Confession – the last few weeks have been incredibly stressful and busy for our little family, and while my husband falls asleep after we turn off the light, guess what I do? I lay awake worrying about everything. Due to the lack of sleep, I have sort of turned into a zombie, and then for the first time in years I got the sore throat half my housemates have, and I got it bad.To give you some back story, I don’t really get colds often. My husband jokes that I have the immunity of a horse, but apparently not if I don’t get enough sleep. Before I introduce you a natural sleep remedy most of you already have in your kitchen, let me tell you what I’ve tried before.

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Valerian Root

This is an herb that appears to have a sedative/hypnotic effect on the brain and nervous system. While I love taking valerian root to calm me down if I am particularly anxious or stressed, it does tend to make me very sleepy. If I take it right before I go to bed, I’m out for the night but I wake up pretty groggy. This is a great remedy to take on weekends, while you are on vacation, or if you desperately need a good night sleep. Unfortunately, I can’t take it if I have to work early the next day. My job is in customer service so I have to be bright and cheery and present. Groggy doesn’t cut it especially since I don’t do caffeine.

Magnesium Supplementation

Magnesium oil is a concentrated transdermal magnesium mineral supplement. It is highly absorbable in the oil form and acts as a muscle relaxant. Although some people experience intense tingling or itching after they spray it on their skin, I did not have this particular side effect. It worked great for me, at least for a little while, and then I began experiencing frequent sleep paralysis and intense vivid dreams All NIGHT LONG. I would actually wake up exhausted. My husband used this remedy to help relax his tense back muscles before going to bed, and did not experience any sleep paralysis. However, he did have a lot of vivid dreams and had a hard time waking up in the morning. I still use this as a way to supplement with magnesium, but I only do one spray a few times a week, which is too small of an amount to put me to sleep.

Another magnesium supplement I used is Calcium-magnesium powder (CalMag / CALM) an effervescent powder made of magnesium and calcium. Why both? Because they are fundamental nutrients that need to be in balance with each other to be effective. Calcium makes muscles contract and magnesium helps muscles relax. Again, I love this supplement and I have had a slowly depleting bottle on my night stand. But I have had a similar experience with this supplement as I did with magnesium spray – occasional sleep paralysis, but mostly very vivid dreaming.

Herbal Tea

I drink chamomile, ginger, oat straw, kava kava, passion flower, and lemon balm, etc teas and they do help me relax quite a bit, but if I am really stressed they don’t do much. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy every single sip. They are all delicious and incredibly soothing, just not especially potent. I still highly recommend them, and who knows, they might do the trick for you!

Melatonin

I am not a fan. I took melatonin in the past and it didn’t help me at all. One night I was so desperate for some sleep that I took two before bed at 10pm, then two at 2am, and then another two at 5am, and nada. I was wide awake. In fact I’m pretty sure it made my insomnia worse. Conversely, about a month ago my husband took two melatonin pills when he was sick and he was out like a light, unlike me. In fact he was in such a state of stupefied sleep that he… ahem… wet the bed. Don’t worry, he is OK with sharing this because he wants other people to know what they might be getting into. It’s funny in retrospect, but believe him, it’s no fun to wake up with wet sheets in the middle of the night when there’s no parents around to make it right. I found this article on melatonin by Butter Believer fascinating. She explains that “Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body, but just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean that taking the hormone as a supplement is a good idea!” I have to admit I agree. Supplementing with melatonin caused rather alarming reactions in both me and my husband. I am not very comfortable supplementing directly with sleep hormones.

What works for me!

Recently, during a zombification bout, my mother called on Skype. Honestly, I didn’t want to talk to her; she has so much positive energy and I really just wanted to feel sorry for myself! But you can’t ignore your mother for very long. They never give up! So I finally took the call and we chatted for a while. Of course she got me to tell her all the reasons I was stressed, and my sleep deprivation saga.  I felt the most comfortable complaining about my lack of sleep to my mom, since she has had sleep issues all her life.

“Oh, I don’t struggle with that anymore. Didn’t I tell you that already? I sleep like a log every night.”

“Ummm, no mom you haven’t actually.” I answer kind of irritated with her cheery tone and positive attitude.

“Ha! Well I know you wont believe me since you are doing all that sciency nutrition stuff, but its raw honey. Raw honey helps me go to sleep immediately.”

“Really? You’re trying to tell me that glucose puts you to sleep…”

“See that’s why I didn’t tell you! Yes, but its not really sugar. Its raw honey from our neighbor’s bees – it’s not filtered or heated. I just mix it in a glass of warm water and drink it before bed. You should try it sweetie – you look terrible.”

“Thanks mom.”

Of course I didn’t try it. I mean come on, since when do children listen to their parents. But when I got sick recently, with this terrible, irritating sore throat, the only remedy that gave me some relief was… raw, unfiltered honey. Gently melted into a mug of herbal tea, when drank, soothingly coats the inside of my throat. Well, guess what happened next, despite my stress and sickness? I started falling asleep right away, and sleeping better all night long, with no crazy dreams, sleep paralysis, or grogginess the next day.

I did some research to figure out why honey was helping. I came across this book The Honey Revolution.

During sleep when there is not enough liver glycogen to fuel the brain our adrenal glands release adrenalin and cortisol, and muscle protein is broken down for the liver to make sugar, adding stress to the kidneys. Honey consumed before bedtime ensures and adequate store of liver glycogen for the brain and prevents the release of stress hormones. It also contributes to the release of melatonin which inhibits the release of insulin, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and helps enhance immunity and rebuilt tissues during sleep. Source

Makes sense to me. Barring a special condition of some kind, my body ought to be producing the hormones it needs to fall into regenerative sleep. Blood sugar though – my body needs my help with that one!

I also ran across some lively discussion on this topic. I especially enjoyed reading Seth Roberts’  reasoning in this article, Does Bedtime Honey Improve Sleep? Nine Reasons to Think So.

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Yes the teaspoon in this picture has my nightly dose of honey. The reasons it looks weird is because we bought honey that also contains pollen, propolis and honeycomb:)

Careful Though

If you are struggling with sleep I encourage you to give this theory a shot. But keep in mind this WON’T work if:

1. The honey is low quality, filtered, and pasteurized. Find a local apiary or trusted supplier and buy some delicious honeycomb or raw unfiltered honey from them.

2. You pour you raw honey in a cup of hot water. Raw honey has over 100 different compounds, including invaluable enzymes, which are very sensitive to heat. Mix your honey into a cup of water just warm enough to melt it. If it doesn’t dissolve immediately, give it minute!

3. You’ve already had an extra large share of desserts for the day. Been there, done that – not fun. If your body has too much sugar to process, you will be detoxing all night. A teaspoon of valuable honey will only worsen the problem.

Conclusion

This may not work for everyone, but it is worth a shot. Some people get results with this, and some have health issues that honey can’t fix. Like most of the information above, my success with honey is based largely on individual experience. I’m inclined to think it’s a reasonable solution to real needs that my body has based on the arguments explained above, but no one knows your body better than you do. So if you are having trouble sleeping, try this remedy, but pay close attention to how you feel, and if you don’t get results, move on until you find what works for you. Oh, and let me know what it is! In fact you should check out the book  The Sleep Solution  by Emily Benfit for some more information and new ideas to tackle the sleep problem.

P.S. I don’t know why I doubt my mother’s empirical observations. Mothers know everything; how they intuit all these things I have no idea, but it’s awesome!

 

This post is featured on Allergy Free Wednesday