April 11, 2017

Natural Remedies to Help You Drift Off to Dreamland

Live Healthy

While the spring and summer months are a great time to get out and get active, people tend to have more difficulties sticking to a regular sleep schedule during the sunnier season. 

“Sunlight is activating and stimulating for our brains – it can keep us from going to sleep at night if we are exposed to it too late in the day,” says Dr. Valerie Cacho, medical director of sleep medicine at Straub Medical Center. 

Cacho, who is board certified in internal and sleep medicine, recommends the following natural remedies to help people fall asleep: 

  • Deep-breathing exercises – An anxious mind is the biggest reason many people have difficulty falling asleep. Calm your central nervous system with deep-breathing exercises done from the comfort of your own bed. Click here for proper breathing techniques from Ornish Reversal Program Stress Management Specialist Sarah Lavallee.
     
  • Meditation – Similar to deep-breathing, meditation can help you drift off to dreamland by helping to quiet your mind after a long day. If you’re not a yogi, don’t worry – Cacho says there are numerous free apps available to guide you through this mindfulness technique.
     
  • Lavender essential oil – Used for centuries as a natural cure for insomnia, lavender oil is a natural sedative that aids in alleviating stress, tension and anxiety. Rub a few drops of lavender oil in your palms, feet, temples or wrists before bed for an immediate calming effect. You also can use a few drops in the shower or smooth onto your pillow to help you slip into slumber.
     
  • Tart cherry juice – You may have heard that sipping warm milk or tea before bedtime can help you doze off faster, but the next time you find yourself counting sheep, reach for tart cherry juice instead. Cherry juice is a source of the sleep-wake hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan. Additionally, tart cherry juice contains proanthocyanidins, which give the juice its ruby red hue. Proanthocyanidins contain an enzyme that reduces inflammation and decreases the breakdown of tryptophan, allowing you to stay asleep longer. 

As for the nightcap? Cacho says skip it. 

“Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime can make you sleepy, but the breakdown products can wake you up, as it disrupts your sleep stages,” Cacho explains. 

Also, make sure to log off and leave the electronics out of the bedroom for a better night’s sleep. 

“Staying on your phone or computer too late at night can keep you from falling asleep, as above light is activating and prevents the rise in melatonin, which is the sleep-promoting hormone,” Cacho says. 

For more sound sleep advice from the Straub Sleep Medicine Center, click here.