Insomnia and sleep disorders affect about 20% of French people. Some spontaneously turn to medical treatments such as sleeping pills.
Relaxation, bedtime rituals, use of plants, there are natural solutions to find sleep effectively.
Let’s take a look at the alternatives to drugs, to fall asleep naturally, in this dedicated guide.
What Are Natural Sleeping Pills?
Natural sleeping pills are natural techniques or substances that help fight insomnia and sleep disorders. It’s an alternative for a natural option to use for drug treatments such as sleeping pills and benzodiazepines.
Establish Bedtime Rituals.
First of all, it is important to follow a few simple and easy-to-follow lifestyle rules. Adopting a balanced diet, practicing regular sports activities eating lightly in the evening, avoiding rich meals, alcohol, and stimulants (tea, coffee) rules that help preserve good sleep.
Secondly, establishing daily rituals, to be repeated each evening, is sometimes effective in helping you fall asleep more easily. The body is particularly sensitive to movements. These habits initiate the bedtime signal and generally prepare the body for sleep.
So you can drink a glass of milk, for example, lie down in bed, turn down the lights or read a few pages of a book. However, avoid navigating on your tablet or laptop. These devices emit a blue light that disrupts the secretion of melatonin, a hormone released by the epiphysis (brain gland) to induce sleep.
In fact, melatonin is produced when the night falls and the luminosity weakens, as part of the sleep-wake cycle (day-night) followed by the body. It is therefore advisable to stop using any electronic device from 6 p.m. or at least two hours before bedtime.
Use Relaxation Methods.
Sometimes, certain sleep disorders can be attributed to stress and anxiety. It is therefore important to maintain daily serenity if you want to sleep without difficulties. Certainly, relaxation is beneficial for mental health, it allows to relax the body.
There are different techniques and disciplines that can help you relax:
- Breathing techniques: fast and deep breathing exercises.
- Sophrology: a discipline that combines techniques aimed at developing harmony between body and mind, thus fighting against fears and anxieties and limiting stress.
- Meditation: a technique that allows you to reach a mental state close to concentration, but that favors relaxation.
- Yoga: a discipline that combines breathing and physical exercises for the overall well-being of the individual.
In the case of sleep disorders or insomnia, it seems interesting to adopt one of these disciplines and to leave a place for relaxation.
Food and Sleep.
Some foods have a positive influence on sleep. Eating these foods, especially in the evening, can help you get a better night’s sleep and limit nighttime awakenings and other sleep disorders.
Eating foods containing tryptophan (amino acid), magnesium, melatonin (sleep hormone), or vitamins belonging to the B group is particularly recommended.
Cherries naturally contain melatonin. Think of adding them to your dessert during your evening meals to benefit from their benefits.
The Point About Tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is involved in the synthesis of serotonin (the feel-good hormone). Serotonin is itself a precursor of melatonin. Which, as we have already mentioned, is an essential hormone in the installation of sleep cycles.
To get the benefits of tryptophan, you can consume milk or dairy products at night or before bedtime.
Also add nuts, bananas, legumes (lentils, kidney, or white beans), or pumpkin, squash, sunflower, or sesame seeds to your dinners to get a good night’s sleep.
The Benefits Of Magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential mineral, which has a muscle relaxant effect (it allows the muscle to relax). It is also an anti-stress element, which intervenes in the process of melatonin synthesis. It is therefore beneficial for sleep.
It is found in dark chocolate (and raw cocoa), snails, certain seafood (whelks, periwinkles), bananas, hazelnuts, and peas, as well as in several varieties of nuts.
The Contribution Of Vitamins B6 and B12.
Vitamin B12 has a stimulating effect on the production of melatonin, while vitamin B6 is one of the elements involved in the synthesis of serotonin. These two elements combined are therefore extremely beneficial for sleep.
- Foods rich in vitamin B6: poultry (turkey, chicken), bananas, offal (calf’s liver, poultry, heifer’s liver), pistachios, sunflower seeds, nuts, and meat (duck, veal escalope), some fish (salmon, tuna, cod), potatoes.
