Trying to sleep when your brain is wired to the hilt, knowing you've got an important early start the following day, is perhaps one of the least fun ways to spend your time in bed.
Having the flu is probably worse to be fair, but the frustration surrounding sleeplessness is, unfortunately, something a lot of us are forced to endure more often. Natural sleep remedies (and unnatural, for that matter) have long been explored in the media, and if you've ever struggled with sleep, chances are you've been there, Googled it.
Yes, pack in your penchant for clacking away on your laptop or phone well before you hit the hay. Yes, a bath for bed can help to relax you. Yes, maybe ease off the triple espressos post 3 pm. And yes, if you're really desperate, count sheep. We've heard it all before, and we're still in search of more effective ways of getting our all important shut-eye. Here are three natural remedies we've tried and loved in recent times.
- Cherry Active
Containing the concentrated juice of Montmorency cherries (to be specific), Cherry Active is a superfood powerhouse, among which its positive influence on sleep is included. A 2010 study demonstrated its natural effects, and it's an easily available product that nutritionist Kaman Ryan can't speak highly enough of.
"The tart Montmorency cherries are one of the best natural sources of melatonin, a hormone that is essential to the body’s natural sleep patterns. A 30ml serving before bed is believed to help induce a restful night’s sleep. Works for me!"
- The 4-7-8 sleeping trick
Touted by sleep enthusiasts the world over, this technique promises to have you fast asleep in sixty seconds. For us, it took a little longer, but it made us feel considerably sleepier within minutes, making it easier to eventually drift off, so certainly worth a try. According to Harvard doctor Andrew Weill, you simply breathe in for four, hold for seven and breathe out for eight while making a slight whooshing noise. The combination of 4-7-8, he claims, works as a natural tranquilizer, allowing for more oxygen to permeate your lungs and brain which thus reduce your body’s stress levels, setting you up for a restful night's slumber.
Ready to try it? Start by exhaling entirely. Then breathe in for four seconds, through your nose. Hold this breath for seven seconds before exhaling to a count of eight, as you allow for a whooshing sound through your throat, mouth open. Repeat three times...
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Dr. Weill says: “Once you develop this breathing technique by practicing it every day, twice a day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. Use it to deal with food cravings. Great for mild to moderate anxiety, this exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.”
- Magnesium and Vitamin D3
We've all been told of the importance of magnesium; it's responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and crucial in terms of restful sleep, but if you've been taking magnesium for a while, and you've not been noticing the benefits, that's because magnesium is, experts say, best taken alongside Vitamin D, and vice versa, as both are necessary for each other's nutrient absorption. American sleep specialist Doc Parsley has recently come across with his own 'sleep cocktail' combining magnesium with Vitamin D3 (along with a small dose of melatonin and L-Tryptophan). The effects of this combination are believed to not only make you fall asleep but improve the quality of your sleep.
They explain: "Proper sleep has been shown to optimize physical and mental performance, enhance mood, improve communication and relationships, improve learning and emotional stability, help with fat loss, and even improve our sex lives. Furthermore, adequate sleep improves daytime energy, reduces anxiety, helps balance blood sugar, improves concentration and mental focus, and even reduce signs of ageing—such as wrinkling and sagging skin. Most people are walking around in an unnecessary daze, and they don’t even know it."
But as we're here in Ireland, the above product will be hard to find. We've noticed huge improvements in the quality of our sleep from the magnesium and Vitamin D3 tablets available at Holland & Barrett.
Irish foodie and nutritionist Oliver McCabe, whose Fuel Food book is packed full of useful information and recipes, adds a few more tips to our arsenal:
"Where I have seen most success with natural sleep remedies firstly would be the herb Valerian root in tincture or capsule form, taken 1 hour before bed. Herbal teas such as lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm are relaxing, and pukka brands are caffeine free. What's more, amino acid L-theanine combined with lemon balm by Viridian are excellent for relaxation anxiety and overthinking before bedtime. A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow helps with a relaxing scent to help you drift off."
Do you have trouble sleeping? Have you got to the source of the issue? What method do you use for a sound sleep?