A common complaint I receive from patients is “I don’t sleep as well as I used to.” While there are numerous causes –some of which may be associated with a more serious disorder – most occasional sleeplessness can be managed at home. Here are some tips.

Prayer/Contemplation – A primary cause of insomnia is stress. Most of us are being asked to process too much information, juggle too many tasks and keep too many commitments. We’re so wound up during the day, we can’t unwind at night. The Psalmist wrote “Be still and know that I am God.” When’s the last time you were physically and mentally still for at least 15 minutes? Not thinking – just listening, observing, waiting and being aware of your breathing. Practicing this for just 15 minutes a couple of times during the day and at bedtime will lessen your stress and help you sleep more deeplycant-sleep

Moderate Exercise – Walking, stretching or lifting light weights several times per week is another natural way to lessen stress and encourage sleep. Don’t be watching your TV or smart phone – focus on your body and immediate surroundings. Exercise not only burns calories, improves blood circulation, stimulates your digestive system and strengthens your muscles; it also helps balance numerous stress inducing chemicals which interfere with sleep. One caveat – exercising an hour or two before bedtime may over stimulate your body and keep you from falling asleep, so exercise during the day or early evening.

Herbal teas – Several herbs can promote sleep without being addictive. You can find a variety of non-caffeinated herbal teas in your grocery store containing these herbs. Here are a few of the most common ones.

Valerian may improve the quality of sleep and reduce the time to fall asleep according to some studies. Passion Flower has a long history of use for symptoms of restlessness, anxiety, and agitation. Early evidence suggests that passion flower may have a benzodiazepine-like calming action.Catnip is believed to have a sedative effect and has been used to treat insomnia. Chamomile is widely used in Europe as a popular treatment for numerous ailments, including anxiety and sleep disorders.

Other Natural Sleep Aids – One common sleep aid is melatonin. Scientific evidence suggests that melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and may increase the duration of sleep. Parents should not give melatonin to children, especially boys, since it can affect testosterone levels and may raise the risk of depression.

Remember, natural does not necessarily mean safe. Be sure to consult your physician before taking any dietary supplement.

Finally, avoid caffeine. The caffeine from one cup of coffee can stay in your system for up to 14 hours.