There are various medications that can be prescribed or bought over the counter as well that will help. These are on the page sleep medications.
Natural sleep aids cost nothing except your time. Give them all a try.
1) Have a hot bath
This works, although it is not really known why. Maybe because the heat of the water relaxes the muscles, maybe because the core body temperature drops afterwards which sends a sleep signal to the brain, probably both. It only works for baths though, not showers! If you want to add some essential oils or soothing music and candles - go ahead, but please don't fall asleep in the bath!
This also works well on children. Give them a bath before bed too.
2) Get more light during the day
This is the least understood of all the well known natural sleep aids. It may sound strange, but its crucial for good sleep at night. Our brains are hard wired to go to sleep when it's dark and wake when its light. Not getting enough light during the day will de-program our biological clock. Once our natural rhythm has been upset, our brain won't receive the sleep signal when we want to go to sleep.
Don't stay cooped up indoors all day. Even if you are working long hours try to get outside into the sunshine for a while at lunchtime. If you live in a part of the world which has short days in winter, install a bright light at home and sit under it for at least 30 minutes. This should be enough to keep that biological clock ticking!
This is a good reason not to watch TV in bed. Even if the program is dull, the bright flickering light of the TV screen will be working against your natural sleep patterns!
3) Don't lie in bed and worry about not sleeping
This will only cause stress and make sleep even harder to achieve. If you find yourself becoming concerned about not sleeping, get up and make yourself a drink (not coffee!) Find something to read. Stay up until you feel sleepy again and only then go back to bed.
4) Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning
use your alarmThis reinforces the natural biological rhythm and helps your brain send a sleep signal. It also reinforces a habit. Habits are an important part of better sleep. Obviously you won't be able to do this every single night, there will be nights where you might go out to a show or out on the town with friends! However if you manage most nights, this will still work well.
5) Don't go to bed until you are tired
Yes I know! sometimes natural sleep aids can contradict one another! I've just told you to go to bed at the same time every night, but the logic behind this is that is you are not sleepy you will lie in bed awake and will start worrying about not being able to go to sleep. The most important part of all this is to get up at the same time every morning no matter what time you went to bed the night before. Eventually you will feel very sleepy at your normal bedtime. Getting up in the morning when you are still tired is not easy to do but it will help in the longer term. Stick with it!
6) Keep a sleep diary
This, while rather tedious, will give you an excellent idea of your sleep patterns and will be a necessary record if you ever decide to visit a sleep clinic for help. Some people have done this and found their sleeping problems disappeared of their own accord! A sleep diary should note the following:
What you had for dinner.
What drinks you consumed after dinner
Any naps taken during the day
What time you went to bed
How long it took you to fall asleep
If you woke during the night
What time you woke up in the morning
How you rated quality of sleep (1-10)
Any further observations?
Do this every days for a few weeks and you should see a pattern emerging. This will give you invaluable information on your personal sleep habits and patterns. This is one of those natural sleep aids that you may consider time consuming and tedious, but please give it a try. It is very revealing.
7) Develop an evening ritual
Do the same things at the same time each night. This programs the unconscious mind that you are preparing for sleep. Brush you teeth, put the cat out, check the locks on the doors. Do each step in the same order. It may sound simplistic but it can work really well.
8) Exercise more during the day
sleep and exerciseExercise relaxes the body and mind as well as being good for your health and helping with weight loss. Even walking just 30 minutes a day will help. If walking's not your thing try Yoga or Qigong. Both are soothing and will relax you totally. If there are no classes near you, videos or CDs are easily available.
9) Practice muscle relaxation
You can do this during the day or after going to bed. Practice tensing and relaxing each muscle group in turn, starting at the top of the head and gradually working down to the toes. This relaxes the body and also distracts you from any worrying thoughts while you are performing it. Visit the page on relaxation techniques for some easy to follow techniques.
10) Write down worries before going to bed
There's always something to worry about isn't there? These are the things that can keep you awake when your mind won't let go. Solution? Have a worry time before going to bed. Think of all the problems that are currently in your life and write them down. Make a decision to do something about them the following day.
If you are tempted to think about any of those things while you are trying to sleep simply tell yourself, 'its ok, I've made a note of it and I'll handle it tomorrow'. This is perhaps the most powerful of the natural sleep aids if you suffer from stress that keeps you awake.
I have a very relaxing CD I use when my mind is full of worrying thoughts and I find myself tossing and turning. It's called Sleep Tracks and it literally slows the brain waves allowing you to fall into a blissful relaxing sleep and awake refreshed and revitalized!
It's not hypnosis, hypnosis does work but you have to be already relaxed to be able to reached the desired state. Give it a try, it's far better than popping a pill!