We all know how important a good night’s sleep is but for some of us, no matter how much we want it, sleep can be quite elusive. Quality sleep is vital for our health. The way you feel while you’re awake in part depends on what happens while you’re sleeping. Sleep helps us restore our bodies physically as well as allow our brain to organise information. In children and teens, sleep helps support growth and development. Sleep deprivation may lead to slower reaction times, trouble making decisions, lowered productivity, difficulty problem-solving, poor memory and it may significantly impact mood. It may also affect immune system health, cause weight gain and increase inflammation in the body.
There are some things you can do which may help improve the time it takes to fall asleep, stay asleep and get better quality sleep each night, including healthy sleep hygiene and routine, supplements to support sleep, and diet and lifestyle measures. We recommend investigating any health concerns that may be impacting your sleep with your doctor.
This mineral plays an essential role in the body as it is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions which helps keep the body ticking and is important for proper muscle and nerve function. It is necessary to help your muscles contract and relax and an adequate magnesium level is important for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Magnesium aids sleep as it provides relief of muscular cramps, spasms, aches and pains and helps relax the muscles and supports the nervous system. A deficiency in magnesium may also contribute to sleeplessness.
Valerian has been used for centuries to provide temporary relief of sleeplessness and to improve the quality of sleep. It has been used traditionally as a sleep aid, a gentle sedative to promote relaxation, calm nervous tension and mild anxiety, and also to help relieve muscular spasm of the digestive tract. Valerian may help you fall asleep quicker and improve the quality of sleep without causing drowsiness the next day.
Lavender oil is probably best known for its calming or sleep inducing effects. Research* has now shown that lavender essential oil can significantly improve sleep quality. Adding a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow every evening before bed may help you drift off to dreamland and get a good night’s rest.
This bright purple flower is traditionally used as a mild sedative for sleeplessness and may help relieve mild anxiety, restlessness, and irritability due to its calming properties. This makes passionflower a wonderful sleep aid.
Popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ziziphus has traditional use as a sedative and a tonic. In TCM it is traditionally used to help relieve sleeplessness due to irritability and restlessness. It is used in traditional TCM for its calming properties to help relieve stress and is also traditionally used in TCM to relieve pain.
California poppy is a distinct bright yellow flower, which has a long traditional use as both an analgesic (pain-reliever) and a mild sedative to assist sleep. It has also been traditionally used to aid mild anxiety and nervous tension.
Well-known throughout the Pacific Islands, Kava is used in traditional herbal medicine to help relieve mild anxiety and to aid sleep. It mainly influences the central nervous system and can help relax muscles and provide some pain-relieving action.
One of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to mankind, Chamomile has a long tradition as a tea to help calm the nerves and reduce mild anxiety. It is favoured for its use in children due to its gentle action on the nervous system and its action as a digestive relaxant helping to ease gastrointestinal upsets such as flatulence, nausea and colic.
- Set a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This goes for both adults and children. We also need to have set bedtime routine.
- Try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Staying up late and sleeping in on weekends can disrupt your body clock's sleep–wake rhythm.
- Switch off devices and screens an hour before your set bed time. The light emitted from these devices may influence the hormones that help induce sleep.
- Avoid eating heavy meals too late as the digestion required to breakdown the food is an active process which may disrupt sleep.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (tea, coffee, cola, chocolate) and nicotine (cigarettes) as they can interfere with sleep. Some people are highly sensitive to these substances and may need to keep their coffee intake for the mornings only. Alcohol may also disrupt sleep so is best avoided close to bedtime.
- Heavy exercise too close to bedtime may also affect your ability to fall asleep.
- Keep your bedroom as a sanctuary for sleep and intimacy only, ditch the devices and screens like T.V’s , keep the room dark and calm, introduce some sleep-inducing plants, and keep the room cool (18°C is considered ideal).
- Avoid drinking too much liquid close to bed time to prevent the need for toilet trips throughout the night.
- Minimise naps throughout the day and try to include some physical exercise each day.
- Some people find taking a warm bath close to bed time can be helpful in relaxing and calming the body and mind. Add some epsom salts and lavender oil for an extra relaxing experience.
Foods to help you sleep
- Tart Cherry Juice – not only is it full of antioxidants but it also has a high content of melatonin, a hormone that helps prepare your body for sleep and regulates your internal body clock.
- Bananas – rich in magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6 all necessary to help melatonin production; bananas are also high in tryptophan which can help promote calmness and sleep.
- Almonds – An excellent source of nutrients including magnesium which can help improve sleep quality and reduce stress, plus another source of sleep promoting melatonin.
- Kiwi – This tasty fruit is high in fibre and antioxidants. It is believed its sleep inducing effects are due to its content of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.
- Turkey – It’s no coincidence you feel very sleepy after a Christmas turkey dinner. Turkey contains the sleep promoting amino acid tryptophan and is high in protein which can help you feel full; together they make a winning sleep combo.
- Fatty Fish – rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D that can help increase serotonin levels in the brain and send you off to dreamland.
Start implementing these lifestyle changes and include our sleep inducing foods each day to help establish a better sleep. If you feel you need some more help, try one of the herbal supplement for sleep or vitamins for sleep. If symptoms persist, please consult your healthcare practitioner.
- Karadag E, Samancioglu S, Ozden D, Bakir E. (2017). Effects of aromatherapy on sleep quality and anxiety of patients. Nurs Crit Care. 2017 Mar;22(2):105-112. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12198.
- Faydalı S, Çetinkaya F. (2018). The effect of aromatherapy on sleep quality of elderly people residing in a nursing home. Holist Nurs Pract. 2018 Jan/Feb;32(1):8-16. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000244.
- Zabirunnisa, M., Gadagi, J. S., Gadde, P., Myla, N., Koneru, J., & Thatimatla, C. (2014). Dental patient anxiety: Possible deal with Lavender fragrance. Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice, 3(3), 100–103. http://doi.org/10.4103/2279-042X.141116
- Silva GL, Luft C, Lunardelli A, Amaral RH, Melo DA, Donadio, Nunes FB, de Azambuja MS, Santana JC, Moraes CM, Mello RO, Cassel E, Pereira MA, De Oliveira JR. (2015). Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, 87(2, Suppl. ), 1397-1408. Epub August 04, 2015.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0001-3765201520150056