How to Treat Insomnia Naturally
If a good night’s sleep feels more like luxury than a necessity then you’re not alone. I agree that sleep should be something glorious and beautiful and something we all should look forward to but at the same time, it should be given top priority like eating, drinking and even breathing.
Insomnia used to be a huge issue for me. I’d crawl into bed feeling tired and stressed out. The fact that I had only a few hours to sleep stressed me out even more and in the end, I’d be staring at the ceiling with my mind racing, thinking about a hundred and one things that I should be thinking about during the day and not at night. I’m sometimes so wide awake that the voice in my head starts nagging “You’re wasting your time trying to sleep, get some work done!”
And that’s the mistake most of us are making. We are giving work way more importance than our sleep. You require work for your livelihood but you need sleep to live or live happily, if we take it a step further.
Many of us survive with only 3 to 4 hours of sleep every day. We get away with it and probably end up performing sufficiently at work, nothing extraordinary, just keeping it plain and simple. There are people who work super hard and are successful and they work on only 4 hours of sleep too but how is that helping in the long run? Is money really more important than your health?
Yes, money is more important
Let’s face it. We need money for happiness. We need family, good friends and everything nature has to offer for happiness too but money is more of a requirement than anything else. If I don’t make enough money for food, I’ll probably not eat enough or end up having street food every day which is unhealthy too.
But what if I tell you that getting at least 7 hours of shut eye will help you earn more money?
Studies show that sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on your thinking and learning capabilities. Moreover, your alertness, attention level, reaction time, reasoning skills, creative thinking skills and memory are effectively taxed too if you don’t get enough sleep. Therefore, whether you work or go to school, you can’t achieve long term success if you don’t get enough sleep. You’re going to get mentally much older than you should be by the time you’re 40, 50, 60… 80, if you don’t get enough sleep. Here’s a Ted talk by Arianna Huffington, co-founder of Huffington on sleep and success:
Why lack of sleep is bad
You may think you can get more done by getting less sleep but it’s counterproductive to do so. About 15 percent of people suffer from insomnia, I’m guessing you’re one of them if you’re reading this article or you’re just having trouble sleeping tonight. If you’re tossing and turning each night, it is time you decide that you are going to do something about it.
Make a change starting from today and I promise you will see a difference if you set your mind to it. Insomnia is a problem on its own but it can also lead to further complications such as:
- Heart disease
Moreover, sleep deprived people are more likely to have an accident at home, on the road or at work and are most likely going to work LESS, miss work days, and ultimately accomplish less than others who get enough rest at night.
Many of us survive with only 3 to 4 hours of sleep every day.
Sleeping also makes you beautiful. Many people look much older than they actually are and that’s because they lack sleep, among other possible reasons such as exposure to chemicals, improper diet, sun exposure etc.
How you can make a change
If you have your mind set that you are going to make a change starting from today, read on to find out how you can actually treat your insomnia in a natural and side-effect free manner. No, I’m not including sleeping pills on this list for obvious reasons.
1. Respect your bedroom
Your bedroom is called a bedroom for a reason. This is the only room in your house where you can sleep and have sex and perform no other tasks within a confined space. This means this shouldn’t be your workspace, your entertainment space, your party space, your drinking space, your eating space… only sex and sleep. A little reading (from a real book) is okay to relax you before bed.
Maybe your room needs to be redecorated to make it look more cozy and sleep-worthy. Here are some awesome cozy-bedroom ideas you can try.
If you work at home, set up an office outside your room. If you workout every day, keep a gym space outside your room. If you live and eat alone, dine in the kitchen.
The most important rule, keep the TV, laptop and every other electronic device, including your phone, if possible, outside your room. Use a real alarm instead of your phone to wake you up every morning and stop checking your alarm while you sleep as well – this really causes some serious stress and prevents you from sleeping.
The most important rule, keep the TV, laptop and every other electronic device, including your phone, if possible, outside your room.
2. Get in the zone
Sleep may not be an attractive part of your life if you don’t ensure that you’re comfortable enough. Having a hard bed or even a bed that’s too soft will prevent you from sleeping soundly. Furthermore, not having the right pillow can cause discomfort as well.
Secondly, make sure your room is cool, dark and quiet. Insomnia can be caused by loud noises in the middle of the night. You can’t go back to sleep once you have been awakened sometimes. To fix this, try to sleep in a quieter room or just wear earplugs.
3. But if you have to sleep during the day…
Get blackout curtains to eliminate sunlight. It is also important to understand that since pretty much everybody is going to be awake during the day, there’s going to be a lot of noise. Noise is one of the biggest threats to getting proper rest. Therefore, find out ways that work best for you to eliminate noise. Some examples include, switching on the fan to reduce outside noise, using earplugs, putting on some soothing sounds in the background such as sounds of rain or the ocean.
