If you’re suffering from sleeplessness or Insomnia, it is wise to try some DIY techniques or natural sleep aids first. This article lists all kinds of sleep aids you can get at or reach from home. A few of the aids are simple exercise or relaxation techniques only, but proved to be quite beneficial. Theses Natural Sleep Aids are of more help during the initial stages of the disease.
In order to get rid of sleep problems, we must understand the importance of sleep and the need for sleep.
Sleep is not just important because it dispels tiredness but sleep is important for many other reasons as well – being one of the cornerstones of health and wellbeing.
Sleep gives our body a rest and allows us to prepare for the next day. It’s like giving our body a mini vacation. It also gives a chance to the brain to sort things out.
The amount of sleep a person needs depends on his or her age. Missing a single night’s sleep can make you cranky and clumsy and if you miss two nights of sleep, you may face problems with your mental thinking and physical activities. You will feel difficult to do normal tasks if you are sleep deprived for two nights.
Although many medical specialists and academics have tried to emphasise the importance of sleep, they have not had the same success in reaching the public. It is not widely known, that good sleep is one of the most important components of healthy living.
There is nothing better than waking up completely and utterly refreshed in the morning.
Why is sleep so important ?
There are some good reasons for getting a good night’s sleep that tells us clearly the importance of sleep in our life. These reasons are –
Staying awake all night (being awake for more than 17 hours) can make you less responsive. Your reaction response will be comparable to that of an intoxicated person with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.5. This lack of mental and physical control decreases your ability to focus and perform throughout the day.
Incomplete or improper sleep results in incomplete hormonal cycle. Our body produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline during night. Due to lack of sleep, your body will not be able to produce enough of these hormones during night, as a result you may have to depend on stimulants to keep you going. These stimulants will further increase your sleep problems and this can result in a never ending tired cycle of sleep.
If you don’t get enough sleep during night, you will not get hungry in the morning. A good breakfast in the morning helps in detoxifying our body and stimulates our metabolism. Without a good breakfast you may feel low on energy and will indulge in poor eating patterns throughout the day.
A poor sleep results in excessive release of stress hormones such as cortisol. Stress hormones will keep you awake during night and that can further escalate your sleep problem or insomnia. These stress hormones also result in the restoration of fats in our body, causing health problems such as obesity or diabetes.
When you don’t have enough sleep your brain sends out messages for quick energy. You can get this quick energy from sugar consumption and as a result your sugar consumption will increase. High consumption of sugar will constantly elevate the insulin level in your body and you may end up with diabetes.
Physical repair takes place when we are sleeping, and this happens in the first half of the night – around 10 pm to 2 am. If you skip those vital first few hours and go to bed late at night, your muscle repair will not be complete. This leaves you physically weaker and a lot of body ailments like backache, neckache or headache.
The psychological repair of our mind takes place during the second half of the night between 2 am to 6 am. This repair is in the form of mental focus, your mood swings, and in maintaining a positive mindset. Staying early in the night and getting too early in the morning will result in improper psychological repair and may lead you to the dark road of depression and anxiety.
Relaxation Techniques As Natural Sleep Aids
You can use relaxation for insomnia prevention and treatment. Relaxation can make it easier for you to get to sleep and increase your chances of staying asleep. Being relaxed can also improve the quality of your sleep.
Relaxation helps with sleep because it tackles both tension and stress. These two problems can significantly contribute to delayed sleep onset and disrupted sleep throughout the night.
Relaxation reduces muscle tension, and it helps to control, even eliminate, worrying thoughts.
What is relaxation ?
You may feel relaxed by taking a hot bath with some enjoyable music playing in the background or you go work towards a meditative state of mind. Relaxation can be a few minutes of tranquil thought, a deep breath to help you get through a difficult situation, or an altered state of consciousness when striving for spiritual enlightenment.
Which strategy will work for you ?
We are all different and the ways we relax differ from person to person. No one strategy or approach to relaxation will work for every person. You should try several strategies and then decide which one is suitable for you.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to relax; it is just a matter of finding your method of relaxation and then using it every day.
