Natural Remedies for Sleep Aids

You spend almost a third of your life asleep, so it is very important that you try to get the best sleep that you can. This is especially true if you are living with a pain condition like low back pain, plantar fasciitis or arthritis. Sleep is very important in healing the body, so getting enough restful sleep is essential for your recovery.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep if you have a pain condition.  Not only is there the potential for a pain flare-up that can disrupt sleep, but many pain sufferers also struggle with anxiety that can contribute to insomnia.

Many people with sleep difficulties turn to powerful sleep medications to improve their nocturnal rest, but many of these have unpleasant side effects. It is easy to become dependent on some of these, and others may actually disrupt sleep if taken for extended periods. That is why many chronic pain sufferers are turning to natural sleep aids that can promote restful sleep, often without harsh side effects.

Although natural sleep remedies may not produce severe side effects in most people, they are still drugs with potentially serious complications. Prior to using any chemical compound, natural or artificial, discuss it with your physician first. Your doctor can alert you to any potential risks or complications involving any medications you are currently on.


If you have looked into natural sleep remedies, you have probably heard of melatonin which is a hormone that your body produces. This hormone is a key factor in signaling your brain to fall asleep. Melatonin levels naturally rise at night and fall in the day.

Melatonin is a popular sleep aid among off-cycle professionals who have to work at night because it is so effective at resetting the sleep rhythm. There are also some studies that suggest that melatonin can shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep while lengthening the total sleep time.

If you decide to try melatonin, you should take from 3 to 10 milligrams prior to going to bed. In general, melatonin appears to be safe for use over extended periods of time, but you should discuss their use with your doctor beforehand.


Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in regulating melatonin production, and some studies show that taking magnesium can relax muscles and induce sleep. In fact, one study found that a combination of magnesium, melatonin and vitamin B could alleviate insomnia regardless of the cause.

Research suggests that many cases of insomnia may be linked to magnesium deficiency, and taking magnesium supplements can make you more calm and prone to sleep. One study involving 45 patients who took 500 mg of magnesium for eight weeks, found they had better sleep than those who took a placebo.


The lavender flower produces a soothing fragrance that many people use to fall asleep and sleep more restfully.  Lavender oil used prior to bedtime is especially effective for people with mild insomnia, females and younger people.

This may be a good solution for people with anxiety. A study of 221 people with an anxiety disorder were asked to take 80 mg of lavender oil daily found that after 10 weeks there was a 14 to 24 percent increase in quality and duration of sleep.

If you decide to try lavender, it is recommended that you use it as aromatherapy rather than an ingested supplement. Lavender pills can cause nausea or stomach pain in some people.


The amino acid glycine is vital for the nervous system and may be important in sleep. It is believed that glycine helps lower body temperature at night, priming the body for sleep.

One 2006 study found that people who took 3 grams of glycine prior to bedtime had more restful sleep than those who took a placebo. They reported feeling less fatigued, more energetic and better able to concentrate.

It has also been shown that glycine allows users to fall asleep more quickly. Glycine may also boost daytime performance among those who are suffering from sleep deprivation.

You can find glycine as a supplement or you can adjust your diet to include glycine-rich foods like

  • Meat, eggs, poultry or fish
  • Spinach, kale, or cabbage
  • Beans
  • Bananas or kiwis

Valerian Root

Valerian is an herb commonly used to treat anxiety, depression and menopause, but it has shown some sleep benefits as well.  There is conflicting evidence about the efficacy of valerian as a sleep aid with some older studies concluding that sleep quality improved with valerian use, while other studies were inconclusive.

Despite the uncertainty about this herbal remedy, you may want to try valerian root, just in case it proves efficacious for you. In most cases, valerian root is safe for adults and children, but you should consult with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or lactating.


If you have eaten a heavy Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, you have probably experienced the effects of tryptophan.  Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays a very important role in inducing sleep. Animal studies show that loss of serotonin will cause total insomnia.

It is not possible to find tryptophan as a supplement because some people can develop a potentially fatal condition known as eosinophilia myalgia syndrome. However, you can include foods that are high in tryptophan in your diet, including

  • Turkey
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Eggs

You may also boost serotonin levels in your brain by eating large amounts of carbohydrates.


For centuries, people have used chamomile tea to relax and fall asleep. There is little solid scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of chamomile as a sleep aid, but that shouldn’t prevent you from at least trying it.

Most people do not experience any side effects from chamomile tea, but in isolated instances, some people feel nausea or dizziness. You should avoid chamomile, if you have allergies to ragweed, marigolds or daisies.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.