- Foods rich in vitamin B12: meat (duck, rabbit, wild boar), offal (calf, beef, and lamb liver), certain fatty fish (herring, tuna, mackerel), seafood (oysters, mussels, shrimp), and dairy products (cheese, milk or yogurt).
Do not neglect food intake in your fight against sleep disorders. Foods contain elements that are powerful natural sleep aids. You should therefore take this information into account and make sure to include it in your menu if you are prone to insomnia.
You can also benefit from these nutritional elements by consuming food supplements. However, it is preferable to ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before turning to this solution.
It is important to know that music is also effective in the case of sleep disorders or difficulties in falling asleep. Music therapy is based on listening to relaxing music, which allows you to enjoy a restful sleep. The music acts on the cardiac rhythm and allows to slow down the breathing.
It influences the rate of production of noradrenaline (a stress hormone), by decreasing its rate. The subject falls asleep peacefully and more easily.
For therapy to be effective, it is preferable to listen to soothing music with a slow rhythm (between 60 and 80 beats per minute). It should be coupled with the individual’s heartbeat to accompany him or her to sleep.
If you suffer from insomnia or have difficulty falling asleep, don’t hesitate to try music therapy to help you overcome your sleep problems.
The Path Of Cognitive And Behavioral Therapy.
There are as many types of insomnia as there are individuals. Whether your sleep problems are attributed to poor nutrition, stress, anxiety, or mental ruminations, they inevitably have an origin.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT focuses on the causes of insomnia and the behaviors adopted by the person suffering from sleep disorders. Its goal is to modify these behaviors in order to adopt new rules of life that will allow the person to regain a restful sleep.
It is based on the exchange between the patient and the therapist. The therapist also uses exercises to work on the initial problem.
CBT is based on four main principles:
- The synthesis of the history of sleep disorders (in search of the causes of insomnia and the sensations or feelings experienced by the persons).
- The behavioral habits linked to the ritual adopted at bedtime.
- Beliefs associated with related events.
- The impact of sleep disorders on the individual’s life. In case of severe or prolonged insomnia, a depressive state may appear, fatigue may set in and lead to performance problems or irritability.
In some cases, CBT can avoid the use of chemical sleeping pills or benzodiazepines. It represents a natural alternative to various treatments.
Do not hesitate to consult a psychoanalyst or a qualified psychotherapist in order to follow cognitive and behavioral therapy. These therapies are generally brief, very effective, and last only a few months.
As we have explained, melatonin is involved in the process of falling asleep. If we find precursors of this hormone in certain foods, we can also find food supplements or tablets containing it, in pharmacies. Its use in the context of the
- Sleep disorders due to late sleep.
- People over 60 years old (especially in case of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease).
- People who work at night or on shifts.
It is not effective in cases of insomnia related to stress, anxiety disorders, or poor eating or living habits.
The advantage of this therapy is that it does not lead to dependence, addiction, or side effects.
Melatonin is not recommended for children or pregnant women. And although these treatments are available for self-medication, this therapy should be considered with caution. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before starting to use this natural sleep aid.
Just like food, some plants have soothing and relaxing properties. Their actions on the body are beneficial and consuming them promotes good sleep.
Chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, linden, lemon balm, orange blossom, and passionflower are known to help you get back to sleep.
See our complete list of plants for sleep below.
What are the capacities of these relaxing plants? Let’s take a look at these natural sleep aids.
Chamomile is one of the most famous plants to fight against stress, anxiety and reduce sleep disorders. Chamomile tea is a good old grandmother’s remedy, to be used without hesitation when you have difficulty finding sleep.
Also consumed in the form of tea, valerian has sedative and relaxing effects. It causes the shortening of the time of falling asleep and improves sleep.
Known to relieve colic in infants, orange blossom is also sedative and anxiolytic. To take advantage of its benefits, simply soak its leaves in boiling water and enjoy this infusion before bedtime.
Linden flowers have positive effects on sleep: they have a soothing effect and promote sleep. Lime blossom infusions are easy to prepare: just put a few dried flowers in boiling water and let them steep for a few minutes.