4. Nap smart
Naps are awesome for a quick recharge but the key is to keep them short. A nap that is too long can actually be counterproductive and make you lethargic or sluggish when you wake up. You don’t feel like working and only want to work more. I get it, your bed is soft and cozy and everything amazing but you need to get up after a maximum of one hour. However, 20 to 30 minute naps work best and I often wake up super fresh when I keep it short.
5. Limit caffeine intake
Caffeine stimulates the brain so have only one or two cups per day. However, after noon, don’t have anything that contains caffeine, this includes black tea as well. It’s okay to have green tea before 5 pm because it contains a low caffeine level but I often feel more energetic and alive when I drink green tea so I avoid it in the evening and nighttime.
Do you think you are dependent of caffeine to stay awake?
If you can’t live a day without having a cup of coffee, see a healthcare provider and talk about your issues, chances are that these issues are treatable. Drink coffee because you truly enjoy it. Because the aroma makes you feel awake, alive and excited for a new day. Coffee is a luxury, not a necessity.
6. Say no to alcohol
Alcohol can help you go to sleep but one of the unpleasant effects of alcohol consumption is that you end up waking up in the night with body aches, headaches, a full bladder etc. Furthermore, once its sedative effect wears off, you experience a rebound effect and you are less likely to fall back asleep.
7. When and what you eat matter too
Avoid having high-sugar, high caffeine or spicy foods before going to bed. Foods that cause stomach problems or bloating can cause discomfort and prevent you from falling asleep. Have chicken or turkey for dinner because they contain sleep-inducing tryptophan but don’t have large dinners either. Make sure you eat four to five hours before bedtime. You could also try these 10 top foods to eat (and avoid) for insomnia to help you get a better nights sleep!
Avoid having high-sugar, high caffeine or spicy foods before going to bed.
8. Take a relaxing warm bath
I remember mum giving me a hot bath before bedtime and putting me in my jammies. It was always so comforting and I would fall asleep like a baby – literally – but we adults can enjoy the good old days again.
Taking a hot or warm bath before bedtime is an amazing way to relax your body and get it ready for bed. Moreover, using essential oils in your bathwater and the lingering scents on your body can calm your body, soothe your muscles and just make you feel happy while you’re in bed. You can also add Epsom salts to your bath water and soak for about 10 to 15 minutes to really relax your body. Turn on some soothing music if you want and give yourself some time off after a stressful day.
Taking a warm bath close to bed time can stimulate sleep but I would really suggest that you experiment with timings and see what works best for you.
9. Set a permanent sleep routine
People who usually tend to wake up well-rested and have no trouble with sleep wake up and sleep at the same time every day. Therefore, your best bet would be to keep a super strict sleep/wake schedule every day and allow exceptions in extremely important cases only.
In order to ensure that you stick to a routine, make sure you wake up the same day every morning even if you didn’t sleep on time or get sufficient sleep. Avoid taking any naps and sleeping in. If you nap or sleep in in the morning, you are most likely going to have trouble sleeping in the night and are thus, going to end up suffering from insomnia again. Try to get sleepy in the night and fatigued in a healthy manner before sleep (the next steps explain how).
Studies show that people with insomnia experience better mood and sleep quality and more energy when they exercise in the morning versus exercising during the p.m. or not exercising at all. We’ve also gone into the Surprising Links Between Exercise and Insomnia here.
In a 2010 Northwestern University study, candidates who were women of age 55 and above were divided into two groups. One group performed aerobic exercises in the morning a few times a week while the other was involved in recreational activities such as attending museum lectures or cooking classes.
Not surprising, after a period of four months, the first group reported better sleep quality, improved mood, fewer symptoms of depression, less daytime drowsiness and more energy.
Exercise may sound like a chore to some and is misunderstood as an activity that makes one tired however, the opposite is true. Exercise gives you more energy and improves your mood too.
This is a result of the endorphins and dopamine that are released during exercise. These feel-good chemicals are amazing for the human body and have several benefits to offer, including more energy and improved sleep.
However it is important that you exercise in the morning. Exercise increases energy and can thereby, prevent you from sleeping for a few hours. Since you want more energy during the daytime so that you perform better at work, it only makes sense to get your sweat on during the a.m. While exercise gives you that healthy surge of energy, your body begins to feel tired because of it at night, making you sleep peacefully. Furthermore, studies show that exercising in the morning reduces stress hormone levels.
Don’t have enough time to exercise in the morning? Quickly prepare a smoothie (here are 54 recipes to choose from), pour it into a mason jar, get out and run! It’s okay to exercise in an empty stomach too, here’s why. I usually do my morning yoga or Pilates with just a glass of water and I feel good!
One of the best ways to combat insomnia is through yoga. Yoga has numerous benefits for the human body, be it emotional, psychological or physical and sleep is one of the most important ones. Studies show that yoga can relieve stress, eliminate pains and body aches and of course, treat insomnia.
