Natural Sleep Aids & A DIY Dream Pillow Recipe

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Natural Sleep Aids

We all have a lot on our minds these days. From trying to remember when you had the oil changed in the car to trying to forget the fight the kids got into at breakfast – there’s a lot going on. Our brains naturally want to categorize everything in neat files, but our brains keep working and it often leads to poor and restless sleep. Or worse, you fall asleep, but then wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again until just before the alarm goes off.

Well rest easy, we have some help.

Here’s a laundry list of natural ways to help you fall asleep – and stay asleep.

Ways to Fall Asleep Naturally


Yes, it really does work. Lavender helps to relax the mind and allow sleep to come naturally. Make a lavender pillow spritz by mixing purified water with a teaspoon of alcohol (I use vodka) and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Shake well. The alcohol helps break up and disperse the oil. Around dinner time, spray lightly on your pillow, by the time you go to bed it will be dry and lightly scented.

Chamomile tea

I use to drink this when I was much younger. Chamomile contains antispasmodics that relax your muscles and help you to fall asleep. (Find chamomile tea here.)

Lemon Balm

Another great herb to use at bedtime! You can take it as a tea or a tincture – it provides a calming effect. (Find lemon balm here.)

Lights out

It’s true that even a small light can keep you awake. Drape a cloth over your alarm clock if you need to have absolute darkness.

Warm milk or turkey

Warm milk and turkey boost serotonin levels in your body which helps you to relax and sleep.

Warm Bath

Taking a warm bath before bed can help to relax your muscles and help you fall asleep.

Epsom Salts

Epsom salts, or magnesium sulphate, is a muscle relaxant. Add a handful to your tub while soaking. (Find epsom salt here.)

Cut the caffeine

Caffeine keeps most people awake, so if you cut it out you may fall asleep easier. Or stop consuming it earlier in the day. I use to say 7 pm, but now I try not to drink anything caffeinated after 5 pm.


One of the best supplements you can take is valerian. It has been shown to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. The raw herb has an odor, so I take it in capsule form. (Find valerian root capsules here.)

Nettle tea or nasal strips

I use to take a PM type product to help me sleep. And while they can be non-addictive, I wanted to stay away from chemicals altogether so I switched to nettle tea. The main ingredient in most sleeping pills is diphenhydramine, also found in allergy medications. If my sinuses are clear, I sleep better. Nettle tea is used for hay fever and helps relieve the sinuses, so it makes sense that it would work. It does for me!  It may not work for everyone, but it’s worth a try. You can also try those strips you put over the bridge of you nose. They work for some. (Find nettle leaf here for making nettle tea.)

Stop Smoking

Nicotine is a stimulant and will keep you awake, just like caffeine may.

Eat light

A heavy meal before bed may seem like it could help you fall asleep faster, but in truth, a lighter dinner is usually best.

Cherry juice

Aside from all the antioxidants is the melatonin in cherry juice, which will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.


Before I settle in for the night, I read a little bit of a fiction book. Jumping into another world helps to turn off my mind and help me relax. Give it a shot.

Develop a routine

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. It may be difficult to implement but after a while it becomes like old hat, and it works well for many.

Use a dream pillow

This one was a natural for me because I grow and use herbs daily. The instructions below will help you get a better night’s sleep, I promise.

How to Make A Dream Pillow

You’ll need:

  • Cotton fabric in the size that you want your pillow
  • Rice or flax seeds, amount to fit in pillow
  • lavender, chamomile and hops flowers, about a cup combined (find all these herbs here)


  1. Cut out the pillow in the size you want. A good size is 16 inches squared.
  2. Place the right sides together and sew on three sides. Fill with the rice or flax and add the herbs. Mix well.
  3. Sew the pillow closed and lay flat.

You can use it right away or make it hot or cold, depending on what you need.

To make it hot, place in the microwave for about a minute. It will hold the heat well for half an hour or so. To make it cold, place it in the freezer for a half an hour or so. Do not store it in the freezer or it absorbs moisture and will eventually rot the rice or flax seeds. Store it in a well sealed container to preserve it.

Sweet dreams!


Image credit to Vic

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Kimberly says

    @laura…use bricks on top of your wood burning stove w/a rack, build a lil house…10 bricks – four bricks on bottom, rack in between,four more right on top then twoto cover up the hole…put your pillow inside it will warm up quickly.
    Just an idea..I hope it works.