Using Relaxation as Natural Sleep Aids
Relax your Mind
Relaxing your mind involves dealing with stress. If your main problem is worry, stress, frustration or anxiety, then you should try to relax your mind.
The first step is to sit upright in a comfortable chair and breathe slowly and in a regular fashion. Regular breathing is an integral part of all forms of relaxation. Breathe slowly and evenly, rather than deeply. Your body knows how deeply it needs to breathe. It will do this automatically. What you need to do is let your body do its job and try not to interfere or apply force.
So focus on breathing at a nice, slow pace, letting each breath come and go, as it wants to.
Now focus your mind and let the mental stress go. The easiest way to do this is to focus on a simple word. The word ‘relax’ is easy and helpful to use. To stay focused, use your breathing to help you to time your repetition of the word ‘relax’.
So, all you need to do is to allow your body to settle into a nice steady pattern of breathing – breathing slowly and evenly, not necessarily deeply – and repeat the word ‘relax’ (as you breathe out). Continue this simple and relaxing pattern for as long as you can or for as long as you like (between five and ten minutes).
More on Breathing Techniques
Relax your Body
Relaxing your body involves releasing the physical tension that can build up in your muscles. Accomplishing this can reduce the intensity of aches and pains, thereby helping you to feel more comfortable, and, consequently, improving your sleep.
The first step is to make yourself comfortable, the best position is to sit in a comfortable chair.
Make yourself comfortable, and begin to breathe slowly. Just breathe in and out, nice and slowly, and let your body determine its own, natural pace. Try to relax all of your muscles.
This relaxation involves two steps :
- Gently tense your muscles, one group at a time.
- Then relax different groups of muscles one at a time, rather than relaxing them all in one go.
- The muscles in our body can be divided into groups. You can divide the muscles in the following five groups :
- Head and face
- Neck and shoulders
- Arms and hands
- Abdomen, body and back
- Legs and feet.
Gently tense the muscles for a few seconds as you breathe in. Don’t do this so hard that it hurts, but tighten the muscles just hard enough so that you notice the tension. Hold the tension for a few seconds, as you breathe slowly in and out. Then, after a few breaths, let the tension go as you breathe out.
Lifestyle Changes as Natural Sleep Aids
For many years, we have been educated about the benefits of a balanced diet and exercise.
The last decade has seen dietary information become available to an average person without a degree in nutrition or medicine, so that they can change eating habits for a better health. Similarly, there has been an increase in the recognition that regular exercise is beneficial for health, as a result, more people are living better, healthier lives.
But there is something else that takes more of our time than either eating or exercising – something that takes almost one-third of our lives, yet receives least attention: sleep !
The average person sleeps for seven to eight hours each night. That is far more time than anyone spends exercising or eating.
When people ask, ‘How can I be healthier?’, the answer is ‘Eat better’ or ‘Exercise more’. Have you ever heard anyone say that you should sleep more or sleep better ?
Sleep is a crucial piece of the health puzzle. Sleep is what helps us recuperate physically and psychologically. Sleep is when our energies are restored and when our memories and thoughts are organized and filed away.
Do you think sleep is a waste of time ?
If sleep were a waste of time, God would have evolved us into beings that did not require it. If you are one of them who consider sleep as a waste of time, then this might be the reason of your insomnia. You need to rethink about the importance and need of sleep in life.
What happens when you don’t sleep well ?
There can be unpleasant and serious consequences of sleeplessness or insomnia. Poor sleep and tiredness have been blamed for several well-known disasters as well as countless motor vehicle accidents.
Tired people tend to perform more mistakes and are not able to perform tasks that required concentration and proper attention.
Also Read – Effects of Insomnia on Mind and Body
Put more time into sleeping well
Almost everyone agrees that good sleep is good. In fact, good sleep is wonderful. Good sleep can make any problem and almost any situation seem manageable. Good quality sleep can provide you with the strength and resources to cope with most of life’s difficulties.
