Top 9 Natural Sleep Aids for Restful Nights

A cup of moon milk.

Moon milk is a simple recipe that can help you have a more restful sleep. (Image: Mariia Bogdanova via Dreamstime)

Are you struggling to achieve a good night’s rest? If so, natural sleep aids can provide a more organic solution, blending the properties of various herbs to ensure sleep that lasts till morning. Some of these potent sleep enhancers may have peculiar aromas, but don’t be discouraged, their effectiveness is unparalleled.

Using herbal remedies as sleep aids

Herbal remedies are natural plants with minimal side effects and multiple functions to address various sleep issues. Here is a ranked list of 9 natural sleep aids listed in order from highest to lowest efficacy.

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1. Valerian root

Although valerian root has a distinct odor, it is regarded as the best natural sleep aid. (Image: Nikolaydonetsk via Dreamstime)
Although valerian root has a distinct odor, it is regarded as the best natural sleep aid. (Image: Nikolaydonetsk via Dreamstime)

When you smell this herbal remedy, you might be reminded of dirty socks. However, it is renowned for its sleep-inducing capabilities. The root is commonly steeped in alcohol to create a herbal tincture. Valerian root can calm the mind, induce sleep, increase the chemical reactions of GABA (a neurotransmitter) in the brain, regulate nerve cells, stabilize brain function, and reduce anxiety.

To use, take 2-3 grams of dried valerian root, add 250 ml of boiling water, steep for 20 minutes, and then consume. Drinking it 1-2 hours before bedtime is recommended, but severe insomniacs can drink it up to three times daily. After using it for six weeks, take a one-week break, and discontinue use if it causes agitation. Individuals operating heavy machinery or engaging in long drives should adjust their usage time.

2. Hops

Hops are commonly used in the beer brewing process to enhance flavor, but even used by themselves without alcohol, according to this study, hops do have a sedative effect. In addition, they can alleviate anxiety and tension.

3. Black cohosh

Black cohosh is often used to relieve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, vivid dreams, light sleep, aches, neuropathy, and irregular heartbeat, all of which can impact one’s ability to sleep. The typical dosage is 20 mg to 120 mg per day.

4. Bee balm

Bee balm is not only a good sleep aid, but it also attracts pollinators.
Bee balm is not only a good sleep aid, but it also attracts pollinators. (Image: James Horning via Dreamstime)

Bee balm is a plant that thrives in the wild and contributes to the environment as its fragrant flowers attract bees for pollination. It can relieve anxiety, insomnia, migraines, and premenstrual tension. Use 1 tablespoon of dried flower petals or 2 tablespoons of fresh petals for every cup of water. The water should be below the boiling point because the flowers are more delicate. Let steep for 15 minutes and enjoy.

5. Peppermint

Because peppermint tea is caffeine free and acts as a mild muscle relaxant, it can induce a better night’s sleep.

6. Catnip

More than just a cat’s delight, catnip soothes children during teething and alleviates bloating, ulcers, insomnia, and anger induced by irritability, proving helpful for sleep in certain circumstances.

7. Lavender

Lavender tea, with its deep relaxation effect and anxiety improvement properties, is another powerful sleep aid. Simply add 4 tsp of lavender buds to 2 cups of boiled water and allow to steep for 5 minutes. You can place a plate over the cup while it is steeping to further infuse the tea.

8. Passionflower

Although not yet tested on humans, passionflower has great potential for supporting a better night's sleep.
Although not yet tested on humans, passionflower has great potential for supporting a better night’s sleep. (Image: Elizabeth Orielly via Dreamstime)

Passionflower helps alleviate stress, reduce pain, and induce sleep. There have not been studies on the effectiveness or side effects on humans, yet this study shows passionflower increased deep sleep, reduced rapid eye movement sleep, and helped sleep come more quickly to the animals in the study.

9. ‘Moon milk’

Another well-known sleep aid is “moon milk,” a beverage that promotes sleep.

1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of honey
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ashwagandha
a pinch of turmeric and nutmeg (optional)

Simply pour the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring until well combined.

Milk itself contains tryptophan and melatonin, which have sleep-inducing effects.

Cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce bloating. However, herbalist Guo Zijun reminds us that individuals with liver problems should avoid using cinnamon that contains safrole, as it can potentially harm the liver.

Ashwagandha is suitable for those who experience insomnia, fatigue, physical weakness, and inadequate mental strength. Researchers have proposed that the triethylene glycol naturally present in the herb may bring on sleepiness. Other researchers propose that ashwagandha acts on GABA receptors, which are a key part of the sleep-wake circuit.

Keep in mind

Please note that the effectiveness and safety of using herbal remedies varies for everyone depending on their medical history. Always consult with your healthcare professional before using them, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications. It is important to note that purchasing products from companies that specialize in herbs is advisable when shopping for herbal ingredients.

Translated by Joseph Wu

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