9 Natural Sleep Remedies to Improve Your Quality of Rest

woman covering eyes in bed

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Whether or not you are accustomed to getting a full night of sleep, most people will experience difficulty falling or staying asleep once in a while, making the next day a struggle.  Approximately one-third of adults report having symptoms of insomnia.

Many more people likely experience times during their life when falling or staying asleep is difficult. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping for several days or weeks, it is vital to contact your healthcare provider. 

Approximately 30% of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep each night, less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours for most people. An estimated 35% of American adults report poor sleep quality.

While getting proper treatment for any sleep condition is crucial, some natural remedies and lifestyle changes might help improve your quality and quantity of sleep. Here are some methods you can try, according to science.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a popular remedy for sleep issues, but it is especially beneficial for those who have irregular shift work or experience jet lag. Your body produces its own melatonin since it is a hormone regulating your sleep cycles. You produce melatonin from serotonin when light exposure is reduced at night time.

If you have a sleep condition caused by a lack of melatonin, such as the effects of aging, affective disorders like depression, jet lag, or delayed sleep phase disorder, melatonin may help you get better quality sleep and feel more awake in the morning.

While studies vary on how much and when to take melatonin, the majority of studies in older adults recommend taking melatonin approximately 2 hours before bedtime for up to 13 weeks. Do not take melatonin in the morning, as this may disrupt your sleep further.

Warm Baths or Showers

Most people intuitively know that warm water is profoundly relaxing and can help prepare you for sleep. Warm baths and showers have been shown to improve sleep onset delay, meaning you may be able to fall asleep faster after a pre-bed bath or shower. The research shows warm water to be effective for the young and the elderly.

It’s recommended to have your bath or shower one to two hours before bedtime so that your body has time to cool down, as it naturally does during sleep. As well, a soak in water that is hot will raise your heart rate, which may be more stimulating than relaxing if taken too close to bedtime.

Adjusting Light Exposure

Getting more natural light in the morning may help with sleep conditions such as delayed sleep phase syndrome. Proper light exposure at the right time can help your body understand when you should go to sleep and when you should be alert. Early morning light therapy or outdoor light exposure for at least 30 minutes can help.

However, if you are exposed to too much light in the evening, particularly the blue light emitted by screens, it could disrupt your melatonin production and interfere with sleep. Avoiding blue light by putting away screens a couple of hours before bed or wearing blue-light-blocking glasses might help.

Deep Breathing

Slow deep breathing can help put your body into a relaxed state. Deep breathing can improve your ability to fall asleep and encourage a return to sleep if you wake up during the night. One effective breathing technique to try is called box breathing.

How to Perform Box Breathing

  • Inhale for a count of four
  • Hold for a count of four
  • Exhale for four counts
  • Hold for a count of four


Yoga and Meditation

Most people are aware of the stress-reducing and calming powers of yoga practice, so it only seems natural to try yoga for sleep issues. Research supports the practice of yoga for significantly improved sleep, even for those with insomnia. 

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 55% of people who practice yoga believe that it improves their sleep quality. This holds with people of all age groups, including children and the elderly. For women who often have more difficulty sleeping than men, yoga helps improve sleep quality, whether experiencing anxiety, depression, or hormonal changes like menopause.

One reason yoga is so effective at improving sleep is the mindfulness component involved. Research shows that mindfulness reduces sleep disturbances by increasing melatonin levels, calming arousal, and regulating stress-related cardiac and breathing abnormalities.

Meditation is another option since it also uses mindfulness to reduce stress and hyperarousal. Calming the mind leads to reduced tension in the body, increasing your ability to fall asleep and get better quality rest. 

Yoga Nidra is a type of yoga practice specifically for sleep. Studies show Yoga Nidra is effective in treating and managing chronic insomnia patients.

Aromatherapy

A 2021 meta-analysis in the Journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found. Aromatherapy used as a sleep intervention provided sickness typically significant improvements in sleep quality. Researchers also found aromatherapy to reduce stress, pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in adults and older adults.

Another study that examined the effects of peppermint and lavender essential oil used to improve sleep quality found that both oils can effectively and simply enhance sleep quality.

If possible, use aromatherapy with massage therapy to increase its effects. Research has shown that aromatherapy massage can help improve sleep quality, sleep disturbance, and daytime dysfunction.

