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Natural Sleep Remedies
Natural Sleep Remedies
Mark A. Stengler, NMD
Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine

May 6, 2011
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C onsistently getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s essential to your health. Insufficient sleep not only leaves you feeling tired and irritable but also weakens your immune system and puts you at risk for depression, weight gain and chronic headaches. To get the full health benefits of sleep, most adults should aim for at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.

Some people have trouble falling asleep. Others wake during the night. I often help patients determine the nature of their sleep problem—and what might help. See which sleep problem here matches your own—and try one natural solution at a time for up to two weeks. If the problem persists, try a second solution in combination with the first. (Don’t try three solutions at once.) Once you find the remedies that work for you, you can use them indefinitely. Before starting, check to make sure that your sleep problem is not caused by any prescription medication you might be taking.

Trouble Falling Asleep

If you have trouble falling asleep for any reason when you first go to bed, try...

Sublingual melatonin. Melatonin, the hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain, helps to control sleep and wake cycles. Sublingual melatonin supplements (lozenges placed under the tongue) generally work better than either capsules or tablets. Start with 1.5 milligrams (mg) of sublingual melatonin, 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. (If this doesn’t help within three nights, try 3 mg.) Do not take melatonin if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking oral contraceptives.

If you have trouble falling asleep because of anxiety, depression or stress, try...

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). The body uses this amino acid to manufacture the “good mood” neurotransmitter serotonin. Taking a 5-HTP supplement increases the body’s serotonin production, promoting a sense of well-being and better resistance to stress. Start with 100 mg one hour before bedtime. (If symptoms don’t improve within three nights, try 200 mg.) Don’t take 5-HTP if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking an antidepressant or antianxiety medication.

If 5-HTP doesn’t help and you need a more aggressive approach to combating anxiety and depression, add...

SedaLin. This formula, manufactured by Xymogen, can help relax the nervous system. (You can have your health-care provider order it at 800-647-6100, It contains Magnolia officinalis extract, from the bark of a type of magnolia tree, to relieve anxiety... and Ziziphus spinosa extract from the plant of the same name to treat irritability and insomnia. Take one capsule at bedtime for a minimum of two weeks to allow your stress hormone levels to adjust. (SedaLin also can be used on its own to relieve anxiety and nervousness during waking hours. Since its main role is to calm the nervous system, it won’t make you drowsy.) It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

If you are mineral deficient, try...

Calcium and/or magnesium. These supplements can help people who are deficient in these minerals (especially seniors) fall asleep by relaxing the nervous system. Take 500 mg of calcium with 250 mg of magnesium one hour before bedtime. Some people are helped by taking either the calcium or the magnesium alone. Find what works best for you.

If you are menopausal, try...

Natural progesterone. This bioidentical hormone (not to be confused with the pharmaceutical progestin) has a natural sedating effect for women with sleep problems related to low progesterone.

Best: Have your hormone levels tested. If progesterone is low, apply a total of one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of progesterone cream to the inner forearm and wrist or the inner thighs 30 minutes before bedtime. One over-the-counter brand to try: Emerita Pro-Gest (800-888-6041, For a stronger effect, take a progesterone capsule (100 mg to 150 mg), available by prescription.

Waking in the Night

If you have trouble getting back to sleep...

Eat a light snack before bedtime. Some people wake up in the night because their blood sugar dips, triggering the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline—exactly what you don’t want while sleeping. Solution: Eat a small snack before bedtime, such as six ounces of organic yogurt.

If you consistently wake up between midnight and 2 am, try...

Balancing stress hormones. Many people wake up in the wee hours and are unable to fall back to sleep quickly because of an imbalance in stress hormones. Adrenal support formulas, available at health-food stores and online, can help. (Follow directions on the label.) In addition, try...

Walking after dinner. Exercise of any kind decreases the production of stress hormones. Exercise as early as possible in the evening, at least three hours before bedtime.

Listening to relaxing music. One study showed that listening to relaxing music (such as classical) for 45 minutes before bedtime resulted in better quality and longer sleep.

If you consistently wake up between 2 am and 4 am, try...

Balancing other hormones. Waking between 2 am and 4 am can be related to hormone imbalances, including estrogen deficiency in menopausal women (note that this is a different sleep problem than that caused by progesterone deficiency described above)... testosterone deficiency in men age 50 and older... and/or growth hormone deficiency in people age 60 or older. Have your hormone levels tested—and if they are low, get a prescription for the appropriate bioidentical hormone.

