Natural Insomnia Remedies: Fall Asleep and Sleep Deeply without Drugs
Remember . . .
- Natural remedies do not work overnight. Allow time enough to see if a remedy is working (usually several weeks).
- Not everything natural is safe. Poison ivy and cobras are both natural!
Can't Sleep, and Don't Want to Take Sleeping Pills?
Almost everyone goes through a period of insomnia at some point or another in their lives. Most people don't wish to take sleeping pills because of the danger of addiction, or the side effects. However, you don't have to give up—natural alternatives to help you fall asleep do exist, and are readily available. If you are having problems with insomnia, try some of these natural remedies to see if they are able to alleviate your difficulties. Some of these insomnia remedies don't even require you to take anything at all!
I get this much sleep per night, on average:
Get Ready to Have a Good Night!
Try Keeping a Diary to Pinpoint the Cause of Your Insomnia
Sleep Boot Camp!
An intensive four-week program designed to help you identify the problems you have sleeping, and conquer them, one by one. Written by a WebMD expert, Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist.
Identify Your Exact Problems
There is no single solution for insomnia. The reason is that there is no single cause, either. And even then, a remedy that works for one person, because of temperament or physical differences, may not work for another person. So, one of the really important clues to helping solve your sleep problems is to know what is keeping you awake. Some of the usual culprits in chronic insomnia include:
- Irregular Schedule
- Nutritional Deficiency
- Heartburn or Acid Reflux
- Sleep Apnea or Snoring
- Stress or Anxiety -- you can't turn your mind or your emotions off
- Grinding your teeth as you fall asleep (bruxism)
- Hypervigilance from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Prolonged Duration Stress Disorder (PDSD)
- Other problems such as adrenal fatigue
By keeping a diary you may be able to pinpoint one or more of these common issues that keep us from getting a good night's rest. This kind of diary usually includes:
- Time you fall asleep
- Time you wake up (including times when you wake in the middle of the night)
- Any lights, noises, or other environmental, mental, or physical factors that interfered with falling asleep or falling back asleep
- Do you feel rested in the morning?
Different teas are noted for their abilities to combat insomnia. One or more of the following herbs, made into a tea (also known as an infusion, or a tisane) may help you to fall asleep more easily at night. Whether they just relax you or have some sleep-promoting natural chemicals, try them and see whether they work.
Relaxing, Calming and Sleep-inducing Herbal Teas
Stash makes excellent quality teas, and I can vouch for the effectiveness of chamomile--sometimes I don't even get to finish the cup before I fall asleep!
If you think tryptophan may work, and you don't want to take tryptophan capsules, you can try holding a tablespoon of oatmeal in your mouth until it dissolves.
Don't Want to Drink Tea?
Some people just hate the thought of tea for some reason, and would rather suffer with insomnia than try it -- even the herbal teas. I'm not one of them, but if you absolutely hate even the thought of tea, you might try some of these other common herbal remedies that have been used throughout the centuries as natural sleep aids. Be careful--after all, remember that poison ivy is natural, but it is not safe! Analyze your problems with falling asleep or staying asleep, and discuss your particular problems and these remedies with a qualified medical professional.
Products that May Help You to Fall Asleep or Stay Asleep
Tryptophan is the chemical in turkey that makes you feel so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner!
Ready to Get a Good Night's Rest?
Noise-Cancelling Machines to Help Insomnia
No frogs, sea sounds, or anything fancy. Just plain, pure white noise, and this product gets rave reviews!
Reducing or Masking Noise to Help You Fall or Stay Asleep
There are numerous ways to reduce or mask noise that enters your bedroom. Reducing noise can be as simple as adding some decoration to your bedroom in the form of heavy curtains (which can also block light), or a heavy bed canopy, or upholstering your walls (for extra noise cancelling, take foam panels, make cushions to cover the foam panels (you can use zippers for easy laundering), and fasten them to the wall with some hook-and-loop tape). If you prefer to have a one-person, non-obvious solution, the way to achieve that is with earplugs.
