Insomnia and sleep disorders have risen in the past several decades, according to statistics over 40% of people suffer from insomnia. In this post you will learn the causes and natural remedies for insomnia.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a condition when people have trouble staying asleep, falling asleep or not getting enough sleep. Insomnia is generally a sign of problems with the nervous system and can be categorized as chronic or acute. Chronic insomnia is long lasting and can become a big problem, as for acute insomnia, it shows up periodically, usually goes away on it’s own.
- Fatigue, inability to have proper sleep for enough energy.
- Irritability and anger.
- Waking up during the night and not being able to fall asleep again.
- Not being able to fall asleep in the first place.
- Sleepiness during the day.
- Problems focusing and learning.
- In my opinion the number one cause of insomnia are devices with bright screens (mobile phones, computers, laptops, TV’s) that emit artificial light and electromagnetic radiation. These devices mess up the normal production of melatonin and serotonin, hormones that are responsible for sleep.
- Stress, fear, excitement or something that provokes an extreme emotion will prevent you from falling asleep.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Your diet.
Herbal Natural Remedies For Insomnia:
These herbal remedies are more for getting quick results. They are perfect for acute insomnia and healing chronic insomnia short-term. These herbs are non-habit forming and completely safe when taken in recommended amounts. We recommend buying them from approved sellers and following the label.
1. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian has been used to treat sleep problems, since ancient times. This plant is native to North America, Europe an Asia.
Valerian contains GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid), which calms the nervous system and makes you relaxed. GABA is a chemical that our brains produces naturally, however some don’t produce enough of it, because of a toxic lifestyle. Studies have been made researching the effects of Valerian on sleep and the results were very positive, almost all people reported positive effects of taking Valerian before sleep. The advantage of using Valerian over sleeping pills is that it’s not addictive and has no withdrawal symptoms. The root is the most potent part of the plant and it’s most commonly used in supplements.
- Dosage: 400-900 mg of Valerian root for as long as 6 weeks. Take 30 minutes to 2 hours before sleep.
Yes, this is the same hops you find in beer, when not combined with alcohol hops is a powerful sedative, that has been used for hundreds of years. The relaxing effects of hops was discovered when field workers started to feel sleepy while picking hops.
Just like Valerian, Hops contains sleep promoting GABA chemicals. Another effect Hops has is lowering body temperature, which promotes good quality sleep. Studies on Hops confirm their sedative effect, however more research is needed to understand how exactly they work.
The flower of the Hop plant is most commonly used in Hop supplements.
Chamomile is one of the most know and used herbs due to it’s safe nature and wide availability. It’s part of the Asteraceae family and is categorized into German and Roman chamomile.
This herb has a sleeping and calming effect. Reasearch suggest’s that it may be due to flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Despite having a sleeping effect, it also has been shown to relieve stress, anxiety, inflammation, boost the immune system and help allergies.
The most popular way to consume chamomile is in herbal tea form and supplement capsule. The flower of the plant is used in both ways.
- Dosage: For tea drink one to four cups daily and for capsule take 400 to 1600 mg daily.
4. Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passion flower is native to Central and South America and was used by the Aztecs and Native Americans.
It has a gentle sedative and anti-anxiety effect, which promotes sleep. This herb has been successfully used on children who have insomnia symptoms. It’s a good alternative for children, since it’s not addictive and has a slow effect.
The studies that have been made for this herb were positive, Passion flower is considered an adequate sleep inducer. It has been found that Passion flower contains substances that facilitates SWS (Slow Wave Sleep), which inhibits REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
Passion flower can be taken as a tea, extract or capsule.
5. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Also sometimes called Melissa, Lemon Balm is from the same family as Mint and has a mild lemon scent. Native to Europe and Central Asia, but is grown worldwide.
Taking Lemon Balm will improve mood, concentration and sleep. One study shown that Lemon Balm is a viable treatment for insomnia and mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders. Many other studies have concluded that rosmarinic acid and pentacyclic triterpenoid acids, that are in Lemon Balm influence GABA metabolism.
The leaf of the Lemon Balm is used to make teas and supplement capsules. Lemon Balm is often used together with Valerian in herb formulas.
6. Skullcap (Scuttelaria lateriflora)
This interestingly named herb has been used for healing purposes for a long time, mostly in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s part of the mint family, has bright blue flowers and is categorized into American and Chinese varieties.
