I’m firmly convinced that we are only beginning to understand how important sleep is for health, but we already know that sleep is important for proper hormone function, blood sugar regulation, cell regeneration, and much more.
The Best Natural Sleep Remedies (That Really Work)
I’ve seen so many articles with natural sleep remedies that include many of the basic things like avoiding caffeine, regular exercise, and creating a good sleep environment. These things are all definitely important, but I’ve also gotten comments from readers who have tried all of those things and still struggle with sleep.
For those who have tried creating a normal sleep routine, using magnesium oil, creating a completely dark bedroom, and even taking supplements, but still can’t sleep, these unusual sleep remedies may help.
Of course, anyone with a serious or long-lasting sleep problem should also find a good doctor or functional medicine doctor who specializes in sleep to make sure there isn’t a deeper issue.
These unusual natural sleep remedies are extremely effective, in my experience, but they aren’t often recommended. The good news is, they are all either very inexpensive or free, so they are worth a try!
1. Put Your Feet Up – The Right Way
I got this tip from a friend who had reversed his own health struggles through diet and lifestyle changes. Many of us are standing, walking, or (hopefully not) sitting for most of the day. As a result, blood and lymph fluid can collect in the legs.
Swelling of the legs is more often noticeable during pregnancy or if there is an underlying medical condition. If you’ve had kids, did you notice your feet and ankles being slightly more tired/sore/swollen at night when you were pregnant?
An inversion of some type can help reverse this. You don’t have to be a yoga master to get the benefits of inversion, either.
Remedy: The simple and free remedy is to just put your feet up for 15-30 minutes at night. The two ways that seem to be most effective are lying on the ground and resting the feet on a couch or chair at a 90-degree angle. You may also lie on the ground or bed and rest the legs straight up against the wall (more difficult).
What We Do: I try to do this every night because I really do seem to sleep better. Some nights, we do this as a family while we read books or do our family nighttime routine. Sound boring? Try reading or listening to a podcast while sitting there.
Overachiever Version: If you want the benefits of elevating your feet along with the benefits of full inversion, consider trying gravity boots or even an inversion table. We got both our boots and table from this company because they are independently tested for safety and FDA approved.
2. Honey and Salt
This remedy actually indirectly came from my grandmother who told me once that kids sleep better when you give them something sweet and salty at night. Her theory was that it helped regulate blood sugar, which is probably true, but I’m not sure if her choice of a sweet/salty snack for her kids was a real food one.
Turns out, there may be some scientific backing to this decades-old idea…
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, salt can help lower cortisol levels and balance blood sugar levels, which is what you want at night for restful sleep. Natural sugars can help by elevating insulin slightly, which helps lower cortisol (this is one of the reasons my doctor suggests consuming carbohydrates at night and not in the morning if you are trying to balance hormones).
Carbohydrates of any kind may also help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier and improve melatonin production.
My kids call this “honey salt” and ask for it some nights. The idea is that the combination of sweet and salty in a small amount can help promote restful sleep. From our small-scale trial of this (7 people), there does seem to be an effect.
What to Do: Combine a tiny amount (1/2 teaspoon) of a natural sugar (honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.) with a sprinkle of natural salt and consume 15-20 minutes before bed. Alternately, stir the mixture into a cup of chamomile tea and add a teaspoon of gelatin powder (optional).
Turbo-charged Version: Use this hemp honey for an extra dose of relaxation!
3. Deep Breathing in a 4-7-8 Pattern
My massage therapist recommended this natural sleep remedy. She said that she learned it from Dr. Weil. It basically involves a slow and patterned breathing that helps oxygenate the blood and promote relaxation.
When I researched this type of breathing, I found that many religions use some variation of it for meditation or prayer. Recent information suggests that it may help the body shift from sympathetic nervous activity (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (relaxation).
Either way, it is a quick and simple technique that seems to really help promote restful sleep and that doesn’t cost a thing.
What to Do:
- Sitting in a relaxed position or lying down, breathe in through the nose as you count to four.
