This time of year, I often struggle when my head hits the pillow.
My mind races. Volatile fidgeting commences. And soon I’m back on the old insomnia merry-go-round, where fear of not being able to fall asleep becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’ve been here many times before.
Back when I was a hyperactive child, I had so much trouble winding down at the end of the day that my parents often resorted to a cocktail of melatonin, valerian root drops, and catnip (which has the opposite effect on humans than it does on felines) to get me to sleep.
My mind was usually the culprit, and that trend has continued in adult life. During The Wellness Project I finally got that piece of my health puzzle under control. But I still sometimes feel the mental mania creeping back in during busy work seasons (hello, new session of the course plus forgotten summer email heap) or when I fall off the meditation wagon.
Even when your brain refuses to shut down, I find that it’s helpful to implement some natural sleep aids that can calm things down on the physical front.
I hope you don’t need me to tell you that Ambien and other sleeping pills are not your friend for building better sleep habits long term. They may not even be your friend as a quick fix, since the reduced REM cycle might leave you feeling hungover and not so well rested the next day.
Read on for some of my favorite natural sleep remedies and alternatives to traditional pills. You can even use some of these tactics in conjunction with one another, as falling asleep quickly and easily often comes down to building good rituals into your days. Take the time to build your toolbox and when you hit a mental bump in the road, these fixes will always be waiting for you.
For more of my healthy hedonist tips on sleep, make sure to check out that chapter of The Wellness Project book. We also cover many of my favorite lifestyle tweaks in the 4 Weeks to Wellness course! If you’re looking for a helping hand making these changes one baby step at a time, I can’t recommend this program enough. After all, these natural sleep aids will only get you so far if you’re not addressing the root cause of your sleeplessness.
What are some of your go-to methods? I’d love to hear in the comments section!
With health and hedonism,
Sleepytime Tea: I know, I know. This is the favorite sleep solution of the all basic bitches everywhere. But that’s because it works. The Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra is my personal favorite these days. I’ve tried other knock offs (like this and this one). But even the tea companies I prefer for other blends don’t come close to matching the effectiveness of this old faithful. If you want to try a DIY version, there’s a recipe in The Wellness Project book for my favorite homemade blend. But you can’t go wrong with any combination of dried chamomile, lavender, and spearmint. Regardless of what you go with, a warm cup of tea before bed is a great tactic for winding down and slowly tricking your body into getting ready for bed.
Uma Oils Pure Rest Wellness Oil: I was skeptical at first about the power of the topical approach, but after sampling this essential oil blend for a month, I was blown away by how well it worked for my sleep. Uma is a woman-owned company, and I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with the founder who showed us the best way to apply their functional wellness oil: by rubbing a few drops on the bottom of your feet, the place on the body with the fastest absorption. This also makes for a lovely ritual at night. After getting into bed, I dab each of my feet, massage the oil in, then rub my palms together and breath in the remaining scent (which somehow doesn’t smell at all like feet!). It’s definitely on the pricier side, but a little goes a long way (it will last you at least 6 months), and I can’t recommend the impact of this oil enough.
Natural Calm Magnesium: Low magnesium levels, which are especially common in women, can throw many of the body’s functions off balance, including sleep. Since it also regulates the body’s stress response system, supplementing with magnesium before bed is like a double whammy for your physical and mental sleep hygiene. My favorite forms of supplementation is either through Epsom salt baths before bed time, which are also helpful for hacking your body temperature to be sleep-ready, or taking it orally through this powdered magnesium citrate supplement. The unflavored version has a not unpleasant but slightly salty, sour taste. You can mix it into water or tea, so long as you don’t mind the added fizz.
Valerian Root & Catnip Drops: These two herbal powerhouses are just what you need to induce sleep. As I mentioned, my parents have been giving me a drop or two of Valerian and Catnip since I was a kid. You can put them in your bedtime tea for added effect or straight under your tongue. Either purchase individually, or try a formulation like The Nue Co. sleep drops.
Urban Moonshine Hit the Hay: I’m a big fan of Urban Moonshine’s line of herbal remedies, from their digestive bitters to this ultra powerful sleep potion made from passionflower and kava. Warning: it doesn’t taste great…which to me is always a good sign for medicinals! But a little goes a long way and you can dilute in water if that’s easier for you to swallow.
Olly Restful Sleep Zen Vitamin Gummies: If you’ve gotten this far down the list you might be wondering…why hasn’t she talked about melatonin yet? Well, I’m not the biggest fan of using this hormone as a supplement. First off, yes, it’s a HORMONE. Which means that when people pop them like an ambien, it rarely has the same effect. The key is to use melatonin micro dosing (1 milligram at a time) at the same hour every day to train your body onto a better sleep cycle. If you’re looking for a more delicious and fun way to do so, these gummies have a very small dose of melatonin in them along with a few other great extracts that can help with immediate calm. Take 1 at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed time every night. And make sure to brush your teeth afterwards as there is sugar in them.
Lavender Essential Oil: When I’m not messing with anything fancy, I turn to this ultra bsic natural sleep remedy. Calming lavender essential oil is one of the best scents to get you ready for rest. Create your own sleep spray by adding a few drops to a spray bottle with water and spritzing your pillow. Better yet, add a few drops to a diffuser and fire it up before bed.
Charlotte’s Web Extra Strength CBD Oil: There’s a lot of compelling research these days about how cannabinoids can be an effective treatment for a wide range of conditions from sleep and anxiety to inflammation and even SIBO related digestive symptoms! I take a nightly dose to help with all of these things, and though I don’t feel the immediate effects as dramatically as some of these other tools, I still love adding it along with the rest. I’ve tried Charlotte Web’s mint chocolate flavor and love it.
Need help finding lifestyle changes that last? Let’s work together to create your path forward. My 4 Weeks to Wellness Course might just change your life. With 4-weeks worth of elimination diet-friendly recipes that are gluten, dairy, corn, soy and refined sugar free, not to mention tasty AF, it’s a perfect way to explore your food sensitivities and heal inner and outer chaos. Plus, one of the weeks is completely dedicated to overhauling your sleep hygiene and morning routine! Beyond natural remedies, I’ll help you set up all the rituals you need for a good nights sleep for the long haul.