Your Guide to Better Sleep, Naturally

Sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of a healthy lifestyle, with a lack of sleep having dramatic impacts on your health. Natural shifts in your routine and the incorporation of some holistic nutrition practices can make your restless nights more restful, helping you get  better sleep and enjoy wellness. Here are more than 8 science-backed natural solutions to help you improve your sleep.

Why You Should Get More Sleep

Research shows that healthy sleep can promote well-being. Interestingly, there are other benefits of a good night’s sleep, including:

  • More Zen (capable of handling stress better)
  • Smarter (improved brain functioning)
  • Happier (beneficial impacts on mood)
  • Healthier Weight (makes weight management easier)
  • Lower risk of dementia
  • Fewer Wrinkles (get your beauty sleep)

Benefits of Healthy Sleep, According to Science

Research on the effects of good sleep on our health is expanding, with studies showing a lack of sleep makes it more difficult to deal with emotions, including anxiety, stress, and depression. It also impacts brain capacity in terms of mood, cognitive ability, and increases beta-amyloid deposits in the brain which is linked with an increased risk of dementia. You may actually be able to see the impact of your poor sleep – a study in Finland found more youthful skin among good sleepers compared to their poor sleeping peers. Around your midsection you may also have noticed how your lack of good sleep is negatively affecting your health: when you don’t sleep well the body produces cortisol (stress hormone) which impacts insulin responses, promoting weight gain.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Adults should sleep 7-8 hours of good sleep per night, with 7 hours being sufficient for some elderly adults, according to recommendations from the Government of Canada.

Why Healthy Sleep and Nutrition Habits Make a Difference

Good sleep hygiene can mean the difference between a restless and restful night. Your entire day can impact how well you sleep. Exercising outdoors in the morning, hydrating during the day, and avoiding big dinners are all holistic ways to promote healthy sleep.

8 Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips for a Good Night Sleep

  1. Create a Sleepy Environment: quiet, dark, relaxing, and a comfortable temperature.
  2. Start a Pre-Bed Routine: ease into rest with relaxing activities (reading, hot bath, meditation)
  3. Optimize Your Sleep Schedule: go to bed at least 7-8 hours before you need to wake; use natural light to help when possible, avoiding dramatic shifts in sleep timing on weekends.
  4. Hydrate Early: drink enough water throughout the day to avoid thirst at night and to wake to use the bathroom.
  5. Exercise in Sunlight: outdoor physical activity, done if possible, well away from bedtime, can help you sleep longer.
  6. Avoid Certain Foods: 6 hours before bed, avoid big meals, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
  7. Leverage Natural Sleep Aids: some herbal teas, magnesium, and lavender essential oils.
  8. Natural Medicines for Sleep: research suggests these compounds may improve sleep quality.
  • Melatonin – a naturally occurring plant compound involved in circadian rhythm. Evidence is limited in studies that it works as a sleep aid or improves sleep
  • GABA – promotes relaxation. In combination with L-theanine (tea leaves), GABA increased sleep duration and rapid eye movement in rats, say researchers. Caution is advised for pregnant women and hypertensive adults.
  • Tryptophan – found in foods, research shows tryptophan has promise for sleep impairments, particularly for those with genetics deficiencies in metabolizing 5-HTP.
  • 5-HTP – not found in foods, 5-HTP raises serotonin levels. Low levels of serotonin are linked to poor mood and sleep (serotonin is converted to melatonin in the body). One lab-based study noted promise when combined with GABA.
  • CBD Oil – a promising natural compound, cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to promote good sleep, suggests evidence from small trials. More research to come.

Can Natural Products Help with Insomnia?

Insomnia can be difficulty in falling asleep, overnight loss of sleep, trouble resuming sleep, waking up too early, or being unable to feel refreshed after sleep. The following are some traditionally used naturally occurring plants that may have some benefit. Some limited laboratory studies are available, as well.

  • Asteraceae (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  • Cordycepin (Cordyceps militaris/sinensis)
  • EGCG (epigallocatechin-gallate isolated from green tea leaves)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng, Araliaceae)
  • Magnolia (magnolol, honokiol, obovatol isolated from obovatel and M. officinalis)

Learn more about how natural holistic approaches can improve your well-being in the many workshops, and courses offered by the Canadian School of Natural
Nutrition Distance Education department.

Imagine how your well-being could improve.

Learn More Today!


Negative effects of restricted sleep on facial appearance and social appeal. Royal Society Open Science, 17 May 2017.

Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing? Clin Exp Dermatol 2015 Jan;40(1):17-22.

Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue may indicate accelerated brain aging in cognitively normal late middle-aged and older adults. Sleep Med 2017 Apr; 32: 236-243.

Molecular ties between lack of sleep and weight gain. National Institutes of Health, 2016.

Impact of sleep on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Curr Opin Psychiatry 2014 Nov; 27(6):478-483.

β-Amyloid accumulation in the human brain after one night of sleep deprivation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2018; 115(17).

The relations between sleep, time of physical activity, and time outdoors among adult women. PLoS One 2017; 12(9):e0182013.

Sleep-aids derived from natural plants. Biomol Ther (Seoul) 2018 Jul; 26(4):343-349.

Trends in use of melatonin supplements among adults 1999-2018 – Research Letter. JAMA 2022, 327(5):483-485.

Effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutr J 2014; 13:106.

Efficacy of melatonin with behavioural sleep-wake scheduling for delayed sleep-wake phase disorder: A double-blind, randomised clinical trial. PLoS Med 2018 Jun; 15(6): e1002587.

GABA and L-theanine mixture decreases sleep latency and improves NREM sleep. Pharm Biol 2019; 57(1): 65-73.

The serotonin transporter gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) and the sleep-promoting effects of tryptophan: A randomized placebo-controlled crossover study. J Psychopharmacol 2019 Aug; 33(8):948-954.

Sleep-promoting effects of GABA/5-HTP mixture in vertebrate models. Behav Brain Res 2016 Sep 1;310:36-41.

Cannabinoid therapies in the management of sleep disorders: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical studies. Sleep Med Rev 2020 Oct;53:101339.

Contributed by Allison Tannis

Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at Follow @deliciouslygeeky.