We also know that bad sleep is bad. Bad sleep makes small problems appear big. It turns molehills into mountains. Bad sleep takes away the ability to participate effectively and satisfactorily in life. Bad sleep affects your mood, your work, your relationships, your everything.
Make sleep a priority
Getting good sleep can eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, most of the frustrating and unpleasant problems that accompany insomnia. Getting good sleep can, in fact, do a lot more.
Good sleep can help you to feel better physically and mentally. It can help you to feel happier, make you easier and more fun to be with, let you regain your energy.
But achieving good sleep requires making an effort and treating your sleep as a priority. Getting good sleep requires recognizing sleep as a desirable, necessary goal and not as a waste of time. If sleep has to take second place to other things, then it will continue to be a problem. Many people put other things first, this might actually be part of the reason why they are having sleep problems. Devoting some time and energy to overcoming insomnia will help, not interfere with, your work and other areas of your life that you value.
When you are sleeping better you will almost certainly be able to concentrate and focus better, and you will feel better, make decisions more effectively, and generally cope and function at a higher level.
You can consider the following figure for prioritising your tasks –
Various tasks are shown in the figure above and they are placed according to their importance and difficulty (how difficult the tasks are to perform based on certain factors).
Two positions are shown in the figure as Position A & Position B for sleep. Now if you think sleep is a very difficult task and is the least important, you are keeping sleep at position B as shown. On the other hand if you consider sleep as a very important task and easier to accomplish, you have taken the first step in curing insomnia.
You need to make your own Effort
Now that you know in order to get rid of insomnia and other sleep problems, you need to make sleep a priority in your life. But you cannot prioritise sleep unless you make your own personal efforts.
For example, you know in order to get fit you need to exercise regularly. No one else can get you fit unless you do the work or unless you are making your own efforts. You know not even your personal trainer can get you fit. In the same way if you want to lose weight, you need to know when and how much to eat. Your dad, mom or any third person cannot always help you with this. In the same way you should not expect anyone else to do the work of curing your sleep problems. It is almost not possible without your own efforts.
Diet and Sleep
We must understand the relation between diet and sleep as Diet is an important contributor to your health and to your general wellbeing.
The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ means that if you eat well and consume a sensible, balance diet of nutritious foods, you will be healthy. If, on the other hand, you eat unhealthy, fatty foods and a high salt content, you are more likely to be unhealthy and suffer from illness.
You may not have realized that diet and nutrition can also influence your sleep. So, diet is an important part of your lifestyle that might be worthwhile reviewing.
Eat a balanced diet and sleep well
A balanced diet is something that everyone should aim for since the benefits in the short term and in the long term are considerable. A balanced diet can lead to an enhanced sense of well being, including increased levels of energy and better sleep.
Balanced diet includes adequate amount of each of the major food groups on a regular basis and consume a variety of foods.
Although it is generally recommended that you avoid too many fats and sugars, these are still necessary and important, in moderation.
The majority of your diet should comprise breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables. The most important categories of food are the fruits and vegetables. It is also important to ensure that you eat adequate protein. Protein is found in red meat (such as beef and lamb), as well as white meat (such as fish and chicken).
Finally, it is important to eat small amounts of fats, oils and sugars. Butter, margarine, oils and sugar are essential parts of a well-balanced diet. See the recommended foods for inducing good sleep.
How much to eat, and when ?
In addition to eating a variety of foods from each of the major food groups every day, it is also generally recommended that you have several small to medium sized meals in preference to one large meal. Try to spread your consumption across the day, perhaps adding morning and afternoon snacks to your three meals.
It is recommended that you avoid eating too close to bedtime and avoid having too large meal, particularly late at night. Your main meal should be in the middle of the day and that your evening meal should be smaller and lighter.
You should try to leave at least two hours between the end of your evening meal and settling down to sleep.
Some people complain that spicy or rich foods in the evening cause them indigestion or stomach problems which waken them in the night.
