Best Natural Sleep Aids

Remember the days when you slept like a baby and always woke up feeling refreshed and energized? The last time I slept that way was when I was a teenager. It seems like sleep has become more evasive the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve had to “adult.” If you’re like me and you can’t seem to get enough shuteye at night no matter what you do, here are some of the best natural sleep aids I’ve discovered.


This herbal medicine is made from a plant’s root. Though it’s not very well-known, it’s a great ingredient for achieving deep, restful sleep. If you have trouble finding it at your grocery store, look for it at your local health food store. Most people add it to tea and take it an hour or so before bedtime.

Though valerian is a great sleep aid, it may interact with some medications. So before you give it a try, talk to your doctor. You should also know that if you take valerian regularly, you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking it. Doing so can cause some anxiety or withdrawal symptoms (eek!)


Chamomile flowers are some of my favorites because they’re so bright and cheerful. They look a lot like daisies. But as energetic as their appearance may be, these little flowers are very effective at helping you sleep. Chamomile tea promotes relaxation and can help you wind down in the hours leading up to bedtime. You may also find that drinking chamomile tea before bed improves your quality of sleep as well.

Just make sure you don’t consume more than the recommended dose. Taking too much chamomile may cause you to get nauseous or to throw up. You may also want to consult with your allergist or doctor before consuming if you have known allergies to flowers in the daisy family.


Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces in the pineal gland. It helps control circadian rhythms so you sleep better. Unfortunately, some of us don’t seem to create sufficient melatonin to help us nod off at night. Taking anywhere between 1 and 5 mg of melatonin right before bed may help induce sleep.

If you decide to try melatonin, only use it for a maximum of two weeks. Using it longer than that could potentially hamper your ability to produce your own melatonin going forward. Some people may discover that melatonin helps them fall asleep quickly, but causes them to wake frequently in the night. Others may feel more depressed or irritable when using melatonin as a sleep aid. If these things happen to you, discontinue using melatonin products right away.


Lavender is a highly fragrant plant that is used in many sleep aid products. It produces a calming effect and may help you fall asleep more easily at night. You can use lavender in a variety of ways. My favorite way is to dilute a few drops of lavender essential oil into a diffuser in my room. I turn the diffuser on at bedtime to enjoy the relaxing benefits of the fumes.

You can also put a few drops of diluted lavender oil right on your pillowcase. Some people even rub a little diluted lavender oil around their nose before going to bed. Just keep in mind that this is a very fragrant oil, so you only need a little bit.


Magnesium is an important mineral that helps boost heart and brain function. However, it may also help relax the body and mind so you can get a restful sleep. Studies show that insufficient levels of magnesium are associated with insomnia and troubled sleep. You can take magnesium in supplement form before bed to see if it helps you get more rest at night.

I love each of these sleep aids and alternate between them regularly. To find out which one works best for you, give each of them a try on different nights over the next few weeks. Happy sleeping!

Struggling to Sleep? Acupuncture May Help!

Sleep is essential for survival and optimal mental and physical function. But what if you can’t get the amount or quality of sleep your body needs to look and feel its best? What if you lay in bed for hours at a time and can’t get any shuteye? I’ve been there, and it made me grumpy, tired and discouraged (just ask my kids!)

Finally, I decided to try something crazy to help me sleep. Someone told me that acupuncture can help you get the best sleep of your life, and I decided I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. It changed my life and helped me finally get quality sleep at night. I decided it was shellfish to keep this secret to myself, so I’m sharing it with you. Here’s what you should know about acupuncture, what it is, and how it may help you get the sleep your body and mind need.

What Is Acupuncture?

If you’ve ever seen acupuncture depicted on TV, it might have made your stomach turn a little. Needles sticking out haphazardly from a person’s body isn’t a great look, right? I thought so, too. What I didn’t know is that those needles are very thin and you can barely feel them penetrating your skin. How deep they’re inserted into your body depends on the area being treated. In areas with a lot of fat, the needles can be inserted deeper than in areas with very little fat.

Another myth I believed about acupuncture is that the person administering the treatment randomly sticks needles anywhere they want until you look like a human pincushion. In reality, acupuncture is very purposeful and exact. The acupuncturist targets very specific areas of the body based on the symptoms you’re trying to relieve. It’s a gentle and precise practice.

How Does Acupuncture Help With Sleep?