- Hold your breath as you count to seven.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth as you count to eight.
- Repeat 3-4 times or until you feel relaxed.
4. Cherry Juice
This unusual remedy comes highly recommended in online reviews but has some scientific backing as well. Studies show that it may help with insomnia, improve melatonin levels, and reduce inflammation to promote restful sleep. It may even help improve how long we sleep.
According to this article:
Researchers from Louisiana State University had seven older adults with insomnia drink eight ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of no juice, and then two more weeks of drinking a placebo beverage. Compared to the placebo, drinking the cherry juice resulted in an average of 84 more minutes of sleep time each night.
What to do: I drink a tablespoon of tart cherry juice at night to help with sleep quality, especially on days with intense workouts since it also seems to help with muscle recovery and stiffness. Cherry juice can even be added to chamomile tea or other relaxing herbal teas (with the honey salt remedy above) to help improve the taste. I definitely recommend organic cherry juice if you can find it since it is concentrated and cherries are typically on the Dirty Dozen list.
5. Sleep Journal
You’ve probably heard that going to bed at night and waking up in the morning at consistent times helps with quality sleep, but I never realized how true this was until I started keeping track in a journal. I quickly realized I wasn’t as good at a sleep schedule as I thought!
What I Did: Every night, I wrote down the time I ate dinner, when I turned off electronics, and what time I turned out the light. The next morning I added my wake up time and a brief note about how I slept. Even after only a week or two sleep journaling, I saw some interesting patterns (or lack of patterns) and knew what I needed to work on to get better sleep.
High-Tech Version: If you’re not a pen and paper kind of person, there are plenty of sleep trackers and sleep tracking apps available, but I only use a tracker that works in airplane mode to limit EMFs at night.
6. Morning Exercise
Of course we know exercise is good for us, but the time you exercise could help you sleep deeper at night. Sleep expert Shawn Stevenson shared in this podcast episode that even 4 minutes of exercise in the morning can reset the cortisol cycle to its natural levels. In studies, exercising in the morning resulted in a 25% reduction in blood pressure at night and improved melatonin production (the hormone that helps us sleep).
What I Do: If you have an autoimmune condition like I do, opt for heavy weights or a program like this one over strenuous cardio. A 4-minute Tabata session or time on the rebounder will also do the trick.
More Natural Sleep Help
- Tips to Improve Sleep Naturally (diet, routine, supplements, and environment)
- Grounding for Sleep
- Why My Kids Don’t Have a Nightlight
- Magnesium Oil Benefits for Sleep
How is your sleep? Do you have a bedtime routine or something that helps you sleep well?
Discussion (52 Comments)
Do you have any tips for helping babies to sleep longer at night? I have a 4 month old who is exclusively breastfed and she’s still waking every 2 hours at night. This wouldn’t be too bad if I could get back to sleep after the first wake up at 2am but I can’t! Had 2hrs of sleep last night.
Please Katie – or anyone else – any tips you’ve got much appreciated. I’ve already blacked out the room and tried ‘tanking her up’ with breastmilk in the daytime.
You can dilute lavender essential oil in olive oil, then apply to the bottom of their toes. You could easily get by with a drop or two of lavender in 2 Tbsp of olive oil. They should sleep like a baby! Essential oils are not recommended for babies under 3 months.
Take the baby out in the day. Preferably in a push chair or cot. If not, a drive will do.
Give baby a bath approximately the same time each evening. Follow this up with milk shortly after and put to in Moses
basket or cot after burping and allow to drift off. I have fostered babies for seven straight years and this usually works.
I have a 4 month old who is 100% b.f. He sleeps from 8pm until 5-6am and it wasnt easy getting here. I used a baby wise schedule method and there were times where i had to let him cry a little without picking him up (knowing that he was fed & changed). If a baby is fed well with a clean diaper on, he should have no reason to cry. He stops if you pick him up right? So he is definitely not in pain. Thats when I would let him fuss a little 5-10min and he eventually learned to sleep on his own. I never had to let him cry at night. He just stopped waking up for feedings.