Want to know more? Here are 38 reasons why you should be doing yoga by the Yoga Journal.
Yoga has a sedating effect on the human body. The calm, slow and controlled breathing more than just relaxes you; it keeps your mind at peace and helps you sleep soundly. One of the best yoga poses to combat insomnia includes the standing wide legged forward bend.
The standing wide legged forward bend is one of the best and simplest inversions anybody can perform to improve sleep. Inversions help by increasing the flow of blood and thus, oxygen and nutrients to the brain, thereby, inducing sleep and mental relaxation. Here is a video by Tara Stiles on several types of intermediate style inversions you can perform to improve mental health:
To perform a standing wide legged forward bend stand with feet approximately four feet apart with hands on hips. Breathe deeply, exhale and lean your torso forward from the hips until you can place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Lengthen your spine and place your head on the ground, supporting your head and neck. You can place a few books or a block on the floor and place your head on it if it’s difficult to place your head on the floor. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and inhale and exhale for 30 to 60 seconds… or more, if you can! Here is a video by KinoYoga on how to perform a standing wide legged forward bend.
I absolutely love Kino’s videos; she explains each posture beautifully. It’s a channel you ought to subscribe to if you’re a beginner yogi!
Stress is one of the most common causes of poor sleep and insomnia among adults. For more on Insomnia and Stress Management please check this article out here. Addressing this issue can allow you to enjoy better sleep at night.
Since we are talking about yoga, try relaxing your mind and body in child’s pose. Child’s pose is a yoga posture which relaxes your mind and soothes your muscles, allowing you to extricate your mind from everyday causes of tension until you can fall asleep.
To perform a child’s pose, sit on your heels so that your inner legs are touching your feet. Lean your torso forward, bringing it to your thighs and allowing your forehead to touch the mat. Extend your arms forward with your palms facing the floor. Keep your palms active and relax your body and allow your heart center to melt into the mat. You can widen your elbows or knees a little bit if it improves the purpose of the posture. Focus on your breathing, meditate and count till four to eight for each inhale and exhale. Relax deeper while you exhale. Here’s a video by YogaOnline on how to perform a child’s pose. This pose is super relaxing and anybody can do it.
Here is a bonus video for you guys by Yoga by Adrienne on a pre-sleep yoga sequence for all you yoga lovers. It is super relaxing and beginners can perform it as well. Enjoy!
13. Natural alternatives for sleeping pills
Other than developing tolerance and having erratic behavior, use of sleeping pills have been known to cause several side effects, including cancer! Here are some of the most common side effects of frequent use of the drug and why you must STOP.
Fortunately, there are several alternatives that are natural and almost free of side effects, some of which you can even find in your kitchen. Here are some of the most popular natural remedies for insomnia:
- Tryptophan – Remember having a glass of warm milk before bedtime when you were a kid? A glass of warm milk is an age-old remedy for improves sleep because of the amino acid, tryptophan in milk. You can have the milk in room temperature or cold too but warm is always relaxing. Studies show that tryptophan levels are often low in people who are depressed, which allows researchers to link it to mood and emotional health. Moreover, if depression is a cause of insomnia, you can also talk to your doctor about taking a tryptophan supplement.
Tryptophan relaxes the mind and helps the brain get into sleep mode. Scientists believe that this may be because tryptophan stimulates the production of more serotonin in the body. Low serotonin levels can prevent you from sleeping and cause stress.
If you urinate frequently during bed time, you can have cottage cheese or Greek yogurt instead.
However, if you’re lactose intolerant, there are some dairy-free options that contain tryptophan as well, such as chicken, turkey, tuna and cashews.
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to set its biological routine but it is also sold in supplement form as a sleep aid. Studies show that melatonin has a significant effect on those suffering from insomnia and symptoms of jetlag. Some studies also indicate that melatonin can reduce the time it takes for individuals to fall asleep and the number of times they wake up in the middle of their sleep. However, melatonin may not increase the length of your sleep. Melatonin is a supplement that may work for some and not work for others. Talk to your doctor to find out if melatonin supplements are the best option for you and how much you should be taking per dose.
You can also find melatonin in cherry juice (fresh and free of sugar!). One study showed that participants who drank cherry juice twice a day experienced much better sleep and fell asleep much faster than participants who took a placebo.
- Valerian – Valerian is a herbal supplement sold as a sleep aid. Although studies show that the effect of valerian on sleep is a debatable one, some people do benefit from its use. Using valerian may increase you deep or REM sleep stage as the plant possesses sedative and muscle-relaxing properties. However, valerian may also increase energy levels in some people so see what effect it has on you and use it accordingly. If it helps you sleep, have it in the night and if it makes you feel energized, have it during the day, if you really have to.