Mark A. Stengler, NMD, is a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. Dr. Stengler is author of the Bottom Line Natural Healing newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books), founder and medical director of the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in Encinitas, California, and adjunct associate clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

Rate this Article:
58 ratings
rasheed says:
06/05/2011 08:17AM
sir, what is the best way natural/herbal medicine to get relaxed and for better sleep , .
Ana Solis says:
06/02/2011 10:05PM
I'm 43 and an insomniac. Bioidentical progesterone, 13 mg of Melatonin and 3 Valerian Root capsules a night have helped, but not enough. I also take Gabapentin (prescription). All of this to get 7 or 8 hours a night. I'm a mess! Help!
lisa hazelgrove says:
05/16/2011 11:22AM
I teach a class on sleep at a local college in Richmond Virginia. 8 years ago I could not sleep and I started looking into different modalities. The one that made the biggest improvement on my sleep was magnetic therapy. I now sleep 8 hours a night.
Sheku Kabba says:
05/14/2011 02:21PM
Where and how can I obtain these products?
nombuso says:
05/08/2011 09:46AM
plse e-mail me articles for every week. thanks nombuso
Pat Chalk says:
05/08/2011 01:01AM
If you awaken more than 1x during the night to urinate,see a physical therapist who specializes in incontinence and pelvic problems. They can help you determine what is the problem and ways to overcome it.
Caroline Stone says:
05/07/2011 10:11PM
Try Alteril, contains a combination of melatonin, Valerian and tryptophan, and works well. Doesn't require a prescription, and has no side or after effects. Also Valerian tea is helpful if you wake often. Also a glass of warm milk before bedtime.
lorraine jackson says:
05/07/2011 02:06PM
You did not mention Tryptophan. It has helped my go to sleep along with melatonin.I will try sublinqaul melatonin.I have a problem waking up around 3 or 4 am and not being able to go back to sleep. I have fibromyalgia which makes it difficult to sleep
Veronica Fierdich says:
05/07/2011 09:08AM
If you are into natural health why would you recommend a prescription or even an over the counter medicine? Either you ar or your aren't-- Blessings to you, Mickey Frierdich Colossians 3:23 Young Living Products
V says:
05/07/2011 08:54AM
<<<<<<<Have your hormone levels tested—and if they are low, get a prescription for the appropriate bioidentical hormone>>>>> Why would your recommend a prescription when there are sooooo many natural things to do? One being using a theraputic oil
CC Hamilton says:
05/07/2011 04:23AM
I take two capsules called Sleep Essentials which has a number of ingredients which produce a good nights rest. I also take L-Theanine and 2000 mg of Taurine which stops the mind chatter. I also do EFT and Reiki plus sometimes listening to music.
peter byers says:
05/07/2011 01:45AM
What is the point of leaving comments if you do not get any replies. Asking questions is a waste of time.
Ray Schnore says:
05/07/2011 12:36AM
Do not take melatonin if you have depression.
Charlene Procter says:
05/06/2011 11:25PM
I have not slept through the night for as long as I can remember,I wake at least 4to5 times every night with out fail, I am 63 years old, and it does get me down, can you please suggest something that I could take to help me sleep please. Thank You
Lewis Sustar says:
05/06/2011 08:40PM
I am 2oo points below the low on Testosterone for my age of 78. Is the bioidentical testosterone precription made up of natural components or chemicals? Thanks, Lewis
05/06/2011 07:40PM
Sounds very good, I am going to try 1 or more.
05/06/2011 07:33PM
finally something interesting and helpful
Rodney F. Adams says:
05/06/2011 07:26PM
I am a complete and total Insomniac and have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep.I do take 3Mg of Melatonin each night when I go to bed. Temazepam (30 Mg.) helps but I do wake up 3-4 hrs. later and have to take another one.
Shirley Rothstein says:
05/06/2011 06:49PM
As a senior citizen I go to the bathroom several times a night. So I go to bed early to compensate for loss of sleep. BUT - do I wake up because I have to go OR do I have to go because I wake up?
Imogene Burkhart says:
05/06/2011 06:39PM
thank you fore this site, my gradson gets maybe 3 to 4 hours of sleep every other night, so I'm praying this well help.

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