How to Make an Herbal Sleep Aid

Two Methods:Using Herbal Sleep AidsDeveloping Healthy Sleeping Habits

Who hasn’t had a night when they couldn’t get to sleep or stay asleep? Everyone has problems sleeping from time to time, but if you find that these problems continue night after night, there are a number of approaches you can take, including using herbs to safely and gently help you get to sleep and stay asleep.

Method 1
Using Herbal Sleep Aids

  1. 1
    Decide whether you want a tea or a supplement. Most herbs used to make sleep aids are available either in loose-leaf form with which to brew a tea or as readymade supplements. Many people may find the evening herbal part part of their relaxation ritual to help them get to sleep whereas other people might not be able to stand herbal tea. Decide which option you’d prefer for your sleep aid.
  2. 2
    Follow a proper brewing method for the tea. If you decide to use herbs as a tea, boil water and add either one teaspoon of loose herb (or one tea bag for options that come packaged) to a cup of boiled water and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain if necessary and add honey and/or lemon to taste.
    • For herbal teas, reputable companies include Alvita and Traditional Medicinals. For loose-leaf teas, try Mountain Rose Herbs or Gaia Herbs.
  3. 3
    Follow manufacturer’s instructions for supplements. If you prefer to take herbal sleep aids as a supplement, follow manufacturer’s instructions. Many herbal sleep aids are combinations of one or more of the herbs in the steps below.
    • Try to ensure you buy quality supplements by buying only organic supplements, checking expiration dates for freshness, looking for verifiable contact information for the company, and looking for “seals of approval” from the Natural Products Association (NPA), Consumer Labs, or the US Pharmacopeia (USP). You also want to make sure the manufacturer follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
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    Try valerian root. Valerian root is a mild sedative and allows you to fall asleep faster and better.[1] These sedative properties are thanks to a chemical compound called valepotriate.[2]
    • Valerian should not be used with children under three years old and may interact with prescription medicines such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.[3]
    • Valerian tea is an acquired taste, so add a bit of honey and/or lemon to suit your tastes.
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    Use passiflora/passionflower. Passiflora/passionflower comes from South America and has been used since the time of the Aztecs. It reduces anxiety and has a light, pleasant taste.[4] It can lower blood pressure, so if you take blood pressure medications, talk to your physician first.[5]
    • Do not use passionflower if you are pregnant because it may induce contractions.[6]
    • Passiflora has not been studied in children. Talk to a qualified healthcare professional to determine a safe dose for children.[7]
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    Try chamomile. Chamomile increases calm and reduces anxiety.[8] German chamomile is more commonly found than Roman chamomile, but you can use either one. Chamomile contains a flavonoid called apigenin, which is responsible for its relaxing properties.[9]
    • Chamomile is safe for children, but dilute the tea with warm water (use ½ cup of tea and add ½ cup of water).
    • Chamomile can interact with a number of medications, including blood thinners, anti-seizure medications, birth control, and antidepressants.[10] Talk to a knowledgeable healthcare professional before use.
    • You should not take chamomile if you are pregnant due to the risk of the herb inducing a miscarriage.[11]
  7. 7
    Take kava kava. Kava kava is a Polynesian herb, long used to decrease anxiety.[12] Kava can interact with a number of prescription medications, so talk to a knowledgeable healthcare professional before use.
    • Kava kava’s safety has not been determined in children under eighteen years old or pregnant/nursing women.
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    Use lemon balm. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can also reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality, but you should not use it if you are pregnant or have an overactive thyroid.[13] Lemon balm has Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) status in the U.S. and can be used with children older than three years old, but dilute the tea with warm water (use ½ cup of tea and add ½ cup of water).[14]
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    Try ashwaganda. Ashwaganda (or withania) is an Indian herb traditionally used to help induce sleep and treat anxiety.[15] It can interact with diabetes and high blood pressure medications, so talk to a knowledgeable healthcare professional before using.[16]
  10. 10
    Try using melatonin. Melatonin is the “sleep hormone” and can help regulate sleep cycles. Melatonin may interact with prescription medications (including those taken for diabetes, seizures, and high blood pressure) and should not be taken when pregnant or nursing.[17] Do not use more than 1-3 mg of melatonin nightly, except under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.
  11. 11
    Take 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). Commercially available in the amino acid formula Gabadone, 5-HTP is used by the body to make a neurotransmitter, serotonin, known to be involved in sleep.[18] You should not take 5-HTP in combination with antidepressants or other sedatives.[19] Do not take more than 50-100 mg nightly, except under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.
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    Try aromatherapy sachets near your pillow. For children who are too young or if you cannot take many of these herbs due to drug interactions, you can make a soothing aromatherapy sachet to place near your pillow at night. Try mixing 1/2 cup of the following:[20]
    • Hops
    • Chamomile flowers
    • Lavender flowers
    • Lemon balm
    • If you cannot find a loose-leaf version of these herbs, you can also try using a few drops of essential oils, especially of lavender or chamomile, to rub on your temples before bed.