Babies do have other reasons to cry. They may miss their mother. They might have fears ie anxiety. They may simply want cuddles and warmth from someone. So babies DO cry for other reasons x
Laura – I had the same problem. I started drinking chamomile tea in the evening and your baby will get it through your milk. This helps my son sleep. Worth a try!
Thank you for that….I have a 3 mo baby girl exclusively breastfeeding.
Just a hint here. Anything you put into your body hence (food, caffeine, beverages, medication,) is excreted in your breastmilk.
Therefore the baby is receiving it.
If you drink caffeinated beverages, or even chocolate, you may be the “sweet culprit” lol.. of keeping the little one awake without intentions.
Maybe you should try the tart cherries or juice, even chamomile tea, or honey & salt before bed.
The baby will receive it through you.
Just a thought, because I completely understand your dilemma as I also “exclusively” breastfed, no pump, no bottle, & no formula…period.. for a solid 18 months..kudos to you for being an excellent mom, and hope this may help, as I’m sure you are aware of most of this anyway, just wanted to share and maybe help.
So timely, excited to give these a whirl. Thank you!!!
I have a short story about a co-worker always snacking fresh cherries at work and she always complained being sleepy. She went to see her doctor thinking she had anemia or who knows what. He did labs and everything came back normal. By accident she mentioned to her doctor the day of her follow up how much she loved cherries and ate them all day long. Her doctor then knew the cause of her sleepiness. She no longer comes to work with that jumbo box of cherries. Problem fixed! lol
Wearing socks to bed also helps immensely – when I first heard about this trick I thought “no way am I putting socks on my feet! I’m always hot!” Your body temperature naturally rises and then falls as you fall asleep (that’s why taking a warm bath or shower can help promote sleep)… but since your feet are the extremity they get cold the quickest and your body has to work to keep them warm, hence your body temperature doesn’t dip like it should.
I can say this definitely helps me – and I wear them every single night without fail, even in the summer (I knitted myself a pair of cotton bed socks – they cover my feet but allow them to breathe nicely).
I need to find a simple pattern and make some knit socks. I don’t fall asleep until my feet warm up. Conventional socks are too warm; I often wake up to remove them.
I have found putting a menthol cough rub on my feet and wearing socks works just as well for cold symptoms.
I have to give my son melatonin to sleep. Although its natural i still dont like it, he is only 10 and I dont want his body to depend on it. Thankyou forthese ideas!! Im going to trythe honey & salt one tonight instead of melatonin ….. wish us luck& ill let you know if it works!!
Did this work for your 10 year old?
Be careful with melatonin on prepubescent children as it can interfere with their hormones.
We stumbled upon the use of Vit.C to help us sleep. I’m not even sure how it came about that we tried it. Either my husband or I couldn’t sleep (coughing, perhaps?) and took a swallow of lemon juice. We slept well. It became our own little test. We soon discovered that a Vit.C tablet also seems to work. I have no idea why it works, but in a decade or more, it hasn’t failed us yet. It isn’t something we tend to need nightly, so I don’t know if the effects would weaken with prolonged use. We have also used it on our ADD kids (3 of them) without them knowing why we were letting them have these yummy vitamins at bedtime. It still worked. One, now in his 20’s, still will have a cup of hot water, honey & lemon at bedtime.
I have discovered the MOST incredible answer to better sleep and to improving overall health!! Go to: https://inclinedbedtherapy.com/ , and listen to the radio show interviews, one of which opens with your link to the website, and be sure to read all of the awesome testimonials, especially the ones spotlighted at the lower part of the home page. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE YOUR EYES AND EARS AS YOU WATCH AND LISTEN TO THESE MIRACLE HEALINGS…ALL BECAUSE OF AN INCLINE OF 6 INCHES AT THE HEAD OF YOUR BED!!!
