Insomnia is one of the most common psychological conditions that first world citizens deal with today. For some hopeful sleepers, prescription drugs and even OTC drugs for sleep aid can be intimidating. There is always the potential for addiction, withdrawal and the risk of getting a little bit too drowsy and doing something you could potentially regret. You might know what we mean by that.
This might be the reason why so many people with insomnia prefer to try more natural remedies to calm their restlessness. Natural remedies seem to be much more gentle on the body, won’t cause any type of physical dependency, and could perhaps add a few side benefits for your health.
Should We Avoid Melatonin Supplements?
Melatonin is the natural hormone that your brain produces in response to your senses experiencing darkness, or the absence of natural light. During the sunlit morning, you go outside and expose your eyes to the daylight, which signals your brain to produce serotonin, a similar chemical to melatonin.
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps calm your mood by giving you feelings of safety, comfort and directed focus. It helps you wake up in the morning, which is why doctors recommend that you get a few minutes, or even seconds, of unfiltered sunlight in your eyes. If you do this, your day will be boosted with a better mood and feelings of confidence and comfort. Getting sunlight in your eyes is a great natural and free treatment for depression and anxiety as well.
Once the sun goes down, your brain converts the serotonin it created during the day into melatonin, which helps you to relax into lowered brain wave states. So when you are in the darkness, melatonin starts to naturally be produced from what was previously serotonin. This is the natural way that animals fall asleep in nature every day.
Melatonin can be taken directly in supplement form, but there is much controversy surrounded by this. Some say that melatonin gives them headaches and does not actually improve the overall quality of your sleep. That is what we are trying to achieve in the first place, right?
Melatonin Doesn’t Promote Restful Sleep
Melatonin supplements may make you fall asleep more quickly, but many long-term users report that taking it before bed disrupts their sleep quality and quantity. A common side effect is waking up three to five hours after falling asleep, only to be completely restless again without enough sleep to feel productive throughout the day.
Many health experts advise against taking melatonin because it can be considered glorified hormone therapy. That’s because these sleep chemicals actually are hormones. Administering these compounds to your body in an unnatural way could affect negative feedback loops that could have long-term effects. It’s as if you are heating a room with a small electric heater and your home’s furnace turns off because it isn’t needed any more. But you’re going to need it in the other rooms and tomorrow night because the small heater can’t perform a job that the furnace can.
Therefore, it is probably better to manage your brain’s hormone system naturally by allowing your senses to be exposed to the appropriate level of natural light during the day. In the morning, try to get some naked sunlight in your eyes to wake up and feel good. Then when it’s almost time for bed, make sure that only low-light sources can reach your eyes so that natural melatonin can be produced for quality and restful sleep.
While you are doing that, you can supplement with nutrient and herbal foods to further assist your body in falling asleep and resting the way it is supposed to.
1. Magnesium for Relaxation and Electrolyte Balance
Magnesium is a very important nutrient and mineral for the healthy functioning of the body. First of all, it is an electrolyte involved in the proper balance of minerals in liquid solution within your cells. It helps to regulate the ionic salts that exist in a sort of chemical attraction, which your body’s cells have to manage. Since magnesium is a positively charged ion, it helps to regulate the function of negatively charged ions and salts like chloride and iodide. This helps to maintain a proper fluid balance within the body.
This mineral helps to transport calcium, potassium and other nutrients to the cells of the body that need them. That means that magnesium is essential for digestion, healthy muscles, nerves and heart function.
With the nervous system, magnesium helps to regulate the mental stress-response system that involves hormones to increase or decrease stress as needed. Since we are no longer living in the wilderness with the risk that a hungry predator will eat us, the natural mood for humans is relaxed and focused with feelings of safety and comfort.
It plays a key role in maintaining healthy levels of neurotransmitters that try to naturally accomplish this for you. In particular, magnesium is essential for the chemical structure and function of GABA and serotonin, which both promote better sleep quality.
Basically, this mineral has a stabilizing effect that tries to restore the state of your brain back to its normal function. If you are struggling to sleep every night, perhaps there is an imbalance that could be alleviated by magnesium supplementation. You can obtain magnesium through your diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, or with a supplement capsule or pill.
2. 5-HTP for Healthy Brain Hormone Levels
Also known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan, 5-HTP is another compound found and made naturally in the human body. It is actually produced with L-tryptophan as a derivative, kind of like how melatonin is formed from serotonin due to certain environmental triggers.
