Who doesn’t love getting a good night’s sleep? There’s no better way to feel energized and have a great start to your day. Unfortunately, for some, restful sleep is a luxury. Estimates state that 50 to 70 million people in the US alone struggle with a sleep disorder. Up to 15% of US adults have insomnia that affects their day-to-day activities.
If you’ve had even one episode of insomnia, you know how much it can mess up your day. When it turns into a recurring event, it can impact your overall health. Luckily, there are many natural remedies for insomnia.
Around 35% of people worldwide struggle with some type of insomnia. When thinking of this issue, many believe it means one can’t fall asleep. But it is a little more complex than that.
Insomnia can mean difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. In other words, you have insomnia if you just can't fall asleep, regardless of how tired you initially feel. You may toss and turn for many hours. If you’re lucky, you may eventually sleep for a couple of hours, but that’s not a given.
You also have insomnia if you fall asleep pretty soon after going to bed but wake up after just a few hours or less and can’t fall back asleep.
Both types of insomnia leave a negative imprint on your quality of life and your health. When you don’t get enough sleep, especially if it becomes a regular occurrence, you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more.
What causes insomnia?
There are many factors that can cause insomnia. The most common culprits include:
- Stress. This inescapable issue can mess up your body in many ways, and insomnia is one of them, making it difficult to disconnect and relax.
- Irregular sleep schedule. Everyone has their own circadian rhythm. An irregular sleep schedule will disrupt your internal clock, leading to insomnia and poor sleep quality.
- Certain medications. Insomnia can be a side effect of some medications. If you’re unlucky and experience this issue, talk to your doctor to find the best possible solution.
- Your diet and lifestyle. Certain foods, like caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol, can contribute to insomnia, especially if consumed in the evening. Vigorous exercise in the second half of the day, as well as the blue light of electronic devices, can all make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
- Health problems and acute or chronic pain. Pain will cause problems for the best of sleepers. Other less obvious conditions that can lead to insomnia include gastric reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
- Sleep disorders. Restless leg syndrome, apnea, sleep paralysis, sleepwalking, and even nightmares can significantly impact the quality of your sleep.
- Pregnancy. Over 50% of pregnant women struggle with insomnia. Physical discomfort, reflux, and frequent urination are some of the most common explanations.
8 Natural remedies for insomnia
There’s no shortage of home remedies for insomnia. You might not find the best one for you right away. A lot depends on what is causing your insomnia, so put on your detective hat first and try to figure out why you’re struggling to sleep. Here are some remedies you can consider.
Melatonin is a hormone your body should make once it gets darker outside. It helps you fall asleep faster and have a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Sadly, the modern lifestyle hinders that a lot. The sun may set, but your body will rarely feel it’s getting darker. Bright artificial light plus the blue light from electronic devices all keep your brain wired and the melatonin levels low.
Supplementing can be a solution, and studies show it can bring significant improvement for those suffering from insomnia.
The recommended dose is between 1 and 5 mg, 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed. Start with the lowest dose possible, though. Higher doses can cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, irritability, or stomach cramps.
2. Turn off your electric devices in the evening
The blue light of electronic devices can cause both digital eye strain and insomnia. For most people, using these devices throughout the day is a must. But that doesn’t mean you have to be glued to your phone until the second you go to bed.
Start by using a blue light filter at around 5 or 6 p.m. Then, 1-2 hours before bed, try to switch all devices off if possible.
Instead, meditate, do some light stretches, try progressive muscle relaxation, read a (physical) book, or simply spend time with your loved ones. All of these will help your internal clock get into “sleeping mode,” which will help you relax and have better sleep.
3. Keep a regular sleep schedule
Each person has their own circadian rhythm, or internal clock, that dictates the best time to fall asleep and wake up. If left to do its job, your internal clock will sound all the right alarms at the right times. But the modern lifestyle gets in the way of that a lot.
Do your best to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Yes, even during the weekends! It may feel like you’re missing out on a few glorious extra sleep hours in your free days, but in the long run, your body will thank you. You’ll start falling asleep faster and find it easier to wake up, even at an early time.
Shift work or traveling in different time zones can make this challenging. Adjust your schedule as needed to help your body adjust to the changes. Create bedtime rituals or consider supplements like melatonin or magnesium to help you relax.
Magnesium is a fantastic mineral that can relieve stress and help with muscle relaxation. It is a natural sedative, and research proves it. A 2012 study with elderly participants showed that 500 mg of daily magnesium for two months helped reduce insomnia. Participants reported better sleeping patterns and waking up feeling well-rested.
Remember that a 500 mg dose might be too high for some people and lead to side effects, including an upset stomach, cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting. That’s why most doctors recommend sticking to a lower dose at first of up to 300 mg for women and 400 mg for men.
5. Watch your diet and exercise routine
Avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and other things that may have an energizing effect in the evening. Plus, if you eat right before bed and then struggle with insomnia, you may need to push your dinner earlier. Digestion can get in the way of sleep as your body is busy and can’t really wind down.
Exercise in the evening is another interesting topic. For some, it’s the perfect antidote to insomnia. For others, it’s a one-way ticket to a sleepless night. Assess how you feel and adjust your workout schedule accordingly. If vigorous exercise doesn’t seem to be for you, but you still want to move before bed, try some gentle yoga.
There’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of aromatherapy lately. One of them is treating insomnia.
Does science support these claims? Can treating insomnia be as easy as smelling the right type of essential oils? While things are certainly more complex than that, there is evidence some essential oils can and do help with insomnia.
Lavender oil is the most used essential oil for insomnia. It can induce relaxation and calmness and help you fall asleep faster. A 2020 study found that lavender extract was beneficial in reducing insomnia symptoms.
Chamomile is another essential oil that many believe helps relieve anxiety and induces relaxation. Clinical trials haven’t found it to be as effective for insomnia. However, The good news is that unless you have a rare allergy, aromatherapy has no known side effects.
7. Add acai to your diet
Acai is a powerful antioxidant. There are no clinical studies on its effects on insomnia specifically.
But acai berries are high in magnesium, potassium, manganese, and other minerals and vitamins, all of which can contribute to improving your sleep quality. If you don’t like or can’t get acai locally, consider a supplement high in it.
Acupuncture or acupressure may also help. Studies have often been mixed, but recent research shows acupuncture may help you sleep better.
It is also an excellent remedy for both acute and especially chronic pain, but also for stress. By relieving those issues, it can indirectly improve your sleep quality.
The bottom line
Nobody enjoys dealing with insomnia. Yet, a staggering number of people all over the world do each day. Stress, an erratic sleep schedule, medication, and other factors can all lead to poor sleep quality.
Luckily, there are plenty of natural remedies for insomnia to choose from. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine without electronic devices, supplements, or aromatherapy are only some of them.
Do you have a favorite bedtime routine? Something you know will 100% make you fall asleep faster? Join us on Facebook and let us know.
This blog post does not provide health or medical advice. This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health or medical advice. Before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate medical and healthcare professionals. We do not provide any kind of health or medical advice. The use or reliance of any information contained on this blog is solely at your own risk.