The use of alcohol to try to get to sleep is extremely common. This is not surprising since in Western societies alcohol is a widely accepted form of self-medication – that is, many people use it not just for social occasions and for enjoyment, but to deal informally with stress, anxiety and even sleep problems.
If you want to know whether alcohol will help you in sleep, you must understand the relationship between alcohol and insomnia.
What you drink can affect your sleep as much as what you eat. Products that contain caffeine are likely to have an impact on the quality of your sleep, especially if consumed in large quantities or if consumed too close to sleep times. You should know how caffeine can affect your sleep.
Many smokers say that they find smoking relaxing whereas the nicotine in cigarettes is a drug and is a stimulant like caffeine.
It is psychological link which may make smoking appear to be an aid to sleep. Yet we know that, due to its stimulating effects, smoking is much more likely to disrupt sleep.
If you smoke a cigarette every waking hour, then your body gets used to its regular dose of nicotine for a prolonged stretch of seven or eight hours. If your body is undergoing withdrawal symptoms each night, you can’t expect to sleep peacefully and without disturbance. Smoking and nicotine affects breathing, and breathing problems commonly contribute to sleep problems.
So, next time, if you desire good sleep, you should aim at quitting, or at least reducing, the number of cigarettes you smoke.
Exercise and Sleep
Increase your physical activity to cure insomnia and other sleep problems. Although exercise and sleep are opposite to each other but exercise is a very important factor for getting a good sleep.
Regular exercises have a very positive effect on our sleep. Movement builds our muscles, bones and connective tissues. Exercise has numerous benefits for the internal workings of our body.
If you are not taking regular exercises daily, start doing it from Today!
Believe me, you will definitely have a positive impact on the quality of sleep after performing these exercises.
As you know muscle-relaxation techniques and breathing exercises are beneficial in helping us sleep, there are some low-impact exercises also that you can perform for a better sleep. Go to relaxation for insomnia section for more information about these techniques.
Relation between Exercise and Insomnia
If we talk about the effect of exercise on sleep, I can tell you that exercise has effects similar to sleeping pills. Exercise has a beneficial effect on our circadian rhythms, which are the brain’s natural way of telling us when to sleep and when to be awaken. Exercise promotes shifts in the internal body clock, it is very effective in treating problems related to disturbed circadian rhythms. These problems are generally associated with people having odd working hours or if they are traveling across difference time zones.
Lack of physical activity contributes to insomnia by disturbing the daily rise and fall of the body temperature. Exercise improves sleep by increasing our body temperature, a fall in that after a few hours makes it easier to fall asleep.
Apart from having a good impact on our sleep, exercising has many other benefits also. Go to this section for other benefits of exercising.
Keep yourself Active
Keeping active contributes to a better quality of life and sleep too.
There are numerous ways for you to keep active and the options are only limited to your imagination. Keeping active can be as simple as walking to the local shops for bread and milk rather than driving.
Go to the local park with your partner and/or your children, or your dog, rather than sitting at home watching TV. Keeping active means driving less and walking more.
Anything that requires some exertion and movement qualifies as activity. You can become more active even while you are at work. Rather than catching the lift, take the opportunity to get some exercise walking up and down the stairs. Go for a short walk at lunch. Get out of the office and away from the fluorescent lights and airconditioning, and out into the fresh air and natural light.
Move your Body
Along with increasing your levels of general activity, you should try to get at least thirty minutes or more of vigorous exercise, at least three to four times each week. Regular exercise is not just walking to the bus stop, or walking up the stairs. It is real exercise.
Exercise takes the form of jogging or going to an organised exercise class in a gym. However, because exercise can be any form of activity that is strenuous, it can take the form of walking with a friend or with the dog, playing sports such as tennis or squash, surfing, swimming, throwing a ball in the park, riding a bike or rollerblading.
Begin your exercise program slowly and gradually
Many people get all fired up and overstrain their muscles by working in gym. Their muscles quickly become sore, their joints ache, they may incur injuries too. This approach is just a waste of time, punishes your body and is bad for your morale. This strain could be the result of exercising at wrong times also.
