Can these remedies actually help you fall asleep?
Most people who toss and turn at night would agree: If there were a miracle cure that could guarantee they’d fall asleep easily and wake up feeling well rested in the morning, with no side effects, they’d take it—no questions asked.
Unfortunately, that miracle cure isn’t real yet. Everyone has their own thoughts on what works and what doesn’t to help them fall asleep at night.
Here’s what the science says about four common sleep remedies.
"Lavender is a very relaxing fragrance," says Leah S. Pixley, CRT, REEGT, RPSGT, RST, manager of clinical neurophysiology at Sentara Obici Hospital. "You put a few drops on your pillow and it just has a very relaxing and calming effect. There are some people who swear by using that."
Lavender can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, notes the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). This can help you drift off into a doze.
"Some people find music very calming and relaxing, especially after an extremely stressful day, which we all have in some way, shape, or form," Pixley says.
"Depending on the type of music, it can relax and calm them and decrease other hormones in the body that would allow them to go to sleep at night."
If you find yourself unable to fall asleep after lying in bed for a while, you may be better off doing something relaxing, like reading or listening to music, NSF says.
However, "Listening to music all night is one of those things I would certainly advise against," says Pixley. "It’s like people who go to bed with the TV on. Subconsciously, they’re still being stimulated by the sounds, and in the case of the TV, the light movement within the room."
If you have to have some background noise while you fall asleep, set it on a timer so that it will turn off on its own.
This can impair a person’s ability to get quality shut-eye.
"They’re not going to be able to get the deeper levels of sleep that allow the brain to relax and the body to rejuvenate and heal itself," she adds. "Research has proven that those types of things tamper an individual’s memory because the brain has not had its downtime."
On the other hand, white noise can actually help some people sleep better.
"White noise is a masking noise, "Pixley explains. "White masking noise in the background will have a tendency to offset other noises that may be occurring." So if you constantly hear blaring sirens, partying neighbors or even your partner’s raucous snoring throughout the night, white noise could diminish how much those sounds disrupts your sleep.
Light sleepers especially may benefit from white noise at night. "Some people hear the heating and air conditioning every time it cuts off and on," Pixley says. "White noise has a tendency to drown out other background noises to allow the brain to relax."
"Most herbal teas—like chamomile and sleepy time teas—have a component of lavender in them. There are herbal combinations in a lot decaffeinated teas that a lot of people find relaxing," Pixley explains. "I have a soft spot for the peppermint tea. It’s supposed to be good for settling an upset stomach, too."
Decaffeinated green tea is also a great option, says AARP, because it contains an amino acid called theanine, which helps decrease stress and promote relaxation.
The key word here is decaffeinated. "Usually we tell people to stay away from caffeine for about six to eight hours prior to going to bed," Pixley says, "because it tends to stay in the body for that length of time."