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You're tossing and turning and trying with all your might to keep your eyes closed and to fall asleep. A peek through your eyelashes reveals that it's just getting later at an exponentially fast rate, which if you're me, will piss you off even more. Through the mental clutter that is filling your brain, with each passing minute that you are still awake, you wish you knew of something other than the Tylenol PM that's sitting in your bathroom cabinet. It always makes you feel groggy in the morning and the last thing you need is to be late to work because you couldn't drag your butt out of bed.
This is a familiar scenario to me. I went through years of sleep issues including narcolepsy and insomnia, all of which disappeared when I changed my diet and began doing yoga and meditation. There are still those random nights when something is keeping me from being able to fall asleep, but now I have a whole arsenal of natural herbal options that work really well to help me gently fall asleep and not wake up groggy from doing so.
There are natural options for a better night's rest
You don't have to rely on habit forming sedatives or over the counter Benadryl & Tylenol (Tylenol PM) to get to sleep. Sleep issues are most often underlying symptoms from other health issues. Before you chug down pills to cover up your chronic sleep problem, you might try making some of these changes in your life first, to see what helps you get a better night's rest:
- Ditch the caffeine after 4 pm – It's great at keeping you awake which is going against your ultimate goal of sleep!
- Get on a sleep schedule and go to bed before midnight – Some research suggests that every hour of sleep prior to 12 am is equal to 2 hours after.
- Get enough magnesium in your diet – there is a whole host of symptoms caused by magnesium deficiency, and one of those symptoms is insomnia. You can also supplement magnesium by taking frequent Epsom salt baths!
- Change your diet and when you eat – Foods that don't digest well, cause indigestion, heartburn, gas, or intestinal problems can all disrupt your ability to sleep. Eating a whole foods diet rich in green vegetables, and avoiding processed foods can really change your body's energy levels throughout the day as well as the quality and quantity of sleep you get at night. Also, eating foods too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep because your body has to work to digest the food while you are sleeping.
- Exercise regularly – You do not have to do a hardcore workout to get better sleep. Because of all of the surgeries that I have had, I can not do the normal work-out that the Hippy Hubby does. I swim for fun, stretch my body and release tension with yoga, and even hike through nature with my family.
- Meditate – On the nights that I am having the hardest time quieting my mind, I throw on some meditation tunes (because my ADHD requires music to focus for long periods of time) and meditate myself to sleep. It works every single time. Once you get good at going into a meditative state (practice makes perfect), you will find it is very helpful to getting yourself to sleep. Anyone can learn to meditate! Learn more about meditation and how to do it, here.
- Use essential oils – Essential oils have some great sleep-inducing properties. They can help calm the mind and body so that you can get a good night's rest! I love using my Good Night Sleep Tight essential oil blend whenever I need some aromatherapy to help get me to sleep!
Herbs that have been known to help with sleep
If you lead a fairly healthy life and still having one of those nights that you just can't get to sleep, there are many herbs that can help calm the mind and body to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Many of these herbs work by helping relieve stress, indigestion, and anxiety rather than just knocking you out, which can be helpful in staying asleep longer.
- California Poppy – Used for centuries as a gentle sedative and pain reliever, the California poppy is more than just a pretty orange flower! Also used for anxiety and stress, studies are being done on the effectiveness of the California poppy for depression and other psychiatric problems. Not for use during pregnancy.
- Catnip – Known to help calm the nerves and relax the body, catnip is a great herb to use in sleepy teas and tinctures! A great herb for use with children, catnip is also a known tummy tamer, helping to soothe digestive issues that might be causing sleep distress.
- Chamomile flowers – A well-known herb used for centuries to calm the nerves and help with sleep problems, chamomile is a very tasty herb to add to any sleep tea and tincture! Not for use during pregnancy.
- Hops flowers – Derived from the same plant that is used to make beer, hops have been used for centuries to treat nervous disorders, anxiety, and insomnia. Not for use during pregnancy.
- Lavender buds – One of the most well-known herbs for use with stress, anxiety, pain relief, and insomnia, lavender is used in a variety of methods from herbal baths, essential oils, herbal pillows, and more! When making tea, lavender should be used sparingly as it's very strong in flavor!
- Lemon balm – A very relaxing herb that also aids in digestion, lemonbalm has been widely used since the dark ages for anxiety and sleep.
- Passionflower – Traditionally used for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria, passionflower helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep! Not for use during pregnancy.
- Skullcap – Traditionally used to help quiet the mind, treat insomnia, and help with anxiety and irritability, skullcap works great in combination with valerian root and other sleepytime herbs. Not for use during pregnancy.
- Valerian root – One of my favorite herbs for pain and sleep, no sleep routine should be without it! If there is one herb you choose to use in a sleep tincture, it should be valerian root. Valerian root is not habit-forming, does not cause grogginess, and is an effective pain reliever including for headaches. Valerian root is also commonly used for stress and anxiety. Though valerian is very effective for more people, for a rare 10% of the population, it does not work and can cause the opposite effect. Not for use during pregnancy.
Good Night Sleep Tight Sleepytime Tea & Tincture
Though the tea is very effective, the tincture is the most effective and as my Dad pointed out, taking the tincture does not make you wake up in the middle of the night to pee it all out! My dad and I both swear by this tea, though! It works so well when I need to pass out!
- 2 parts chamomile flowers
- 1 part valerian root
- 1 part hops flowers
- 1 part passionflower
- 1 part skullcap
- 1 part lemon balm
- 1 part peppermint leaf (This is added both for flavor and to help with digestion which can sometimes be a cause for sleep issues)
- Combine herbs together in a bowl. Store in an airtight container when not in use. Label blend and date made.
TO USE – TEA
Combine 1-2 Tbsp. herb mixture to 8-12 oz. boiling hot water. Allow to steep for 5-15 minutes before straining and drinking. The longer you steep the tea, the more potent it will be.
TO USE – TINCTURE
Following the directions here to make tinctures, fill a wide-mouthed mason jar 1/3 full with dried herbal mixture. Fill mason jar to the top, covering herbs, with 60 proof or better vodka. Allow to steep in the jar for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily to mix. Strain tincture using a cheesecloth or strainer. Take 1-2 droppers-full 30 minutes prior to bedtime. If you awaken in the middle of the night, you can safely take another dropper-full without feeling groggy in the morning. You can make this with vegetable glycerin (a sweet option great for children but doesn't have as long of a shelf life as alcohol), or even apple cider vinegar. Tinctures made with alcohol are the most effective.
This tea/tincture is NOT for use during pregnancy. Though many of these herbs are safe to take for sleep issues, they should not be taken for more than 14 consecutive days at a time. A sleep problem that persists longer than 2 weeks should be looked into with a doctor. This tea/tincture should not be used in conjunction with antidepressants/MAO inhibitors, sedatives, or anti-convulsants.
All information on The Hippy Homemaker is meant for educational and informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician.