Athletes swear by it. Babies need it. And women — well, women are severely lacking it...
That would be a good night’s sleep. In fact, it’s several nights of deep, restful sleep that you’re likely missing out on.
According to research by Harvard Medical School, 60% of women regularly fall short of the seven to nine hours of recommended daily sleep.
And this is troublesome because our body’s essential functions rely on sleep.
Routine biological processes like digestion, metabolising food into sustainable energy, and muscle recovery get harder and harder for our body to perform when we're operating in that 'sleep debt' zone.
What’s even more important is that you get adequate deep sleep. It’s the most restorative phase of your sleep cycle, and if you’re missing out, there are 11 proven natural deep sleep activators we can use to get back your groove.
How Does Sleep Affect a Woman’s Overall Health?
The phrase 'beauty sleep' is a misnomer — the fact is that we should call it 'total health sleep'.
If you’re a woman, the chances are far greater that you’ll experience emotional, mental, and even physical symptoms related to deep sleep deficit.
Sleep affects a woman’s overall health in several ways. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, women experience more severe depression symptoms, greater trouble sleeping at night, a higher degree of difficulty concentrating, and excessive daytime sleepiness when they're routinely missing out on sleep.
They simply cannot afford to compromise their sleep...
For example, researchers at the University of Warwick and University College London found that women who consistently get less than eight hours of sleep a night are at higher risk for heart disease and heart-related problems than men.
On the bright side, research at Stanford on the sleeping habits of women found that high-quality, deep sleep can:
- Help fight the development of cancers (thanks to optimal melatonin production and release during sleep)
- Maintain cortisol levels (which helps regulate your immune system, metabolism, and stress response)
Now, here’s why deep sleep matters just as much (if not more) than other aspects of the sleep cycle.
During the most restorative phase of sleep, the 'deep sleep' period, our body is in a state of garbage and waste clear-out.
If our body was a computer, this reset and refresh on your operating system would be like shutting down our PC for the night.
Like our computer, the 'power down' allows our brain waves to change into delta waves. This then sets off a cascade of hormonal release and responses that your body relies on to make memories, repair muscles and tissues, process our food into waste, and absorb and deliver the nutrients our body needs.
Scientists call the delta wave-triggered deep sleep phase a point for 'sleep-immune crosstalk'.
We need these waves to trigger a healthy, protective immune response, keeping inflammation that causes everything from cancer to infections and poor wound healing at bay.
While in deep sleep, our breathing gets deeper, and our conscious mind is not in control any longer. In this quiet, relaxed state, the body’s automatic processes have what they need to go to work and make sure everything runs smoothly when we wake up.
There’s less blood flow to the brain because the body is relying on CSF or cerebrospinal fluid to clear out all that mental and physical waste. CSF, the liquid surrounding our spinal column and brain, does this far more efficiently than anything else.
For example, one of the 'waste' proteins cleared out by CSF is beta-amyloid. This is essential because researchers have found beta-amyloid is related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also why impaired sleep can put us at greater risk for Alzheimer’s earlier in our life.
Why Do Women Have Such a Hard Time Falling Asleep?
In the great debate between the genders, women seem to frequently experience more emotional and physical stress and disturbance than men.
The toll that depression or chronic fatigue takes on women is significant, affecting everything from their personal identity to their relationships.
Part of the issue may be that women simply experience these ailments quite differently than men. As Duke University researcher Edward Suarez says:
'We discovered that for women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress, and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger. In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men.'
11 Common Signs Of Destructive 'Sleep Debt'
But we can’t reach a phase of deep sleep if we're not falling asleep right away, if we wake up multiple times a night, or if the dull but consistent experience of pain stops us from relaxing enough to hit deep sleep.
If we accumulate enough nights of poor or disturbed deep sleep, we'll experience:
- Foggy thinking
- Daytime grogginess or sleepiness
- Chronic fatigue
- Impaired attention
- Elevated cortisol levels (feeling like you’re constantly on edge)
- Unstable moods (mood swings)
- Poor reaction times when making fast decisions (such as during driving)
- Increased number of infections, or infections that last a longer time than usual
- Trouble remembering things
- Inability to focus on one thing at a time
These 'effects' of a sleep deficit are signs that we're not getting enough deep sleep.
In the long term, however, a lack of deep sleep can lead to a number of other health issues, including diabetes, obesity, and depression.
Deep sleep debt happens in women because of a number of reasons, including:
- Stomach inflammation
- Nighttime urination
- Night sweats or chills
- Pain related to achy or swelling joints, body aches, neck pain, shoulder pain, bloating, abdominal pain, wind, flatulence, and acid reflux
- Sleep disorders (Research shows that women with sleep apnea, which is a type of sleep disorder, are more likely to have heart failure than men with this issue.)
Later in this article, we’ll discuss the six main sleep disruptors wreaking havoc on women’s bodies and sleep cycles.
And, if you’re experiencing any of these issues, don’t fret — we also have 11 deep sleep aids that will help you reclaim your Z’s naturally.
How Women Can Activate A Guaranteed 7 to 9 Hours Of Restorative Sleep Every Night With These 11 Natural Remedies
1. Passionflower Extract
Scientifically classified as P. incarnata, passionflower is a beautiful daisy-like plant with pleasing pink leaves and a bright orange centre. And, while it’s beautiful, passionflower has a wide range of healing effects.
According to the American Botanical Council, uses of passionflower extract include the following:
'Currently, herbalists employ P. incarnata for its analgesic, antispasmodic, hypnotic, nervine, and hypotensive effects.
It has proven useful as a sedative for intractable insomnia, for relieving nerve pain, and for addressing seizures and asthma associated with spasms and tension.' — American Botanical Council
Phew! That’s a lot of good from one little plant's extract.
This means we can use passionflower extract to help with anxiety, insomnia, total body relaxation, as a mild and natural 'sedative,' and even for physical pain that could be causing tension and sleepless nights.
For example, if stress-induced gastritis (characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, headache, etc.) is a chronic issue keeping us up at night, consider drinking a cup of passionflower tea.
It increases GABA, the neurotransmitter that relaxes our mind and our muscles, and gets us into that state of deep sleep much more consistently.
2. Hops Flower Extract
Hops flower extract comes from the original hops flower. In its natural form, it has a mild to bitter taste because of the active ingredient, lupulin.
However, lupulin also displays a sedative and calming effect on the body. In a study of 36 participants with self-reported depression and anxiety, consistent use of hops flower helped to significantly improve mild depression and anxiety symptoms over a 4-week period.
Besides this, hops flower is also frequently used to combat sleep disorders like insomnia.
Researchers think it has something to do with a volatile alcohol group that activates melatonin receptors and gives the plant its sedative properties.
Besides this, taking hops flower can reduce the incidence of inflammation, diabetes, and metabolic disease. Since a deep sleep deficit eventually leads to greater inflammation, hops can help you get a good night’s sleep and counteract the effects of inflammation.
And, finally, hops flower can help alleviate those hot flashes, fatigue, and other uncomfortable menopausal symptoms keeping you up at night. A 16-week study of menopausal women showed that hops flower’s phytoestrogens could help alleviate and soothe menopausal discomfort.
3. Magnesium Citrate
Magnesium citrate is the most bioavailable form of magnesium because it’s bound up with citric acid.
Research suggests that this makes it easily digestible — so if we do have gut issues, magnesium citrate can still be well-absorbed.
Magnesium citrate can also help if we’re keeping awake at night because of chronic pain.
It can offset the effects of calcium by relaxing muscles and nerves. Essentially, if we're overstimulated or overworked, magnesium citrate can help soothe and relax muscle and joint pain.
Furthermore, magnesium citrate has been proven effective against the constellation of menopausal symptoms.
These include hot flashes and night sweats. More than half of the patients in a study reported a reduction in the frequency of these symptoms.
And, finally, magnesium citrate would not be the natural remedy for deep sleep troubles if it didn’t also address, well, sleep!
Women, in general, have trouble falling and staying asleep, but it gets much worse as you age.
A study involving 46 participants using magnesium citrate for primary insomnia showed that subjects slept deeper, fell asleep faster, and woke up at consistent times every morning.
4. Zinc Glycinate
Zinc glycinate has several positive effects if we're missing out on deep sleep. It can help combat a range of sleep disturbances.
First off, when taken specifically for sleep, zinc glycinate, especially when taken together with magnesium, regulates melatonin levels and synthesises this sleep hormone so that it’s properly taken up by the body.
Together with magnesium, zinc glycinate can greatly improve four aspects of sleep:
- How easy it is to get to sleep
- The quality of sleep
- How quickly sleep 'hangover' (or that groggy feeling after you wake up) goes away in the morning
- Your alertness and sense of being well-rested the next morning
When it comes to infections and inflammation, zinc’s therapeutic effects travel from the brain to the body.
Supplementation in 50 individuals showed that zinc reduces oxidative stress that accumulates in the body, and this cut the frequency of infections by 66%.
5. Natural Glycine (Hydrolysed Collagen Peptides)
Besides the fact that collagen is essential in maintaining the strength of skin, ligaments, tendons, and joints, one-third of it is also made up of glycine.
And glycine has significant sleep-enhancing effects.
A study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that glycine helps calm the nervous system and lowers body temperature. We need to have both of these to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
Secondly, glycine’s therapeutic sleep restoration effects can also improve our waking hours.
A 2012 study found that glycine improves daytime cognition, alertness, and performance in individuals who were struggling with sleep.
And finally, glycine can help to soothe and heal gut inflammation, especially if we're experiencing IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), stress-related intestinal dysfunction, or colitis.
It’s been shown to form a protective barrier against intestinal inflammation. This is extremely important because any intestinal inflammation can change up the composition of the gut's microbiota (the microorganisms that live in your digestive tract).
This can then fuel even more inflammation, trapping you in a vicious cycle that's hard to get out of.
Research shows that simple amino acids like glycine have a therapeutic effect on gastrointestinal diseases, making it a crucial supplement to include in our daily life.
6. Valerian Root Extract
Much like hops flower, valerian root is a proven sleep aid. In fact, it works even better when it's taken with hops.
A randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study in patients suffering from insomnia showed that the combination of the two significantly reduced the amount of time it takes for someone to fall asleep.
This is incredibly beneficial because the longer it takes for us to fall asleep, the greater the chance that we won’t be able to make it to the deep sleep phase.
Additionally, studies show that women experiencing sleep-disruptive symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, can opt for valerian.
7. Curcuminoids (95%)
Curcuminoids come from turmeric as a type of micronutrient known as 'polyphenols'. Foods — or, in this case, roots — high in polyphenols have significant benefits for the body, doing everything from boosting immunity to protecting from the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
That’s a big deal because oxidative stress (connected to chronic inflammation) is the leading cause of many cancers.
Now, supplementation with curcuminoids at a 95% potency has a range of positive effects on the body, and most of them are related to its role as an anti-inflammatory agent.
For example, studies show that curcumin is highly effective in addressing the inflammatory response related to diseases like pancreatitis, arthritis, and IBD or inflammatory bowel disease.
If we're struggling with gut- or gastrointestinal-specific conditions keeping us up at night, it’s essential to supplement with curcumin or turmeric.
Curcumin’s role as a hormone balancer is well-documented. Because it targets and combats inflammation in the body, it can help balance the stress hormone cortisol.
In fact, stress is the most common 'pathway' to inflammation in the body.
Stress, through the hormone cortisol, can also have an effect on how we metabolise energy in the body and our hunger response.
The science around this relationship is complex, but, in simplest terms, a stressed body can trigger all sorts of ‘coping’ mechanisms — and one of these is increased hunger.
Taking curcuminoids for inflammation can also improve our weight-loss goals, especially if our body is having trouble metabolising food.
Studies on patients with metabolic issues showed that curcumin can help reduce BMI, weight, and the hormone that tells us if we need to eat more to boost energy (also known as leptin).
Since poor sleep is tied to inflammation, taking curcumin is a sustainable and powerful way to combat the deep sleep deficit — in a way that produces total body wellness!
8. Pure Vitamin C
It should be clear by now that none of the body’s processes exist independently of each other. An imbalance in one area causes a cascade of negative effects in many others.
For example, stress affects everything from mood and mental health to immune response and sleep.
That’s why many of these deep sleep activators have intimate and supportive relationships with other remedies. Vitamin C is the perfect example of this. It naturally occurs in citrus fruits or even berries like blueberries.
However, daily intake of vitamin C can help the body absorb and synthesise more collagen. And, of course, we know that one-third of collagen is made up of glycine, which helps enhance sleep.
How neat is that? Besides this, vitamin C is a well-documented 'alternative' for sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. In a review of studies conducted on the connection between sleep and vitamin C intake, researchers found that:
- Vitamin C is one of the best antioxidants to address oxidative stress in the body, which is also the underlying cause of sleep apnea.
- A double-blind randomised clinical trial of vitamin C administered to patients 3 times a week for 8 weeks showed that this 'simple and inexpensive potent solution' could 'improve sleep quality and decrease restless leg syndrome'.
9. Wild Jujube Extract
There are many claims about jujube fruit extract, as it’s been used in Chinese medicine for over a thousand years.
But, does science agree?
Several studies prove that it does. First off, using jujube extract as a remedy for menopause-related sleep disorders has had significant positive effects on participants who experienced improved sleep quality after 21-day use.
A review of dietary jujube also showed that it has neuroprotective benefits. This means it protects the brain’s neurons against neurotoxin build-up (which, by the way, is what happens when you don’t get enough sleep).
It also enhances and preserves memory and learning, both of which take a hit when you’re sleep-deprived.
Here are a few other documented ways jujube extract is a superpower supplement to include when addressing deep sleep issues:
- For inflammation: Jujubes have polysaccharides and flavonoids, both of which are natural compounds that strengthen the immune system.
- For sleep: Saponin, a type of phytochemical in jujube, helps to trigger helpful changes in GABA and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help the body relax, feel good, and fall asleep easily.
- For digestion: Jujube has been studied for its role in increasing 'intestinal motility'. This means that food waste moves through your digestive tract faster and it's easier to defecate.
10. Magnolia Bark Extract
Like jujube, magnolia bark extract is a tried-and-true Chinese medicine favourite. Fortunately, it holds up just as well under a microscope for women experiencing deep sleep-related issues.
First off, a study of 89 women experiencing menopause symptoms experienced very positive effects when it came to improved sleep quality.
There were also reported decreases in non-sleep related symptoms such as flushing, dryness, irritability, mood fluctuations, and anxiety.
Secondly, magnolia bark exhibits two major bioactive compounds: magnolol and honokiol. Studies show that they both work together to reduce inflammatory pain without any motor or cognitive impairment.
11. Black Pepper Extract
So far, you know that the combination of valerian and hops flower increases the sleep potency of both as a sleep aid. Vitamin C plays a significant role in helping collagen synthesis, which also improves glycine’s ability to enhance sleep.
Black pepper extract works much in the same way. When taken together with curcumin, this natural spice increases turmeric absorption by 2,000%.
In fact, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School recommend using black pepper extract for its active ingredient, piperine. Piperine can help improve the bioavailability of curcuminoids in turmeric by making sure the liver doesn’t excrete or eliminate curcumin as part of its function.
They also recommend taking curcumin with a healthy fat source (such as omega-3 fish oils and nut butter) to make sure that it bypasses the liver and goes directly into the bloodstream.
Before turning to synthetic or artificial, pharmaceutical options to improve your nighttime rest, consider these 11 deep sleep activators.
As naturally-occurring herbs, minerals, roots, flowers, tree bark, and spices, these remedies include bioactive compounds with no toxicity. They’re also highly unlikely to cause any unwanted side effects, the way many prescription medications do.
The only caveat to natural remedies is that it takes time to accumulate in the body and see effects — many of the studies we’ve looked at feature individuals who take these supplements for 21 days up to four weeks.
So, if you’re experiencing digestion issues, inflammation, incontinence, menopause, or sleep disorders, give yourself some time to try these methods and see their effectiveness for yourself.
Editors note: Take our scientific 3 min free Sleep quiz. You'll get personalised information about your sleep problems, pinpoint the exact root cause ad get scientifically proven solutions to end it for good: