How to Get a Solid Night’s Sleep

Insomnia can become a real nightmare as the clock ticks on into the night and you’re awake to notice. Find out how a relaxing cup of tea, a whiff of lavender oil, smarter scheduling of sleep, and other tactics can summon the sandman naturally.

Before-Bed Bites

Have a slice of turkey or chicken, or a banana before heading to bed. These foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that’s used to make serotonin. And serotonin is a brain chemical that helps you sleep. Keep the portion small, though, or your full belly may keep you awake.

Carbohydrates help trytophan enter the brain. Try a glass of warm milk (milk contains tryptophan) and a cookie, or warm milk with a spoonful of honey. A sprinkling of cinnamon couldn’t hurt, and might add mild sedative properties of its own.

Call on Herbs for Help

Valerian helps people fall asleep faster without the “hangover” affect of some sleeping pills. It binds to the same receptors in the brain that tranquilizers such as diazepam bind to. The herb itself stinks (think sweaty old socks), so we don’t recommend trying to make a tea. Instead, take one-half to one teaspoon of valerian tincture or two capsules of valerian root an hour before bed.

Take 4,000 to 8,000 milligrams of dried passionflower capsules. Passionflower is widely used as a mild herbal sedative.

Or you can combine forces, taking a supplement that includes both passionflower and valerian. “Natural” sleep remedies often include other herbal ingredients as well, such as hops and skullcap. Whatever the formulation, follow the package directions.

Smell Your Way to Sleep

Lavender has a reputation as a mild tranquilizer. Simply dab a bit of the oil onto your temples and forehead before you hit the pillow. The aroma should help send you off to sleep. You can also add lavender oil to a diffuser or vaporizer to scent your bedroom. Or place a lavender sachet near your pillow.

Put a drop of jasmine essential oil on each wrist just before you go to bed. In studies conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, researchers discovered that people who spent the night in jasmine-scented rooms slept more peacefully than people who stayed in unscented-or even lavender-scented-rooms.

Try a soothing aromatic bath before bedtime. Add 5 drops lavender oil and 3 drops ylang-ylang oil to warm bathwater and enjoy a nice soak.

Pillow Tricks

Mind Numbing

Once you get into bed, imagine your feet becoming heavy and numb. Feel them sinking into the mattress. Then do the same with your calves, and slowly work your way up your body, letting it all grow heavy and relaxed. The idea is to let yourself go, in gradual phases, all the way from head to toe.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Turn your alarm clock so that you can’t see it from bed. If you’re glancing at the clock when you wake up-and it’s almost impossible not to-you’ll soon start wondering how you can function tomorrow on so little sleep tonight. For truly accomplished insomniacs, just one glance at a glowing digital dial is enough to set a whole anxiety-train in motion.

Tamper with the Thermostat 

Turn your thermostat down a few degrees before heading to bed. Most people sleep better when their surroundings are cool.

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