Herbal Remedies for Insomnia

Insomnia sufferers can have difficulty getting to sleep and also maintaining a deep restful sleep. Avoid activities that disrupt natural sleep patterns such as consuming caffeine and use herbal remedies to relax the body and mind.

Diet and Lifestyle to Aid Good Sleep

The first obvious step is to remove or at least limit stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, In terms of diet, avoid energy drinks, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, excessive fats and sugars. The diet should include a regular intake of complex carbohydrates, protein, essential fats, fruit and vegetables. Eat foods rich in magnesium as a deficiency can result in sleeping problems. Good magnesium sources include dark leafy green vegetables, almonds, cashews, soybeans, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast and whole grains.

Sometimes insomnia can be a symptom of another condition, such as sleep apnea or diabetes, so it’s important to see a doctor for regular sleep problems. Common psychological reasons for insomnia include anxiety, nervous tension and depression. Stress can cause poor sleep and yoga can help to relax the body and mind promoting sleep. A regular sleeping pattern and relaxation routine before going to bed can help bring a peaceful state of mind aiding sleep. Avoid watching films and playing computer games right before bedtime as it can be more difficult to sleep when the mind is digesting lots of information.

Chamomile as a Sleep Aid

Chamomile is a relaxant and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile contains spiroether, an antispasmodic that acts as a muscle relaxant and eases period pain. Chrysin in chamomile relieves anxiety and a cup of chamomile tea taken an hour before bed can calm digestion, relieve nervous tension and irritability- promoting good sleep. Chamomile can also be used externally by adding a few drops of the essential oil in the bath.

Passion Flower the Natural Herbal Tranquilizer

Passion flower has a history of being used for disturbed sleep problems. The Algonquin in North America used it as a herbal tranquillizer and was widely used by the Aztecs as an analgesic and sleep inducer. A gentle sedative, passion flower reduces nervous anxiety, irritability and has the additional benefit of being non-addictive. Drink up to two cups of the infused herb in the evening to treat sleeplessness.

Valerian as a Herbal Remedy

Valerian has been long used as a remedy for insomnia and is a safe relaxant reducing nervous tension and anxiety. Research suggests that Valerian may affect levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA. Valerian is beneficial for most stress-related conditions, calms the mind and remedies insomnia caused be either anxiety or over-excitement. Side effects of valerian include mild indigestion, headache and dizziness. Valerian can cause drowsiness and shouldn’t be taken with alcohol, before and after surgery, before driving or operating machinery.

Lavender for Insomnia Relief

The scent of lavender is well known as having a soothing and calming effect; lavender can also be used to relieve irritability and calm nerves. Lavender essential oil can be used in sleep pillows, in the bath or in a ceramic oil burner in the bedroom. Research suggests lavender can lengthen total sleep time and increase deep sleep.

Caution should be applied to the use of herbs during pregnancy, and it has been suggested that teas are used in moderation and to always consult a doctor before trying any new herbal remedies. Causes of insomnia include stress, depression, anxiety, general tension, high consumption of stimulants and poor diet. Treat insomnia by addressing the reasons for poor sleep with safe non-addictive herbal remedies such as lavender, passion flower and valerian.

Read How to Sleep Better on a Sunday for information on how to deal with “Sunday night insomnia”.


  • Vukovic, Laurel, 1001 Natural Remedies, Dorling Kindersley, 2003
  • Chevallier, Andrew, Herbal Remedies Handbook, Dorling Kindersley, 2001