Keep two things in mind before starting any exercise regimen –
- Before beginning any kind of exercise regimen, it is important to warm up your body. The process of warming up, stretching, loosening of the muscles and cooling down after the exercises is very important.
- You must perform your exercises after evaluating the best time to exercise.
Effective exercise is regular and sustained over a prolonged period of time. To really experience the benefits of exercise, physically and psychologically, it needs to become a regular part of your lifestyle.
What exercises you can perform ?
You need not go the gym to perform exercises to promote good sleep, however if you wish to go or if you feel good going to a gym, go ahead !
There are many ways to move and exercise your body so that you get a good sleep at night. May be you already have your favorite way of moving, but I recommend you to move in ways you haven’t tried before. If you change your moves and exercises, you can achieve diverse and better results.
Exercises are broadly classified into two main categories – isometric and dynamic.
Isometric exercises are those where there is muscle activity without much body movement. The examples are rowing and weight lifting.
Dynamic exercises are those where muscle movement is achieved through body movement. Playing a game like hockey, football or running are some of the examples of dynamic exercises. These exercises improve the overall physical fitness and are the most useful for our body and brain. The most common types of dynamic exercises are aerobics.
Aerobic activities are great to promote better sleep. You can perform the following aerobic exercises to get relief from insomnia and other sleep problems –
Here are some tips to help you make Exercise a habit
- Choose an activity you enjoy.
- Choose an exercise program according to your own fitness level.
- Always set realistic goals.
- Choose an exercise program that suits your lifestyle.
- Give your body time to adjust to your new routine.
- Don’t loose heart if you don’t see immediate results.
- Don’t give up if you miss a day in your exercise schedule, get back on track the next day.
- Find a companion for motivation and to socialize.
- Let your body rest for at least one day in your exercise schedule.
- It is good to choose more than one type of exercise to give your body a complete workout and fitness.
Make a Sleep Routine
A poor sleep routine is a major contributor to insomnia. Sleep is not seen as a priority for some people and, therefore, it does not receive adequate attention in their lifestyle.
The distinctions between work and leisure, work and home have become increasingly unclear in recent years. All these factors contribute to the development of poor sleep patterns, which contribute to poor sleep.
Before looking at what can be done to sort out the sleep routine, we must identify and understand the common problems with sleep routine.
Irregular sleep times
Most people sleep much better when they observe a regular bedtime and settle into their own familiar bed. Disruptions to routine, caused by work, personal problems, or noisy neighbours, usually lead to disruptions to sleep.
You should develop a routine and avoid going to bed at different times, as that is the way to disturb your sleep. There will be some exceptions to any sleep routine when, there’s a special night out, or you are traveling, or a member of your family is sick.
Irregular waking times
Irregular waking times are more problematic than irregular sleeping times, because waking up later tends to mean you won’t be tired until later that night. It can lead to a circle in which you lie awake at night aware that you are not sleeping and so sleep in to try to catch up and reduce your sleep debt and your tiredness.
Spending too much time in bed
Going to bed too early can be troublesome. Spending more time in bed than you need to increases the chances that you will lie awake in bed worrying about not sleeping.
This can lead to your body and mind developing an association between bed and worry. Your bed should be associated with calmness, relaxation and falling asleep quickly rather than worry and anxiety.
Spending too little time in bed
If you are not spending enough time in bed, you are reducing your chances of getting sufficient sleep. Without getting enough sleep you will, simply, be tired most of the times. You must spend a reasonable amount of time in bed to ensure that you get enough sleep.
Performing Stimulating activities in bed
You must associate your bed and bedroom with sleep. It is, therefore, important not to associate bed with other activities, especially physically or mentally stimulating activities.
Working in bed, reading in bed, talking on the phone or to your partner in bed, watching TV or computer in bed can all result in sleep problems.