  2. Lydia Rodriguez says

    I just started getting interested in organic stuff. I started reading about all the chemicals and pesticides in the food. That really scared me. I am glad that there are people out there like you who care about people like me. Your information is very helpful. Thank you.

  3. Karen says

    A few more sleep tips. Don’t watch the 9 or 10 o’clock news right before bed. Many of the stories are either depressing, disturbing or controversial and put you in a negative frame of mind. Also, break the habit of needing a bedtime snack. Your body expends extra energy metabolizing the food instead of winding down for sleep. If you must eat, avoid a high-carb snack because this will spike your energy level.

  4. Terrry says

    Some great ideas I will try to incorporate! The one thing I do for a small short cut is I put some lavender essential oil in the Epsom salt and pour it into my bath water to soak in.
    I wonder if making a combination of the Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Nettle would make a good bed time tea. I may try that.
    I have a Dream pillow and I love it. I heat it and drape it across my neck and shoulders because I carry all my stress and tension there. It works wonders to relax those muscles and help to sleep.
    I’ve never tried Valerian. I will try that too. This post was most welcome because I have a special needs son and have a lot of stress in my life. Sleep is essential! Thank you Jabs family!

  5. Faye says

    What about making the pillow out of black material? Putting in a window with the sun shinning on it for a few hours, it would warm the insides.

    • Laura says

      Being in the mountains of New Hampshire, even our sunny window sills are very cold in the winter, so it would never heat up! Good idea for warmer months though, nothing like free solar heat! Thanks!

  6. Laura says

    Is there a way to heat it in the stove oven for those of us who have long ago ditched our horrible microwaves or who just don’t have one? Don’t want to bake it or start a fire of course, but there has to be a sensible way to heat it that way.

    • Terrry says

      Hi Laura. One thing that came to mind was to put the pillow over a heat register or your radiator. The other thing I thought of was a crock pot on low? Might be worth a try.

      • Laura says

        Thanks Terry, I don’t have any registers or radiators, but I do have a wood stove, which I’ve wondered about trying it with. It gets extremely hot, so I’d have to put it on something, not sure what. A cookie sheet would be too thin, I’ve burned baked potatoes in minutes by putting them on the wood stove during power outages, so I’d need to use something thicker to avoid burning the material. Which of course leads me back to my kitchen oven which would do the same thing but it would be suspended on the shelf, which seems a little less likely to burn. Maybe I can cautiously experiment with a little quickly-made sample pillow so I don’t waste time and material by ruining a nicely made one! I appreciate the various suggestions!

        • Jane Anna says

          Hey Luara, you mentioned that you have a wood stove, and a great why to heat up the pillow is how we used to bake on top our wood stove. See, our our `real` oven didn`t work for the longest time, so when we needed something baked we took a bread cooling rack(or at least thats what we called them, they`r a small steel rack with legs that hold it anywhere from a quarter of an inch to two inches from the surface, depending on what type of rack you have), then take a large roasting pan (it has to be big enough to fit over the rack). Put your rack on the stove, your pillow on your rack, and the roasting pan over the whole caboodle. It worked baking everything from cornbread to cakes for us. And you don`t have to worry about any flame!

          • Laura says

            Thank you Jane Anna, that’s a great idea. My wood stove is very small however with the stove pipe centered, so there’s very little surface space on top. I might be able to adapt my own version of your idea however, with something smaller for pans. I’ll have to put some thought into it, thanks again for the idea! 🙂

    • Katie says

      Hi Laura, You can probably do the same as i do for my wheatbag, wrap it up in foil and put it in the oven on a lowish heat for about half an hour – i know foil isn’t the greatest, but i use an eco-friendly option from our local organic shop and reuse the same piece until it’s ripped – hope his helps

      • Laura says

        Thanks Katie! Is your ‘wheatbag’ the same concept, with material on the outside and then filled with… wheat? I don’t mind using tin foil for this, I’m just stingy with it so I’ll re-use the same piece as many times as I can. What is “lowish heat”? 200, 300? I have no idea and would hate to put the work into a pillow only to scorch and ruin it or worse, set a fire, LOL.

        • Katie says

          LOL yes it is the same concept 🙂
          Being in new zealand i work in degrees Celsius, but on conversion i would say go no higher than 200F – maybe a little less- it’ll depend on your oven too – I had to experiment a little with times and temperatures until i got it right.

          Also to stop it drying out put a sprinkle of water (really just a few drops) onto the pillow before wrapping it up