While bedtime feels relaxing to most...for you, it's quite the opposite. You lie awake staring at your ceiling, tossing and turning until the sun comes up. Or you wake up at 3 am and there's no chance your body is going back to sleep. That's why today I'm sharing my best herbs for better sleep. Let’s get you sleeping like a baby, so you can enjoy your days, feeling energized.
Why Sleep is Important to Your Health
When your body goes into a deep sleep, it restores and repairs the cells that make up your body. During sleep is when your hormones fluctuate (as they should), and your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep and fight off any infections. Over time, if you continue to experience poor sleep, it can increase your risk for chronic diseases.
Plus, it's been shown that poor sleep heightens your chances of getting sick after being exposed to a virus, and affects the recovery time to heal from a sickness. You want to regain your health as soon as possible so you can get back to living your joyous life!
Getting Quality Sleep Can:
Enhance Brain Health
Boost Immune Health
Inhibit Unnecessary Hunger
Help Maintain Ideal Weight
Reasons Why You're Not Sleeping Well
Hormones Can Impact Sleep
While many of your hormones may affect your sleep, cortisol is a big one. Cortisol is supposed to be elevated in the mornings when you rise (to get your butt out of bed) and then slowly decrease throughout the day to allow you to sleep.
The issue is that when your hormones are out of balance, your cortisol levels could be elevated when you are trying to sleep. Pretty much your body's saying "LET'S GO!", when you're saying "OH, PLEASE NO!". One main cause of cortisol imbalances? STRESS!
Anxiety Affects Sleep
Anxiety can keep you up at night, keeping you from falling asleep. While your body needs the rest, your mind has other plans. Your thoughts are racing about your do-to lists and if you said the right thing during your meeting. Anxiety and sleep are not a good match.
Disrupted Circadian Rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is what regulates your melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. If your circadian rhythm is disrupted (from incoming light from the optic nerves or other disruptors), it can make you feel wired at bedtime. With our technology-filled lives, it’s easy for our circadian rhythm to get disrupted with all the screen time- televisions, phones, and computers!
5 Best Herbs For Better Sleep
Consuming herbs for better sleep can be hugely beneficial to your overall health. When you get a full night's rest of high-quality sleep, you feel so much better, have more energy throughout the day, and your body can function more optimally.
Here are my favorite night time herbs:
Passionflower for Sleep
Passionflower has long been used in herbal medicine by caretakers as a sleep inducer. Caretakers usually carry a heavy emotional load, contributing to a racing mind when it's time to go to sleep. Since passionflower contains calming properties, it's been used to promote better sleep for centuries.
This herb can increase your total sleep time and reduce your wakefulness, allowing your body to get that much-needed rest. If you struggle with insomnia, especially if you're a first responder or a parent of little ones, give this one a try.
Valerian for Sleep
As I mentioned above, anxiety can be a huge contributor to your poor sleep...or lack of sleep, really. Valerian can help reduce anxiety and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Valerian strongly interacts with GABA receptors, which is the same target of many anti-anxiety prescription medications.
It can also help those people who feel exhausted when they wake up, even when they get 7-9 hours of sleep! However, some clinical trials have noted that the herb's quality and quantity may impact its effects. This is why I always recommend top-of-the-line herbs to my clients.
Hops for Sleep
No, I'm not telling you to go drink an alcoholic beer before bed...but maybe a non-alcoholic beer (alcohol can actually reduce your quality of sleep). Hops are actually the flowers from the hop plant and are a great herb for improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety. When this herb is combined with other sleep herbs, like valerian, it can really help you fall asleep at night!
Ashwagandha for Sleep
Ashwagandha is a well-known adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens help the body respond to stress more effectively. It can help lower your cortisol levels, which can help sleep because when cortisol is high, it can inhibit sleep- leaving you to feel wide awake at 10 pm.
Ashwagandha can help regulate your cortisol, so you don't have those elevated levels when your body is supposed to be calming down. This herb has been well studied and has shown to be a great sleep inducer.
California Poppy for Sleep
California poppy, aka California's state flower, is another top herb on my "herbs for sleep" list. It's packed with benefits, including sedative properties, and helps with anxiety and pain.
Best Herb Brands For Sleep
Additional Healthy Practices for Better Sleep
In addition to the recommendations of my 5 best herbs for sleep, I also advise the following sleep practices for enhancing your quality of sleep.
Journal before bed to get out any anxious or worrisome thoughts
Utilize a to-do list to help racing thoughts during bedtime
Use blue light blockers during screen time
Restorative yoga at bedtime
Get morning sun exposure
Stop eating 3 hours before bed
Reduce stress- don't overbook yourself and instead schedule in "you" time!
Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
Wind down with a book
Work with a Functional Medicine & Clinical Herbalist
If you are looking to optimize your quantity and quality of sleep, make an appointment with me, Jessica Meyers. I am a Functional Medicine Provider and Clinical Herbalist, which means I can guide you to the most effective supplement and herbs that would be best for your unique body, depending on functional lab results. I hope you can enjoy some more sleep with my best herbs for better sleep recommendations!