Natural Solutions to Support Sleep
There’s no way around it; sleep deprivation can be overwhelming. It makes it harder to do anything, negatively affects your mood, and even can increase your cravings for sugar. But even further, sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, immune system dysregulation, and increased risk for other health concerns.1,2
Sleep issues can mean you have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or just don’t feel rested when you wake up, even if you’ve slept through the night.
Natural solutions for sleep are attractive because they can support the body’s natural sleep rhythms without unwanted side effects. Here are lifestyle facts you can try to help you get a better night’s rest.
A nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet is vital for all aspects of health, including sleep. Certain foods and diet patterns can impact how well you sleep.
For example, eating too late at night before bed can make it more challenging to fall and stay asleep. Your body can’t go into a state of relaxation and repair because it’s too busy working on digesting your food.
Multiple studies also suggest an association between those who eat high fat or high glycemic carbohydrate diets with low vegetable intake and poor sleep quality.3 Sleep and food metabolism are also closely linked as sleep deprivation is associated with increases in hormones that make you feel more hungry or even regulate blood sugar.4 So you wake up feeling tired, which makes you hungrier and more likely to reach for unhealthy foods, creating a vicious cycle.
Instead, nutrient-rich diet patterns like the Mediterranean diet are associated with sleep improvements.5 The Mediterranean diet focuses on fibre-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It also emphasises healthy fats from olive oil and avocados and minimises processed foods.
Additionally, foods high in tryptophan like turkey, milk, or oats may help with sleep as tryptophan is a precursor for 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan). 5-HTP is a compound produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan that then gets turned into to serotonin.6 Serotonin is a calming neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation, and tryptophan helps make it.
Similarly, tart cherry, a precursor for the body’s natural melatonin production, may also help with sleep.7 Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland in your brain that helps regulate natural circadian rhythms in the body. It rises at the end of the day when it’s stimulated by waning light to help prepare you for sleep.
Moving your body, especially earlier in the day, can support better sleep. Not only does it help calm your mood or feelings of stress, but it can also just make you feel more tired at the end of the day.
Exercise is linked to deeper sleep, as well as improving the quality of your sleep cycle. Interestingly, a meta-analysis that examined the impact of physical activity on sleep found that exercise supports total sleep time, how long it takes to fall asleep, and quality of sleep.8
One study on healthy adults with difficulty sleeping found that a sixteen-week program that promoted aerobic exercise and sleep hygiene education (how to design your sleep environment to encourage sleep) helped with sleep quality, mood, and overall quality of life.9
The timing of when you exercise is something else to consider. Some people can’t exercise later in the day because it makes them feel too energised at night. Listening to your body and individualised response can help you choose what’s best for you.
In addition to lifestyle changes, there are also supplements to further support rest and relaxation:
Passionflower is a vine used in traditional medicine for its calming effects on the body. Passionflower is said to have soothing effects that promote a sense of relaxation.10
Ever lie awake in bed, unable to quiet the thoughts running through your head? Passionflower could help. It may help reduce feelings of stress or occasional worry that can interrupt your sleep.11 Some studies suggest that passionflower tea supported a restful night’s sleep in healthy adults with occasional sleep problems more than placebo.12
Valerian root is another botanical used for many years in traditional medicine and by herbalists to promote sleep and relaxation. Current studies also point towards its effectiveness for sleep quality, as noted by a systematic review of sixteen different studies.13
It could help with sleep quality and quantity because of its interactions with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to help relax your nervous system. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps calm down the nervous system.14
Another gentle botanical, lemon balm, is often used to support occasional feelings of anxiety and stress that could interrupt sleep.15 It’s an herb named after its unique lemon scent and can be taken as a tea or a tincture. One study found that drinking a lemon-balm-infused drink or yogurt supported improvements in stress and mood.16
Lemon balm is often used in combo with other botanicals to help sleep, which can improve effectiveness. A study that combined valerian and lemon balm found that the supplements helped improve feelings of restlnessness to support better sleep when combined.17 This herb may have the same GABA modulating benefits as seen with valerian.18
Of all the herbs, you may be the most familiar with chamomile, especially chamomile tea, for relaxation and sleep support.19 Chamomile is a soothing botanical that supports a sense of calm. You’ll often find chamomile as a part of a sleep-supporting supplement with other calming herbs.
Chamomile may help you sleep by binding to receptors that stimulate calm feelings in your brain. A systematic review of studies using chamomile for mood support and sleep quality found that it significantly supported improvements in sleep quality and feelings of worry.20
Supporting Sleep With A Healthy Lifestyle
Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for your health and well-being. Many people struggle with sleep, but there are many ways to try to get better rest.
You can start by looking at your diet and eating patterns. Make sure you are also moving your body daily. Additionally, you may want to consider natural botanicals like chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, and passionflower for extra support. Altogether these options can be a holistic way to improve your sleep.
Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian. You can learn more about Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN at www.caitlinbealewellness.com. [optional]
+The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Pure Encapsulations®.
1. Liu, Yong, Anne G. Wheaton, Daniel P. Chapman, and Janet B. Croft. “Sleep Duration and Chronic Diseases among US Adults Age 45 Years and Older: Evidence From the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.” Sleep 36, no. 10 (October 1, 2013): 1421–27. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.3028.
2. Medic, Goran, Micheline Wille, and Michiel EH Hemels. “Short- and Long-Term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption.” Nature and Science of Sleep 9 (May 19, 2017): 151–61. https://doi.org/10.2147/NSS.S134864.
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