Guidelines to sort out your sleep routine
Go to bed only when you feel tired and sleepy
This first rule is for those people who go to bed early (either to sleep, read, or watch TV) in hope of feeling tired and falling asleep. All these activities will increase the chances of bed becoming associated with wakefulness, arousal and worry. Going to bed before you are sleepy is not helpful. Don’t go to bed if you are not sleepy, wait until you are tired before retiring for the evening.
Do not use your bed for anything apart from sleep (sexual activity is an exception for this)
Do not watch TV, read, eat or work in bed. In simple words, don’t do anything in bed except sleep. Avoid your bed during times when you are not sleeping or sleepy. The aim is to associate bed with sleep.
You should not be engaged in work related activities or anything that can cause stress or arousal near your bedtime. You should leave all the activities at least half an hour prior to your bedtime. Use the last hour before going for sleep for relaxing and calming activities.
If you are unable to fall asleep, get out of bed
If you are unable to sleep when you are in bed, go to another room, do something relaxing, calming. You can do something boring like ironing, reading a magazine (although not a thriller), or simply looking at a book that has pictures only. Remember, you should stay in bed only if you feel calm and relaxed.
If you are feeling stressful or agitated, get up. You can again go to bed when you feel tired.
Keep a fixed time of getting up every morning
Get up at the same time every morning even if you are tired and feel you have not slept well. It is important to stick to a fixed time and to rise at the same time every morning.
The main purpose is to acquire a regular sleep pattern and sleep routine.
Do not nap during the day
Daytime napping will negatively affect your nighttime sleep pattern. There are some people who can nap during the day and still sleep well at night. Daytime napping will disrupt your attempts to develop a regular and healthy sleep pattern.
Stay awake during the whole day and rather than sleeping or napping, stay as active as possible.
Manage your day well to Sleep Well at night
Organizing your day time is very important for getting a good night’s sleep.
All different parts of our body are interconnected and interrelated in some way. The back bone is connected to the hip bone. Our eyes are connected to our brain which controls all the muscles in our body.
This is true with sleep also as there are a number of factors that can affect your sleep, apart from just what happens at night-time or just before you go to bed.
What you do in the morning can affect your sleep after fifteen hours. The daytime is connected to your night-time. In simple words we can say that what you do during the day can affect your sleep at night.
Manage Your Day
Organizing your day time activities will certainly help you in getting a good quality sleep. If your day’s routine is disorganized or hectic, your night-times will be hard too. If you are unhappy and worried during the day, you will not be able to relax your mind during the night.
Your sleep problems may be the reason of your bad habits or problematic behaviours during the day. Without realizing it, people with sleep problems do things and activities during the day that contribute to their problems with sleep.
Manage your Time
A disorganized life without any routine is unlikely to help you with sleep. You should properly organize your evenings and incorporate effective strategies to ensure a relaxing night.
You need to make a plan for organizing your day time, although for some people it may be difficult but you can follow some simple guidelines to gain control over your time.
You can follow some simple steps to achieve a good time management –
- Make a list of all the tasks that you need to complete during the day. This list could be for the present day or for the next day, next week, for next month or even for an year. It depends on whether you have problems organizing your daily tasks, or whether it relates to organizing tasks for a longer period of time.
- Prioritise your work. Prioritizing your work is very important because many people waste their time on activities that are not essential or important. If you think there are some activities on your list that are not important, you may cancel them.
- Share your work if you have a lot of things to do. Certain tasks can be shared and someone else can help you with some of the tasks. If you have some tasks that can be shared with someone or you can delegate to others, do it. You have only a limited time during the day and there is a limit to what you can do unless you are a superman.
- Make a timetable. Now you are left with only important and essential tasks, you can write the time by which each of these tasks should be completed on a blank paper. Knowing when these tasks need to be completed will help you in completing the tasks in time.
- When your plan should start. Now you have a list of important tasks and you have allotted required time for each tasks within which that task should be completed. Determine when you need to start working on that particular job.
Plan Your Day Time
You are now ready to put together a plan after having worked out what activities you need to perform during the day and the time required to complete each of them. Planning and organizing your day increases the possibility of achieving your goals.
