Do you toss and turn at night waiting for sleep to come? Lack of sleep can leave you irritable and affect your ability to think clearly. It can also damage your health, increasing your risk for conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. So what can you do to fall asleep quickly and have a restful night’s sleep?
Sleep latency or sleep onset latency is the time it takes you to go from wakefulness to sleep once you’ve settled down for bed. This normally takes between 10 and 20 minutes. If you’re tossing and turning or lying awake for hours, it’s a cue from your body to recalibrate something – from daytime napping to poor sleep hygiene or too much caffeine, there could be some underlying reason at play.1 Probe and address this issue even as you try the easy and effective remedies that follow.
1. Drink Chamomile Tea
[pullquote]Drink chamomile tea 1 hour before bedtime.[/pullquote]
Chamomile tea is a time-tested remedy for sleepless nights. And research shows that it can help you fall asleep quickly. Its sedative properties are attributed to apigenin, a flavonoid in it that induces sleep by binding to benzodiazepine receptors in your brain. These receptors play a role in sleep onset. So try a soothing cup of chamomile tea an hour before bedtime to drift off effortlessly.2 3 To brew yourself a cup of chamomile tea, steep 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried chamomile for around 10–15 minutes in a cup of boiling water.4 5 6
2. Drink Warm Milk With Nutmeg
[pullquote]Drink warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg at least 2 hours before sleep.[/pullquote]
Nutmeg has traditionally been used to tackle sleeplessness in many cultures. And studies show that this spice has sedative properties. Try this ayurvedic remedy for a good night’s sleep. Add 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg to a glass of warm milk and drink up.7 8 Nutmeg can take a couple of hours to work so sip this drink in the early evening.9
3. Drink Valerian Tea Or Inhale Its Scent
[pullquote]Have valerian tea half an hour before bedtime, or put valerian essential oil in a diffuser in your bedroom.[/pullquote]
Valerian has been used as a sleep aid for ages. Research suggests that this herb works by binding to GABA-A receptors in the brain which regulate sedation. Taking a valerian extract can help you fall asleep quickly. You can also prepare valerian tea by steeping a level teaspoon of chopped valerian root in 8 ounces of cold water overnight. Valerian is typically not steeped in hot water as heat may destroy its beneficial properties.10 11 Have valerian half an hour before bedtime.12
But that’s not all. Studies show that the scent of valerian can help you fall asleep faster. So add a few drops of valerian essential oil to a diffuser and the fragrance could help you drift off happily.13 14
4. Snack On Kiwi Fruit
[pullquote]Have a couple of kiwi fruits 1 hour before sleep.[/pullquote]
Exotic kiwi fruit isn’t just yummy but works as a sleep aid too. According to one study, eating two kiwi fruits an hour before going to bed brought about a significant improvement in not just how quickly participants fell asleep but also in how long they slept. This beneficial effect of kiwi fruit may be due to the presence of antioxidants and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.15
5. Have Brown Seaweed
[pullquote]There’s a dearth of information on the correct time to have brown seaweed for sleep benefits. Just make sure you incorporate it into your diet or increase intake.[/pullquote]
Here’s another exotic candidate that works as a sleep aid – edible seaweed! Brown seaweed contains a type of tannin known as phlorotannin that can modulate the receptors of neurotransmitters which regulate sleep and, thereby, induce sleep.16 A Japanese study that looked at the sleep patterns of elderly people even found that those who had good sleep health ate more seaweed in comparison to those with poor sleep health.17 So if you’re battling sleepless nights, try snacking on seaweeds.
6. Have Jasmine Rice
[pullquote]Have jasmine rice 4 hours before going to bed.[/pullquote]
If you love your rice, this is even better news! One study found that having a meal which included Jasmine rice helped people fall asleep sooner. The timing of the meal played a part in its effect too. According to the study, consuming Jasmine rice 4 hours before it was time to go to bed was more effective than having it an hour before bedtime.