Vervain has anti-stress properties and acts against nervousness. Drinking cups of tea during the day (2 to 3 cups per day), can help you fight against your sleep disorders.
Lavender is a plant that has multiple capacities. It is particularly effective against anxiety. However, its application is more indicated within the framework of aromatherapy (see following chapter).
Lemon balm is effective against anxiety and nervous disorders. Combined with valerian, this plant would have the same effects as a known sleeping pill: triazolam, which belongs to the benzodiazepine family (it was withdrawn from sale in 2005 because it was subject to abuse and had powerful effects).
The positive point is that no adverse effects are observed following the consumption of this tea.
Passionflower is a plant native to South America. It is known for its sedative and anti-stress capacities. Also used in phytotherapy (see next chapter), it can be consumed in the form of an infusion (made from dried leaves or flowers).
Drinking 1 to 4 cups a day helps to improve sleep. Passionflower is recommended for benzodiazepine withdrawal.
This substance from cannabis is becoming more and more prevalent when it comes to natural alternatives to sleeping pills.
Other Therapies Based On Plants.
Phytotherapy is a discipline based on the active principles of plants to heal. In this guide, we have described the plants that are effective against sleep disorders.
It is important to know that there are several therapies based on the benefits of plants, which are beneficial for finding sleep.
Phytotherapy And Sleep.
As we have mentioned, the plants described in the previous paragraphs are effective in case of insomnia or mild sleep disorders. If they can be consumed in the form of infusions, they are also available in different forms: syrups, powder, capsules, tablets.
In fact, they can be administered in the form of food supplements. It is important to know that in these forms, the active ingredients of the plants are much more powerful. It is necessary to take these compliments with precaution.
Aromatherapy And Sleep Disorders.
Aromatherapy is a treatment technique based on the use of essential oils. These are made up of aromatic plant extracts and are used for therapeutic purposes.
There are essential oils that have a beneficial effect on sleep. However, they must be used with care, because they have extremely powerful effects.
3 essential oils are particularly indicated in cases of insomnia:
- True lavender essential oil, also called Lavender Officinale or fine lavender (soothing effect).
- The essential oil of marjoram (has anxiolytic properties).
- The essential oil of petitgrain bigarade (relaxing action).
Pouring a drop of these essential oils on your pillow will allow you to live peaceful nights of sleep. To increase their action, you can make different mixtures. An aromatherapy specialist will be able to advise you in this regard.
Know that these essential oils can be used by diffusion, skin, by olfaction, sometimes orally, in addition to inhalation.
However, they must be used with caution. Indeed, they are contraindicated in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 3 years (or 6 years).
Taking into account their irritating effect on the skin, they cannot be applied purely. It is imperative to associate them with vegetable oil (sweet almond oil, olive oil…).
To avoid any overdose or incident, it is preferable to ask for advice from an aromatherapist or a pharmacist, before any use.
Homeopathy For Effective Sleep.
Homeopathic treatments are treatments that use highly diluted substances. Homeopathy is particularly indicated in cases of transient insomnia.
There are different adapted treatments, depending on the sleep disorder encountered.
As a basic treatment, doctors specializing in homeopathy prescribe Passiflora 9 CH: take 3 granules every evening before bedtime.
Here are some homeopathic treatments indicated in case of sleep disorders:
- In case of anxiety, Arsenicum Album 9 CH is recommended.
- In case of night wakings linked to the occurrence of nightmares, Stramonium 15 CH should be taken.
- When you have difficulty sleeping due to excessive eating or drinking, Nux Vomica 9 CH is recommended.
- In case of abdominal pain (stomach pain), the effective treatment is Lycopodium 9 CH.
These treatments should be taken about 30 minutes before bedtime: take 3 granules. If ineffective, repeat the treatment ½ hour later or during the night, if necessary.
As you may have read, there are many natural sleep aids. Before turning to drugs such as sleeping pills or benzodiazepines, do not hesitate to use one of the natural solutions presented above.