I have to mention that acupuncture may not help everyone with their sleep issues, but it is an effective treatment for many. Some studies reveal that acupuncture is effective for treating insomnia. This is great news because acupuncture doesn’t have the side effects associated with many of the sedatives prescribed to people with insomnia.

A lot more research needs to happen before we understand exactly how acupuncture helps people sleep. However, it is believed that acupuncture releases melatonin in the body. This is the hormone primarily responsible for regulating the human circadian rhythm and making you sleepy.

Another theory explains that acupuncture may stimulate blood flow to regions of the brain that are associated with sleep. This is more likely when the acupuncture is done on the affected person’s scalp. These are just theories, but it’s clear that acupuncture somehow helps many people achieve deep and restorative sleep when they were at the end of their rope.

Sleep Pressure Points

There are certain pressure points in the body associated with sleep. They include the Shenmen point (located on the wrist, just below the hand on the pinky finger side), the Yongquan point (found near the center point of the sole of the foot), and the Baihui point (the highest point of the head). Good acupuncturists know how to target these points and insert the needles to the appropriate point for your needs.

It may sound crazy, but acupuncture is one of the best things I tried for my sleep issues. If you struggle to get to sleep at night or the quality of your sleep is poor, acupuncture may help. Of course, it’s also important to rule out other problems such as sleep apnea that may be obstructing your oxygen intake at night. But if there is no obvious cause for your sleep issues, you have nothing to lose by trying acupuncture, and you have great sleep to gain!

8 Tips for Creating Healthy Sleep Habits

It seems like everyone has more stress lately. This can make it hard to fall asleep at night. One thing that helps is creating healthy sleep habits. What habits are important for sleeping great again?

1. Change How You Look at Sleep

Could one reason you’re not sleeping enough be because you feel like you have more important things to finish first? In that case, it’s good to remember that sleep isn’t “wasted time.”

A great night’s sleep helps you concentrate better the next day, makes you more productive at work and increases your overall happiness. It also strengthens your immune system and gives your body time to heal itself naturally.

2. Create a Relaxing Bedroom for Sleep

If you decorate right, being in your bedroom should automatically make you feel like snoozing (or having sex). What’s the secret?

  • High-quality sheets: Cool, soft, breathable sheets feel great on your skin all night long.
  • Great mattress and pillow: Trust me, you’ll never regret buying the most comfortable mattress you can afford. Make sure your pillow gives your neck enough support, too.
  • The right temperature: Everyone is different, but a cool-not-cold bedroom (around 65 degrees) tends to help people fall asleep more quickly.
  • Relaxing scents: Use candles or diffusers to give your bedroom a gentle aroma you enjoy. I love lavender, but some people prefer vanilla or cinnamon.
  • Fresh feel: Give your room a spacious feel by letting in natural light during the day and keeping clutter to a minimum.

3. Choose a Bedtime

The first step in creating a positive sleep routine is setting a target bedtime. It helps your body get into a flow so you feel sleepy when you’re ready for bed. This is called the circadian rhythm. Aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night.

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4. Keep Afternoon Naps Short and Sweet

A nap in the afternoon can be great for your mental focus and energy levels. Just avoid sleeping too late or too long. After lunch is the perfect time for a 15- or 20-minute snooze.

5. Enjoy Your Morning Joe in the Morning

I love coffee, so I would never tell you to stop drinking it. That said, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, it’s best to enjoy java in the morning only, or maybe right after lunch if you want to stretch it.

6. Exercise Outdoors

Scientists aren’t sure why exercise helps sleep, but it does. Maybe working out makes you feel less stressed, which is amazing for sleeping soundly. Another possibility is that tired muscles signal your brain to sleep and regenerate.

A healthy dose of sunlight during the day helps your body get the hint when it’s dark outside. Going for a walk, bike ride or jog outside is one of the best ways to sleep better at night.

7. Make Relaxing Your Goal, Not Falling Asleep

For some people who have insomnia, stressing about falling asleep actually makes it harder to become drowsy. Instead, your goal should be to relax. Let sleep come naturally with these activities:

  • Listen to soft music
  • Read a book or do a crossword puzzle
  • Write in a journal
  • Take a warm bath
  • Talk on the phone to a loved one
  • Eat a light, healthy snack
  • Sip tea (valerian, lemon balm and lavender are my favorites)

Setting aside time for a healthy sleep routine is one of the smartest investments you can make. It helps you feel less stressed during the day, too!