I recently lost my precious husband, Wayne, but prior to his massive strokes that could not be reversed, he found our inclined bed to be an overnight wonder when we first tried it. He was a former POW during the Vietnam war, and his poor body was terribly abused from the torture and from Agent Orange exposure. He had problems with his lungs, his heart and circulatory system, his prostate, and his history of injuries that left him in constant pain and sleeplessness. He refused to take the drugs offered by the VA…thank God…and suffered from 12 heart attacks, 4 strokes, 2 bypass surgeries, a dissected aorta, and growths in his lungs that restricted breathing. Needless to say, his body was a constant source of pain and agony.
The day we first slept in our inclined bed, he had spent the whole day at the VA clinic and at a center for acupunture and mental therapies, which left him with swollen legs from fluid retention and stiff joints from his neck to his ankles. The next morning he awakened to zero pain in his joints, zero edema in his legs, an increased ability to breathe deeply and refreshingly, and he had only made one trip to the bathroom during the night, which was usually a four trip routine. WE WERE BOTH IN TOTAL AWE! That was just the first night, and he continued to improve in all bodily functions each time he slept inclined.
One thing we noticed was when he dozed off on the sofa during the day, he found his breathing to be more labored and his pain in his shoulders and neck more aggravated. I would make him go to the bedroom and get in the inclined bed, and after an hour or so of sleep, he would awaken with no problems. We tried elevating the cushions on the sofa, but the correct slant without bending at the hips could not be achieved, and the problems would return after any time spent in that position. I should have elevated the end of the sofa, but I never got around to it. 20/20 hindsight…
Anyway, long story short…HA!…after sleeping in an inclined position, I have found wonderful relief from insomnia induced by trying to sleep in a constant state of alert from worrying about my suffering husband. When I spent 29 days sleeping beside Wayne’s hospital bed in those tortuous reclining chairs in his rooms in ICU and hospice, I suffered greatly with aches and pains and that overly alert state of sleep. I just could not leave him alone. Now that I’m home and sleeping in my inclined bed, all those pains and alertness have subsided, and I sleep like a big old log. PTL!!
That was a roundabout way of sharing a wonderful remedy for insomnia, right?? I really wanted to share the miracles of inclined bed therapy for ALL the benefits achieved by such a simple and effective and CHEAP way to change your life forever!
Molly in Texas
Thanks for sharing Molly. And my condolences on the loss of your husband. God bless you – Charmaine soutter
Johannesburg South Africa
Andrew K Fletcher
Dear Molly, thanks for sharing your story about Inclined Bed Therapy, So sorry to hear you lost your husband after an incredible battle with many serious health issues.
From what I read, your husband had 4 strokes and 12 heart attacks prior to tilting the bed and had another after sleeping inclined? Was this during the day or at night? Did he have the more strokes while in hospital? Is there any medication he was on that has contraindications / side effects including risk of stroke?
I agree the sofa may well have helped being inclined, in fact I have mine inclined when I have suffered swelling as a result of an injury and it has definitely accelerated the healing process with bruising and swelling vanishing within days.
Thank You for sharing. I would like to tell you that, Dr Andrew Weil’s Breathing 4-3-7 Relaxation includes as a 1st Step to “Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and then do the other steps for about four times very slowly. You can verify this on his website.
I love some you tips and as always can’t wait for further posts.
Have a Loverly Day!
I usually have a cup of peppermint tea (herbal) with no sweetener in it before bed. Occasionally I get acid reflux and that seems to settle my stomach before bed. There’s an old Italian saying about eating an apple before bed helps with sleep and morning breath. Can’t hurt to eat an apple before bed either, eh?
Just be careful with tart cherry juice (others)… I have used it and it has definitely helped, but when I use it more than a few days or over a week I start to get super groggy and tired and have nightmares, which I realized was from too much melatonin (from the tart cherry juice). I’m highly sensitive to that sort of thing, but even my not-as-sensitive husband notices the grogginess and vivid dreams after a while, too. Just a heads up for anyone trying it!
Thanks for the information. I was wondering about that, because I am also very sensitive to any changes in my diet. I’ll be careful to try it on the weekends at first and see how it affects me.