The Essential Guide to Sleeping Aids
The Purpose of This Guide
Do you wake up frequently throughout the night and find yourself feeling unrefreshed in the morning? If so, this guide is for you.
The obvious things you need to get to sleep include a comfortable mattress, soft sheets, and a cosy blanket. Your lifestyle, routine, and bedroom environment also play a huge role in sleep. However, even with the comfiest mattress, many of us need extra help to reach dreamland in the form of an eye mask, earplugs, or essential oils.
In this essential guide, you'll find out about some of the best sleep aids.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Sleep is essential for optimal health and well-being! It supports great physical energy, immunity, libido, productivity, mood, and concentration. When you're asleep, your body and mind get a chance to rest, repair, and regenerate. Sleep allows you to process emotions, store memories, and prepare to thrive in your daily life.
Most of us need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night – but this often feels unattainable. Research suggests 51% of people in the UK do not get enough good quality sleep! Interestingly, more women than men tend to struggle with disrupted sleep (1). Unfortunately, chronic lack of sleep has a devastating ripple effect on all areas of your health; it's been linked to heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, and depression (2).
Here is our essential guide to sleeping aids that deserve a place in your bedtime routine.
Eye Pads and Sleep Masks
A soft, well-fitting eye pad or sleep mask takes the top spot on our list of sleep aids. Eye masks block out light pollution that may creep in from clocks, screens, lamps, street lights, and cars.
Artificial light – especially the bright blue light spectrum from room lighting and screens – is one of the biggest culprits behind disrupted sleep. It confuses your circadian rhythm, making the body think it is daytime and suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin (3).
Eye masks and therapeutic eye pillows help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. They're especially useful when travelling and during the summer months when the sun rises well before you're ready to wake up!
For optimal sleep, your bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet! Noise pollution can be a major problem when it comes to sleeping through the night. Earplugs are the perfect accessory for light sleepers. When used alongside an eye mask, earplugs improve sleep in those who don't have control over their environment (4).
There are several earplugs to choose from, but you want a soft pair that moulds to your ear shape and blocks out enough ambient sound. They're ideal if you have a snoring partner or a neighbour who likes to host parties!
A spritz or two of pillow spray, sometimes known as sleep spray, on your pillow and blanket is a must-have before bed every night. It's a dreamy blend of calming essential oils and other natural ingredients designed to soothe your mind so you can catch some zzz's.
Some of the most popular essential oils used in pillow sprays include lavender, rosemary, neroli, clary sage, chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood, and jasmine. These are relaxing scents that help to create an association in your brain that it's time to drift off.
If you are battling insomnia night after night, perhaps you're tempted to try over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills. Unfortunately, these come with awful side effects and can be habit-forming. They may even lead to rebound insomnia if you stop the medication cold-turkey! The good news is, there are a variety of natural sleep supplements available over-the-counter that won't make you feel like a zombie the next day.
Valerian: This is a calming herbal extract that's been used in folk medicine throughout history as a natural sleep aid, anti-anxiety treatment, and sedative agent. Often known as 'nature’s Valium', it targets levels of the calming brain chemical GABA, helping you to fall asleep faster.
This herb can be taken in tea or capsule form about an hour before bedtime.
Magnesium: An essential nutrient in the body, magnesium is a calming mineral that's essential for muscle relaxation, melatonin production, and good sleep. Research suggests magnesium may be particularly good for increasing slow-wave sleep, the restorative stage of sleep that declines with age (5).
5-HTP: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a natural precursor to the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin as well as melatonin necessary for balancing the circadian rhythm and promoting sleep (6). It may help you to fall asleep, especially if anxiety is keeping you awake.
A warm cup of herbal tea is soothing for mind and body and makes the perfect addition to your bedtime routine! Plus, many teas including some Chinese teas contain active compounds with natural sedating and calmative effects that encourage restful sleep.
Some of the best bedtime teas include chamomile, valerian, passionflower, and lemon balm. If you're using the loose herb, place 1 teaspoon in a tea strainer and let it brew in a hot cup of water for 5-10 minutes. Add a teaspoon of honey and enjoy! Just make sure you avoid Ceylon tea, which contains caffeine that disrupts sleep.
Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Diffusers
Essential oils are potent plant compounds that, in addition to making your space smell heavenly, create a relaxing environment that's great for sleep. The aroma molecules bind to receptors in the nose and send calming messages to the limbic system in the brain. Lavender essential oil, in particular, has been shown to promote time spent in the reparative, slow-wave stage of sleep (7).
The best way to get the benefits of these volatile plant oils is by diffusing them in your bedroom before bed or massaging them topically onto your skin (when diluted in a carrier oil).
Try this recipe:
Sprinkle 2 drops of lavender oil, 2 drops of chamomile oil, and 1 drop of frankincense oil into 100 ml of pure water in an oil diffuser. Let it run for 30 minutes before bed as you wind down. Diffusers also double as humidifiers as they add moisture into the air, which supports easy breathing and may relieve chapped lips in winter.
Last but not least, dressing gowns can be great for helping you wind down and relax which is important to fall and remain asleep. We have a separate guide on choosing the right dressing gown for you.
So There We Go…
We hope this essential guide helps you get the rest you deserve!
In summary, these are the sleeping aids that help to promote restorative sleep:
- Eye pads and eye masks
- Pillow spray
- Natural sleep supplements
- Herbal tea
- Aromatherapy and essential oil diffusers
- Dressing gowns
Wishing you sweet dreams!