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

129 responses to “Natural Sleep Remedies”

  1. Hi Elana:
    Thank you so much for this information. I am suffering horribly from waking in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning and not being able to go back to sleep. How many mgs of l-Theanine. do you recommend to begin with? I also ordered GABA. Do you take these separately?

    • Yafa, generally people start with 1 pill of the l-Theanine and if that does not get the desired results, the next night take 1 pill of l-Theanine, plus 1 of the GABA. Keep adding 1 pill each night until you can sleep :-)

  2. I started taking Co Q10 because of a tendency to fatigue easily. Not only did it help with fatigue, but I started sleeping a couple more hours every night, like a baby. Have no idea why Co Q10 would help with sleep, but the side effect is welcome.

  3. Just wondering if anyone has tried Natural CALM magnesium. It helps for me. and also helps with restless legs at night.

    • Yes, I use Natural Calm – quite a bit of it. It is magnesium. My chiropractor recommended it for my neck muscle spasms.. It is a muscle relaxant. It also helps with sleep. I also use Progesterone cream on inside of my elbow. I make sure i’m in a comfortable sleeping position and within 15 minutes I feel like a “floating” sensation and I sleep hard for 4 hours. Both great stuff.

  4. Thank you for your post about sleep issues. I did not use to have sleep issues as long as I followed good sleep hygiene, but recently I tried a herbal supplement that gave me horrible insomnia. I stopped the supplement two weeks ago, but now I still have a terrible time sleeping. I think I now have a lot of anxiety about going to sleep. Any suggestions on which of the supplements for sleep you would recommend me trying first?

    • Michelle,
      I too suffered from insomnia due to severe adrenal fatigue and menopause it was so bad I may get 2hrs of sleep a night! I went to countless doctors that put me on melatonin then various hormones, you name it! I have found herbs and minerals saved me along with a clean diet and nuturing myself more. I am not completely whole as it is a journey but i hope my comment helps you to find some relief as it did me.

  5. Hello Elana, thank you for all the information & recipes you bless us with. I’ve been on anti-depressants & anxiety medication since 1993, I hate taking medications, however, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was depressed even as a child, which I believe had to do with the trauma in my childhood. It kept getting worse & worse and then progressed to panic attacks, the medication has made a major difference but I would love to be able to use natural products. I have also been taking a small dosage of a sleeping pill for several years b/c the insomnia was making everything worse. I do take thyroid & high blood pressure meds as well. The l-Theanine sounds great, do you know if it can interact with medications…?? I would really like to start with taking a natural sleep remedy 1st & then hopefully start with the other issues…thank you.

    Renee A Davis

    • Hi Renee, thanks for your comment and for sharing your story! I’m not sure if l-Theanine interacts with the meds you are taking. I do have some thoughts though. If you are sleeping through the night with the meds you are on and they are working, then I think that is great, and that is enough. I often hear about folks who have suffered abuse and in turn feel “less than” for taking drugs to deal with the disease of trauma. Yes, it is a disease and not something we overcome with will power or by behaving “better” or differently. Those of us who survive trauma have different neural pathways etched deeply into our brains than those who did not. The great thing about taking medication that works is that your system is calmed enough to sleep through the night and that is when repair happens in the body, during sleep. Also, if the meds keep you calm throughout the day, then you are saving your entire body from the physiological damage of being in the constant state of fight or flight that those who have survived trauma live with. Now, if you said the meds had a negative effect such as elevating your liver enzymes, I could see that as a very good reason to think about maybe lowering them. But that’s not what I’m getting from your comment. I believe that when we are damaged, and suffering we need to use every tool available to us to heal. To me that means starting with diet, sleep, and exercise, then adding in supplements and pharmacological therapies. There are no rules when it comes to healing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! xoxox

      • Thank you so much for your words of encouragement Elana, I’ve struggled with guilt for taking the medications along with preferring natural remedies. I’ve tried going off the medications so many times & it was miserable. I really need to work on exercising, I’m so not consistent with this…

        You have no idea how much your words mean to me.

        Again, thank you so very much.

        May God Bless you Abundantly Elana,
        Renee :o}

      • I too have anxiety and depression from PTSD and wouldn’t sleep at all except for anxiety melds. I have changed my eating recently in hopes that healing my body will help heal my mind. It’s been three weeks and I’m much better except for the anxiety and the inability to sleep. My shrink recently quit with no warning leaving me without any anxiety medication and it’s been a nightmare. I really feel that the flight or fight impulse in my system has been screwed up beyond repair and appreciate knowing there’s something natural to try. Never feel like less of a person because you take a medication to balance things a little, just live a healthy lifestyle as a gift to yourself and know you are nurturing the damage done to you.

  6. I had horrible nightmares when taking valerian and also melatonin. I am interested in trying the other products as I haven’t had a complete night sleep in many years.