If you decide that you would prefer to cancel out the noise, you can leave the radio, a CD player, or a tape player playing softly, or invest in a white noise machine. Just make sure that if you have a partner, she or he can agree with you on the noise to cancel out the other noises! (Incidentally, if you leave a radio or CD or tape player going, studies have shown that forty-five minutes of soft classical music not only helps people fall asleep faster, but produces deeper and more restful sleep. If you don't like classical music, don't worry. You can turn the volume way down and it will still work--your brain will process it in exactly the same way as if you could hear it well.)
Why does noise-cancelling work? Noises that enter our bedrooms at night are not continuous, and are often random. By having something making predictable, continuous noise, our bodies and minds are lulled into relaxation.
Zzzzzzzz . . .
Masks to Help you Sleep
Purely functional sleep mask, and this mask stays on no matter what position you sleep in!
Blocking Light to Help You Sleep
If, after checking your diary, it turns out that excess or random light is the reason for your problem sleeping (this occurs often in the case of bedrooms with windows facing the street, where headlights from passing cars shine in the bedroom, or where landscape or security lighting shines in the bedroom window), then an easy, permanent solution may be to invest in light-blocking curtains. If you don't like the look of curtains, you may want to look at a Roman shade in a light-blocking material, or even a fabric panel made from light-blocking material to put in your window at night. Or, if you like the look of those romantic bed canopies, one in a heavy fabric (such as upholstery material) should work well to block out light.
The easiest solution solution of all, if you can tolerate it, and something that will not affect your sleeping partners, is the 1940s and 1950s glamour movie standby, the eye mask. If you've ever seen those movies where Doris Day is sleeping with one of those pink satin eye masks on her face, you know what I'm talking about. If for some reason the other solutions are impractical, an eye mask may be just what you need. You can make one yourself, or buy weighted ones if you don't like the strap, or even ones with pockets for inserting hot or cold packs, or a cloth with a few drops of essential oils on it. I can particularly recommend the lavender essential oil by Young Living, and I don't even sell it -- I am simply a very satisfied customer of their high-quality essential oils.
Massage for Chronic Pain Relief
Dealing with Chronic Pain to Help You Sleep
Many people live every day with low-grade chronic pain, and although we are pretty good at blocking off the sensation of pain during the day, when we are busy with other tasks, we may be suffering pain at a very low level that is interfering with our ability to sleep. Most of us are never aware of the chronic pain, and so we may have difficulty in identifying what it is that is preventing us from sleeping well.
If it turns out that you are dealing with chronic pain, one way to deal with the pain naturally is to visit a massage therapist who specializes in pain relief. While this is not an inexpensive solution, you may find that when you start feeling the relief from pain, it will be worth every penny--I know I feel that way!
(Warning: check with a qualified medical professional to make sure you have no contraindications for massage. Massage for pain relief is often very painful itself, but you will feel better afterwards. In addition, massage for pain relief can take upwards of a year to resolve the issues causing the chronic pain. Some massage therapists have specific certifications, such as massage for temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction, so check those out.)
If regular visits to a massage therapist are impractical, a few drops of lavender essential oil rubbed into the aching area may help to relieve the pain. If all else fails, the old standby, Absorbine Jr., may be just the ticket!
Your Dental Health Affects Your Sleep!
Dealing with Tooth Grinding to Help You Sleep
Grinding your teeth (also called bruxism), is something that many people do unconsciously. If you have headaches, or any tightness in your jaw, this is something you should seek help with from a qualified dentist as soon as possible. On your next visit to the dentist, ask her or him to check for signs that you grind your teeth. Not only does grinding your teeth give you headaches and other pain, but you could crack or even lose a tooth from the intense pressure your jaws exert. In fact, your jaws can exert up to 40 pounds per square inch--25% more pressure than your tires take to keep that ton of car weight off the ground!
If your dentist diagnoses bruxism, she or he will prescribe a mouth guard fitted to the shape of your teeth to relieve the pressure. Hypnosis may also work to alleviate the problem, and of course, reducing your overall stress can't hurt!