Our bodies make most of the amino acids naturally, but we need to obtain tryptophan from the foods that we consume. Therefore, this means that supplementing with L-tryptophan or 5-HTP directly could prove to be more beneficial for the long-term. Unlike melatonin that is always produced no matter what, your body expects you to eat certain amino acids.
5-HTP works by assisting the body in creating more serotonin when certain environmental triggers are reached. It was previously discussed how sunlight in the eyes can act as a trigger for your brain to release serotonin. 5-HTP helps along with this process, among many others. Therefore, you can say that supplementing with 5-HTP is more natural than taking melatonin directly because it is a precursor for it. It’s like supplying your body with the tools that it needs to make it own natural, genuine chemical compounds that are unique to your own body.
This amino-derived compound helps many other mental conditions due to its serotonin-promoting abilities. Along with improving the feelings of relaxation, safety, and comfort, it can help stabilize mood problems, stress, pain and proper appetite.
3. GABA for Focused Relaxation
A naturally-produced compound created in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, helps you relax your body and mind together. Clinical trials have proven that, after supplementing a patient with GABA, their brain frequencies begin to resonate with alpha brain waves. Alpha brain waves are associated with improved confidence, feelings of safety and wellbeing, as well as complete relaxation.
If you want to better understand what increased GABA feels like, just imagine what happens after you drink a little too much alcohol. Drinks with alcohol content are consumed with the intent to increase GABA forcibly in the brain to unnatural levels. This can also help you understand what too much GABA feels like: obnoxious moods, blacking out, and stumbling around with much less logic and reason.
But when you have healthy and natural levels of GABA, you are feeling motivated, confident, free from anxiety, and relaxation. You are looking forward to what is to come and you are ready to handle the challenges that you may face before you get there.
If your challenge is to get to sleep quicker and reach more restful, rejuvenating sleep when you have allergies, then your quest will be much easier. This natural compound can be isolated to be taken in supplement form, so that you don’t have to rely on alcoholic drinks to force out GABA through your neurotransmitters. This offers your body a much safer long-term solution for insomnia, both chronic and acute.
There seems to be evidence that natural GABA levels in the brain decrease with age. If you are older, this stuff could be great for restoring mental balance and restful sleep.
4. Chamomile for a Calm Mood
This is probably what first came to mind when you read the title of this article. Chamomile tea has been used by cultures all over the world for millennia to help get to sleep faster.
Research is not complete about the chamomile plant, but some theories are proposing that its flavonoid compound called apigenin is the reason for its calming qualities. Most studies suggest that this chemical could have anti-anxiety effects.
Anxiety is a big obstacle for those who suffer from insomnia. In fact, anxiety could be a direct cause of the insomnia that you are dealing with. If you treat the cause, then you treat the entire situation, including the symptoms of insomnia in the first place.
Many people like to criticize chamomile, saying that it’s just a placebo. However, there’s no way that you can drink a nice cup of chamomile and not feel more relaxed. If it’s the placebo of it all, with clearing your head while sipping a hot, tasty herbal beverage, then let it be! It works for millions of people, and likely our ancestors too.
It should be noted that hot drinks before bed can make you need to go to the bathroom during the night, which can disrupt your sleep. If you prefer the tea, you should drink only one cup about an hour before bed. Even better, you can just supplement with the chamomile flower or leaf directly because swallowing the herb in a capsule can provide the same effects as a freshly brewed chamomile tea. But it won’t make you have to pee!
5. L-Theanine for Alpha Brain Waves
This is another type of amino acid that can be found in nature. You should have picked up by now that amino acids can have analgesic, or mind-altering effects. Also similar to GABA and serotonin, L-theanine helps to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
This amino acid increases natural levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine in the brain. They all work together as neurotransmitters to regulate and maintain appropriate emotions, stable mood, concentration, alertness, and restful sleep. It’s also important for managing an appropriate appetite, levels of energy and overall cognition.
L-Theanine can be an essential ingredient if you are making your own natural, herbal blend of sleep aids. That’s because it is unique in that it decreases chemicals in your brain that cause over-excitement or jitters. That way, only feelings of calm and focus remain.
