Sleeping is essential for the well-being of the body and mind. However, in some particularly stressful situations it may happen that sleep loses quality, it is more difficult to fall asleep and frequent awakenings do not make it a restful sleep. As always, nature could be a help. We will therefore see in this article the best essential oils, herbal teas and natural remedies that can help you sleep better. Not only that, even the dietary choices, as we will see, may play a role.
Some essential oils, more than others, can help improve sleep quality. A scientific study has observed that pouring a mixture of lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang essential oils on a cotton pad or on a handkerchief that should be kept close to the pillow allowed the participants to experience a more restful sleeps, not interrupted and with less night awakenings (McDonnell et al, J Altern Complement Med, 2019). But even lavender essential oil alone, inhaled from a handkerchief placed close to the pillow or diffused in the room, is able to improve the quality of sleep by calming anxieties and fears at the basis of possible sleeping disorders (Ozkaraman et al, Clin J Oncol Nurs, 2018).
Herbal teas and natural remedies
Valerian, valeriana officinalis, has been shown to improve sleep quality by counteracting non-restorative sleep and insomnia (Bent et al, Am J Med, 2015). You can find valerian root, in herbal medicine and online, in the form of powder or pieces. Bring a cup of water to a boil, then remove from the heat and add a teaspoon of valerian, let it brew for ten minutes, then filter and drink before going to bed.
Alternatively, you can also find valerian in the form of tablets or mother tincture, in this case you can take 15 to 30 drops in a little water in the evening. In any case, always ask your doctor for advice before starting a valerian treatment and do not use the remedy for long periods as side effects such as palpitations, stomach problems or headaches may occur. But to counteract insomnia and sleep disturbances, especially if linked to states of anxiety and worries, you can also use hop, chamomile or linden herbal teas (Romero et al, Nat Sci Sleep, 2017). For hops and linden, bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from the heat and infuse a spoonful of plant, let it brew for ten minutes then filter and drink.
As for chamomile, bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from the heat and add a teaspoon of plant. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then filter and drink.
Dietary choices may also influence sleep quality. Scientific studies have observed that diets that include processed and refined foods in large quantities can disrupt sleep quality. The quality of sleep is measurable, in fact, scientists are able to evaluate the duration of particular phases that occur when we sleep, such as the SWS phase, or slow wave sleep, which is deep sleep characterized by a restorative function, and REM, or rapid eye movement, which, together with SWS, acts to consolidate memory, but also how long it has been since we went to bed and when we actually fell asleep, or how long we stayed in bed sleeping (St-Onge et al, Adv Nutr, 2016 ). But also the glycemic index of food and the time at which you eat play a role. In fact, it has been observed that consuming a meal with both low and high glycemic index one hour before bedtime has prolonged the time taken by the volunteers to fall asleep compared to a meal eaten 4 hours before (St-Onge et al, Adv Nutr, 2016). Fatty fish, like salmon, would also have a protective role on sleep quality thanks to its intake of vitamin D. Not to mention the consumption of fruit, in particular kiwifruit. In fact, 2 kiwi fruits eaten 1 hour before sleeping for 4 weeks have reduced the time taken to fall asleep and prolonged the time spent in bed asleep. Tart cherries and cherries, thanks to their melatonin content have also shown to improve sleep quality. The same effect has been obtained by adhering to Mediterranean diet. Instead, drinking energizing and sugar-sweetened drinks, as well as skipping breakfast and eating at different times has shown a negative impact on sleep (St-Onge et al, Adv Nutr, 2016).