Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Everyone has trouble sleeping on occasion and it may mean turning up for work yawning or struggling to get out to a social gathering in the evening. These events are usually short lived and the body naturally adjusts by sleeping in at the first opportunity or trying to persuade a person to have an early night.

If the difficulty sleeping continues and starts to cause serious problems, then it can then be labelled as insomnia. The US Department of Health and Human Services [1] describe insomnia as either “acute,” if it is short-lived , or “chronic” if it occurs for three days or more each week for more than a month.

Although there is a vast range of drugs and medicines available to bring about sleep, the majority have side effects and a tendency to addiction and so natural home remedies should be investigated first.

Primary and Secondary Insomnia

It is important when wanting to try a natural remedy to determine whether the insomnia is due to a side effect from another condition or whether it is a condition of its own.

The first is called secondary insomnia and it will be necessary to consider whether a medical condition or prescription changed at the time the insomnia started. The lack of sleep may be due to a simple side effect of a new medicine or have been a symptom of some other sickness or injury.

The National Institute for Health [1] states that secondary insomnia is found to be the cause in eight out of 10 cases. If this might at all be the situation, then a doctor should be consulted.

Primary insomnia is not a medical disorder or caused by medicines or other substances. The inability to sleep will have been triggered by stress, anxiety or perhaps a change in lifestyle.

The Effects of Insomnia

Insomnia does not only create tiredness but also weakness and an inability to concentrate and focus. This can cause stress, anxiety, depression and an intolerance towards others. In these symptoms, the insomnia can actually be self perpetuating and increase in intensity.

The inability to concentrate and focus can make someone more likely to have an accident in the car and when using machinery. It often leads to mistakes at work or school and perhaps a tendency to speak before thinking.

Lack of sleep can cause irritability and make a person quick to anger. It can cause problems with relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

The First Steps to a Natural Home Remedy

The first thing that must be done is to attempt to identify the cause of the inability to get enough sleep. Even after dismissing secondary insomnia, it is worth reconsidering everyday substances such as caffeine, sugar, alcohol and even water.

If there is a new project at work or at school, then it may simply be that the mind is active and it is difficult to stop working even when in bed trying to sleep. If this is the case, then there are some excellent simple remedies that will help. (See also: Sleep Deprivation – an aid to Avoid Medication)

If a life-changing event has occurred, such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, change of employment or moving house, then it may be that a remedy will be required to encourage sleep to help manage the situation and recover from the stress.

If the insomnia may be due to anxiety of a future event, then the requirement may be for a remedy along with help in reducing the tendency for worrying.

Simple Steps to Reduce Insomnia

It may be that a simple change in lifestyle is causing the difficulty to sleep. After even a mild time of stress or anxiety, there may be an increase in consumption of coffee, tea, sugar or alcohol. It is advised that caffeine and sugary soda should not be consumed after 4pm as the effects of the stimulants will still be present when attempting to sleep.

Although alcohol may induce sleep, it can actually increase the occurrence of sleep disorders. Studies have shown that nonalcoholics who drink in the evening will have a disturbed sleep especially affecting the second half of the sleep period. Alcoholism will always create a difficulty in obtaining the correct amount of restful sleep. ( See: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism )

Even drinking too much water can disturb a night’s sleep with excessive trips to the bathroom. This may not be a problem for someone who is sleeping well but the disturbance may wake a person who will then have difficulty getting back to sleep.

Natural Remedy for Insomnia due to Work

It is very common for people who have a lot to think about to have difficulty sleeping. If there are problems such as with finances or a relationship, then professional help of a consultant or counselor should be sought to ease the problem before considering which remedy is required for insomnia.

If there is an important project at home, work, or school, then steps can be taken to reduce the tendency for the brain to be hyperactive at night. In a busy schedule, it is common for a person to use the time lying in bed to continue working on a plan.

One piece of advice that can often be found to help during such a time is that of completing letters or emails before going to bed. Keeping a notebook beside the bed will also help as when an idea comes to mind, as it can keep a person awake due to the concern of forgetting it before the morning.

Difficulty Sleeping Due to Anxiety

Natural remedies can be used to aid sleep in times of anxiety, but the root of the anxiety should also be eased. Worry and anxiety are irrational meditations on future events. It may be that finding out more information about a coming event will put the mind at ease.

A tendency towards anxiety can be controlled by directing the thoughts to things of today. Being conscious of the tasks for today, especially meditating on what is good, distracts the mind and can immediately relieve worry and anxiety.

Natural Home Remedies to Induce Sleep

While working on the root cause of the insomnia, various natural home remedies can be taken to aid sleep. These remedies start with improving the diet by including foods that help sleep. Simply having a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables along with protein and taking regular exercise keeps the body healthy and will cause the body to require physical as well as mental rest.

Particularly helpful ingredients that are easy to add to the diet are tryptophan and magnesium. Tryptophan is included in foods rich in protein with the highest levels found in egg white, Atlantic cod, soybeans and cheese.[3] Two more good sources are sesame and sunflower seeds, which can easily be placed around the house as a healthy snack for all the family.

Magnesium is a natural sedative and its deficiency can cause many other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, nausea, muscle tremors, cramps, anxiety and possibly a cause of restless leg syndrome which can keep people awake. [2]

Magnesium can be found in nuts and cereals, especially almonds, cashews and peanuts. Adding these to the snack tray of sesame and sunflower seeds will provide an excellent source of the most essential elements. Soybean; avocado and yogurt are also good sources of magnesium.[2]

The Sleep Inducing Properties of Lavender

Lavender has long been used as a folk remedy to aid sleep. Research has shown [4] that the smell of lavender not only helps a person get to sleep but helps it to be deep and restful. Aromatherapists use it to treat headaches; nervous disorders and exhaustion.

There are many food supplements and alternative medicine techniques that can help sleep disorders such as insomnia, but it is good to start with identifying the root cause and trying the simple steps described above.

The television advertisements promise instant relief from insomnia, but most of their products will have many other unwanted side effects. Unless the situation is desperate or a doctors advice is being followed, it is best to first try natural remedies for insomnia.

[1] Source: US Department of Health and Human Services – National Institute of Health

[2] Source: National Institute of Health – Dietary Supplements – Magnesium

[3] Source: Medline Plus – Tryptophan

[4] Source: University of Maryland – Medical Center