- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
I Can't Get to Sleep! Natural Help for Insomniacs
Help for the Part-Time Insomniac
It's 2:30 am, and you can't get to sleep. You've tossed and turned, gotten up for some water, even thought of warm milk (blech). Perhaps you can't sleep because you are worried about day-to-day stresses. Maybe a crisis at home or work has you tense, restless, and unable to sleep. Perimenopause or menopause can also disrupt sleep patterns. Or, maybe, you just simply can't get to sleep or stay asleep.
Whatever the cause of your insomnia, here are a few simple, natural suggestions to help you finally fall asleep.
Whether over the the counter or prescribed by your doctor, pharmaceutical sleep medication should be your last resort when it comes to treating insomnia. In fact, in January 2013, the FDA ordered the manufacturers of drugs containing zolpiden (e.g. Ambien, Zolpimist, Edluar) to lower their recommended dosages for women, citing impaired alertness in tasks after waking, including driving. The FDA recommends that women currently taking these drugs consult with their physicians about dosage levels.
Common sleep medications are known for a range of common side effects, including:
- Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
- Changes in appetite
- Gas, Diarrhea & Heartburn
- Dizziness & Balance issues
- Dry mouth or throat
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- Unusual dreams
Instead of risking odd side effects like sleep eating and sleep driving, herbal remedies offer a safer yet effective option for women and men of all ages.
For centuries, herbalists and apothecaries in European, Asian, and other cultures have relied on different natural medicines to help their patients sleep. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes herbal medicine as an essential component in primary healthcare. Taking a cue from cultures much older than ours, here is a list of recognized
1. Chamomile Tea: The sleep remedy of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers is still a useful sedative. Drink a strong cup of hot chamomile tea before bed.
2. Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep/wake cycles. Available in vitamin stores and in the supplement aisles of such national chains as Target and Walmart, the capsules help cause drowsiness, lower your body's temperature, and ease you into a sleep mode. However, according to WebMD, while melatonin can help you get to sleep, it does not help keep you asleep. So for those of you who are plagued with waking up at 2:30 or 3:00am, unable to return to sleep, continue reading below.
3. Lavender Oil: Lavender is known for its calming effects. Sprinkle lavender oil on your pillow or add to bathwater.
4. Valerian Root: This root is known for helping bring on sleep and maintaining sleep. Check with your local homeopathic medicine or natural foods store for help determining dosage.
5. Coffea: No, not coffee. Coffea. Another homeopathic remedy, this is made from the coffee bean and helps people whose brains are wide awake and working get to sleep. Again, talk to a homeopath about dosages.
4. Lemon balm: Approved by the German government for insomniacs. Can be drank as a tea.
The goal of each thought game below is to center your thinking on something that is absolutely not important and a bit boring, easing you off to dreamland. Take each one nice and slow.
1. Geography Games
Cities: Take the last letter of the first state that pops into your head, try to remember a state that starts with that letter. No repeats.
Countries: Same as above but harder.
States & Capitals: Can you remember your states and capitals? Start on the eastern seaboard and work your way west.
2. Presidential Dreamland--for the history buffs. Recite your U.S. Presidents forward and backward.
3. Foreign Language Verb Conjugation
Refresh your knowledge of those languages you learned in high school and college. Try conjugating a few verbs. Je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, on est, nous sommes . . . I'm making myself sleepy writing this.
4. Alphabet Movies / Alphabet TV
Again, start with the letter A and work your way to Z with movie titles or TV shows (don't do both at once, it's too easy).
5. Alphabet Rock Stars
Finally, a use for a use for Moon Unit Zappa! Starting again with A, either list rock soloists or groups until you get to Z. If it is too easy, limit yourself to groups from the '70s, '80s, etc. But remember not to make it too hard.
Never let these games get frustrating. If a president, irregular verb or Cubs manager isn't coming to you, do not get out of bed to look it up. Just move on to another game. The goal is to calm your mind, meditating over pointless facts.