Fall Asleep, Naturally


Sometimes it seems like when we most need sleep is when we can least get it. When insomnia strikes, and you find yourself tossing and turning, thinking about not being able to sleep only makes it worse. Many people have sleep problems during the winter months, in part due to the time change and in part due to the busy holiday season. We need our sleep for gift shopping, cooking holiday feasts, and visiting family, but it can be hard to come by this time of year.

Prescription medications to treat sleep problems come with their side effects, like drowsiness and dependency. They can be a good option for those with serious sleep disorders, but for those with occasional sleeplessness – about 30 to 40 percent of the adult population – they may not be necessary. As a solution to insomnia during stressful, busy times – like the upcoming holidays – there are many natural remedies to get a good night’s sleep. All of these supplements can be purchased at your local natural foods store. As always, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new supplement.


Magnesium deficiency is common in the general population. On average, people only get about 60 percent of their daily required intake of magnesium. This mineral plays a key role in sleep and the body’s ability to relax. As a natural muscle relaxant, increasing your daily intake of magnesium can help you wind down in the evening. To get more magnesium in your diet, you can increase your intake of foods rich in it like green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. You can also take a magnesium supplement – magnesium citrate is a good option as it is easily absorbed.


Another naturally occurring substance in our bodies that helps with sleep is melatonin. This hormone regulates the sleep/wake cycle and our internal circadian rhythms. Taking a melatonin supplement can help restore normal sleep patterns in people with insomnia. It is best known for helping with jet lag and sleep disorders related to shift work. Melatonin should only be taken at night. Doses between 1 to 3 mg can be used safely to help regulate sleep. Long-term use of melatonin is generally not recommended.

Valerian Root

Valerian is a tall, flowering grassland plant that has been blossoming in the field of sleep science. Small studies conducted on valerian root show that it may reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality. The most widely studied species is Valeriana officinalis, so choose supplements that use this type of valerian to get the most benefit. It may take a couple of weeks before you notice the full effect of the plant. Mild side effects, such as headache, dizziness, and stomach upset may occur.

Ultimately, the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to reduce stress and make sleep a priority. Common problems that arise from sleep deprivation are difficulty concentrating, poor memory, and general crankiness. As you’re rushing around getting everything ready for the holidays, make time for sleep so your inner Scrooge doesn’t come out. Your body (and your relatives!) will thank you for it.

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