So how does jasmine rice help you fall asleep? This cereal is a good source of high-glycemic index carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, especially high-glycemic index carbs, help improve the transport of an amino acid called tryptophan to your brain. And this amino acid tends to promote sleep. While other high-glycemic index foods may help, the study specifically used Jasmine rice.18
Do keep in mind though that high-glycemic index foods cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. And this can be harmful to those suffering from diabetes or at risk for it. So it might not be a good idea to turn to Jasmine rice on a regular basis to promote sleep.19 So reserve this for just once in a way.
7. Visualize Pleasant Images
One reason why many of us find it difficult to fall asleep is that worries and unwanted thoughts occupy our mind. And studies have found that visualizing pleasant scenes can crowd out these thoughts and help us get to sleep quickly. Visualize a pleasant place such as a beach and make it as authentic as possible. Imagine the wind blowing, the warmth of the sunlight on your skin, and the sounds that you might hear.20 This will help you relax and drift off to sleep.
8. Listen To White Noise
According to one study, listening to white noise reduced the time that it took subjects to get to deep sleep by 38%. White noise is essentially sound signals that work by masking sounds from the environment that disturb your sleep. Broadband noise devices or white noise machines are available in the market for you to check out. Recorded sounds from nature, whether it is the sound of waves or of a river or rainfall, are some popular white noises you can listen to. At a pinch, a loud fan or an air purifier can also be used to create white noise and help you get to sleep.21
9. Try Aromatherapy With Lavendar
Here’s a fragrant solution for your sleep problems. The soothing scent of lavender is known to help you drift off to sleep easily. Compounds like linalool and terpineol present in lavender have a relaxing effect. So add a few drops of lavender oil to a diffuser and the aroma should help you fall asleep more quickly. Interestingly, studies have found that lavender fragrance works better on women than on men though the researchers haven’t yet figured out why this is so.22 23
10. Try Acupressure
The ancient science of acupressure may also help you doze off. Studies indicate that applying pressure to certain acupoints can not only help you fall asleep more quickly but may also help you improve sleep quality and duration.24 Here are 3 acupressure points that can be stimulated:
Shenmen Point (HT 7)
This point is on the crease of your inner wrist toward your little finger, around one-fifth of the way across your wrist. Apply pressure here gently for 2 to 3 minutes.
This point is near your earlobe, behind your ear. There is a bit of protruding bone known as the mastoid process there. Slide your finger back along this bone till you feel a small depression and then move your finger till you reach the base of your skull. That’s the Anmian point.
San Yin Jiao Point (SP6)
This point is situated at a distance of 4 finger widths above the ankle on the inside of the leg. Applying pressure here can help improve sleep. However, this point should not be used during pregnancy as it might induce labor.25
11. Follow Good Sleep Habits
Consistently following good sleep habits can help you fall asleep easily and have a restful night. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Keep to a consistent schedule: Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, even during the weekends. This consistency “trains” you to fall asleep at a particular time.
- Relax before bedtime: Have a relaxing bath before going to bed. Or if you prefer listening to music or reading try that. Avoid distractions like bright light and disruptive noises, or getting on your phone or computer.
- Avoid stimulants: Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Avoid these stimulants before bedtime.26 In fact, research indicates that alcohol or caffeine taken as long as 6 hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep.27 28
- Maintain the right room temperature: The temperature can also play a big part in how easily you fall asleep and how well you sleep through the night. The sweet spot for a good night’s sleep is between 60°F and 67°F for most people.29
