Ditch the Melatonin and Sleep Aids for These 11 Herbs That Promote Better Sleep Naturally

Sleep is so medicinal to overall health and wellness. For many, modern lifestyles have placed havoc on our ability to hold a consistent sleep schedule. According to the Center for Disease Control about one third of the American population isn’t getting adequate sleep. In 2016 they reported around 70 million Americans suffer from sleeping disorders like insomnia. The risks of inadequate sleep reach far beyond lack of energy throughout the day. Prolonged lack of sleep increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease, and obesity.

It can be tempting to reach for an over the counter sleep aid or supplement like melatonin when you’re frustrated from lack of sleep. Though sleep aids are marketed as a non addictive option for better sleep they should never be used long term. These pills often contain Diphenhydramine or Doxylamine Succinate, both of which the body can quickly become dependent on- making it even harder to fall asleep once you stop taking them. Over the counter sleeping pills also cause a sleep hangover, leaving you groggy and tired the following day. If the goal is to feel more energized through the day these pills are only being counter productive.

Melatonin is a hormone that’s naturally produced in the pineal gland and released through the bloodstream to inhibit sleep. Darkness triggers the natural production of melatonin in the body- light stops this production. It’s easy to see why many of us have such a hard time falling asleep naturally. The light from our phones, televisions, and overly lit homes at night are disrupting sleep hormone production.

Melatonin supplements might seem like a healthy fix since your body already produces it right? Not exactly. While the supplement is safe for short term use, long term use can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and interactions with prescription drugs. It can also interfere with your body’s ability to produce melatonin naturally. Your body becomes dependent on the daily dose of melatonin supplements making natural production harder once you try to stop using them for sleep.

Herbal remedies can be a much safer and effective long term remedy for sleep. Many of these methods have been used for centuries as ancient medicine. Before starting an herbal remedy it’s important speak with your health care professional, as some herbs can interfere with certain prescriptions. It’s also important to choose high quality products with safe and organic growing/ processing practices.

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This beautiful purple flower helps ease the body into sleep and reduce anxiety. If over thinking and anxiety are what’s keeping you from falling asleep at night passionflower might be the best sleep time remedy. Passionflower helps boost gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a compound that helps to trigger relaxation by lowering brain activity.

How to Use: Try dried passionflower and honey for a calming herbal tea, or a few drops of passionflower extract on your tongue an hour before bed

Valerian Root

Valerian root has been referred to as nature’s Valium due to it’s calming effects for those who suffer from sleep and anxiety disorders. The root of this perennial flower has been used for centuries as an insomnia remedy.

How to Use: Take a few drops of Valerian Root Extract before bed, sip on an herbal tea blended with valerian root like this one that also contains chamomile and lavender


This dainty white flower is considered a mild natural tranquilizer. Chamomile contains the chemical compound apigenin which binds to GABA receptors in the brain much like prescription anxiety medication. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea thirty minutes to an hour before bed helps to induce sleep.

How to Use: Dried chamomile is the perfect caffeine free herbal tea to help wind down. Diffuse chamomile essential oil close to bedtime or try lavender chamomile oil in a warm bath.

California Poppy

The state flower of California has been shown to enhance sleep, reduce pain, and decrease anxiety. California Poppy flowers contain alkaloids that attach to receptors in the brain to induce slightly sedative effects throughout the central nervous system.


The calming effects of lavender have been shown to relax the nerves and stabilize moods while acting as a light sedative. The volatile terpenes in lavender give the herb it’s strong aroma and help the central nervous system moderate GABA, dopamine and acetylcholine to improve sleep and cognitive function.

How to Use: Diffuse lavender essential oil in your space an hour before bed, or add a few drops to your bath.

Holy Basil

Holy basil is a sacred plant from India and is considered to be the queen of herbs. The plant has been used for thousands of years to reduce stress and restore natural sleep cycles by calming down the overactive mind. Holy basil is one of many adaptogenic herbs that helps the body better handle stress on a physical and mental level.

How to Use: The most common way to use Holy Basil is by consuming tulsi tea.

Lemon Balm

This lemon scented herb, also known as bee balm or honey balm, is actually a member of the mint family. Lemon balm has been used medicinally for over two thousand years to help aid digestion, relieve headaches, manage anxiety, and improve sleep. Like most other herbs in this post, lemon balm increases the levels of GABA to calm the body and mind making it easier to fall asleep.

Lemon balm is one of the easiest herbs to grow for beginner gardeners. It can even be grown in containers for easy small space harvesting.

How to Use: Lemon balm is most often consumed as an herbal tea but can also be taken in the form of a liquid supplement. The leaves can be harvested and dried for a DIY wellness tea.

Hops Flowers

Yes, like the beer. The hops flower is what’s used to add a somewhat bitter yet flavorful element to craft beer. Years ago, Europeans began to notice that field works who harvested hops fell asleep on the job much more often than those with similar occupations. This resulted in studies conducted on the sedative properties of the herb.

How to Use: Hops are often consumed with valerian to induce sleep as they are very similar and work well together in reducing sleep disorders. Taking an herbal supplement like this one containing hops, valerian root, and chamomile an hour before bed can help.

Ashwagandha Leaf

Ashwagandha is another adaptogen which helps the body handle stress much easier after extended use. The root of ashwagandha is commonly used in ayervedic medicine, but researchers are now studying the use of the leaves to effectively promote healthy sleep. The University of Tsukuba in Japan found ashwagandha leaves promoted non-rapid eye movement sleep. Non-REM sleep is shown to be much more restorative for the brain as it uses significantly lower levels of energy compared to REM sleep stages.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort is a great herb to keep in your medicine cabinet for more than it’s natural sleep aid benefits. The plant has been used for centuries to help heal viral infections, PMS, menopausal symptoms, depression, anxiety, and to help quit the habit of smoking. Active compounds hypericin and hyperforin are shown to help promote more restful sleep by working with specific neurotransmitters.

How to Use: St. John’s wort is most commonly used by taking a daily supplement in pill form though there are liquid variations of the herb.

Wild Lettuce

This powerful herb is commonly used as a natural muscle relaxer and mild sedative earning it the name lettuce opium. It can often be found growing wild in many parts of Central and North America where most people refer to it as a common yard weed.

How to Use: Wild lettuce can be consumed in the form of herbal tea or supplements.

Sleep is one of the most medicinal and restorative things we can do to maintain wellness. Taking the time to cultivate proper sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to maintain healthy sleep. Remember to research and speak with your medical practitioner before starting any natural treatments as some herbs can interfere with certain medications.

If you’re having trouble fighting fatigue throughout the day read my previous post 6 Reasons Why You Might Be Feeling Tired All The Time

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