By Jane Sandwood

Spiritual health and sleep are inextricably intertwined. We all need adequate rest in order to stay grounded and thrive mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in daily life. But sleeping well can be a challenge in today’s overstimulated world. Sleep deprivation results in fatigue and irritability, as well as anxiety and depression — people with insomnia are ten times more likely to have clinical depression than healthy sleepers, the National Sleep Foundation reports. If you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep and rest body, mind, and soul, there’s no need to turn to prescription pills. Try an alternative remedy instead — they’re effective and come without risk of side-effects like headaches, grogginess, and allergic reaction.

Lavender Essential Oil

Not only does lavender smell divine, it’s also a reliable natural sleep aid. In particular, lavender has been found to increase slow-wave sleep. This is the deep stage of sleep during which heartbeat slows and muscles relax. Additionally, the brain organizes and strengthens long-term memory during this sleep stage. Lavender is best used in its pure, essential oil form. Dab some on a tissue and keep it under your pillow, or use an aromatherapy diffuser. Alternatively, rub two drops of the oil into cupped palms. Inhale deeply to carry the scent all the way into your amygdala gland — an area deep in the brain that controls emotions. Your mind will calm. And you can look forward to a restful night and waking up feeling refreshed the next morning.

Melatonin supplement

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland that helps you fall asleep, and it’s also available to take as a supplement. The body’s melatonin production is stimulated by the absence of light, but is disrupted when we spend too much time exposed to blue light from TV’s, phones, and laptops (as the brain still thinks it’s daytime). While you should aim to regulate your body’s own melatonin levels, taking melatonin supplements can help ensure you’re both ready for sleep at bedtime and feel energized during the day. Take your supplement at least thirty minutes before you go to bed. If, however, you’re more of a night owl who wants to start falling asleep earlier, take melatonin a few hours before you aim to hit the hay. So, if you want to go to bed at 10pm, but usually only get to sleep at 1am, try taking melatonin as early as 8pm.

Valerian root

Also known as nature’s Valium, valerian root can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a deeper, more restful sleep. Its star ingredient is linarin: a chemical which doubles as a sedative. Valerian root works by boosting the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain — a soothing neurotransmitter necessary for sleep. Try taking valerian root in its most potent form: as a tincture. Drop around twenty drops under your tongue and repeat every half hour before bed until you feel sleepy. Valerian root has a class 1 safety rating from the American Herbal Products Association, so you can take how much you need to get the job done without being concerned it’s too much.  

Mindful breathing

Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime and practice a mindfulness technique. In particular, soothing deep breathing is an effective way of calming the mind and relaxing before bed. Lie down on the floor and stretch out comfortably. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Begin to extend it, so that you exhale for twice as long as you inhale. For example, breathe in and count to two and then exhale while counting to four. Relax your body and continue breathing at this comfortable pace. Soon, it’ll feel natural to stop counting altogether and just focus directly on the act of breathing. After a while, simply breathe in any way that feels natural. When you’re ready, open your eyes and note how calm and relaxed you feel. Get up and get right into bed.

Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be a struggle with these natural sleeping aids. Herbal remedies can be surprisingly effective; the key is to find the one that works for you. Combining this further with deep breathing is bound to lull you into a deep, restorative sleep.

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