Method 2
Developing Healthy Sleeping Habits

  1. 1
    Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed. Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that will interfere with sleep, so you should avoid them too close to going to bed. Though alcohol is a depressant, it still leads to more waking at night and a lower quality of sleep.[21]
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    Turn your bedroom into a perfect environment for sleep. A cool, dark, and quiet location are all key to falling asleep and staying asleep.[22] This also means avoiding watching TV in bed or sitting in bed with other electronic devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops.[23]
    • If dead silence hinders more than helps your sleep—or even if you want to mask outdoor noises—you can use a white noise machine that creates a low, consistent sound which won’t interfere with sleep.
    • Light has just as much impact on falling asleep as it does waking up. If possible, try to set up your room so it’s dark enough to fall asleep while still letting in the morning sun to help you wake the following morning.[24]
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    Find a relaxing routine before bed. Stressful or exciting activities increase alertness, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Establish a relaxing routine before bed, such as reading while drinking a soothing cup of herbal tea. You may also find a hot bath a nice pre-bedtime relaxation technique[25]
  4. 4
    Get up if you’re having trouble falling asleep. Frustration over an inability to fall asleep just compounds the issue. If you can’t fall asleep after twenty minutes, then try getting up and doing something relaxing to help make you sleepy, such as reading or listening to tranquil music.[26]
    • Do not turn on the TV or another electronic device as staring at a bright screen will only wake you up more.
    • Try not to stare at the clock as you try to sleep either. This is another way to simply frustrate yourself over being unable to sleep.[27]
  5. 5
    Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Avoid the temptation to stay up late and sleep in too late on the weekends. The best way to sleep well consistently is to standardize your body’s internal clock by going to bed at the same time each night, sleeping a solid seven to eight hours, and waking at the same time each morning.[28][29]
    • Note that the amount of nightly sleep should be closer to nine or ten hours for school-aged children.[30]
  6. 6
    Avoid late-day naps. Late-afternoon napping can also interfere with your ability to sleep well at night.[31] If your tiredness from sleeping poorly at night catches up with you in the form of an afternoon nap, then you might be perpetuating the cycle. Push through the late-day sleepiness for several days in a row to sleep better at night instead.
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    Do not eat for at least two hours before you go to sleep. Eat your last meal of the day two or more hours before you go to sleep. Additionally, if you do any evening snacking, make it something light.[32] Eating heavy foods before bed keeps your digestive system working, causing you to stay awake well into night.
    • Indigestion is also a common cause of insomnia. Avoid foods likely to cause heartburn in the evening.
  8. 8
    Exercise daily (and early). Nothing can tire you out like a solid exercise routine. However, working out releases a stress hormone associated with alertness, so exercising too late in the evening can actually contribute to keeping you awake.[33] If your schedule necessitates getting your gym time at night, then try to do it at least three hours before you go to bed.[34]
  9. 9
    Cut back on nighttime fluids. If you find your sleep disturbed by regular trips to the bathroom at night, then you may be drinking too many fluids too close to bedtime.[35] Try to balance intake in the evening so that you neither wake up due to thirst not due to a trip to the bathroom.


  • Consider talking to your doctor before trying new herbs and supplements.

Sources and Citations

  1. Fernández-San-Martín MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, et al. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Med. 2010 Jun;11:505-11.
  3. Donovan JL, DeVane CL, Chavin KD, et al. Multiple night-time doses of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) had minimal effects on CYP3A4 activity and no effect on CYP2D6 activity in healthy volunteers. Drug Metab Dispos 2004;32:1333-6.

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Article Info

Categories: Herbal Health