Exercise

Aside from more calming forms of exercise like yoga, research shows that moderate to vigorous activity during the day can lead to better sleep. Experts believe that the relationship between exercise and sleep is bi-directional, which means sleep helps you perform better during your training, and being physically active also encourages better sleep quality.

Exercise can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep as well. Middle-aged and older adults, who often have more trouble sleeping than younger people, tend to reap the most benefits from increasing daily physical activity.

However, even younger athletes show increased sleep duration from regular exercise. Strength training and cardiovascular exercise produce the results found in sleep studies.

Although the research is mixed, there is good evidence that exercising earlier in the day is best for enhancing sleep quality. Later in the day, activity stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which excites rather than calms.

White Noise

While it’s important to note that studies on white noise for improving sleep quality are mixed, using a particular type of background noise may work for you. Some research suggests that white noise can help people fall asleep and improve stage one sleep but may interfere with slow waves and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages, which are crucial for waking up feeling well-rested.

Here are some types of white noise to try:

  • Air conditioner or fan
  • Nature sounds such as water flowing or wind rustling
  • White noise machines or apps
  • Relaxing music

A better solution may be to use earplugs. Research shows that people who use earplugs may reduce nighttime waking incidences.

Dietary Changes

Some foods and substances can interfere with sleep, and others may help. Cutting back on caffeine, especially later in the day, is wise if you find yourself overstimulated and having trouble getting to sleep. Caffeine is not only present in coffee; watch for sources such as teas, chocolate, and soda.

In fact, sugary foods and drinks like soda can also interfere with sleep. Sugar spikes that lead to uneven blood sugar levels can lead to nighttime waking and poor sleep quality.

Some foods can actually improve your ability to fall and stay asleep. Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps with serotonin production, has been shown to support sleep efficiency and duration. Research on both food sources and supplements has shown positive results. 

Foods that contain tryptophan or help your body produce it include turkey, bananas, and sunflower seeds. Do not take tryptophan supplements without discussing them first with a healthcare provider.

Another micronutrient that may encourage better sleep is magnesium. Magnesium has been shown in research funded by the National Institutes of Health to improve sleep quality and duration. Those consuming more magnesium have better sleep outcomes and vice versa. 

Foods that contain magnesium include almonds, avocados, black beans, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and swiss chard. Nicotine interferes with sleep similarly to caffeine. Among other damaging health effects, quitting nicotine can improve your general wellness and sleep quality.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

If insomnia is interfering with your life or your daily functioning, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms. You also should talk to a medical professional if you:

  • Have trouble staying awake when inactive
  • Are told you look sleepy a lot
  • Experience trouble remembering things
  • Notice your responses are slow
  • Wake up gasping for breath
  • Are told that you snore or gasp for breath in your sleep
  • Fall asleep while driving
  • Have trouble concentrating or paying attention
  • Experience moodiness or struggle with crying or anger

A Word From Verywell

Losing sleep can lead to unproductive days that feel like they are dragging. For the occasional sleepless night, trying some natural remedies and lifestyle changes may be enough to help you drift off. You can also add these techniques to an existing treatment plan after getting a healthcare provider's approval.

Some methods such as warm baths and breathing techniques are suitable for anyone to try and can help relieve stress and tension, leading to a better ability to relax. But supplements and other options should be discussed with a health professional.

You also should speak to a healthcare provider if you consistently have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Sometimes disrupted sleep can be a sign of a sleep disorder or mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Was this page helpful?
29 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychiatric Association. What are sleep disorders?.

  2. Ferracioli-Oda E, Qawasmi A, Bloch MH. Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PLoS One. 2013;8(5):e63773. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063773

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Melatonin. PMID:30521244

  4. Lyseng-Williamson KA. Melatonin prolonged release: In the treatment of insomnia in patients aged ≥55 years. Drugs Aging. 2012;29(11):911-23. doi:10.1007/s40266-012-0018-z

  5. Haghayegh S, Khoshnevis S, Smolensky MH, Diller KR, Castriotta RJ. Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2019;46:124-135. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2019.04.008

  6. Tai Y, Obayashi K, Yamagami Y, et al. Hot-water bathing before bedtime and shorter sleep onset latency are accompanied by a higher distal-proximal skin temperature gradient in older adults. J Clin Sleep Med. 2021;17(6):1257-1266. doi:10.5664/jcsm.9180