Massage may also help with bruxism. Find a massage therapist who specializes in temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) massage, which usually involves massage inside the mouth.
Music to Help You Sleep Better
This is the only brand of essential oil that I can recommend, having tried many different kinds. Lavender has been proven to have soothing effects.
Dealing with Hypervigilance to Help You Sleep
If you are unfortunate enough to have suffered a major trauma, you may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is caused when someone reacts to a sudden, unexpected event, and you do not even have to have been directly affected in order to have PTSD (for example, many people who saw the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on television suffered some mild form of PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include hypervigilance (such as jumping out of your skin when the phone rings or someone walks in the room unexpectedly), nightmares, insomnia, and more. If you suspect you may have PTSD, you should get a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional.
If you have suffered a period of prolonged stress, such as being bullied, or living in an abusive environment, you may have Prolonged Duration Stress Disorder (PDSD). Although the cause is different, the symptoms are much the same as PTSD, and again, you should consult a qualified medical professional for a diagnosis.
If you have problems going to sleep because of hypervigilance, your only solution may be light- and noise-cancellation or reduction. Relaxation therapy, meditation or prayer may also help, as might lavender essential oil (make it up into a spray and spray your bedroom with it before you go to sleep at night) and a calming tea. Hypnosis and psychological treatments may also help, as new therapies are being tested all the time.
Promote Sleep with Better Digestion!
Did I mention how much I love Stash teas? Their peppermint tea is fabulous!
Dealing with Heartburn to Help You Sleep
Heartburn, acid indigestion, acid reflux -- these are all symptoms of the stressful lives we lead and our less-than-ideal diets. However, there are many remedies that can help you deal with heartburn, and they can be ridiculously simple!
- Try peppermint. It doesn't matter whether you use the essential oil (recommended), or drink peppermint in tea, eat peppermint candy, or chew peppermint gum, just so long as some actual real peppermint is in there. Or you can use a natural toothpaste that is safe to swallow that contains some peppermint. In any case, peppermint relieves heartburn in a jiffy in many cases!
- Fennel seed is another great and time-tested heartburn remedy. Try chewing on about a quarter-teaspoon of fennel seeds, or drink some fennel seed tea.
- Lying on your left side will reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. Because the acids have to travel farther to get to your esophagus, they simply never make it that far.
Dealing with Sleep Apnea or Snoring to Help You Sleep
Sleep apnea can be diagnosed only by a qualified medical professional. Sleep apnea is a very serious disorder and can lead to many health problems, so if you snore, you should be evaluated for sleep apnea. (Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing in your sleep, and this can lead to serious, even eventually fatal, health problems. In fact, some doctors believe that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) may in fact be caused by sleep apnea, and the infant not starting breathing again.)
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the most common treatment is with a C-PAP machine. This is a machine with a mask that fits over your face, and blows warm, moist air into your mouth. Be sure to clean your C-PAP machine regularly, as bacteria and fungus can grow in the moist environment.
If you have chronic anxiety, this product may help. It doesn't make you high, drowsy, or give you a drugged effect; it just makes everything seem a bit more manageable and takes effect an hour or so after ingestion.
Dealing with Stress
A massage may help temporarily relieve stress, but sources of chronic stress need to be addressed for a permanent solution. Consider brainstorming alternatives with family members; in my case, I was feeling overwhelmed with everything I had to do, so I ended up bartering a half-hour of my time for routine tasks that took me four hours to do—thus freeing my time up for more specialized (and highly paid) work.
Help to Conquer Insomnia
If you have done your best to pinpoint your insomnia, and nothing seems to work, you may wish to invest in a visit to a sleep lab. A sleep lab will be able to monitor your physical activity, heart, brain waves, and more during your sleep process, and they can identify causes of sleep disorders which you may not be able to identify for yourself.
A partner will be able to tell you whether you snore; if not, get a tape recorder and record yourself at night to see if you are snoring.