8 Natural Remedies for Insomnia
I can attest from experience that insomnia is really, very annoying and also hard to manage alone due to the fact that it makes you so tired that you can’t think straight enough to help yourself. So here’s a helping hand: these natural remedies will help to get your sleep schedule back into sync with your natural sleep cycle, without the side effects associated with prescription drugs.
A study that treated patients with non-organic insomnia (insomnia that is not caused by another medical condition) found that a 600mg dose of valerian extract was at least as effective at treating the condition as the prescribed drug oxazepam. Both treatments significantly increased sleep quality in the participants, including the feeling of refreshment after sleep, and the duration of sleep. More patients reported positive results after six weeks of treatment with valerian than those who were given oxazepam.
Valerian is a potent remedy so it’s best not to rush into taking a high dose of it. I suggest that you start small so that you can monitor how your body reacts to the remedy. Valerian is available in tea form, or you can grow the plant and make tea from it yourself. Try having a mug of valerian tea before bedtime and increasing the blend and how much you drink until you are happy with the effects. If you don’t like the taste, you can buy a tincture instead. If you choose to take valerian in supplement form, start with a very low dose and work your way up, to make sure you’re comfortable with the effects of it. All that aside, the study outlined above actually found fewer mild side effects from valerian use than caused by the prescription drug, so this really is a wonder remedy and cure for many people.
Since valerian can cause sleepiness and drowsiness, don’t take it when you need to do something that requires full concentration, like driving or, y’know, operating heavy machinery, or if you’re also taking a prescription sedative.
Passionflower is a natural sedative that was used by our ancestors to treat various disorders including insomnia, anxiety, insomnia, excitability and hysteria. Various studies like this one have shown that passionflower helps to calm people down and put them to sleep, but more research need to be done into how it works exactly, so that we can get the full benefit of this plant.
Passionflower is milder in strength than valerian, so it’s a good one to start out with before moving onto the heavy stuff. I recommend using about a teaspoon of dried passionflower in a mug of water, drunk about an hour before you need to go to bed, as this is what studies have found to work best. If you don’t like the taste, passionflower is also available in tincture form. As with all sedatives, it can cause sleepiness and drowsiness, so treat it with the same caution as valerian.
Prolonged use or heavy dosage of passionflower is not recommended – a month tops should help you out. In fact, even looking at the crazy-looking flower is kind of calming, so maybe you can just grow the plant and then stare into it… Or maybe that’s just me.
There is strong evidence to support the use of kava-kava as a natural sleep remedy. One study found that rats that were given a dose of 300mg of kava-kava fell asleep much quicker than rats that weren’t. A scientific review found that kava-kava helped to reduce social anxiety, which is probably why it helps to bring on that elusive sleep. Kava-kava is still used in parts of the world as a sedative and anaesthetic.
Although kava-kava was found to have what researchers called ‘hypnotic effects’, there is some speculation as to whether using it helps to maintain mental clarity rather than causing the fuzzy-brain side-effect typical of other sleep remedies. Still, treat it as you would any other sleep remedy – with some caution. Kava-kava is heavily regulated in some countries because consuming too much can cause toxicity, so keep that in mind if you use it.
Acupuncture has been used to treat insomnia in China for many years. A study found that acupuncture helped patients to sleep more than prescribed medications in some circumstances. It also found that when combined with medications or herbal remedies, acupuncture helped to increase total sleep duration in participants. So the best way to use it is alongside a natural remedy, either something for anxiety or one of the remedies listed above.
A study looked at the use of meditation and health education to treat people with chronic insomnia over an eight-week period. After two months the patients reported that although they were not sleeping for longer than usual, they had better quality of sleep, were waking up feeling more refreshed, and felt able to manage their insomnia better. Group meditation had the best results and is therefore recommended for treating sleep problems, so sign up to a local class and you’re in for a mental treat.
6. Take Up Yoga
Since yoga has been shown to relax and calm people and reduce symptoms of anxiety, the theory is that it should also help people to fall asleep and to sleep well. A study found that a basic daily yoga practice improved sleep quality and quantity in patients suffering from all kinds of insomnia. This yoga routine was taught to participants by researchers, so you don’t need to be a yogi to experience the benefits of yoga on sleep, you can just follow a basic YouTube tutorial and take it from there.
7. Try Hypnotherapy
Despite the strange and magical way in which hypnosis is portrayed it is in fact rooted in science. Hypnosis has been observed to change the way the brain reacts to stimuli and even to alter the behaviour of what are referred to as ‘more suggestible’ participants. The effects have been confirmed through brain scan imaging. Hypnosis for relaxation and sleep are therefore potentially very easy routes into tackling sleeping problems, as all you need to do is lie in bed at night listening to a hypnotherapy CD, and let the words do their work. Odds are you’d be lying there awake anyway, so what have you got to lose?
8. Limit Artificial Light Exposure Before Bedtime
Many of us have poor bedtime habits as we look at PC and phone screens before going to bed. This use of artificial light could be linked to poor sleep experiences as artificial light can stimulate our bodies into ‘wake up mode’ as if it’s actually daylight. The best thing to do to counter this is to have a regular bedtime routine that involves cutting out all use of screen-technology for an hour before you go to sleep, and then sleeping in a dark room. If you don’t have black-out curtains, try using an eye mask instead. Also, you can keep a thermos of herbal tea by your bed for if you do wake up in the night. All set? Goodnight!
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or herbalist. Please consult a doctor or medical provider for medical issues and before self-remedying, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
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