  7. Whitworth-Turner C, Di Michele R, Muir I, Gregson W, Drust B. A shower before bedtime may improve the sleep onset latency of youth soccer players. Eur J Sport Sci. 2017;17(9):1119-1128. doi:10.1080/17461391.2017.1346147

  8. Auger RR, Burgess HJ, Emens JS, Deriy LV, Thomas SM, Sharkey KM. Clinical practice guideline for the treatment of intrinsic circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders: advanced sleep-wake phase disorder (ASWPD), delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD), non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder (N24SWD), and irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder (ISWRD). An update for 2015: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine clinical practice guideline. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015;11(10):1199-236. doi:10.5664/jcsm.5100

  9. Penn Medicine. Get enLIGHTened: why working near a window is good for your health.

  10. American Academy of Ophthalmolgy. Should you be worried about blue light?.

  11. Jerath R, Beveridge C, Barnes VA. Self-regulation of breathing as an adjunctive treatment of insomnia. Front Psychiatry. 2019;9:780. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00780

  12. Wang WL, Chen KH, Pan YC, Yang SN, Chan YY. The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysisBMC Psychiatry. 2020;20(1):195. doi:10.1186/s12888-020-02566-4

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wellness-related use of common complementary health approaches among adults.

  14. Datta K, Tripathi M, Mallick HN. Yoga Nidra: An innovative approach for management of chronic insomnia- A case report. Sleep Science Practice. 2017;1(1):7. doi:10.1186/s41606-017-0009-4

  15. Her J, Cho MK. Effect of aromatherapy on sleep quality of adults and elderly people: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2021;60:102739. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102739

  16. Mahdavikian S, Rezaei M, Modarresi M, Khatony A. Comparing the effect of aromatherapy with peppermint and lavender on the sleep quality of cardiac patients: a randomized controlled trial. Sleep Science Practice. 2020;4(1):10. doi:10.1186/s41606-020-00047-x

  17. Chang YY, Lin CL, Chang LY. The effects of aromatherapy massage on sleep quality of nurses on monthly rotating night shifts. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017;2017:e3861273. doi:10.1155%2F2017%2F3861273

  18. Dolezal BA, Neufeld EV, Boland DM, Martin JL, Cooper CB. Inter-relationship between sleep and exercise: A systematic review. Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:1364387. doi:10.1155/2017/1364387

  19. Mendelson M, Borowik A, Michallet AS, et al. Sleep quality, sleep duration and physical activity in obese adolescents: effects of exercise training. Pediatr Obes. 2016;11(1):26-32. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12015

  20. Halson SL. Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Med. 2014;44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S13-S23. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0147-0

  21. Farokhnezhad Afshar P, Bahramnezhad F, Asgari P, Shiri M. Effect of white noise on sleep in patients admitted to a coronary care. J Caring Sci. 2016;5(2):103-109. doi:10.15171/jcs.2016.011

  22. Alkahtani MN, Alshathri NA, Aldraiweesh NA, et al. The effect of air conditioner sound on sleep latency, duration, and efficiency in young adults. Ann Thorac Med. 2019;14(1):69-74. doi:10.4103/atm.ATM_195_18

  23. Basner M, Müller U, Elmenhorst EM. Single and combined effects of air, road, and rail traffic noise on sleep and recuperation. Sleep. 2011;34(1):11-23. doi:10.1093/sleep/34.1.11

  24. Demoule A, Carreira S, Lavault S, et al. Impact of earplugs and eye mask on sleep in critically ill patients: a prospective randomized study. Crit Care. 2017;21(1):284. doi:10.1186/s13054-017-1865-0

  25. Spadola CE, Guo N, Johnson DA, et al. Evening intake of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine: night-to-night associations with sleep duration and continuity among African Americans in the Jackson Heart Sleep Study. Sleep. 2019;42(11):zsz136. doi:10.1093/sleep/zsz136

  26. Chaput JP, Tremblay MS, Katzmarzyk PT, et al. Sleep patterns and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among children from around the world. Public Health Nutr. 2018;21(13):2385-2393. doi:10.1017/S1368980018000976

  27. Friedman M. Analysis, nutrition, and health benefits of tryptophan. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2018;11:1178646918802282. doi:10.1177%2F1178646918802282

  28. Zhang Y, Chen C, Lu L, et al. Association of magnesium intake with sleep duration and sleep quality: findings from the cardia study. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2021;5(Supplement_2):1109-1109. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzab053_102

  29. Cleveland Clinic. Common sleep disorders.