Natural Remedies to Help you Sleep Better in 2023!
We all know getting enough sleep is very important for our health, but as with most things it's easier said than done. Nearly half (48%) of all Australian adults report experiencing at least 2 sleep based problems (1). Sleep is crucial in helping to assist with regulating appetite, metabolism and mood, in addition to enhancing our immune, hormone and cardiovascular functions (2).
If you are in the unlucky 48%, there are solutions out there to improve your sleep. An example of such are natural sleeping aids. These are plant-based over-the-counter supplements that aim to decrease the amount of time it takes for someone to fall asleep and stay in a deeper sleep for longer (3). Natural sleeping aids work by increasing an hormone already produced in our bodies or through our diet. Many people prefer natural sleeping aids over prescription medication as they traditionally have fewer side effects (3).
Most famous for its use as a calming relaxant in tea, Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs, being used by mankind for centuries for sleep promotion. Chamomile is found in two types, German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile (for this blog we will be looking at German Chamomile as it has a greater variety of supporting evidence).
A key benefit of Chamomile is its ability to improve the user's sleep quality by soothing their body and calming conditions associated with mild anxiety. Chamomile achieves this effect through the chemical compound Apigenin, which induces muscle relaxation and sedation (4). Despite there not being a standard dose of Chamomile, you can use the versatile herb in multiple formats, including dried flowers in tea or taken orally as a tablet or capsule (5).
One of the more well-known natural sleep aids, Lavender comes from the fragrant plant Lavandula angustifolia and is traditionally cultivated as an essential oil. Spanning back to ancient Rome, where it was used in scented baths, fast forward to modern times, and the benefits of Lavender range from assisting with repository function and helping with nerve irritability, skin and hair care (6).
Lavender has also been closely linked to sleep improvement, as Lavender can help naturally calm the body when it's in a state of anxiety and stress, thus helping achieve a more balanced sleep schedule. This effect was noted in a scientific study that found patients saw improvements in their sleep-related issues, including restlessness and disturbed sleep while taking a daily 80mg dose of lavender oil supplements over six weeks (7).
Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is a plant native to Europe and parts of Asia and North America. It is a staple in sleep supplements due to its sedative effects for treating stress, anxiety and sleep disorders. This is done through Valerian's ability to increase the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) production in the brain.
GABA helps to slow down your body and prevent nerve cell hyperactivity associated with erratic states like anxiety, stress and fear (8). This positive effect has been communicated through multiple studies, with one placebo-controlled study highlighting that subjects who received 530 mg of valerian root 1 hour before bedtime had higher mean sleep quality compared to the placebo (9).
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body and is commonly dubbed as nature's original 'chill pill' because of its ability to improve muscle relaxation, mood and stress responses. This is done by regulating your neurotransmitters, signalling molecules that send messages throughout your brain and nervous system. Magnesium helps your body to remain calm, making it easier to fall asleep (10).
Studies have shown that magnesium's relaxing effect might be due to the mineral's ability to quiet the mind and body, as magnesium can regulate melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone in the brain that helps to regulate and manage your sleep patterns (11), with one study finding that 500mg of magnesium taken daily helped patients stay asleep longer, reduced nighttime awakenings, and increased their levels of naturally circulating melatonin (12).
Overall, sleep-based problems are a growing concern, but there are remedies out there that can help calm and relax your body, making it easier to fall and stay asleep for longer. For those who are reluctant to take prescription-based medication due to concerns of over-reliance and side effects there is a range of complementary based options, but please note that it is recommended to consult to your doctor to find what option is right for you and offer recommendations regarding suggested dosage and frequency.
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- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (n.d.). Sleep problems as a risk factor for chronic conditions, Summary. [online] Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/risk-factors/sleep-problems-as-a-risk-factor/summary.
- Consensus Conference Panel, Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, Bliwise DL, Buxton OM et al. 2015. Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: Methodology and Discussion. Sleep 38:1161–83.
- Sleep Foundation. (2018). Natural Sleep Aids: Which Ones Are Safe? [online] Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-aids/natural-sleep-aids.
- Salehi, B., Venditti, A., Sharifi-Rad, M., Kręgiel, D., Sharifi-Rad, J., Durazzo, A., Lucarini, M., Santini, A., Souto, E. B., Novellino, E., Antolak, H., Azzini, E., Setzer, W. N., & Martins, N. (2019). The Therapeutic Potential of Apigenin. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20061305
- Cronkleton, E. (2018). 8 Natural Sleep Aids: What Works? [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/natural-sleep-aids.
- Woelk H, Schläfke S. A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb;17(2):94-9. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.10.006. Epub 2009 Dec 3. PMID: 19962288."
- Koulivand, P. H., Ghadiri, M. K., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ECAM, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/681304.
- Cleveland Clinic (2022). Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA): What It Is, Function & Benefits. [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22857-gamma-aminobutyric-acid-gaba.
- Tammadon, M. R., Nobahar, M., Hydarinia-Naieni, Z., Ebrahimian, A., Ghorbani, R., & Vafaei, A. A. (2021). The Effects of Valerian on Sleep Quality, Depression, and State Anxiety in Hemodialysis Patients: A Randomized, Double-blind, Crossover Clinical Trial. Oman Medical Journal, 36(2), e255. https://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2021.56.
- The University of Queensland, n.d. What are neurotransmitters?. [online] Qbi.uq.edu.au. Available at: <https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-functions/what-are-neurotransmitters> [Accessed 17 August 2022].
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2021). Melatonin: What You Need To Know. [online] NCCIH. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know.
- Cao, Y., Zhen, S., Taylor, A., Appleton, S., Atlantis, E. and Shi, Z. (2018). Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients, [online] 10(10), p.1354. doi:10.3390/nu10101354.