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10 Natural Sleep Aids That Actually Work

By Sara Novak

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an astonishing one in three Americans do not get enough sleep, which is considered by the agency to be at least 7 hours of rest nightly. A number of sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome all impact sleep, but most people are just having trouble getting to sleep and staying that way. 

Table Of Contents

Why is Sleep Important?:

why is sleep important

You might not realize how important something as simple as sleep is to your overall health. It is critical for your physical health and mental wellbeing. Your brain is actually working hard while you sleep, helping to build new pathways to prepare for the day ahead. It is part of the reason that sleep is so crucial to mental functioning including memory, decision-making skills, emotions, and dealing with change. Getting your zzz’s is also key to the next day’s performance. Whether it is your morning workout, at work or at play, you need sleep to be your best.

Learn More: The Last Guide You'll Ever Need For Sleep (How To Get A Perfect Night Of Sleep)

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?:

what happens when you don't get enough sleep?

Sleep is important to all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Those that do not get enough sleep often have trouble sticking to a healthy diet and they are less likely to workout, not mention how a lack of sleep impacts mental health. Sleeplessness is also tied to an increase in anxiety and depression. Overtime, those that do not get enough sleep are more likely to be obese and suffer from any number of chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and depression. They are also more likely to make mistakes at work and get into car accidents. The bottom line is that being a zombie day-in and day-out is never a good thing. 

Why People Have Trouble Sleeping

why people have trouble sleeping

Sleep can be caused by any number of issues including: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Excessive caffeine
  • Poor diet
  • Sleep apnea
  • Other sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy 
  • Alcohol
  • Busy work schedules 
  • Children not sleeping   

Tips For Getting to Sleep at Night:

tips for better sleep

  • Get into a routine 
  • Avoid naps longer than 30 minutes
  • Avoid large meals before bed
  • Exercise daily but avoid exercise less than two hours before bedtime
  • Avoid going to bed before you are tired
  • If you have trouble getting to sleep, get back out of bed and do a relaxing, non-screen related activity like reading, meditation, journaling, or stretching

10 Natural Sleep Aids That Work:

If you are one of the 77 million Americans that constantly has troubling getting to sleep or staying asleep, these natural sleep aids can help without drowsiness or other side effects.

1. L-theanine


L-theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found in green tea. Newer research has shown that it is one of the ingredients that makes green tea so healthy. Known for its range of positive health benefits, l-theanine also improves sleep quality, mood, and mental health. A review in Food Science and Nutrition found that it likely has a positive impact on sleep quality. Another study published in the journal of the American College of Nutrition “supports the use of l-theanine as a safe natural aid for [an] improvement in sleep quality in all age groups.”  

2. Evodia 


Evodia is a dried fruit from a tree native to China. It has been shown to help with sleep in rodents that have disturbed sleep due to caffeine intake. A study published in the journal Biomolecules and Therapeutics found that evodia improved sleep and reduced sleep disturbances in mice who had been given caffeine. 

3. Lemon balm

lemon balm

Lemon balm is an herb that is native to central Europe and parts of the Middle East. Also known as Melissa officinalis, it was used across Europe throughout the Middle Ages to cure a host of ailments. When paired with valerian root, it has been shown to be a potent natural sleep aid. A study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that these two natural sleep aids “may assist in reducing symptoms of sleep disorder during menopause.” A review published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology investigated the research that has thus far been done on lemon balm and found that it shows promise as a natural “sedative”. 

Read More: The Low Cortisol Lifestyle | UMZU's Guide To Fighting Stress

4. Magnesium 


Half of the magnesium found in the body is in the bones and many of us are deficient in said magnesium. Magnesium is among the most well known of the natural sleep aids listed. A study published in the International Journal of Pharmcological Compounding found that deficiencies in magnesium were linked to hypertension, arrhythmias, diabetes, osteoporosis, migraines, premature ejaculation, premenstrual syndrome, and insomnia. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that long term magnesium intake could potentially be helpful to women with sleep disorders. 

5. Valerian Root

valerian root

Valerian root is an herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It was used medicinally in ancient Greece and Rome. Prescribed for insomnia for centuries, it was even mentioned by Hippocrates. Research published in the American Journal of Medicine reviewed the research surrounding valerian root and sleep, finding that while valerian root likely positively impacted sleep, many of the studies had small sample sizes and were poorly designed. The review also found that “valerian may be a more attractive option than other sleeping agents because of the lack of hangover effect.” A recent review published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that valerian root was a “safe and effective herb to promote sleep and prevent associated disorders.” 

6. Glycine 


Glycine is an amino acid, a building block of protein. While the body can make it on its own, it can also be found in foods like meat, fish, dairy, and legumes as well as being taken in the supplement form. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Studies found that those who consumed glycine before bedtime had significantly improved sleep quality. Other research published in the journal Oxidative Stress and Cellular Longevity found that glycine could be helpful with sleep quality and may also play an important role in epigenetics helping many with metabolic disorders.

7. Huperzine A 

huperzine a

Huperzine A is an alkaloid enzyme extracted from Chinese club moss or fir club moss plants. It helps increase levels of a chemical called acetylcholine that has a neuroprotective impact on the brain and is known to increase brain elasticity and memory. There is some research showing that it’s a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Though research is in its infancy, it may be effective for the treatment of insomnia because it increases the time when a person is in deep sleep, which is often called REM, or rapid eye movement. 

8. California Poppy Seed

california poppy

California poppies are well known for lighting up the California countryside with blankets of orange blooms, but it turns out the seeds may help you snooze. They are  a natural sedative that can be taken in a supplement or tincture form for the treatment of insomnia. While the research is insufficient, it suggests that California poppy seed is effective for the treatment of anxiety. According to RXlist, “developing research suggests California poppy, in combination with magnesium and hawthorn, might be useful in treating mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders.” 

9. Chamomile 


It is most famous as the calming tea that you drink before bedtime and with good reason. Chamomile, a daisy-like plant that is often dried and infused into hot water, has long been prized for its calming qualities. A review published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that chamomile was a safe and effective tool for the improvement of sleep quality. Research published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that while chamomile could be beneficial for the treatment of insomnia, more research needed to be done to know for sure. 

10. Ashwagandha


Also known as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha is a plant that is in the nightshade family. It is known to have a number of calming effects. A study published in the journal Curēus, found that ashwagandha root extract was effective at improving sleep quality and mental alertness in elderly study participants. Another study, also published in Curēus also found that it could be of “potential use to improve sleep parameters in patients with insomnia and anxiety.”

Our Top, Most Recommended Sleep Aid:

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