Natural Sleep Remedies

 

I’m a sleep-a-holic. I sleep at least 8 hours every night and on weekends I turn in for around 10. I am a total crank pot when I don’t get a good night of sleep, and I have an absolute fear of insomnia. So you can imagine that finding natural sleep remedies for my family has been a passion. I’ve additionally covered the topic of sleep in 2 previous posts, 5 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep, and 5 Reasons to Give up Coffee. Caffeine is my personal anti-Christ when it comes to sleeping, and I avoid it religiously.

I have instigated a culture of sleep in our house, and it seems to be sticking. We all brag about how early we go to bed, and how late we sleep in the morning. Sleep is worshiped here by the entire family!

I’ve taken many practical steps to ensure that we sleep well. First, all of the bedrooms have analog alarm clocks rather than digital, i.e., electronic alarm clocks. Did you know that the glow from an electronic clock can fool your body into thinking it’s daytime, disrupt circadian rhythms, and interfere with a woman’s menstrual cycle by tricking the body into thinking it’s always a full moon?! To prevent this I have purchased “old fashioned alarm clocks.”

phones in desk

Additionally all of our bedrooms have floor to ceiling black out curtains covering the windows. I prefer curtains to shades, as shades can let light through around the edges.

My cell phone policy is another cornerstone of our sleeping regimen. The boys and I do not bring our cell phones into our bedrooms after dark, as cell phone screens disrupt sleep  with their blue light. Some people use f.lux, on their phones, an app that blocks out blue light, however I have found that any light inhibits deep sleep, so have instituted the no phone policy.

I have created a cell phone charging station at our mail desk, so that I can easily see that phones are plugged in at bedtime. I park my phone in my cubby in our mudroom.

As the boys have gotten older and their stress has increased from the intensity of academics and the competitiveness of sports, so have their pressure levels. When one is under pressure the adrenals fire more. When the adrenals fire more, sleep can be elusive, and insomnia can set in. That’s why I have a shelf in my pantry devoted to natural sleep remedies.

The following supplements are the natural sleep remedies I keep on hand and take along with us when we travel.

Natural Sleep Remedies

l-Theanine

I use the Pure Encapsulations brand of l-Theanine, so that is what I know best. This product contains 200 mg of l-Theanine, an amino acid (a building block for proteins) found in green tea. In green tea, l-Theanine neutralizes the stimulating effects of caffeine. l-Theanine is used for for treating anxiety as well as high blood pressure and has a chemical structure that is quite similar to glutamate. Glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid in the body that helps transmit nerve impulses in the brain, can also be quite stimulating. Oddly, some of the effects of l-Theanine appear to be similar to glutamate, and some of its effects seem to block glutamate, which would explain why l-Theanine has a neuro-inhibitory effect, thereby helping with relaxation and sleep.

GABA

One of the GABA products we use is pharmaGABA from Thorne, which contains 250mg of GABA, however, I believe other brands may be effective as well. GABA, a chemical made in the brain, is one of four main neurotransmitters (the other three consist of dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin). According to Dr. Eric Braverman, if your brain is a car, GABA would be the brakes. While GABA is fantastic for sleeping, I often take it during the day if I find myself in a stressful situation. In addition to the PharmaGABA product, which is a capsule, we also use the Quicksilver product which is a sub-lingual product dispensed in a base of sunflower oil.

Kavinace

The only company I’ve found that makes kavinace is Neuroscience. According to its manufacturer, kavinace is a proprietary blend of taurine, 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid, and Vitamin B-6 and is a precursor to GABA. Of all of the physicians I’ve spoken to regarding Kavinace, none were completely certain as to how it functions. Kavinace is the strongest of the three main sleeping remedies we use. If I do take it, I have one pill at 6pm, as it stays in my system for 19 hours –I can tell because I feel groggy for this time period after consuming it.

I find the above natural sleep remedies to be the most effective for my family. I also keep the following combination formula sleep remedies on hand:

Best Rest Formula

The Best Rest Formula by Pure Encapsulations is a combination formula, meaning it contains a number of ingredients that support sleep and restfulness, and aid in the reduction of anxiety. The primary ingredient in the Best Rest Formula is GABA, it contains 300mg in its blend.  This potent formula also contains 1 mg of melatonin, plus l-Theanine, valerian (an incredible herb from which Valium was originally derived), lemon balm, hops, passion flower, and chamomile. While this is a fabulous blend, I find that more often we use the single formula products mentioned above and take those in combination to pack a very powerful punch. Still, I keep the Best Rest Formula on hand in case we don’t want to use the other products (i.e., just in case any of us were to build up a tolerance to them, which has not happened as of yet).

Herbal Sleep

Herbal Sleep is formulated by Nature’s Sunshine. This proprietary herbal blend contains valerian, passion flower, and hops. I don’t take it for sleeping, I actually use it when I get a headache.

When the boys were younger, they would ask me to give them their sleeping supplements. Now that they are in high school I believe it is important for them to learn self-care, so I keep these supplements on a shelf in our pantry and they take them as needed and use different doses of the above products during different times of the week. On weekends we all tend to sleep more and take more of these supplements. Not so during the week as we know if we need to wake up bright and early for school or work a smaller dose is more optimal.

