Insomnia is a common condition. People with insomnia who want to avoid medications such as sleeping pills can try various remedies to encourage sleep onset and improve its quality and duration.
About a third adults in the United States report getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, which means 7 or more hours Sleep per night.
This article looks at some natural remedies, relaxation techniques, exercises, sleep hygiene, and behaviors that can improve symptoms of insomnia.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that the brain produces to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Liquid or capsule supplements containing melatonin can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster. Melatonin can also help improve the quality of sleep. It can be most useful for shift workers, people with jet lag, or people with insomnia.
Anyone contemplating taking melatonin should speak to their doctor about the best dosage, how long to use it, and how safe it is to use.
There are no guidelines for melatonin dosage, but experts believe a safe dose for adults is sufficient 1-5 milligrams (mg).
lavender Oil is a type of essential oil that is extracted from the lavender plant. People have used it as a natural remedy for thousands of years to improve sleep and create a sense of calm.
ON 2015 study found that lavender patches combined with good sleep hygiene improved the quality of sleep in college students, while a Review 2020 of plant extracts for sleep disorders found that lavender improved the onset of sleep, the duration of sleep, and the quality of sleep.
People with insomnia can use lavender oil as a pillow spray or in a band-aid, massage oil, or aromatherapy diffuser.
Lavender is usually safe for people as a dietary supplement, but it can sometimes interact with other drugs. Anyone who is already taking sleeping pills or drugs for high blood pressure should check with their doctor before taking lavender oil supplements. Look for supplements with around 80 mg of lavender oil for safe and effective dosing.
The 2020 review also highlighted other plant extracts – valerian and chamomile – that research has shown to be effective at relieving symptoms of insomnia.
The positive effects of mindfulness on wellbeing are well documented and include reducing stress, increasing resilience, improving mood, and even improving immunity. However, mindfulness can also have a positive effect on sleep.
ON Study 2014 Mindfulness techniques in people with chronic insomnia found that mindful meditation interventions shortened overall wake-up times in subjects. The study’s authors recommended mindfulness as a viable treatment alternative to traditional treatments.
There are tons of free and paid mindfulness apps, videos, and podcasts available online. People looking to try mindfulness may also prefer to attend a class, attend a local weekly class, or retire. You can also incorporate this practice into physical exercises such as yoga or tai chi.
Find out more about five places where you can learn meditation online here.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), sometimes called Jacobson relaxation, is a technique that can help the whole body relax and promote feelings of drowsiness. It focuses on tightening and then relaxing the muscles in the body, one muscle at a time. People who find it difficult to get off at night may find that this helps them fall asleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend relaxation techniques, including PMR, as an effective treatment for chronic insomnia. However, it may take you a while to get the hang of it. Practicing during the day can be helpful in the first few weeks before trying at night.
magnesium is a mineral that the body produces. It helps muscles relax and relieve stress. Many experts believe it can also help promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
ON 2012 study found that taking a magnesium supplement every day can help people with insomnia sleep better and longer. However, more research is needed to confirm whether it is really effective.
Choosing foods rich in magnesium, especially in the evening, can lead to feelings of drowsiness. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) Recommend a magnesium-rich snack such as a banana, mug of warm milk, or a small bowl of whole grain cereals about an hour before bed.
Find out more about which foods are high in magnesium here.
Regular exercise increases wellbeing, mood, and fitness, and can even help people sleep better. ON Test 2015 The European Sleep Research Society found that 150 minutes of exercise per week significantly improved symptoms of insomnia in participants and reduced depression and anxiety that negatively impact sleep.
The NSF recommend low-impact fitness programs such as walking, swimming, or yoga. When you exercise outdoors, your body is also exposed to natural light, which is important for a good sleep-wake cycle.
For maximum sleep results, people can benefit from planning a workout for the morning or afternoon rather than the evening. This allows the body temperature to rise and then fall at the right time for sleep. Increasing wellbeing and fitness through exercise also helps reduce depression and anxiety, which can affect sleep.
In the simplest case, sleep hygiene describes a person’s routines and activities around bedtime. Good sleep hygiene can help increase a person’s chances of getting consistent, uninterrupted sleep.
People can increase the likelihood of good sleep hygiene by:
- Have a consistent bedtime, which means going to bed at the same time in the evening and getting up at the same time in the morning, even on weekends
- Avoid screens, laptops, cell phones, and televisions at least an hour before bed
- Keep the bedroom dark and quiet with dimmed lights, thick curtains and blinds, or use earplugs and eye masks
- Use the bedroom only for sleeping or sex
- Make sure mattresses, pillows, and blankets are comfortable
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine and beverages containing caffeine in the evening
- Take a warm bath or shower about 1.5 hours before bed
- Avoid eating large meals late at night
People with insomnia can benefit from evaluating their usual sleeping habits and practices and incorporating some of these tips into their routine.
Find out more about why sleep is important here.
Insomnia is a common complaint in the United States, affecting up to a third of adults at some point.
There are many resources and activities that a person with insomnia can try to improve their sleep.
Anyone who is already taking medication for sleep disorders or high blood pressure should speak to their doctor before trying any supplements.
Research has shown that meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can be helpful for people with chronic insomnia.
Exercise can help improve wellness and fitness, but it’s most effective when people do it in the morning or afternoon.
Good sleep hygiene can be helpful in promoting consistent bedtime, which in turn can promote a good night’s sleep.