One sheep, two sheep, three sheep...
Oh. Sorry! I haven't been sleeping great recently. No matter how hard I try at night, I just can't doze off! Whether it's my phone, games console or the latest series on Netflix, there always seems to be something preventing me from catching some Zs.
I've tried changing my lifestyle habits that could impact sleep. From avoiding caffeine later in the day to being screen-free before bed, I've tried it all to no avail. This made me question if there was a natural sleeping remedy that doesn't involve counting farm animals?
Sometimes known as the ‘Dracula’ of hormones, melatonin is produced as a response to darkness. Playing a pivotal role in our natural sleep-wake cycles, this hormone is created by the pineal gland in our brains. Studies have shown that melatonin supplements can help you get to sleep easier whilst reducing the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night.
Effectively resetting your biological clock, a dosage of melatonin is typically a short term solution for sufferers of jet lag or warped sleeping patterns. The lack of evidence showing whether melatonin supplements are safe to be used long term is the main cause for concern, so be sure to consult with your doctor first.
Want the benefits of melatonin without the pills? Try introducing dietary sources of melatonin. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. (‘The Sleep Doctor’) explains that “Cherries are one food known to be naturally high in melatonin. A recent study looked at whether drinking tart cherry juice would improve melatonin levels and sleep. Among the tart cherry-juice drinkers, melatonin levels and serotonin levels rose significantly.”
If the thought of changing your diet leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you could try promoting melatonin production naturally. As this hormone is actively produced when exposed to darkness, it could be worth ditching the supplements and instead allow your body to create the hormone instinctively. Shutting off lights and ditching screens two to three hours before bed is a great place to start. Why not try to listen to an audiobook? Or maybe some pink noise? If you're unsure about what pink noise is and how it differs from white noise, you can read all about it in our guide: Pink Noise vs White Noise: Which Helps You Sleep Best?
We endlessly hear about vitamins and how vital they are to our health. Whilst they're often promoted for making us less tired (think of the countless energy drinks with all their B vitamins), some may actually help us sleep! For example, Vitamin B6 helps the body produce melatonin which we discussed earlier.
Research suggests a lack of certain vitamins such as Vitamin E, D, C, B12 and the aforementioned B6 could result in sleeping difficulties. But how do I get these vitamins into my diet? Food! Try to eat more wholesome, nutrition-packed foods that contain plenty of vitamins. From fruits to veggies, nuts to whole grains and even the odd steak. There are numerous different foods to help you increase your daily intake.
Read more: 10 Foods That Help You Get a Quality Sleep
If changing your diet sounds like too much hassle, supplements could be the key to sleeping soundly. Readily available from countless high-street stores and pharmacies, vitamin supplements can be found in a variety of different forms; including capsules, chewable gummies, and even drinks!
Increasing your vitamin intake by improving your diet or taking supplements may sound all well and good, but what if this still doesn't help you get the elusive 7-8 hours of sleep every night?
Even more common than vitamins for sleep and anxiety, the valerian root has been a herbal medicine for centuries. Available in a variety of forms, including capsules, a good night's sleep could be just a pill away!
Emphasis on could...
There's little evidence to suggest valerian actually improves sleep, calling the Eurasian herb's effectiveness into question. Not only this, but valerian can have some unpleasant side effects. Headaches, daytime drowsiness, and an upset stomach are just three potential results of taking this traditional herbal medicine.
By all means, give it a shot to see if it helps you in the short term (consult with your doctor first). Further down the line, however, it might be worth finding something less controversial with fewer side effects.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
When it comes to natural sleeping remedies, Omega-3 fatty acids could be the answer. Omega-3 is widely known for its numerous heart, eye and brain health benefits. Found in certain nuts and fish, Omega-3 fatty acids are known as an "essential" nutrient. This means that the human body can't make or produce this nutrient itself, meaning you'll have to obtain this from your diet and/or dietary supplements.
Recent studies suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive impact on sleep. Lower levels of this essential nutrient are associated with sleep problems in both children and adults. Is it one of the best sleep supplements? We can't say for sure. But, given how important it is for the human body, it's certainly worth trying to see if it works for you. So, whether it's tucking into a tender salmon steak for tea, or gulping down an Omega-3 capsule, try introducing more of this nutritional powerhouse into your diet.
So, What is the Most Effective Natural Sleep Aid?
Well, there isn't enough concrete evidence to say. The secret to a better night's sleep is likely to vary from person to person. However, whether you opt for valerian sleep aid, or up your intake in omega-3 fatty acids, you still might not sleep a wink if your mattress isn't up to the job.
If yours is making you feel more Maleficent than Sleeping Beauty, then why not check out our fantastic range of Memory Foam Mattresses?