Melatonin is the body’s sleep hormone and healthy melatonin production enables our natural body clock to work as it should – so that we can wake up in the morning and become sleepy at night. In America, melatonin supplements can be bought over the counter but not in the UK, however, there are plenty of natural remedies that help you let go of the day and wind down, ready for bed.
Magnesium is a fantastic mineral that is involved in a large number of processes in the human body and it can be useful for sleep because it regulates the production of melatonin. It also helps to relax and quieten both your body and your mind as it increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), a neurotransmitter that has calming effects on the brain. Magnesium supplements are widely available and research has indicated that taking magnesium regularly can help to increase both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Cherries are the only edible source of melatonin, so you could consider eating cherries regularly or having a bowl whenever you need to boost your levels of the sleep hormone. Cherries are most delicious when they are in season, but as that is a fairly short window each year, you can use frozen cherries instead or drink a glass or two of cherry juice. One study in America found that participants suffering with insomnia who drank two glasses of tart cherry juice per day, increased their sleep time by 90 minutes.
Chamomile tea is delicious and caffeine free and it has been used for centuries as a mild sedative, so ideal for sleep and relaxation. It has a lovely earthy, slightly sweet taste and is loaded with antioxidants and as an herbal remedy it has long been considered the evening drink of choice to promote sleepiness and improve overall sleep quality. Chamomile is said to be anti-inflammatory and the antioxidants it contains may also aid in lowering blood sugar levels and improve heart health and blood pressure. Don’t be afraid to brew the tea quite strong in order to gain the full effects and if you use whole, dried flowers, rather than teabags, they look beautiful served in a glass infuser or teapot.
Lavender has a myriad of benefits and uses. This hardy evergreen shrub can be found all over the world and the familiar smell from its tiny, purple flowers helps you to unwind and fall asleep. The effects seem to be particularly strong in people suffering from mild insomnia and also with women and younger people. Eye masks containing the dried flowers are an excellent sleep aid, or try smelling a lavender aromatherapy oil 30 minutes before bedtime – either using a diffuser or by putting a few drops onto your palms and rubbing them onto your bedsheets and pillow. Lavender is also anti-bacterial and good for the skin and the hair.
Valerian is an 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. The dried root of this flowering plant can be steeped in hot water and turned into a tea or it can be taken as an herbal supplement to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety and to aid sleep. It has a long history of use in natural sleep remedies and is said to reduce pain and relax muscles. Like Magnesium, it works by increasing the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain.
Read the article in full at Natural Health Magazine, February 2019 issue.