Our bodies can’t “make up for” or catch up on lost sleep.

If you read about the magic pill that neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett prescribes for brain, body and emotional health, you know that sleep is at the top of her list. Like, science has proven that it’s the number one determining factor for our over-all well-being.

As a long-time insomniac, I have tried every prescription, over-the-counter, mail order remedy I can find. I have a drawer of things that didn’t work, including those that actually made me jittery and anxious rather than relaxed.

And from conversations I’ve had with just about every group I’ve been a part of lately, I am not alone.

A few key things to consider:

  • Mix up your sleep aids — use a sleepy tea for a few nights, then a different herb for a few nights, then maybe nothing for a few nights. The body will habituate to whatever you’re doing and they will all lose effectiveness if you don’t vary your approach.
  • But have a consistent bedtime routine. The brain/body loves routine. Start to wind down at the same time each night — shut down the screens, dim the lights, take your time through your personal preparations like face washing and teeth brushing.  Start slowing down least an hour before you hope to be in bed.
  • Don’t try to sleep until you’re sleepy, not just tired. Your body can be exhausted, but your brain and nervous system can be amped. See above — prepare your body to slow down and be sleepy.
  • This segment on NPR’s Fresh Air with sleep scientist Matthew Walker has even more great tips on how to make sure you get enough sleep, and what to do if you aren’t sleeping.

My current favorite bedtime cocktail

Key ingredients

  • Yogi Tea brand has two Sleepy Teas — one regular (in the blue box) and one Caramel flavored (in an orange box)
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Non dairy milk — I like Flax
  • Coconut butter — you can find it in the nut butter aisle of a health food store. If it’s cool where you are, it will be solid. If you’re able, it’s great to heat and stir it up as the “butter” and the oil separate.
  • Local raw honey

How to

Heat about a cup of milk in a saucepan with about 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. Nutmeg is a sedative, but it’s strong, so if you’re not a fan of the flavor, use less. Let the milk come to a low boil.

Pour hot milk into a mug and spoon in at least a teaspoon of the coconut butter — stir well until the coconut butter mostly dissolves. Then steep the two teabags — one of each — for about five minutes.

Remove the tea bags and add a little more milk (or water) so that the milk is warm but not hot. Then add a dollop of honey and stir.

I like to get in bed with the lights low and sip my special tea right before going to sleep. Part of what makes this “work” is the ritual and my enjoyment; the herbs and goodness in the tea doesn’t hurt.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

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