Sleep is critical, in fact it is the most critical component of my healing plan. I highly recommend seeing a doctor and looking into getting a medical prescription if none of the natural sleep remedies above work for you. Human growth hormone is released, and heals our bodies while we sleep. If we can’t sleep we can’t produce this incredible substance and we can’t heal. If you aren’t sleeping, you simply aren’t healing, and getting well.

Numerous emerging studies demonstrate a link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s in the elderly. For the young, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teenagers sleep 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night and that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30am. Unfortunately, less than 20% of schools in the US begin at 8:30 or later.

There are many resources you can use to get a better night of sleep and to avoid the dreaded insomnia! What are your favorite methods, natural or otherwise, for sleeping? Which natural sleep remedies do you use? Leave a comment and let us know so we can all get to sleep!

Comments

116 responses to “Natural Sleep Remedies”

  1. I have a few questions: 1) Can you take L-Theanine & GABA together? 2) Can you take them daily or is it best not to do that? 3) I have a 10 & 8 year old that sometimes could use help settling down at night. How do I go about finding the correct dosage for kids?

    Thank you for all you do! I love your site!

    • Hope, I know lots of folks who take those together, but I would definitely check with your Functional Medicine practioner to find out if that is ok for you and yours :-)

  2. Elana, First, thank you for your willingness to share so much of your experience and knowledge. I hope you are feeling well these days!

    A question:
    I have severe insomnia and have tried just about everything here without success. Do you have any thoughts on Nikken’s magnet sleep system?

    • Robin, I would be extremely cautious of sleeping on or near anything that is metal, especially if you have any WiFi routers or other microwave devices in your house. I discuss the various types of microwave devices that can interfere with your health here:

      https://elanaspantry.com/are-cell-phones-dangerous/

      This type of technology can also be very disruptive to sleep.

      I hope you’ll keep me posted on your progress!
      Elana

      • Thanks for your quick reply Elana!

        I’m a bit confused because the Nikken distributor told me that the magnets are expressly to ameliorate the effects of EMFs and to support sleep. I’m skeptical of any multi-level marketing program, but she loaned me the sleep system for me to try and see for myself.

        After reading your cell-phone post, I thought I might contact one of the building biologists to come out to my house and also to ask them about the magnet therapy. Do you recommend one over the other to specifically address sleep concerns?

        Thanks again for all you offer, and if, after my trial with the Nikken products, i find that I’ve had a breakthrough, I will definitely let you know. ~Robin

        • Robin, thanks for your reply! I’m not sure how something that is metal wouldn’t act as an antennae for electromagnetic radiation. I think it’s best to eliminate EMF’s rather than layer other things over them. Both of the building biologists I’ve worked with are amazing :-)

          • Thanks again Elana. So far I’ve given the “sleep system” a few nights with no results either way that I can discern. Unless the proof is in the pudding for me, I’ll return the trial products. The distributor said to give it about a week, so I should have a good idea by then. Also, I’ll try Riun first since he’s local. Insomnia is such a tricky issue, especially in our modern age; I appreciate all of your thoughts and input. I will definitely let you know if I find anything that helps so you can share with everyone. Take care!

  3. Thanks for the sleep advice. Besides herbs and melatonin, etc, I do recommend also breathing exercises and mild stretches before bed (but not a lot of moving or exercising). When I cannot sleep I focus on my own breathing. Also relaxing music for sleep (in the dark with no screens or light, of course). I also like the relaxation music and meditations for stress and healing. My son loves Jason Stephenson. There are many of his meditations in youtube (to check it out) and others too. My son was diagnosed with celiac last year and he has always had sleeping problems like me. We both had iron anemia (not B12 deficiency) and because we do not have diarrhea, I guess any doctor never put 2 and 2 together, until I changed pediatricians and kept complaining. Sorry, about the sleep problems: I did not give up to find an answer about our insomnia and I found out that he has Restless Leg Syndrome or Willis-Ekbom disease, and pretty bad according his leep test from last December. RLS has to do with low levels of dopamine and doctor researchers think that it is caused by low levels of iron on the brain (even though you may or not have low iron, somehow it does not go to the body tissues or brain). He now takes medication (Ropinerol) that helps the receptor and transporter of dopamine involved with this condition. ww.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/restless-legs-syndrome/what-is-rls/causes.html

  4. My son is 8 and I would love to find a safe supplement for him – do you have any recommendations for young children? We tried melatonin and although it helped him fall asleep faster, he was extra amped during the day. Thank you!

  5. About 3 months ago my chiropractor put me on Professional Formulas Withania 1:1 Wild Crafted Root. I am 47 and have always had lots of anxiety and have always been easily stressed. My sleep was never really good sleep most of my life, but I can truly tell a difference in me since I started taking the Withania. I handle stress and anxiety so much better and I sleep so well now.

  6. I have recently discovered GABATROL. I am uneasy about it bc I know something about the man that put it together, and it is not rigorous or scientific or regulated etc. However, it is quite effective but DOES leave me hungover the next morning, so much that I don’t drive till the hangover clears. Have you used it or do you know anything aboutit.

  7. I have both Kavinace and Best-Rest. I tried Kavinace first and it makes me sleepy and groggy for 24 hours. I cannot take it and function. Tonight I tried Best Rest.Formula. It gave me horrible nightmares for hours. Every time I would fall asleep, they would start.I will never take it again.

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