the most natural of all, meditation is a great way to calm your body and mind to leave you in the perfect state for a peaceful night’s sleep. There are plenty of great apps to help you practice meditation from the comfort of your home. Guided meditations are often best for insomnia, bringing your focus onto the present and boosting the sleep chemical melatonin.
Changing your sleeping habits
Sometimes the easiest way to get a better sleep lies in your sleeping habits. Things that can contribute to poor sleep quality include drinking coffee at night, eating too close to bedtime and using electronic devices in bed. Create a new routine that you can follow each night. This might mean getting any preparation for the next day done early on, and then dedicating an hour or two before bed relaxing with a hot bath or a good book. The type of bed you sleep in can also make a difference, with old mattresses and bed frames creating an uncomfortable sleeping environment. If this is the case for you, consider investing in a divan bed with memory foam mattress which responds to the weight and shape of your body to relieve stress and aid relaxation.
Another supplement that’s widely known for it’s sleep-inducing qualities is 5-HTP. This is a naturally occurring substance that’s been found to convert into the chemical serotonin in the brain. Since healthy levels of serotonin hold a number of functions including an improved quality of sleep and better mood, there’s a possibility that taking 5-HTP could cure insomnia in those with low levels of the chemical in the brain. Taking a supplement containing 5-HTP can help reestablish healthy sleep patterns, and can be taken in combination with valerian extract for even more of a relaxing effect.
Remember to always consult with your GP before taking any new supplements to get advice and an accurate diagnosis.