4 Natural Remedies for Insomnia: Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep

Learn how to beat nighttime restlessness and feel energized during the day with these three time-tested natural remedies for insomnia.

natural remedies for insomnia

A glass of warm almond milk before bed may be a good idea. It is an excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin.

© Stefano Lunardi | Dreamstime.com

If you toss and turn at night and then feel lethargic during the day, using natural remedies for insomnia can help. The No. 1 reason people experience daytime fatigue is due to an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. As many as one in three people suffer from insomnia at some point during their lifetime. What’s more, approximately 10 million Americans currently take prescription sleep aids.

What about you? Are you “tired” of feeling “tired” every day?

Prescription Sleep Aids

While prescription sleep aids may keep you from counting sheep, like many prescription drugs, they are not always safe to use. First and foremost, most of these medications are addictive so many people who use them become dependent upon them.

In reality, some of these prescriptions are actually habit-forming narcotic drugs and are not intended for long-term use. This means that even when a person’s sleep disorder is resolved, trying to get off of the medications poses a whole other set of challenges. Prescription sleep aids also come with a host of side effects.

Besides the potential dangers associated with sleep aids, these drugs aren’t always needed. In fact, many doctors espouse that most people don’t actually need a prescription sleep aid, and the vast majority of people with sleep disorders can find relief in other ways.

How to Use Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Sometimes the root cause of insomnia can be complex and involve hormone imbalances or adrenal dysfunction, and those cases will need to be corrected. But many people just need a little assistance, and thus, trying one of these 3 time-tested natural remedies for insomnia makes a lot of sense.

These natural remedies for insomnia are non-habit forming so you’re very unlikely to become dependent or addicted to these therapies: There is little downside to trying one of these approaches and it might be just the thing you need to get a good night’s rest.

  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain that helps regulate circadian rhythm. As we age, the amount of melatonin produced in our body decreases; so the older we get, we are naturally inclined to sleep less. The use of melatonin supplements enables a person to fall asleep without feeling “drugged” and to remain awake and alert during the daytime hours, decreasing those excessive fatigue feelings. Melatonin is also helpful for people with jet lag or for those who work night shifts as it helps readjust the body’s sleep cycle. The dosage for melatonin is one 3 mg tablet one hour before bedtime.
  • 5-HTP: A serotonin deficiency (neurotransmitter deficiency in the brain) can be an underlying root cause of both insomnia and depression. If your lack of sleep is accompanied by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or negativity, taking 5-HTP may help you. A serotonin precursor naturally produced by the body, 5-HTP is also prepared in a supplement form from the seed pods of a West African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia. This 5-HTP has the ability to be converted into the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin as well as the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. It is a close relative of tryptophan—an essential amino acid found in certain foods that is also a precursor to serotonin. (Have you ever felt sleepy after eating that Thanksgiving turkey? Tryptophan is the reason why!) Learn how to take 5-HTP in our article Serotonin Deficiency: A Root Cause of Your Depression Symptoms?
  • Valerian root tea: If, in addition to insomnia, you experience feelings of anxiety, stress and worry, Valerian root tea can help ease your tensions and rest your mind. Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) contains a number of active chemical compounds including different alkaloids; however, the most important ingredient in Valerian root is gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA has often been referred to as “the brain’s own anti-anxiety medication.” It is the same active chemical that is triggered by taking the anti-anxiety prescription drugs, Valium and Xanax. You can learn more about Valerian root tea, including proper preparation and dosages, in our article Natural Remedy for Anxiety Found in a Cup of Tea.

Lavender for Sleep: One More Natural Insomnia Remedy

Several studies demonstrate the effectiveness of lavender for relieving sleep issues. A randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of Science and Healing noted the effects of lavender on college students with self-reported sleep issues.

The students were divided into two groups. One group received a lavender inhalation patch while the other group received a placebo inhalation patch for five consecutive nights. The results showed the positive impact of the lavender intervention on daytime energy and vibrancy along with improved nighttime sleep.

Another randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared the effectiveness of lavender and sleep hygiene vs. sleep hygiene alone. (Sleep hygiene is a variety of habits—from avoiding caffeine before bed to dimming or turning off the lights—that aid in good nighttime sleep quality.)

During this study, a Fitbit tracker, sleep diary, and sleep quality were measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the NIH Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) sleep disturbance short form. After two weeks, the lavender group demonstrated better sleep quality. Additionally, the lavender group had a significant finding for waking up feeling refreshed.

After trying one of these natural remedies for insomnia, let us know how it worked for you; leave us a note in the Comments section below. We’d love to hear if one or more of these remedies helped you finally catch some Zs!


Originally published in 2012, this post is regularly updated.

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Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC

Jami Cooley is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant as well as a Registered Nurse, but her interest in integrative medicine grew out of her experience in conventional medicine. Cooley … Read More

View all posts by Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC

Comments
  • I would advise experimenting cautiously with the 5-HTP. If your body is already producing plenty of serotonin, as mine seems to, taking 5-HTP can push you over the edge into what’s called serotonin syndrome which is what happens when you have too much of it. Serotonin syndrome can actually cause a “spinning mind” and insomnia. I took half a dose of 5-HTP once and had the very worst night’s sleep of my entire life.

    If Valerian root seems to work for you, you might also find as I have that glycine works wonders as a sort of tension reliever. Bone broth and pork rinds are excellent food sources of glycine. You can also purchase powdered glycine in capsule form. It’s not very expensive. It also has a pleasant sweet taste. I often dump the contents of one or two glycine caps under my tongue for quick absorption shortly before going to bed.

  • 5HTP by itself does not cause serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome can happen when someone is already on SSRI’s like prozac or MAOI and then takes 5HTP. It is a drug interaction .

  • I really appreciate this post. I love information I can read on the go. I have battled with insomnia since I was 5. My daytime routine was effected as well as my relationships. I felt like my life was a mess because of my sleeplessness. I decided to go natural I went here and the information changed my quality of life. I wish U all good sleep

  • Thanks for sharing this article. I am a regular user of CPAP mask for side sleepers since I am a patient of sleep apnea. This mask has a great effect and now my condition is far better right now. But I want to stop the use of this mask and for this reason, this blog is very good since it tells about natural remedies. I want to apply these for myself and hope for the best.

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