The 5 natural sleep aids shared here have been assembled over the past decade of working with poor sleepers in our functional medicine clinic. The best part about these 5 natural sleep aids is that they actually work to help even the most stubborn of sleepers get a good night’s rest. The key is to layer the tips and integrate each one until you get the exact ritual list that works best for you.
THE SLEEP SIGNIFICANCE
Sleep is one of the most neglected elements of health, yet it carries such significant weight in the overall health and wellbeing of our bodies. Sleep affords the body the critical time to go into the “rest and repair” phase.
When we fail to get enough sleep, a myriad of health challenges can ensue. We know that poor sleep quality can cause hormone issues, contribute to autoimmune disease flare-ups, lend to anxiety or depression, cause high blood pressure, contribute to obesity and exacerbate blood sugar irregularities.
Whether you can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep, all of our 5 natural sleep aids can help you get the good night’s sleep your body is craving. You’ll notice that we talk about physical remedies and lifestyle remedies. The combination of both are what we’ve found to be the most effective for even the most stubborn of sleepers.
5 Natural Sleep Aids That Work (Video)
NATURAL SLEEP AID #1: Get Enough Sunlight During the Day + Darkness at Night
SLEEP BEGINS DURING THE DAY
Yes, you read that right. Of the 5 natural sleep aids shared, daytime sunlight exposure is one of the easiest to integrate!
Your eyes need to see unobstructed sunlight for at least 20 minutes per day. “Unobstructed” means without sunglasses or without the window tinting on your car or office windows.
When we fail to see natural sunlight during the day, it impacts the body’s ability to release adequate melatonin at night.
So if you’re a keyboard warrior or someone who spends most of their day inside and away from natural sunlight, be sure to schedule in 20 minutes per day to get outside and see natural light, without your sunglasses on.
If you’re worried about sun exposure or if you live in the desert, like we do, and it’s simply too bright during the day, you can absolutely wear a hat or visor. Your eyes will still be able to take in the natural sunlight.
THE DARKNESS FACTOR
Darkness is the next of our natural sleep aids. Darkness in your bedroom is literally required for adequate melatonin (the sleep hormone) release.
As the day dissipates and the night approaches, the hormone system gets to work lowering cortisol and elevating melatonin.
The pineal gland is responsible for releasing melatonin hormone. The pineal gland can see light and will only release healthy quantities of melatonin when it senses darkness.
OPTIMIZE MELATONIN RELEASE WITH DARKNESS
Do a quick mental check of your bedroom. Is it completely dark at night? If not, where is the ambient light coming from? What can be done to make your sleep space darker?
Drawing your blinds the right way can make a huge difference. Does your alarm clock stay lit up at night? If it does, your pineal gland can see it! Do you sleep with your cell phone by your bed? If you do, does it periodically flash on during the night when notifications come in? The pineal gland can see those flashes of light.
If the waves of light exposure continue for long enough, the pineal gland starts to lower melatonin and cortisol levels start to rise. This then triggers your body to wake up.
The “wake up” can look like poor, disjointed sleep. Or it can look like waking all the way up where you can’t go back to sleep at all.
Either way, your body is out of the “rest and recover” phase and you are likely to wake up the next morning feeling less than well rested.
In our home we got rid of our digital clock, keep our phones in the bathroom where we can’t see them light up at night and draw our blinds in a specific way that blocks out the most light from the outside.
Evan went the extra mile and bought an eye mask. For him, this has made a huge difference in improving his quality of sleep at night.
NATURAL SLEEP AID #2: Drink a Nighttime Sleepy Tea
This one might sound a little funny, but a nighttime tea ritual is one of the most effective and popular of our natural sleep aids.
Every night, after dinner, once you’ve gotten completely ready for bed, head over to your kitchen and whip up a nighttime tea.
We used to buy herbal chamomile tea from the grocery store, which works well. However a few years ago I decided to try making an essential oil tea with my doTERRA Lavender essential oil and then my doTERRA Petitgrain essential oil and I never went back to the chamomile herbal tea.
Here’s how to make your own essential oil tea:
In a tea mug combine:
-1 drop Lavender OR Petitgrain (I don’t recommend combining them)
-1 tsp organic honey
Pour hot water on top and stir. Sip to enjoy.
Lavender and Petitgrain are the perfect essential oils to enjoy in your tea because they are both very high in the chemical constituent Linalool. Linalool helps to relax the body and calm racing thoughts in the mind.
These essential oils are perfect for the person who worries or thinks a lot at night.
NATURAL SLEEP AID #3: Take the Right Sleep Supplements
There are a lot of natural sleep supplements on the market. This makes complete sense considering how many people struggle with sleep!
At our functional medicine clinic I cannot tell you how many people tell me that they take melatonin for sleep but don’t but still struggle with sleep.
I’m not a fan of taking melatonin supplements long term because it can drive other imbalances along the serotonin pathway. From a functional medicine prospective, it makes much more sense to support sleep from more of a comprehensive point of view.
That’s why I really like recommending the Adaptiv Capsule and Copiaba Softgel combination to support sleep.
Together, they tackle multiple pathways that all contribute to a deep, sound sleep cycle.
The Adaptiv Capsule is a combination of herbs and essential oils that calm the mind, body and emotional system. It also contains GABA, a neurotransmitter that quiets the mind by decreasing neuronal excitability. This just means that GABA acts like the “breaks” that lower the mental chatter that can keep us up worrying and thinking through the night.
The Copaiba Softgel contains Copaiba essential oil. Copaiba works to balance the Endocannabinoid system, which works to restore harmony to the hormone system and the nervous system, both of which are very involved in the falling asleep and staying asleep process.
NATURAL SLEEP AID #4: Be Consistent with Your Sleep + Wake Times
This one is really a challenge for me. Evan was a United States Marine, so I always feel like his level of discipline is much greater than my own, especially when it comes to sleep and wake times!
However he is the one that always wakes up with loads of energy each morning. I struggle from day to day. If there was one tip I need to work on, it’s this one!
Everyone’s goal is to get the best quality sleep possible. The idea is that once the head hits the pillow, we fall asleep and our bodies start the rest and recovery process.
We can literally train our bodies to signal the sleep and wake pattern if we go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. For example, if you always go to bed at 9:30pm, it will train your body to start increasing melatonin around 8:30pm. Amazing isn’t it?!
Committing to a sleep schedule can not only make getting to sleep easier, but it can also improve the quality of your sleep.
A Harvard Sleep Study showed that changing your sleep or wake time by just 2-4 hours negatively impacted sleep efficiency.
I know it sounds crazy, but us adults all need to go back to having a bedtime!
NATURAL SLEEP AID #5: Smell Essential Oils at Night
We love to use our bedroom diffuser at night. Simply walking into the room at night and smelling the relaxing oils helps my body relax into the bed and drift off to sleep quickly.
Some of the best essential oils for your nighttime diffuser are:
You can mix and match the oils that smell the best for you and create your own diffuser blends.
You can also apply essential oils to the bottoms of your feet or the inside of your wrists before getting into bed.
My favorite oil to rub into my skin at night is Vetiver! It puts me into a deep sleep that no other oil does!
Different people respond better to different oils for sleep. So order one or three and see which one(s) your body responds to best.