|↑1||How Long Should It Take You to Fall Asleep?. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑2||Lapidow, A. “Smart Medicine for Healthier Living, by Janet Zand, Allan N. Spreen, and James B. LaValle.” MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY 19, no. 3 (2000): 104-105.|
|↑3||Mendelson, Wallace B. “The benzodiazepine receptor and sleep.” In Human Sleep, pp. 107-128. Springer, Boston, MA, 1987.|
|↑4||German to chamomile. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.|
|↑5||Shinomiya, Kazuaki, Toshio Inoue, Yoshiaki Utsu, Shin Tokunaga, Takayoshi Masuoka, Asae Ohmori, and Chiaki Kamei. “Hypnotic activities of chamomile and passiflora extracts in sleep-disturbed rats.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 28, no. 5 (2005): 808-810.|
|↑6||Gould L., Reddy C. V. R., Gomprecht R. F., J. Clin. Pharmacol., 13, 475—479 (1973).|
|↑7||Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic medicine: the principles of traditional practice. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006.|
|↑8||Sonavane, Ganeshchandra, Vikram Sarveiya, Veena Kasture, and Sanjay B. Kasture. “Behavioural actions of Myristica fragrans seeds.” Indian journal of pharmacology 33, no. 6 (2001): 417-424.|
|↑9||Khalsa, Karta Purkh Singh, and Michael Tierra. The way of ayurvedic herbs: The most complete guide to natural healing and health with traditional ayurvedic herbalism. Lotus press, 2008.|
|↑10||Antol, Marie Nadine. Healing Teas: A Practical Guide to the Medicinal Teas of the World–from Chamomile toGarlic, from Essiac to Kombucha. Penguin, 1995.|
|↑11||Leathwood, P. D., and F. Chauffard. “Aqueous extract of valerian reduces latency to fall asleep in man.” Planta medica 51, no. 02 (1985): 144-148.|
|↑12||Vries, J. The Pharmacy Guide to Herbal Remedies. Random House, 2011.|
|↑13||Komori, Teruhisa, Takuya Matsumoto, Eishi Motomura, and Takashi Shiroyama. “The sleep-enhancing effect of valerian inhalation and sleep-shortening effect of lemon inhalation.” Chemical senses 31, no. 8 (2006): 731-737.|
|↑14||Valerian. University of Michigan.|
|↑15||Lin, Hsiao-Han, Pei-Shan Tsai, Su-Chen Fang, and Jen-Fang Liu. “Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 20, no. 2 (2011): 169-174.|
|↑16||Cho, Suengmok, Hyejin Yang, You-Jin Jeon, C. Justin Lee, Young-Ho Jin, Nam-In Baek, Dongsoo Kim et al. “Phlorotannins of the edible brown seaweed Ecklonia cava Kjellman induce sleep via positive allosteric modulation of gamma-aminobutyric acid type A–benzodiazepine receptor: A novel neurological activity of seaweed polyphenols.” Food chemistry 132, no. 3 (2012): 1133-1142.|
|↑17||Taira, Kazuhiko, Hideki Tanaka, Masashi Arakawa, Naoki Nagahama, Miyoko Uza, and Shuichiro Shirakawa. “Sleep health and lifestyle of elderly people in Ogimi, a village of longevity.” Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences 56, no. 3 (2002): 243-244.|
|↑18||Afaghi, Ahmad, Helen O’connor, and Chin Moi Chow. ” High-glycemic -index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 85, no. 2 (2007): 426-430.|
|↑19||A good guide to good carbs: The glycemic index. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑20||Harvey, Allison G., and Suzanna Payne. “The management of unwanted pre-sleep thoughts in insomnia: distraction with imagery versus general distraction.” Behaviour research and therapy 40, no. 3 (2002): 267-277.|
|↑21||Messineo, Ludovico, Luigi Taranto-Montemurro, Scott Aaron Sands, Melania Dirce Oliveira Marques, Ali Azarbarzin, and David Andrew Wellman. “Broadband sound administration improves sleep onset latency in healthy subjects in a model of transient insomnia.” Frontiers in Neurology 8 (2017): 718.|
|↑22||Keville, Kathi, and Mindy Green. Aromatherapy: a complete guide to the healing art. Crossing Press, 2012.|
|↑23||Lewith, George T., Anthony Dean Godfrey, and Philip Prescott. “A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11, no. 4 (2005): 631-637.|
|↑24||Reza, Hoseinabadi, Nourozi Kian, Zahra Pouresmail, Karimlu Masood, Maddah Sadat Seyed Bagher, and Mohammad Ali Cheraghi. “The effect of acupressure on quality of sleep in Iranian elderly nursing home residents.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 16, no. 2 (2010): 81-85.|
|↑25||Stress Less, Sleep More. UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.|
|↑26||Healthy Sleep. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑27||Alcohol and Sleep. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑28||Drake, Christopher, Timothy Roehrs, John Shambroom, and Thomas Roth. “Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 9, no. 11 (2013): 1195.|
|↑29||The Ideal Temperature for Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|