When it comes to sleep, many of us are looking for that “one big thing” to help them sleep better.
But sometimes getting a good night's sleep is the result of doing a bunch of little things.
Before you shell out money for a new mattress or soundproof walls, why not see if small changes can help?
Some of the best home remedies for insomnia in adults cost less than $50. In fact, some of the very best ones are free.
Here we take a look at 15 natural things you can do to help you sleep through the night. (Without costing you a small fortune.)
1. Have Almond Butter Before Bed
You've heard that you shouldn't eat before bed, right? Well, if you've followed that rule and you still can't sleep, you might want to try a nighttime snack that includes almond butter.
Almond butter is high in (good) fat and so it takes a long time to digest. This helps you avoid dips in your blood sugar during the night. Almond butter also has tryptophan and magnesium, which help you fall asleep.
2. Get A Blue Light Filter
Everybody says you shouldn't use electronics at night, but most of us do it anyway. If that includes you, consider getting a blue light filter for your laptop or smartphone.
Taking in blue light waves from electronics prevents melatonin from being released properly. Most blue light filters can block over 90% of blue light, so you can keep using your laptop up until bed and the damage to your sleep won't be as bad.
I use the RetinaGuard filter for my laptop. I like it because it also blocks UV rays, which can cause long term damage to your eyes.
3. Try This Breathing Technique
There is a breathing method called the 4-7-8 practice that many people swear by. Dr. Andrew Weil gives a nice summary of how it works. I'll let the expert explain, but basically you inhale for a count of 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds, and this calms down your parasympathetic nervous system.
4. Drink Tart Cherry Juice
Cherry juice is one of the more popular home remedies for insomnia in adults. Cherries contain small amounts of the natural sleep-inducing chemicals melatonin and tryptophan. Drinking cherry juice at night can help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer. Knudsen's Tart Cherry Juice costs an extra couple dollars than most others but it's carried at most stores. You can also buy more concentrated forms at most health supplement stores.
5. Use A White Noise Machine
White noise at night isn't for everybody, but it's definitely worth a try if you're having trouble sleeping. They are especially helpful if you have a somewhat noisy sleeping environment. There are tons of white noise apps you can download but they can use up your battery pretty quickly. You can also find relatively inexpensive white noise machines online.
6. Take In Natural Light As Soon As You Wake Up
We already know about blocking unnatural light at night, but it's also important to absorb natural sunlight upon waking up. Doing this will keep your sleep schedule on track. A short walk in the morning can do the trick.
Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be sunny outside for you to take in enough sunlight. However, if you live somewhere with especially dark winters, using a light box can have a similar effect.
7. Drink Valerian Root Tea
It seems like every article about natural remedies for sleeplessness mentions valerian root. And for good reason. According to natural health expert Dr. Josh Axe, valerian root increases the amount of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps with relaxation/sedation, in your brain. It also helps ease anxiety, which makes it an extra powerful natural sleep aid.
Most tea brands have valerian root tea, but you can also buy extracts in capsule form. Valerian is also a common ingredient in many natural sleep supplements.
8. Fix Your Magnesium Deficiency
Low magnesium is one of the unfortunate side effects of modern living. Caffeine, alcohol and processed food consumption, along with depleted nutrients in our soil, are contributing factors.
Fortunately, magnesium deficiency can be remedied through supplementation and/or adding more magnesium-rich food to your diet. One food with a lot of magnesium that's great for bedtime are bananas.
9. Eat More Bananas
Not do bananas have the magnesium your body needs, they are also a great source of tryptophan and potassium. These three ingredients all help to relax your mind and body as you wind down. You can combine a banana with almond butter to make a perfect night time snack.
10. Write It Out
If racing thoughts are what keeps you awake, dumping all your thoughts on to paper (or screen) can be a great way to get relief. It only takes a few minutes and costs you nothing.
Try identifying exactly what concerns are keeping you awake, and then write down concrete steps you can take tomorrow to address those concerns. Having an action plan for dealing with things – even if the actions are small – will greatly reduce your anxiety.
If you don't like the idea of keeping a physical journal, try a free online one such as Penzu.
Aromatherapy for sleep is becoming more popular these days, and there is now science to support it. One of the easiest ways to use aromatherapy is by making a simple pillow spray using lavender. (Try this recipe from Wellness Mama.) You can also buy fairly inexpensive sprays with lavender (and other essential oils) that work well.
12. Cool Down
The National Sleep Foundation says you should sleep in a room that's between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body temper naturally lowers while you are asleep, so being in a cooler room can help you get to sleep faster. (By the way, having a fan on at night will also provide some good white noise.)
But if you can't stand sleeping in a cool room, you can still try taking a cool bath or shower before bed.Even a temporary cold exposure could help tell your body to start winding down for sleep. Author Tim Ferriss says a cold bath is part of his personal regimen.
What If I Still Can't Sleep? (More Resources)
Don't worry. There are many more ways to deal with insomnia without taking medicine or supplements to help sleep through the night.
You can learn a lot more about sleep on the National Sleep Foundation website (sleep.org). They have articles that address almost any sleep-related issue you can imagine, and I highly recommend you check it out.
If your insomnia is stubborn and you want more of a step-by-step action plan for getting some sleep, read my review of one of the more popular insomnia products on the internet.