When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, the sky is the limit on what we’d do to achieve it. People with sleep apnea know more than most how sleep therapy like CPAP machines make all the difference between waking up groggy and irritable or facing the day well-rested and alert.
When you have sleep apnea, you prepare every day to get a good night’s sleep by getting your CPAP machine and mask clean and ready to use each night– and your preparations pay off. But if you’re looking even more for ways to enhance your sleep hygiene, there are some natural sleep aids that are easy to incorporate into your life, and they may be able to lull you into deeper, more restful sleep.1Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6029681/ Here are a few of our favorites.
Breathe in some aromatherapy
Essential oils derived from aromatic plants have been used for centuries as mood elevators, pain reducers and stress relievers,2Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/aromatherapy/faq-20058566 all of which promote healthy sleep.
Oils used specifically as natural sleep aids include:
- Lavender – This relaxing scent has multiple uses—from treating relieving pain to treating infections—but it’s also been found to be an effective mood stabilizer and sleep aid.3Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/
- Jasmine – Studies have shown that this sweet-smelling flower has a calming effect and it promotes more restful sleep.4Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100708104320.htm
- Citrus – Some may be invigorated by the brightness of citrus scents, but some studies have found that the aroma from oils like bergamot and mandarin can improve the quality of sleep.5Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26850806
The best ways to use essential oils:
- Mister/Atomizer – Yes, oil and water do mix when you lightly mist them on your bed linens or around your room.
- Diffusers – A blend of water and oil in a diffuser subtly disperses aromas throughout your space.
- Baths – Put a few drops in a hot bath and let the aromas steam around you.
Sip a nice cup of herbal tea
Drinking a warm glass of caffeine-free herbal tea before bed can have soothing, calming effects and can become a pleasurable part of your sleep routine. While the research is still out on their degree of effectiveness in helping you get and maintain good sleep, many herbs used in teas have shown beneficial results. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements, even in tea form, as they may interact with certain medications.
Brew up a pot of:
- Chamomile – This classic flowering herb has been shown to significantly improve sleep quality,6Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29154054 and it makes a pleasing cup of tea.
- Valerian – This root has been used medicinally since Ancient Greece, and though studies are inconclusive, it has been used to treat sleep disorders.7Source: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/
- Lemon balm – Citrusy in flavor yet part of the mint family, this herb has been used to treat stress and anxiety and help insomnia.8Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230760/
- Passionflower – Though the name may stir the senses, passionflower has shown improved sleep quality in studies.9Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21294203
Snack on some foods that promote sleep
Foods that contain components like tryptophan, GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid), calcium, potassium and melatonin make great sleep-aid snacks:
- Barley grass powder – This super ingredient is high in GABA and calcium, making it one of the most powerful sleep sleep-promoting foods.10Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26005400 It’s ideal for mixing in juice or smoothies.
- Tart cherry juice – If you have problems falling asleep, research suggests that tart cherry juice may help you reach dreamland a little easier.11Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133468/
- Kiwi and romaine lettuce – To stay asleep longer, some studies suggest that kiwis12Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21669584 and romaine lettuce13Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049580/ may help improve total sleep time and sleep efficiency. Perhaps it’s time to try a salad for dinner?
- Walnuts – Walnuts are a good go-to when you’re looking for a sleepy-time snack, due to their melatonin content.14Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049580/ Try making banana nut bread for dessert or sprinkle a handful on that dinner salad.
For even more sleep-promoting bites, see our post on foods that help you sleep.
Prepare your mind for relaxation
Never underestimate the power of slowing down and taking time for mindfulness, deep breathing and relaxation. While these individual practices might not send you into immediate restful sleep, adding mindfulness meditation to your routine can improve sleep quality.15Source: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998
- Visualization – Picture your favorite place – somewhere you feel safe and happy. Research shows this can help you fall asleep faster,16Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11863237 and hopefully guides you into peaceful dreams.
- Relaxation – Techniques like progressive relaxation can be a helpful way to consciously relax all the muscles in your body. To do this, start by tensing major muscle groups in your body. Hold the tension for a moment, then completely relax all of those muscles. This process of helping you actively relieve muscle tension can help decrease fatigue and improve sleep quality.17Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279320/
- Meditation – For thousands of years, people have been using mediation as a wellness practice. Meditation comes in various forms and can be as simple as finding a quiet place and focusing on the sound of your breath. Its benefits have been studied and confirmed for various ailments, including its ability to help regulate sleep.18Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3328970/
Make time for exercise
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and regular, aerobic workouts can make a noticeable difference in the severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).19Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5344097/ Decreases in symptoms – like daytime sleepiness and poor sleep efficiency – can happen even before you see the added perk of weight loss.
- Cardio – Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise or aerobic exercise, is any exercise that raises your heart rate. It has multiple health benefits, and thankfully you don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap them. Regularly getting moderate aerobic exercise can improve sleep.20Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22019457
- Yoga – Yoga combines stretching, resistance training and meditative breath work into one practice, which is perhaps what makes it a top choice of exercise for so many. Growing evidence suggests it also eases depression and other mental and sleep disorders.21Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3555015/
- Strength training – Choosing the time of day you do your strength training can help determine how it will benefit your sleep. Morning training has been shown to help those who struggle to fall asleep, while evening strength exercise may help you stay asleep.22Source: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/05000/Effects_of_Resistance_Exercise_Timing_on_Sleep.28.aspx
Everyone has their tips for how to get a good night’s sleep, especially those of us who have experienced sleep challenges. Though natural sleep aids are still being studied and their effectiveness researched, there is evidence to support that when we are mindful of our mental, physical and dietary wellness, our overall health improves. These natural remedies just may make a difference in how well you sleep.
10 Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26005400
12 Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21669584
16 Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11863237
20 Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22019457