- 1. Tart cherry juice concentrate
- 2. Flex your toes
- 3. Inhaling through your left nostril
- 4. Simulate the sunset
- 5. If you have a rocking chair or hammock…
- 6. Humming
- 7. More melatonin pill alternatives
- 8. Write down your problems
- 9. In your mind, narrate an impromptu story
- 10. Trick your mind with a sleep trigger
They’re all honest tips – but for some reason – you still can’t sleep! There has to be something, some other variable that keeps you from that much needed shut-eye, even when you’re utterly exhausted.
And no, Ambien and Lunesta are not the solution, either. How about some new tips for how you can fall asleep naturally without pills?
Well here are the latest research backed techniques worth trying.
1. Tart cherry juice concentrate
Upon first impression, drinking juice before bed may sound like an awful idea.
Why on earth would you won’t to consume juice before bed? Wouldn’t that spike your blood sugar and wake you up instead?!
Turns out, there was a compelling clinical trial a few years ago that wanted to find out whether tart cherry juice affected a person’s natural melatonin levels and sleep quality (1). It was a double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study involving 20 people. Each was given tart cherry juice concentrate or a placebo version (something like a Kool-Aid) for 7 days.
Results? “Total melatonin content was significantly elevated” for the group getting juice. Meanwhile the placebo group experienced no difference.
So pick up some tart cherry juice concentrate and see if it helps you fall asleep faster. Since one serving – 2 tablespoons – does still have 15 grams of sugar, it may best to take it an hour before crawling into bed, so your blood sugar has time to fall back down.
And make sure you buy the tart cherry juice concentrate, because sweet cherry actually has 50 times less melatonin.
Sweet cherries have 50 times less melatonin than tart ones; dried cherries appear to have none.
2. Flex your toes
Like juice, physical movements sound counter-intuitive. But research backs this up.
Known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation for insomnia, it’s actually been around for almost 100 years. The idea is that you tense a specific group of muscles, then release and repeat.
It’s used throughout the body but many researchers suggest focusing on the toes (2):
Step 1: Lay down on your back and close your eyes
Step 2: Pull all 10 of your toes back towards your face (like the photo, pulling as far back as you can go)
Step 3: After slowly counting to 10, relax.
Step 4: Slowly count to 10 again.
Step 5: Repeat the cycle 10x.
The idea is that in doing so, you draw tension away from your body.
3. Inhaling through your left nostril
Another tip that sounds strange, yet it works for many. This natural way comes from yoga.
Peter Smith is a London-based holistic medical consultant with 25+ years of experience in the field. In his book “Sleep Better With Natural Therapies” he instructs you to (3):
“Lie on your left side, resting a finger on your right nostril to close it. Start slow, deep breathing in the left nostril.”
4. Simulate the sunset
Our bodies naturally produce melatonin when we are exposed to the dark (4).
Of course that worked great back in the days before electricity, but not now! You’re probably watching TV, reading by lamplight, or checking Instagram (hopefully ours) on your phone before bed.
Rather than forcing ourselves to sit in the dark doing nothing every evening (as our ancestors did), we can get creative and simulate dusk.
Try turning off the lights in your house and only use the moonlight that comes through your window to see. If you’re on your phone or computer, try dimming the brightness as much as you can. Also try wearing sunglasses while you watch TV.
Reducing these various light sources will help your brain realize that it’s night time and switch into sleep-mode.
5. If you have a rocking chair or hammock…
…try this. If you don’t have one, you may want one after reading this!
Ever wonder why babies fall asleep so easily when rocked? Although not proven, it is theorized that babies feel a sense of comfort from the motion because it reminds them of the rocking they felt while in their mother’s womb. The rocking comes from the mother’s footsteps.
Guess what? This sense of ease from rocking doesn’t diminish with age, and adults can fall into a trance more easily with this natural method (5). Preferably you have a rocking chair to do this, or better yet, a big plush La-Z-Boy recliner, but even a comfy computer chair might do the job.
Unlike some other tips – which may only help some people and not others – many believe this method is the best way to fall asleep fast and naturally. Why? Because all of us are pre-inclined to find the gentle and repetitious rocking motion comforting, since it was wired into our brains before we were even born.
No, we’re not talking about the bird, but rather the act of you humming to yourself while in bed.
It’s another yoga tip, a breathing technique known as brahmari (which means “bee” in Sanskrit).
Step 1: Lay down into your comfortable sleeping position with your eyes closed
Step 2: Deeply and fully inhale, making a low to medium pitched humming sound the entire time
Step 3: Exhale
Step 4: Repeat for 6 rounds
Step 5: Return to your normal breathing. Your body should feel less stressed and more relaxed.
7. More melatonin pill alternatives
The amino acid tryptophan helps produce serotonin and melatonin naturally in your body.
Every November like clock work, we hear so-called “news reports” about why this is the reason everyone wants to take a nap after eating a turkey on Thanksgiving.
Shut up already, newsman! Not only have we heard that factoid fifty times before, it’s also deceptive. Sure, tryptophan is in turkey, but not much relative to other foods. There’s a good chance you’re consuming more of it on other days, from other foods.
According to SELF Nutrition Data, turkey doesn’t even make the cut for the top 100 foods highest in tryptophan (6). It’s way down there at number 194!
Rather than get 350mg per 100 grams of turkey, you can get almost three times the amount from soy protein isolate (1116 mg). There’s sesame seed flour with 1097 mg, spirulina with 929 mg, and chia seeds with 721 mg. Skip medicating on melatonin pills and try any of these instead.
8. Write down your problems
The American Psychological Association has recommended this tip as a natural method to help you fall asleep at night (7).
Most of us are guilty of laying awake in bed pondering whatever is out of order in our lives. This can manifest itself as a lengthy to-do list, or worrying about different issues and scheming of ways to fix it.
You’re never going to fall asleep with that stuff in your head.
Take out a pad of paper (not your phone or tablet), and write down exactly what’s worrying you (or your lengthy to-do list). Maybe even write down a few possible solutions. Be thorough and detailed. Take the pad and put it in a drawer, preferably outside of the bedroom.
9. In your mind, narrate an impromptu story
For those of you who are actually skilled storytellers, this one might not work.
But for the rest of us, coming up with an interesting plot idea and developing characters can be a drag.
Focus your mind on the story and where it’s going, and narrate it in your head. Unless you’re in line for a Pulitzer, the story will be dull, the task will feel like tedious homework, and your brain will want to give up on it. That’s about the time you’ll start feeling drowsy.
10. Trick your mind with a sleep trigger
This won’t work on the first night. But by making it a habit, you can play this peculiar trick on your mind.
How does your body know when to fall asleep and when not to? Part of it is what your mind associates with your sleeping pattern.
We already talked about the trigger of darkness, something your brain associates with night time and sleep. But there are other triggers to – ranging from your own bed and pillow – to various procedures and other things you regularly do before going to bed. In fact, the very act of taking medication to sleep is a psychological trigger, which is why placebo (fake) Ambien has been shown to help people fall asleep and stay asleep for this very reason (8).
Obviously, tricking yourself with fake medication isn’t feasible, but there are other triggers you can use to train you mind to associate them with your nightly hibernation.
One such trigger you can create is by picking a strange an unique action – such as stroking the side of your cheek – as you’re entering your slumber each night. This method was recommended by the UK-based hypnotherapist Sharon Stiles.
Since that’s a unique action you don’t do any other time throughout the day, after repeatedly doing it each night, your mind will begin to associate that act with falling asleep. You can then use it as a trigger to doze off faster, even when you don’t feel tired.