I’m firmly convinced that we are only beginning to understand how important sleep is for health, but we already know that sleep is important for proper hormone function, blood sugar regulation, cell regeneration, and much more.
The Best Natural Sleep Remedies (That Really Work)
I’ve seen so many articles with natural sleep remedies that include many of the basic things like avoiding caffeine, regular exercise, and creating a good sleep environment. These things are all definitely important, but I’ve also gotten comments from readers who have tried all of those things and still struggle with sleep.
For those who have tried creating a normal sleep routine, using magnesium oil, creating a completely dark bedroom, and even taking supplements, but still can’t sleep, these unusual sleep remedies may help.
Of course, anyone with a serious or long-lasting sleep problem should also find a good doctor or functional medicine doctor who specializes in sleep to make sure there isn’t a deeper issue.
These unusual natural sleep remedies are extremely effective, in my experience, but they aren’t often recommended. The good news is, they are all either very inexpensive or free, so they are worth a try!
1. Put Your Feet Up – The Right Way
I got this tip from a friend who had reversed his own health struggles through diet and lifestyle changes. Many of us are standing, walking, or (hopefully not) sitting for most of the day. As a result, blood and lymph fluid can collect in the legs.
Swelling of the legs is more often noticeable during pregnancy or if there is an underlying medical condition. If you’ve had kids, did you notice your feet and ankles being slightly more tired/sore/swollen at night when you were pregnant?
An inversion of some type can help reverse this. You don’t have to be a yoga master to get the benefits of inversion, either.
Remedy: The simple and free remedy is to just put your feet up for 15-30 minutes at night. The two ways that seem to be most effective are lying on the ground and resting the feet on a couch or chair at a 90-degree angle. You may also lie on the ground or bed and rest the legs straight up against the wall (more difficult).
What We Do: I try to do this every night because I really do seem to sleep better. Some nights, we do this as a family while we read books or do our family nighttime routine. Sound boring? Try reading or listening to a podcast while sitting there.
Overachiever Version: If you want the benefits of elevating your feet along with the benefits of full inversion, consider trying gravity boots or even an inversion table. We got both our boots and table from this company because they are independently tested for safety and FDA approved.
2. Honey and Salt
This remedy actually indirectly came from my grandmother who told me once that kids sleep better when you give them something sweet and salty at night. Her theory was that it helped regulate blood sugar, which is probably true, but I’m not sure if her choice of a sweet/salty snack for her kids was a real food one.
Turns out, there may be some scientific backing to this decades-old idea…
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, salt can help lower cortisol levels and balance blood sugar levels, which is what you want at night for restful sleep. Natural sugars can help by elevating insulin slightly, which helps lower cortisol (this is one of the reasons my doctor suggests consuming carbohydrates at night and not in the morning if you are trying to balance hormones).
Carbohydrates of any kind may also help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier and improve melatonin production.
My kids call this “honey salt” and ask for it some nights. The idea is that the combination of sweet and salty in a small amount can help promote restful sleep. From our small-scale trial of this (7 people), there does seem to be an effect.
What to Do: Combine a tiny amount (1/2 teaspoon) of a natural sugar (honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.) with a sprinkle of natural salt and consume 15-20 minutes before bed. Alternately, stir the mixture into a cup of chamomile tea and add a teaspoon of gelatin powder (optional).
Turbo-charged Version: Use this hemp honey for an extra dose of relaxation!
3. Deep Breathing in a 4-7-8 Pattern
My massage therapist recommended this natural sleep remedy. She said that she learned it from Dr. Weil. It basically involves a slow and patterned breathing that helps oxygenate the blood and promote relaxation.
When I researched this type of breathing, I found that many religions use some variation of it for meditation or prayer. Recent information suggests that it may help the body shift from sympathetic nervous activity (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (relaxation).
Either way, it is a quick and simple technique that seems to really help promote restful sleep and that doesn’t cost a thing.
What to Do:
- Sitting in a relaxed position or lying down, breathe in through the nose as you count to four.
- Hold your breath as you count to seven.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth as you count to eight.
- Repeat 3-4 times or until you feel relaxed.
4. Cherry Juice
This unusual remedy comes highly recommended in online reviews but has some scientific backing as well. Studies show that it may help with insomnia, improve melatonin levels, and reduce inflammation to promote restful sleep. It may even help improve how long we sleep.
According to this article:
Researchers from Louisiana State University had seven older adults with insomnia drink eight ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of no juice, and then two more weeks of drinking a placebo beverage. Compared to the placebo, drinking the cherry juice resulted in an average of 84 more minutes of sleep time each night.
What to do: I drink a tablespoon of tart cherry juice at night to help with sleep quality, especially on days with intense workouts since it also seems to help with muscle recovery and stiffness. Cherry juice can even be added to chamomile tea or other relaxing herbal teas (with the honey salt remedy above) to help improve the taste. I definitely recommend organic cherry juice if you can find it since it is concentrated and cherries are typically on the Dirty Dozen list.
5. Sleep Journal
You’ve probably heard that going to bed at night and waking up in the morning at consistent times helps with quality sleep, but I never realized how true this was until I started keeping track in a journal. I quickly realized I wasn’t as good at a sleep schedule as I thought!
What I Did: Every night, I wrote down the time I ate dinner, when I turned off electronics, and what time I turned out the light. The next morning I added my wake up time and a brief note about how I slept. Even after only a week or two sleep journaling, I saw some interesting patterns (or lack of patterns) and knew what I needed to work on to get better sleep.
High-Tech Version: If you’re not a pen and paper kind of person, there are plenty of sleep trackers and sleep tracking apps available, but I only use a tracker that works in airplane mode to limit EMFs at night.
6. Morning Exercise
Of course we know exercise is good for us, but the time you exercise could help you sleep deeper at night. Sleep expert Shawn Stevenson shared in this podcast episode that even 4 minutes of exercise in the morning can reset the cortisol cycle to its natural levels. In studies, exercising in the morning resulted in a 25% reduction in blood pressure at night and improved melatonin production (the hormone that helps us sleep).
What I Do: If you have an autoimmune condition like I do, opt for heavy weights or a program like this one over strenuous cardio. A 4-minute Tabata session or time on the rebounder will also do the trick.
More Natural Sleep Help
How is your sleep? Do you have a bedtime routine or something that helps you sleep well?
- Lynn A, Mathew S, Moore CT, et al. Effect of a tart cherry juice supplement on arterial stiffness and inflammation in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2014;69(2):122-7.
- Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, Mchugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(8):909-16.
- Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2010;13(3):579-83.
- Herrera CP, Smith K, Atkinson F, et al. High-glycaemic index and -glycaemic load meals increase the availability of tryptophan in healthy volunteers. Br J Nutr. 2011;105(11):1601-6.
- Krause EG, DeKloet AD, Flak JN, et al. Hydration state controls stress responsiveness and social behavior. J Neurosci. 2011;31(14):5470-6.