6 safe ways to sleep better

If you’ve noticed you have a harder time sleeping well the older you get, you’re not alone.

You can thank changes to your “sleep architecture” for that, which include spending more time in the lighter sleep phases than the deeper ones, taking longer to fall asleep and an increase in sleep fragmentation — meaning you wake up a lot during the night.

According to new results from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, sleep doesn’t come easily for nearly half of older Americans, and more than a third have resorted to some sort of medication to help them doze off at night.

Yet, those who turn to medications may not realize that prescription and even over-the-counter sleep aids carry health risks, especially for older adults. In fact, the national guidelines strongly warn against prescription sleep medicine use by people over age 65. It’s harder for a mature body to process these drugs, and in some cases they can be a prescription for amnesia.

And, even scarier?

Among those who report sleep troubles three or more nights a week, 23 percent use prescription sleep aids. Most who use such drugs to help them sleep had been taking them for years despite warnings by manufacturers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who say that these drugs are only for short-term use.

According to Preeti Malani, M.D., a U-M physician trained in geriatric medicine, “Some of these medications can create big concerns for older adults, from falls and memory issues to confusion and constipation,” even if they’re sold without a prescription.

Obviously, avoiding these medications and their dangerous side effects are in your best interests.

Luckily, there are a number of safe, natural sleep aids you can use to rest better.

1. Magnesium

A calming nutrient, magnesium promotes better, deeper sleep and muscle relaxation. You can find magnesium in foods like pumpkin seeds, spinach and kefir or take a magnesium supplement. The optimal dose is 200 – 400 mg at bedtime — or try this novel way to get your magnesium.

2. Passion Flower

Passion flower can help reduce your anxiety so that you can fall asleep and stay asleep. In fact, one study showed that the supplement is as effective as the commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drug known as benzodiazepine oxazepam.

The typical dose of passion flower is about 1 to 2 grams, finely chopped. You can make a tea by steeping a teaspoon of dried herb in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes and drink at bedtime.

3. Valerian Root

Valerian works by increasing the amount of gamma aminobutryic acid (GABA) to block signals to your brain that cause anxiety.

Take 300 to 600 milligrams of valerian root 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. For valerian tea, soak 2 to 3 grams of dried herbal valerian root in 1 cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes.

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4. Tryptophan

That amino acid that makes you sleepy after eating your Thanksgiving dinner can also help you rest better at night. You can get tryptophan from carbohydrate-rich foods like 100 percent whole grain oats, brown rice, corn or quinoa. It’s also good for soothing your gut.

5. Melatonin

This tried and true natural sleep aid is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal (pih-knee-uhl) gland. This is a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive.

When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is “turned on” and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert.

To boost your body’s natural melatonin levels consider a supplement of 1 to 5 mg taken 30 minutes before bedtime. Besides promoting sleep, it’s reported to help slow aging and fight disease.

6. Calcium

Since calcium levels are at their highest during your deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep periods, it makes sense that a calcium deficiency could lead to poor sleep. It’s also the likely reason behind the old timey remedy of a glass of warm milk to help you sleep. You can try this or for even more calcium power along with magnesium to help you relax, try a glass of kefir instead.

Don’t let sleep problems drag you down. Use the natural sleep aids above to get a good night’s rest and wake up refreshed.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!


  1. One in three older adults take something to help them sleep but many don’t talk to their doctors — Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan
  2. Blood and brain magnesium in inbred mice and their correlation with sleep quality — American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
  3. 2 Passion Flower Benefits: Anti-Anxiety and Insomnia Without the Side Effects — University Health News
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.