7 Natural Remedies for Insomnia

You have some reasonable choices to find natural remedies for insomnia for your sleepless nights. They range from better "sleep hygiene" (e.g.., keeping the room dark and avoiding brightly lit cell phone, TV, and/or computer/notebook screens; avoiding caffeine after mid-afternoon)  to natural supplements for sleep (herbs, amino acids, hormone melatonin, homeopathic remedies, and minerals).

Natural sleeping remedies can be of great benefit to anybody who has trouble getting to sleep at night but does not want to take regular sleeping pills.The addiction risks of sleeping pill drugs are significant, and drugs usually distort the natural sleep cycle along the way.

In this article we will look at some of the most popular natural sleeping remedies that you might want to check out, after consulting with your own doctor:

1. Valerian

Valerian is a herb traditionally used as a remedy for insomnia. It is not known exactly how it works but it is thought to have a similar effect to some prescription sleep medications. It is not addictive but it is better not to take it for more than 3 months at a time.

Some research suggests that valerian improves the feeling of being rested and more refreshed after a night of sleep. It may take a few weeks to produce its maximum benefit for insomnia.

You can take it either as tea or in capsule form. Tea is more traditional but it is harder to get an accurate dose that way and many people do not like the taste, making capsules are more popular.

Although some people find valerian helpful immediately, others have to take it every night for a couple of weeks before it begins to have an effect.

This is not always convenient because it is important not to take valerian if you have been drinking alcohol, if you are pregnant or nursing, before or after surgery, or if you have liver disease.

Some people experience mild side effects including headaches, indigestion and dizziness. If you suffer from these then you probably will not want to take valerian on a regular basis, but there are still some other natural sleeping remedies that may suit you.

2. Chamomile

Chamomile is a versatile herb that many people consume as a tea. Chamomile is a natural folk remedy that can improve not only your sleep, but also soothe digestive upsets and calm down anxiety.

Try a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime. Of course the trade-off can be needing to get up and urinate in the middle of the night, but it may be a good option to try if you just need some sleep.

While it is much weaker than a conventional drug, past studies have shown that it can affect the brain receptors for benzodiazepines (drugs like Xanax or Valium). It may help you relax tense muscles.

3. Passion Flower, Lemon Balm (Melissa)

Some folk medicine and herbal experts also suggest trying other herbs for sleep. These include passion flower (Passiflora) and lemon balm (Melissa)

Passiflora, like chamomile, may help with gastrointestinal upsets and anxiety as well as help lessen muscle spasms.

Some people find that these types of herbs can also help reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Some research suggests that lemon balm in particular may improve cognitive abilities in learning and memory as well as lessen agitation in people with Alzheimer's disease. 

Melissa is also a versatile herb - helping reduce inflammation and perhaps to help fight some bacterial and viral (e.g., cold sores from herpes virus) infections.

As with any herb, watch for side effects that might include dizziness, daytime sleepiness, and even nausea and vomiting.

4. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. When the end of the day comes and darkness falls, our body converts serotonin into melatonin to help us fall asleep.

If you expose yourself to bright light, especially blue light, too close to bedtime, you inhibit melatonin production and deplete what has built up in the brain and get insomnia.

 Melatonin supplements are therefore often used by people seeking natural sleeping remedies, especially in cases where the body clock has been thrown out by something like shift work, jet lag or hormonal changes.

Some studies have concluded that melatonin should not be taken by people with schizophrenia, depression or autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and many more). In these cases you might want to consider other natural sleeping remedies.


5. 5-HTP

5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5HTP is a natural amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin, one of the body's 'happy chemicals' that helps us to relax, among other things. It is one of the most often mentioned natural sleeping remedies.

5HTP is freely available from drug stores or health food stores in many countries including the USA, UK and Canada. Studies have shown that it can be effective as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant and sleep aid. It may also help reduce anxiety.

If you take 5HTP for insomnia, the best time to take it is in the evening, about 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. You can take it on an empty stomach. A dose of 50 mg should be enough.

No serious side effects have been established so far but you should consult with your doctor before taking 5HTP, especially if you are taking other medications. 5HTP should not be combined with antidepressant drugs that are involved in serotonin production.

As with most other supplements, pregnant and nursing women and anybody with health issues should consult with their physician before taking natural sleeping remedies.


6. Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathy is a controversial system of alternative medicine whose medicines are made by diluting the original source material from plant, animal, or mineral, followed by intense agitation called succussions of the solutions in which they are diluted. 

For insomnia, it is probably best to try the 30C potency, available at most health food stores or online. If your sleeping problem is part of a larger symptom picture, you might those other symptoms help guide you to the best choice for you.

Homeopathic Nux Vomica is an herbal-derived remedy that may work best in individuals who also feel irritable and impatient with other people. The Nux Vomica condition includes a tendency to overindulge in food and alcoholic beverages, as well as suffering allergies and indigestion. 

If you see yourself as a Type A driven person, try this medicine.

Homeopathic Coffea Cruda is made from raw coffee. Some studies in animals and people suggest that it can improve sleeplessness. Traditionally, homeopathic practitioners believe that the method of preparation can produce effects in the opposite direction from what the source can do in its original form.

If you are someone with a tendency to experience insomnia if you drink coffee too close to bedtime, consider taking homeopathic Coffea Cruda 30C when the problem strikes again.

7. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is typically taken to work with other nutrients in keeping nerves, muscles, and bones functioning properly. Many experts recommend a ratio of 2 to 1 calcium to magnesium supplements. Low magnesium is a key factor in the insomnia that many people have.

You can get magnesium from certain foods, but poor diet, malabsorption, and some drugs (like the commonly-prescribed PPI (proton pump inhibitors for ulcers and reflux) can deplete your magnesium. This makes it a wise choice to get a good magnesium supplement.

The magnesium-rich foods include dark chocolate, avocadoes, various tree nuts and seeds, tofu (from soy) and other legumes, whole grains, fatty fish like salmon, bananas, and leafy green vegetables.

The most common side effect of magnesium supplements is GI distress and diarrhea. The oxide form is most likely to cause this type of side effect. Look for better tolerated forms like magnesium glycinate or maleate or citrate. There are also sprays that get magnesium into you via the skin.

Conclusions

You have a number of different non-drug choices to overcome insomnia. The list of natural remedies for insomnia in this article is only part of a much longer list of natural strategies that can help. Other alternative therapies include acupuncture, self hypnosis and guided imagery.

Sidestep the risks of addiction and/or other more serious side effects of drugs for insomnia. At least give some natural approaches a try to see if you can beat insomnia and get the rest you need.


About the Author Kris Greenway

Natural Wellness Zone is a blog discussion of approaches to self care using complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies that make sense to help people dealing with a range of health challenges. Kris Greenway is a fellow patient who has researched and found more natural ways to deal with a long list of health problems, including type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, leaky gut, and arthritis. She includes information and updates from expert physicians to educate people about their natural wellness options.

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