Alpha brain waves, like previously mentioned, are the ideal frequencies to have as an animal. It provides a mood that represents focused relaxation. To get a better understanding of what alpha brain waves feel like, think about meditation, doing a creative activity, daydreaming, or watching something interesting on TV.
L-Theanine helps your brain waves reach this point while eliminating the effects of beta brain waves. A beta brain wave state is not ideal for animals because it produces feelings of stress, needing to escape, discomfort, shame, guilt, and over-excitement. You aren’t going to fall asleep if your brain is in a beta wave state, which very well may be the direct issue you are having with insomnia. L-Theanine is one of the best compounds to take for promoting healthy alpha brain wave levels, which has many benefits for your mood as well.
Alpha waves are also present in deep REM sleep, which is what you need to reach in order to achieve restful sleep. The most appealing aspect of this ingredient is its ability to promote relaxation without sedation. You can obtain L-Theanine through your diet with tea, particularly green tea, or you can supplement with it directly in a capsule with Suntheanine.
6. Lemon Balm Leaf Extract for Anxiety, Pain and Digestion
A member of the mint family, lemon balm is a versatile herb that can be used in cooking or taken as a supplement. In both cases, consumption of lemon balm will promote better sleep and relieve anxiety. Many believe it to be a natural pain killer and a digestive aid as well.
Lemon balm has been used since the Dark Ages to help heal wounds and insect bites. But it was also preferred because it helped to relax and sedate patients who needed to rest and rejuvenate.
The most useful component of lemon balm is called eugenol, an oil-like substance found it many other plants like basil and cloves. When consumed whole or in a tea, eugenol can soothe the nervous system and drift you away into restful sleep.
Its effects on the nervous system can be seen in the way it can prevent muscle spasms. If restless leg or twitching seems to be causing your insomnia, perhaps lemon balm would be the ideal treatment for you. You can simply take its leaf in a capsule before bed, or steep the whole leaf in boiling water for ten minutes to make a tea.
7. Valerian Root for Insomnia
Grown in grasslands through North America, Asia and Europe, the valerian root can help ease insomnia and anxiety by slowly increasing levels of GABA in the brain.
Prescription drugs for anxiety like Xanax or Valium can also increase GABA in the brain, but they work in a more direct way. It’s as if these drugs force the existing GABA out into your brain so that you are forced to relax.
Valerian root, on the other hand, helps to promote natural levels of GABA by assisting in the brain’s production of it. Therefore, it won’t be addictive or cause withdrawal symptoms like these prescription drugs can.
For insomnia, it is best to stay on a valerian root supplementation regimen for at least two weeks to see how it can work for you. Two hundred to five hundred milligrams seem to be ideal concentrations for those looking to get asleep soundly. You can take the herb directly within a capsule or brew one to four grams of dried herb in one cup of water for about 12 minutes to make a tea.
8. Passion Flower for Calming Relaxation
A plant native to both North and South America, the passion flower has been appreciated for millennia because of its ability to have a unique calming effect. The Native Americans and Aztecs have used this herb to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures and hypomania.
Like lemon balm, it seems to be a nervous system relaxant that can promote feelings of comfort while reducing muscle spasms. Also like with L-theanine, alpha brain waves are facilitated, but in a more subtle way. This may be all you need for treating your insomnia, however.
Passionflower can be taken as an extract in a tincture or liquid, as well as capsules with the dry herb. It can also be made into a tea, because this is another natural herb. You can boil the dry leaf or flower directly for a few minutes and then enjoy an hour before bed.
Are There Any Side Effects of These Natural Sleep Aids?
Compared to those of prescription drugs or OTC medicines, side effects will be much less risky for the natural sleep aids. Of course, you shouldn’t take too much of anything, even if it is a nutrient that occurs naturally in your body. Everything should be taken in moderation, even water, sleep, food, and exercise.
If you accidentally overdose with one or more of these natural ingredients, you are most likely to experience mild to moderate nausea, intense or vivid dreams, or impaired judgement. It is also possible that each individual ingredient could cause an allergic reaction, so make sure that you are not allergic to any of them before you supplement.
I hope that some of this information had helped you if you have allergies and insomnia. I was definitely in the same boat, struggling to sleep while seasonal allergies made it worse. It’s one thing to be up all night, but sneezing too puts frosting on the crap cake. If you have a question or something to add about natural sleep aids for allergies, asthma and insomnia, please leave me a comment with the form below!
Talk to you soon,