[Below is my transcript of my video about learning how to naturally treat insomnia, along with supplemental information on the topic.]
One of the most common things I’ll hear from my patients is, “Dr. Axe, I can’t sleep.”
If you’re one of those people who has trouble falling asleep or struggle with insomnia, or you wake up frequently during the night, that’s very common. I’m going to go through the exact steps you need to follow to get better quality of sleep and help you fall asleep faster.
5 Steps to Start Sleeping Better!
1. Change Your Diet
Step number one in overcoming sleep deprivation is to change your diet; surprisingly for a lot of people, their diets are keeping them from falling asleep. Before you go to bed, you need to really drop your carbohydrate consumption. If you’re consuming too many sugars and carbs, your body is burning through those and getting warm, which prevents you from comfortably going to to sleep. That means you must lower your sugar, grain and overall carbohydrate intake before bed.
For long-lasting insomnia cures, it’s also key to get some healthy fats in your system to help you fall asleep soon after your head hits the pillow. For example, both benefit-rich avocado and organic yogurt (without sugar) can work extremely well here, as those foods are high in magnesium and potassium. Many people aren’t aware that they suffer from low potassium or have signs of a magnesium deficiency, as both are crucial nutrients you need to help relax the body and help you fall asleep at night.
2. Reduce Stress
The second step you need to do to overcome insomnia is to naturally reduce anxiety and stress. For most people, along with diet, this is a major culprit for keeping you up at night — your mind starts racing with ceaseless thinking and you’re seemingly unable to shut your brain off.
There are several reasons for that. Perhaps you watched TV and that visual stimulus, especially the blue light, up until the point that you went to bed. This doesn’t just include the TV screen; it also includes your computer, your iPad or your smartphone, which too often reside next to people’s beds. That blue light actually tells your pineal gland in your brain that it needs to keep running, so it messes with your circadian rhythms and cortisol levels and keeps you from falling asleep at night when you were looking at that bright blue light in the computer screens and TV screens.
Therefore, I recommend that for about 30 minutes at least, ideally an hour, before bed, you need to shut off all electronics, and you need to start reading something that helps you relax or start journaling. The simplest step can be reading a novel, a devotional, your Bible, or just something that helps you relax and wind down at least 30 minutes before bed.
For journaling, you can get out a notebook and start writing things down; you can even look at your schedule for the next day and write that down. If you have something that’s really stressing you out and keeping you from sleeping at night, I recommend you start writing down those things that stress you out. Work on addressing those the best you can, and then start scheduling things into the week that you love to do. It is so important.
If you’ve had a great day and been happy all day, it actually creates certain hormones in your body known as endorphins that help you fall asleep at night. Exercise is one of the most natural ways to create endorphins, so consider exercise my Rx for a good night’s sleep, especially for children and teenagers who have trouble sleeping. Add it to your growing list of insomnia cures.
3. Take Quality Supplements
Step number three is to take quality supplements, especially a magnesium supplement, to cure insomnia without drugs. Taking a magnesium supplement, about 400 to 500 milligrams a night before bed, can help you naturally reduce stress and really improve sleep. I recommend a high-quality magnesium chelate or magnesium citrate before bed.
In addition, supplements like melatonin can help, or valerian root, but I don’t recommend doing those on a long-term basis. Now, if you have jet lag, or you’re not able to sleep just for a day or two, taking melatonin on occasion, about three grams, is fine. But you just want to do a small amount of melatonin on occasion, not on a regular basis, for it can be habit-forming.
4. Use Essential Oils
The next step to truly help you improve your sleep is using essential oils, especially lavender essential oil and chamomile essential oil. Chamomile, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form, is one of the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation, according to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review. Inhaling chamomile vapors is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression, which is one reason why chamomile oil is a popular ingredient in many candles, aromatherapy products and bath-soaking treatments.
With lavender oil, you can diffuse that by your bed at night or just take a few drops of lavender oil and rub it on your neck. The benefits of lavender oil include having certain aromatic compounds that help relax your body. Also, you can take a warm bath with lavender oil and Epsom salts, which work because they have magnesium.
If you’re going to go to bed at 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., do a detox bath by starting the process at around 9 p.m. Take about 20 drops of lavender oil, rub it all on your body and get into a warm/hot bath with Epsom salts, and relax there for about 20 to 30 minutes. When you get out, go and read a book for 30 minutes in bed and then fall asleep there at night.
5. Change Your Lifestyle
Last but not least, you probably need to change your lifestyle in order to find more insomnia cures. For example, I recommend a few things to do around your home to help improve your sleep. Get the temperature in your house cold, definitely below 70 degrees — oftentimes, upper 60s to mid-60s for some people is necessary. In the winter, make sure the heat source has been turned down. A nice and cold house will help improve your sleep.
Another thing you want to do is make sure your bed is comfortable. If there is a big dip in your bed, it’s time to pick a healthier bed. Also, make sure it’s dark in your room, as getting some dark curtains can help you fall asleep at night as well.
Top Foods for Insomnia
Foods high in tryptophan —This amino acid stimulates the production of serotonin, which helps with relaxation. Include turkey, chicken or tuna for dinner.
Complex carbohydrates — Carbohydrates also help with the production of serotonin, so try to include butternut squash or sweet potatoes into your dinner.
Raw Milk — Although dairy can be problematic for some, a glass of raw milk before bed does help with sleep. A2 dairy is recommended from goat’s, sheep, or A2 cows.
Foods high in magnesium — Magnesium is known as the “relaxation” mineral. Include green leafy vegetables, sesame and sunflower seeds, and oats into your diet.
B-vitamins — Organic meat, brewer’s yeast, liver and green leafy vegetables are high in B-vitamins. Consume foods high in vitamin B12 as your best sources.
Foods to Avoid
Caffeine — Don’t consume caffeine after noon or at all if you are having difficulty sleeping.
Alcohol — Stop drinking alcohol at least 2 hours before bed and drink in moderation.
Any potential food allergens — Food allergies can cause insomnia.
Sugar — Variations in blood sugar can cause insomnia.
High fat foods — Fat slows down digestion and may lead to indigestion at night. Limit fried foods before bedtime.
Top 5 Insomnia Natural Remedies
#1 Melatonin (1-3 mg half hour before bed)
Helps promote sleep, best used for a short period of time.
#2 Passionflower (500 mg before bed)
Helps relax the nervous system and doesn’t cause drowsiness.
#3 Valerian (600 mg before bed)
Is effective for insomnia, but may be a stimulant for some.
#4 Calcium and magnesium (500 mg calcium/250 mg magnesium)
These minerals work together for relaxation.
#5 Vitamin B12 (1500 mcg daily)
Vitamin B12 supports cellular function and a deficiency can cause insomnia.
If you’ve been saying to yourself, “I can’t sleep,” I guarantee that these insomnia cures will help you fall asleep faster and help you overcome issues like insomnia.
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