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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jesse Ropat

Natural Remedies For Better Sleep: Supplements And Lifestyle changes

Most of us have had those nights where we toss and turn, but can’t seem to get comfortable and fall asleep. Or your brain just won’t shut off, allowing you to enter a restful sleep cycle and recover for the next day.


Insomnia, characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep and feeling unrested in the morning, is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans worldwide. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just defined by the number of hours you sleep but rather by the symptoms you experience. I’m going to give you my top tips for a better night's sleep. But first, let’s get some background information.


To know if you have insomnia, you need to pay attention to symptoms such as trouble thinking clearly, irritability, reduced energy, more mistakes at work, and persistent worrying about sleep. These can indicate a disturbance in your sleep cycle.


If you’re having trouble sleeping, your doctor might ask you to track your sleep patterns for 1-2 weeks.


If you want to get more involved, a more comprehensive option is a Sleep Study, which involves staying overnight in a sleep lab or center. This study monitors various aspects, including movement, brain activity, breathing, and other body functions by hooking you up to some monitors and wires.


I’ve personally completed a sleep study. It was a very strange experience. I did my study when I was having trouble sleeping during my exams back when I was completing my undergraduate degree while trying to juggle my cancer research.


Ironically, I slept like a baby. They had nothing to recommend me, and that was frustrating. I blame their soft pillows and soundproof walls.


So you might be asking, what can I do tonight to help me sleep better?


Implementing small changes in your routine can make a significant difference in managing trouble sleeping. Suggestions include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and addressing problems before bedtime.


The most important is:


1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

Consistency helps regulate your body's internal clock.


2. Get some natural light during the day.


This helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Spend time outdoors, especially in the morning. In the evening, dim the lights to signal to your body that it's time to wind down.


3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.


This should signal to your body that it's time to wind down. I prefer reading and doing all of my end-of-day tasks by candlelight. The light’s less intense, and I like the smell. Don’t judge me.


You might like taking a warm bath or practicing relaxation techniques. Find what works for you.


4. Make sure your bedroom is ideal for sleep.


Keep the room dark using blackout curtains or an eye mask, and try to make it cooler than during the day ( typically between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit). If you have noisy neighbors, try a white noise machine or earplugs to drown it out.


Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows. You’re on your bed one-third of your life - you may as well enjoy it!


5. Avoid screens like your phone, tablet, TV, and laptop at least an hour before bedtime.


The blue light emitted from screens can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.


6. Try not to eat too much before bed, and avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening since it makes it almost impossible for me to sleep.


You should also try not to drink too much water before bedtime to avoid disruptions from waking up to use the bathroom during the night.


7. Lift weights or do some cardio during the day.


It helps make it easier for you to fall asleep (as long as it’s at least a few hours before you plan to sleep).


8. Manage your stress.


Practice stress-reducing techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. If your brain is always running, even while you’re lying in bed, you might benefit from this in particular.


9. Limit Naps.


If you need to nap during the day, keep it short (20-30 minutes) and avoid napping late in the afternoon. Long or late afternoon naps can interfere with nighttime sleep.


If you’ve tried all of these, and you think you need additional help, I’ll give you my sleep supplement routine as well. It may also be useful for those people who sleep well but want to improve it even more.


1. Magnesium Bisglycinate


Magnesium plays a role in muscle and nerve function, and some people find that magnesium supplements help them relax and improve sleep quality. I’m one of those people. I’ve picked the glycinate form because our body more easily absorbs it, and it doesn’t cause diarrhea that other forms do.


2. L-Theanine


Found in green tea, L-theanine is an amino acid that has calming effects. This has become a staple in my sleep regimen, as it promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety.


3. Valerian Root


The extract of this root has become increasingly popular because it aids in sleep without the dreaded “hangover” effect of some prescription options. Its side-effect profile is roughly the same as placebo, making it a great option for improving your sleep quality.


4. Chamomile (apigenin)


Chamomile is an herb often consumed as a tea. It contains apigenin, a compound with mild sedative effects. Drinking chamomile tea before bedtime may promote relaxation, or you could also take apigenin on its own, which is a great option.


5. Tryptophan


Normally taken as a dose of 1 gram 45 minutes before bedtime, Tryptophan (found in turkey, hence that drowsy feeling you get after Thanksgiving dinner) will help you fall asleep faster. It also has no hangover effect, which is excellent.


You should exercise patience with these changes. Improving sleep quality takes time, so it's essential to be patient with yourself. Make gradual changes and ensure they are sustainable in the long term.


As always, speak with your doctor or pharmacist before starting a new supplement, and to get more information about which supplement and strength is right for you.


Understanding your sleep issues involves recognizing the symptoms, exploring potential causes, and adopting healthy preventive measures. Try some of these healthy sleep habits to start your path towards more restful nights and improved overall health.

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