It is important to include necessary breaks and buffer zones between your tasks for other things such as having lunch or an unexpected incident or interruption. These breaks or buffer zones will give you extra time in case an activity takes longer than expected time.
Finally at the end of the day, you must have some sort of buffer zone between your daily routine or daily chores, and the state of relaxation and calmness associated with good sleep quality. This activity is the wind-down activity before going to bed.
Herbs as Natural Sleep Aids
You can use various herbs for insomnia treatment. Herbal treatment for insomnia is the use of various plants with sedative properties that helps in promoting sleep.
Herbal teas, infusions and baths can help in curing insomnia naturally. Herbal treatments aim at correcting the imbalances within the body that cause sleeplessness. Sedative herbs such as hops and valerian are used to relax the nervous system and helps in getting natural, deep sleep.
There are a variety of active constituents in each herb and has a main action with several following actions that determine the conditions for which a herb can be used.
The commonly prescribed herbs for insomnia as sleep aids are passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), hops (Humulus lupulus), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and chamomile (Matricaria chamommilla).
Various Herbs for Insomnia Treatment
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate)
Passion flower is a flower that is traditionally used to treat insomnia. Passion flower is effective in treating insomnia caused by stress, nervousness and overwork. This flower is calming and sleep inducing, relieves pain, and muscular spasms.
Other names for passion flower are apricot vine, passion vine, granadilla, maracoc, water lemon, jamaican honeysuckle and maypops. Flower, leaves and stems of this flower are used as a part of the remedy. Read more about the use of Passion Flower for Insomnia treatment
Kava (Piper Methysticum)
Kava is another herb for insomnia treatment. It was originally found in the tropical Pacific islands and grows slowly.
Kava root (used in medicinal preparations) comes from a tall shrub that grows in the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Kava is best know for its relaxing qualities.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is another plant that is used as a herbal treatment and one of most commonly used herbs for insomnia. Valerian is relaxing and sleep inducing, it calms the digestion and lowers blood pressure.
Other names are setwall (English), valerianae radix (Latin), baldrianwurzel (German) and phu (Greek). It is used for severe insomnia or insomnia accompanied by cramps, wind, menstrual pain, tension, anxiety, intestinal pain and over-excitability. Read more about the use of Valerian for Insomnia
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Hops are fruits found in the pacific northwest of the United States. Hops is relaxing, sleep-inducing and can be used as an antiseptic. Another use of hops is in the flavoring of beer. Use hops for general insomnia, especially insomnia related to tension or anxiety, restlessness or headaches.
You can create an effective herbal sachet by pairing it with chamomile, lavender or valerian. Although it holds its own importance as a relaxing natural sedative.
Prepare the sachet in the following manner :
- ¼ cup of hops strobiles
- 1/8 cup of chamomile flowers
- 1/8 cup lavender flowers
Now sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil into the mixture to create a great sleep time sachet.
Warning: It is not recommended to take hops if you are suffering from depression or during the first three months of pregnancy.
Californian Poppy (Eschscholtzia Californica)
Californian poppy is a native American remedy and it is commonly used in Europe as a relaxant. It is safe for children because of its mild sedative and analgesic properties.
- As a Tea, 1 cup, 2-3 times daily;
- As a Tincture, 30-40 drops, 2-3 times daily.
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Chamomile is an important herb for insomnia treatment and it has been used for centuries for its relaxing, calming and soothing properties.
The dried leaves and flowers of chamomile can be purchased over the counter in both packed and loose form. You can prepare tea using the dried flowers and leaves of this plant and drink it around half an hour before going to bed.
It is safe for children as well as pregnant women.
Herbal baths are another way to overcome sleep difficulties. The relaxing and warming effect of hot water enhances the sedative properties of herbs and increases the possibilities of a good sleep.
You can take herbal bath with herbal infusions. Just add the herbal infusion or sachet to warm water or tie a handful of herbs in a muslin bag and let the hot-water run through them. The hot water will release the fragrance and activate the properties of the herbs. The scent released by the herbs goes through the nervous system to the brain while the properties absorbed by your skin pass into the bloodstream.
