Home Remedies for Sleep
Insomnia Home Remedy
It’s not unusual to suffer from sleeplessness or have disturbed sleep on occasion. Even when it’s such a rare occurrence, the after effects are fairly obvious – loss of focus, daytime drowsiness, headaches, irritability, and son. When you suffer from sleeplessness, inadequate sleep, or insomnia on a regular basis, the effects are a lot more troubling. The lack of adequate good quality sleep for a prolonged period severely impairs daytime functioning and can also increase the risk of a numerous health conditions. Some of these health risks include insulin resistance and diabetes, high blood pressure, and mood disorders like depression and anxiety disorders. Over the counter sleeping aids and sleeping pills may seem like a quick fix, but these medications are fraught with risks and can also cause drug dependence. This is why its best to rely on home remedies for sleep, while medications should only be used under the advice of your general physician.
Here are some of the simplest home remedies for good sleep, including lifestyle practices and natural supplements.
Home Remedies for Sleep
Meditation is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety and this also makes it effective as an insomnia home remedy. This is because high stress and anxiety levels are a common cause for sleeplessness and disturbed sleep. Adopting a regular meditation practice before bedtime will help by lowering cortisol levels, slowing breathing and heart rate. This primes your body for sound sleep. Studies have found that practices like mindfulness meditation can promote significant improvement in sleep quality (1).
It would be an understatement to describe melatonin as just one of many insomnia remedies. In fact, melatonin supplements are used as a standard treatment for primary insomnia in the EU, especially in older adults. This natural hormone plays a vital role in the sleep wake cycle and low levels of melatonin at night can result in insomnia and poor quality sleep. Researchers have found that melatonin supplementation can even help improve quality of sleep in patients suffering from cancer and insomnia within two weeks (2). Just make sure to take the appropriate dosage (ideally 5 mg) shortly before bed time.
Today, yoga is most popular as exercise style to cultivate greater discipline, agility, balance, and improved flexibility, but it can offer a lot more. Many regard the practice as one of the best Indian home remedies for sleep, as this ancient Indian discipline doesn’t just focus on complex movements, but also includes gentle asanas, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation. To use yoga as a natural sleeping aid, make sure to take up a yoga discipline that emphasizes gentle flowing movements like restorative yoga, rather than a high intensity form like hot yoga.
Unlike the mild or low intensity yoga for relaxation, which we mentioned earlier, exercise should be practiced earlier in the day. This could also include a high intensity form of yoga or any other aerobic exercise that boosts your heart rate, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Studies show that regular exercise can result in a reduction of insomnia symptoms, while also providing relief from depression and anxiety (3). If you’re using exercise as an insomnia home remedy, just make sure to engage in moderate or high intensity activities for at least 20 minutes a day, but earlier in the day. Working out late in the evening can be counterproductive as it will have a stimulating effect on your body.
Contrary to popular belief, hypnotherapy isn’t mind control and doesn’t work like some kind of Jedi trick! It is actually a form of psychotherapy that employs extreme focus and attention to achieve relaxation and mindfulness. It makes you more receptive to suggestions and guidance, which is why it is so effective at promoting sleep and is even used to help with smoking cessation. The mechanism of action is not clearly understood yet, but evidence suggests that it can promote a deep state of relaxation similar to meditation, making it much easier to sleep. You can use audio visual tools for self-hypnotherapy to get started with the technique.
It would be a folly to try out home remedies for sleep and leave out one of the most popular sleep remedies – aromatherapy. Although the efficacy can vary depending on the essential oils used and the severity of insomnia, aromatherapy with lavender essential oil has been found to increase quality of sleep and lower levels of anxiety (4). You can use aromatherapy essential oils like lavender and chamomile as natural remedies for sleep by applying the oils to your feet, wrists, or palms after diluting them with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil. You can also use the oils in diffusers or add a few drops to your bath.
In addition to melatonin, magnesium supplements may also work as an insomnia home remedy, as deficiencies in this natural mineral are often linked to sleep and stress disorders. Magnesium plays a direct role in sleep by regulating the neurotransmitter called GABA – an amino acid that helps your brain slow down and the nervous system relax at night. Studies have found that magnesium supplementation can relieve insomnia symptoms, but its best to try and get more magnesium from your diet instead of with magnesium supplements (5). Leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources of the mineral.
Other Insomnia Remedies
- In addition to the home remedies for sleep listed above, you can try some additional insomnia remedies to improve sleep quality.
- Practice visualization or guided imagery, which is the practice of imagining yourself in a scenic and relaxing environment. You can do this using audio aids that guide you through the process.
- Avoid exposure to stimulants like caffeine and nicotine during the evening hours as they can increase feelings of restlessness, contributing to disturbed sleep and insomnia.
- Consider consuming foods that are rich in tryptophan like milk and tuna as this amino acid is synthesized to produce serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin.
- Eat a light supper and make sure that the last meal of the day is at least two hours before bedtime as acid reflux and indigestion can contribute to impaired sleep.
- Having a hot shower or bath an hour or two before bedtime is also known to promote relaxation and can induce sleep more quickly.
- Limit exposure to digital screens for at least two hours before bedtime as blue light exposure is known to suppress melatonin production. To reduce the ill effects of blue light exposure, you can also consider taking Lutein and Zeaxanthin supplements.
- Avoid spending time in bed during the day, especially working from bed, as this conditions your mind to being awake in bed. Only get into bed when you are ready to sleep.
- Try using music therapy as an insomnia home remedy, as it has been found to improve sleep quality in some individuals. Relaxing classical music can induce sleep, as well as improve the duration and quality of sleep.
When to see a doctor?
Minor sleep disturbances and occasional bouts of insomnia are not uncommon and should not be a cause for major concern. Even frequent problems with sleep can be effectively managed using a combination of the insomnia remedies listed above. However, when insomnia and impaired sleep becomes a regular pattern that affects day to day function, you should be concerned. Chronic insomnia, which refers to difficulty falling asleep or getting adequate sleep for three nights a week over a period of two to three months, requires medical attention. Ideally, you shouldn’t even wait this long if you notice such a high frequency of insomnia and sleep disturbance.
Sleep is just as important as other health parameters like nutrition, fitness, weight, blood pressure, and so on, so it would be a good idea to discuss your sleep habits whenever you have a check up with your doctor. However, the matter becomes more pressing and you should seek medical care when the quality or duration of sleep is so poor that it affects day to day performance, and you wake up feeling unrefreshed, or feel fatigued and tired throughout the day. If your doctor cannot identify and treat the problem himself, he will refer you to a sleep specialist.