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Natural Sleep Aids and Remedies

Updated on February 4, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

I'm Sam. I enjoy writing about sleep and mental health-related topics as well as ways to prevent stress and relax.

Valerian root for sleep problems
Valerian root for sleep problems | Source

When most people have trouble sleeping, they will turn to sleeping pills, prescribed to them by a doctor or that can be bought over the counter. But there are many that do not want to take these types of medication in order to get to sleep. Whether you have chronic insomnia or simply occasionally have trouble getting to sleep, there are number of alternatives to pharmaceuticals that could be just as effective. Here are a number of the most common natural sleep aids and remedies that actually work:

Melatonin for sleep issues

Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces naturally. In short, it is the hormone that your body produces when it wants to go to sleep. It is instrumental in maintaining your normal sleep and wakefulness rhythm, but for those that spend most of their days inside or otherwise do not get the sunlight that they need, the body might not be producing the right levels of melatonin. Early in our evolution, we lived outside and when we woke up and when we slept was dictated by the sun. Light and dark are what govern our circadian rhythm, but if you do not get enough sunlight, the body might not be producing adequate melatonin to help you get to sleep.

For many people, taking melatonin can improve their ability to get to sleep. It makes it much easier to fall asleep and may actually help you sleep longer. Taking it appropriately can also help to establish and/or maintain a healthy sleep routine, as melatonin has been shown to be useful in defeating jet lag and insomnia. It is completely safe to use and there is no chance of developing a dependency; the same cannot be said of sleeping medications that can be bought over the counter.

How much melatonin do you need to take? Most people only need 0.1 milligrams to fall asleep. Start off with a low dose and then increase it if it is not effective. If you are not sure how much is safe to use, ask a doctor before taking melatonin.


Valerian is a very popular natural herb, with a variety of different uses, not just for sleep. Some take it in order to soothe anxiety, while others will use it banish insomnia. Like melatonin, this extract will actually reduce the amount of time it takes to get to sleep and will help a person sleep longer and deeper. It is often used in place of benzodiazepines, which can cause grogginess and disorientation in the morning, valerian allows a person to awake refreshed and ready to attack the day.

The only drawback of using valerian is that, like allergy medication, it takes a number of weeks before it becomes fully effective. Some people will notice instant benefits when taking something like melatonin but will have to wait weeks in order to see those same effects from valerian. People who have a very poor sleep schedule and negative sleep habits will find that Valerian is safer for long-term use, however, and will therefore sacrifice immediate efficacy in order to establish better sleep hygiene.


Chamomile is one of the most widely recognized and widely used natural sleep aids in the world. Because it has anti-inflammatory properties, it has long been used to calm the body, as well as the mind. Numerous studies have proven that it is completely safe to use, and its availability, in a number of different forms, makes it superior to other natural sleep aids that might be difficult to locate. Chamomile tea is a favorite among many tea drinkers, and it is widely used to induce a feeling of sleepiness.

Tea, however, is not the only way to take chamomile if you want to use it for inducing sleep. You should be able to find it in capsules or drinks, which you can take right before bed, some of which may be even more effective than drinking the tea.

Chamomile for sleep issues
Chamomile for sleep issues

Get Rid of Caffeine

One of the most major changes a person who is having difficulty getting to sleep on a regular basis can make is to get rid of the caffeine in their diet. This caffeine might come from coffee, soda, or even just chocolate. Many people might not realize that many over the counter painkillers (especially those designed to combat headaches) also contain caffeine.

Caffeine is a stimulant, often used in order to help people wake up in the morning and stay awake in the afternoon. It does not just stick around for a few hours and this disappear, however. Even just a few cups of coffee in the morning can have lasting effects that ruin your natural sleep cycle. The effects can linger hours after you’ve stopping feeling the initial boost of energy, and can be present enough to prevent you from sleeping. If you eat, drink, or take anything that contains caffeine and are struggling with sleep, it is time to eliminate those things from your diet.


If your insomnia is caused by worry and a wakeful mind, it might be time to start a habit of meditation that helps to calm the mind, eliminate anxiety, and prepare the body for sleep. There are lots of different ways to practice meditation and mindfulness, so find the one that works best for you. Whether you believe in all of the mystique that swirls around yoga and meditation or not, it is difficult to ignore the very real calming power of mindful breathing.

Banish Electronics

If you have a cellphone and a laptop in your bedroom, consider moving them to a different room while you sleep. Not only will the buzz and light of a text message or email coming in disturb you during even the darkest stages of sleep, the constant glow of your computer can make it impossible for your body to actually get to sleep. The light from a computer screen has been proven to actually wake the body up. Put these things in your living room before it’s time for bed, so you can sleep undisturbed by light or sound.

It could also be useful, if you are a light sleeper who is often disturbed by sounds in the night, to invest in a white noise machine or an oil diffuser or humidifier that makes a comforting, consistent noise as it runs. This could help to drown out talking on the street, the sounds of neighbors stomping around their apartment, or music being played in cars.

Are These Remedies Safe?

Many people avoid taking medication because they are afraid of the side effects. Sleeping pills, especially are associated with a number of negative side effects, including addiction and morning grogginess. These natural alternatives make it possible to get a very deep, restorative sleep, without resorting to one of those more drastic measures.


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