The result will be good for both mind and body.
Bright Light Therapy for Insomnia
Bright Light therapy or phototherapy is more widely used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, but is also an effective method of adjusting sleep-wake timing.
Particularly promising is phototherapy treatment for premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The principle behind phototherapy is that exposure to light in the morning advances the sleep phase, whereas light in the evening delays it. Light therapy is often used to synchronise sleep patterns with the external day and night. In people with a delayed circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock can be shifted to an earlier position and aligned with the external environment through exposure to appropriately timed light in the morning.
Similarly, for people whose internal clocks are set too early, the internal clock can be shifted to a later time with evening light exposure. The timing of light treatment with respect to the position of the internal clock is critical.
For bright light therapy, a source of very bright light is needed. Room lighting is not bright enough. Sunlight is good, if there are lots of windows or if it can get inside. You should never look directly at the Sun, of course. White light is usually more appropriate than other colors; soft light is more likely to help in reducing stress than harsh bright light; and duration of exposure is mostly a matter of personal preference. The positive experiences of tens of thousands of satisfied individuals who are using some kind of light therapy system validate this view. Use of supplemental light has positive effects on many persons in alleviating various seasonal and emotional stresses.
Most convenient is an electric light box or light visor, available from medical supply stores. A good light source will have the UV radiation filtered out. Remember that the intensity of light drops off exponentially with distance from the source. For example, if we double the distance between the light source and our eyes, the dose we receive is reduced by 75 per cent. Treatment effectiveness also increases (up to a point) with the length of exposure of about 30 minutes to two hours.
Most people require only one phototherapy or bright light therapy session a day. The length of that session depends on the intensity of exposure. Currently the most commonly used light box is 10,000 lux. Lux is a measurement of light intensity from a specified distance. At 10,000 lux the average session is 15 to 45 minutes. At 5,000 lux the average session is 30 to 90 minutes.
When light enters the eye, millions of light-and-color sensitive cells, called ‘photoreceptors’, convert the light into electrical impulses. These impulses travel along the optic nerve to the brain, where they trigger the hypothalamus to send chemical messengers, called ‘neurotransmitters’, to regulate the autonomic (automatic) functions of the body. The hypothalamus is a part of the endocrine system whose secretions govern most body functions – blood pressure, body temperature, breathing, digestion, sexual function, moods, the immune system, the aging process, and the circadian rhythm. Full-spectrum light (containing all wavelengths of visible light) sparks delicate impulses that regulate these functions and maintain health.
Daily exposure to sunlight or to full-spectrum white light has been known to eliminate SAD symptoms. Delayed sleep phase syndrome may also be treated with light.
By getting a dose of light therapy in the morning, the day starts earlier and patients fall asleep earlier at night.
Light therapy early in the night works similarly for those who fall asleep early and wake easily, allowing them to sleep later. Light exposure timed just before the middle of the night is most effective in delaying the sleep phase, and light timed just afterwards is most effective in advancing it.
Bright light therapy for Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome should begin as soon as you can get up in the morning. Minimizing the exposure to light in the evening may also be helpful.
While in most mammals long-day and short-day behaviors can be included in the laboratory by leaving room-lights on for longer or shorter periods of the day, normal levels of indoor light do not appear to strongly influence the internal biological clock in humans. Until recently it was thought that high intensities of artificial light were needed to influence the biological clock in humans.
Disadvantages of Bright Light Therapy
- Certain medical conditions, such as skin or eye disease and medications are incompatible with light therapy.
- Light therapy may cause headache. So avoid reading or having to focus your eyes during the light exposure.
- Over-dosage can make you feel ‘over-stimulated’ or hyperactive. If this happens, decrease the time or intensity of the light treatment.
- The long-term effects of bright light treatment are not yet known. It may take a few days to two weeks to take full effect and adjust to the light therapy schedules. During this period, you may feel sleep-deprived.
Acupuncture as Sleep Aid