Look no further than nature to ease yourself into a blissful night’s slumber with these natural and herbal remedies
As you struggle to get a good night’s slumber, you may not be surprised to hear that research from The Sleep Council (sleepcouncil.org.uk) reveals that 17 percent of Brits have taken medication to help them drift off, and a further 14 percent have used over-the-counter remedies. But you needn’t reach for pills in order to fall asleep. “Melatonin is the body’s sleep hormone and healthy melatonin production enables your natural body clock to work as it should, so that you can wake up in the morning and become sleepy at night,” says plant essences producer Julia Seymour (juliaseymour.com). “In America, melatonin supplements can be bought over the counter but this is not the case for the UK. However, there are plenty of natural remedies that help you let go of the day and wind down, ready for bed.” Here are some of the best options.
Chamomile is synonymous with sleep and, in fact, is even commonly regarded as a mild tranquiliser due to its relaxing properties. “Chamomile is one of the most popular teas that people consume to improve their sleep,” says Gena Lorainne, professional horticulturist and gardening expert at Fantastic Services. “Chamomile tea carries apigenin which is an antioxidant that connects to specific brain receptors and encourages sleepiness. It also helps to reduce anxiety and inflammation.”
“Magnesium is one of the most essential nutrients we require, it is responsible for over 300 actions in your body and is an important factor in how your body manages its sleep cycle,” says nutritional expert Keeley Berry (betteryou.com). “It’s also a natural relaxant which promotes better sleep by stimulating the gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain. When GABA levels are low, your brain can get stuck in the ‘on’ position making it difficult to relax. Magnesium supplements are widely available, and research has shown that supplementing magnesium transdermally (through the skin by, for example, a lotion) is a highly effective method of increasing magnesium levels.” Try applying BetterYou’s Magnesium Sleep Lotion (£9.95, betteryou.com) before you head to bed to help you drift off.
Easily recognisable due to it’s gorgeous lilac colouring, lavender is another plant well known for its calming powers. “Its soothing scent is recognised for having relaxation abilities,” says Gena. “Drinking lavender tea helps reduce stress, plus improves sleep quality and anxiety. Try spraying your pillow with some natural lavender water to relax your mind and reduce the time you take to fall asleep. Use lavender essential oil or a naturally scented lavender candle to refreshen the air in your bedroom, as lavender is known for promoting better sleep quality when inhaled.”
“Whilst rarely used on its own, hops in combination with valerian and passion flower can be particularly effective in helping you sleep,” says Dr Dick Middleton, director of the British Herbal Medicine Association (bhma.info). “It can have added benefits for menopausal women as it contains compounds that are phyto-oestrogenic and it can also reduce the frequency of hot flushes and night sweats.”
“Lemon balm is a herb from the mint family, which is used for reducing stomach pain, vomiting and bloating,” says Gena. “It is known for having calming effects on anxiety and sleeping disorders and contains nutrients which help induce sleep.” It’s widely available in many forms either through supplements or infused into teas.
This is another plant that belongs to the mint family that’s a great sleep aid. “Melissa can relieve pain, reduce stress and boost your immune system, due to its antibacterial properties,” says Gena. “It contains high levels of cobalt and rosmarinic acids and, when taken as a tea, has a relaxing effect.”
“Valerian is a herb with tiny white or pink flowers, native to Europe and Asia, that is used as a traditional herbal medicine for anxiety, depression, the menopause and sleeplessness,” says Julia. “The dried root of this flowering plant can be steeped in hot water and turned into a tea, or it can be taken as a herbal supplement to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety and lack of sleep. It has a long history of use in natural sleep remedies and is said to reduce pain and relax muscles. Similar to magnesium, it works by increasing the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain.”
Not just pretty to look at, this flower is a great sleep aid. “Californian poppy contains californidine, which acts on the central nervous system to help improve sleep and promote relaxation,” explains Healthista’s nutritional director (healthista.com), Rick Hay. “It’s used to increase sleep quality, as well as calming the nervous system and decreasing anxiety. It was traditionally used as a sedative and for pain relief as well.”
“Linden flowers have been used for their calming effects for hundreds of years,” says Rick. “As a popular sedative, they contain an essential oil called farnesol which helps relax the cardiovascular system, so in turn helps to lessen stress. It’s used as a nervous system tonic for this reason, both helping to reduce anxiety and to ease worry. It’s popular as a tea and may help to reduce the severity of headaches, too.”
“Ashwagandha is a traditional ayurvedic remedy that is often used to improve the quality of sleep,” says Rick. “It’s known for it’s adaptogenic properties which help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and was traditionally used to treat sleep disturbances. Its latin name is withania somnifera, and ‘somnifera’ means sleep-inducing. Studies have shown that high concentrations of full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress.” Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen and is available to buy in a powdered form that you can add to smoothies to create a relaxing and sleep inducing drink before bed.
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