  7. hello love your articles my husband has been diagnosed with with stage 4 liver disease and is having a awful time sleeping with all that you recommended would one be better then the other for him to try we are desperate thank you love your recipes we have cut out all salt in diet he is doing all the right things…
    this sleep thing is very hard for him thank you Nicole

    • Hi Nicole, thanks for your kind words regarding my recipes! Sorry to hear about the challenges your husband is having with sleep. Because we are all biochemical individuals the sleeping supplements work differently for all of us. Each person in my family takes different combinations and dosages of the items recommended above, and we often vary our own dosages depending on how long we want to sleep and when we need to wake up. Start by experimenting with one of the supplements, and take one pill. See how that works, and go from there, adding more of the same, or different items recommended above. Please let me know how it goes! I hope this works for him :-)

      • I would just add that you would want to make sure the herbs do not interfere with any medications your husband is taking. Since the liver processes many medications/herbs as well as toxins you also don’t want to put added work on the liver when it is already strained from disease. My husband has liver disease and while he practices Chinese medicine (acupuncture), for any herbs he takes, he will check with his main doctor just to be safe. Also, yoga has been a HUGE help with sleeping and helping the body/liver process toxins.

  8. Hi Elana. So much helpful and encouraging info from you and those posting to your site. My sleep issues are severe and I have a long list of medical problems. I will be trying to help my insomnia first as it affects so many things. I read earlier about you having damage to your mylean sheaths due to MS. I have very severe peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet. P.N. is damage to the sheath. I am becoming very disabled re mobility and simple daily tasks re use of my hands. Have you found answers re healing the nerve sheath? I am suspected to be developing MS and have heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more. Was vegetarian 26 years. Am fighting for my life now. The almond flour book is a godsend and I am learning much from you. Hope you can share info on restoring nerve health.

    • Dear L.K.,
      Having suffered from peripheral neuropathy, mostly in hands and arms at night, I’m hoping to be of service to you by telling you that braces helped a little and getting my thyroid levels right helped a lot, also the B12 and vitamin D supplements (however be careful not to take too much of the b6, because this could induce neuropathy as much as having too little of it can). Doing yoga to stretch the cramped muscles and lengthen them also was making things better and in that area supplements of magnesium citrate or taureate might help. Please consult a practitioner of functional medicine who will guide you in this. I know how desperately impossible it can be to sleep when everything hurts and your arms are tingling painfully, so even if it’s just a little, I hope my story can help you. Good luck from the Netherlands, Ingrid

      • Hi, Ingrid I have peripheral neuropathy too and I agree with you that yoga and mild stretches (and breathing exercises) are wonderfully helpful , and also checking with a practitioner. Also plenty of sleep (8-10 hours) by sleeping flat on my back (not on the side) with arms stretched down. I had TOS (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) and had both 1st ribs removed my I still have some neuropathy issues with the ulnar nerve (although not as bad as before that I could not do anything), so now I recommend everybody with peripheral neuropathy to have this condition check (since it is also cardiovascular) and most neurologist do not check it or think about it. I do not wish for anybody to suffer for decades like I did going from doctor to doctor with no concrete answer and getting more and more bulging disks on the neck or or back… It is a very simple test of checking the pulse as your arm moves. I also have sciatica… I think that it all has to do with the alignment of the spine :)

  9. I’ve been dealing with a GI- and Adrenal related sleep disorder for more years than I’d like to admit, and have tried numerous products. Here’s a link to one that is unparalleled: http://www.amazon.com/Integrative-Therapeutics-Cortisol-Manager-Stabilizer/dp/B00TGCIGXQ. I have no affiliation with this company but learned about it from my ND. You have to experiment with timing and dose . . . I’ve come to take one about an 30-45 minutes before I intend to be sleeping, and if I wake up or am still awake by about midnight I take another one. It’s been remarkably helpful and I hope you find it useful. Some people experience a hangover but I find with the right timing my body has adjusted to it.

  10. This is my favorite post ever as sleep is elusive for me. I have ordered l-theanine and GABA and am anxious to try them. I would love to read more such lifestyle topics from you like —

    -do you still take fish oil/cod liver oil? They both have been somewhat controversial lately.
    -other supplements you take and consider essential, as there is an unending list of “good” supplements out there – but I can’t take everything.
    -seasonal allergies are a huge problem for me – do you have remedies that you use and that work for allergies?
    -more on this sleep topic and supplementation. Do you take a combo of these EVERY night? How would you sleep without them? It seems like you mostly take l-theanine and GABA together. Do they work best together? Will they work indefinitely? Do they work separately?

    Thank you for all you do!

    • Hi Amy, thanks for your kind words! Here are some quick answers to your questions: Yes, I love fish oil. Yes, I take other supplements, loads of them. I will write further on that in the future :-) For seasonal allergies I really like quercetin and a diet with no sugar (even natural sweeteners). For the sleeping, we take differing combos of the above, in differing amounts on different nights depending on our needs. I think the best thing is to start slow and try each one separately, then after you see which ones your body likes and reacts well to, start combining. Happy sleeping :-)

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