Only the American version (Scuttelaria lateriflora) was researched. Skullcap has been shown to calm the mind, alleviate stress and anxiety. As well as other herbs on this list, Skullcap interacts with GABA with the help of baicalin and baicalein components. Due to it’s positive effects on the nervous it is a viable herb for insomnia.
Skullcap is a safe for consumption and not addictive. The herb part of the plant is most commonly used in supplements. You should follow the dosage on the label.
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that’s native to India. It is quite different from the other herbs listed on here because it’s an adaptogen. It works differently because it doesn’t sedate the already tired nervous system, but naturally rejuvenates and feeds energy.
Ashwagandha limits the production of cortisol, the stress hormone and positively effects GABA levels. Also, it has been shown to regulate blood sugar and lipid levels. All these factors promote sleep and help combat insomnia. In one study done in 2017, another active component was found TEG (Triethylene glycol), which is a potent sleep-inducing small molecule.
Just like other natural herbs Ashwagandha doesn’t develop dependency or serious side effects if any. The root is most commonly used and most effective when taken in supplement form.
Lavender has been used for a long time for it’s calming and sleep inducing effects. It has also been used in aromatherapy because of it’s pleasant smell and soothing effect.
Lavender is most commonly used as an essential oil, in fact it’s one of the most popular essential oils there is. It can be used in several ways: sprayed in your room or pillow, applied to the neck, chest or temple areas.
In one study researching lavender essential oil fragrance effects on postpartum women found significant improvement in sleep quality. They concluded that lavender essential oil is safe for postpartum women and is a viable cure for sleeping problems such as insomnia.
9. California Poppy (Eschscholzia Californica)
California Poppy is a flower plant that belongs to the Papaveraceae family and is native to United States and Mexico.
A study done on the effects of California Poppy showed that it works differently from other sedative herbs. It was found that California Poppy effects the opioid receptors by binding morphine and other alkaloids. The study concluded that California Poppy has a sedative effect and can be used for insomnia and other sleep related issues.
This herb has some ties with the opium poppy, but effects the brain with different alkaloids. California Poppy can be taken as an extract or essential oil.
10. Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava Kava is native to the Pacific Islands and has been consumed by the natives for it’s sedative effect.
Studies confirm that kava-kava extract has sleep quality-enhancing effects and is a viable treatment for sleep problems and insomnia. It was found that components in kava-kava extract made a significant increase in delta activity during non-REM sleep.
Some reports in 2002 have been made on the possible liver damage of kava kava, but if taken from reliable sources and in approved amounts shouldn’t cause any damage.
The root of the plant is the most used and potent part. It’s taken in supplement extract form.
Words of Caution
When taking herbal supplements always follow the label and consult your physician before starting to use new supplements. If you have special conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding or any other condition make sure to consult your doctor.
Long Term Natural Remedies For Insomnia:
These remedies should become a part of your daily life. Essential for beating chronic insomnia.
1. Create A Good Sleeping Environment
Your sleeping area should have little noise, no lights, chill temperature and a comfy bed. Ideally you should have a separate room specifically for sleeping, this will make an association in your brain that it’s time to sleep.
2. Avoid Electronics Before Going To Bed
Stop using smartphones, laptops, tablets at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Also it’s a good idea to turn off Wi-Fi and turn off/unplug all devices in your sleeping area, because they emit electromagnetic radiation, which interferes with sleep.
3. Have Exercise
Having some sort of exercise during the day will greatly improve your want to sleep. It’s been shown that exercise produces endorphins, which make you more relaxed.
4. Relax Before Going To Bed
Before going to bed you should forget about your work and try to relax your mind. This can be done by reading a book or meditating.
5. Get Sunlight During The Day
Sunlight helps produce serotonin which at night gets converted to melatonin. So if you aren’t getting enough natural sunlight you will be low in melatonin. It’s recommended to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of daylight per day. Avoid using glasses and sunglasses because they block sunlight from reaching your eyes, which is very important. A good idea would be to combine getting sunlight with exercise, this way you will get two benefits at one time.
6. Walking Barefoot
Also called earthing, it’s a practice when you are in contact with the earth. It is thought that earth’s surface has negative charged free-electrons that normalize’s our bodies electrical energy. This practice doesn’t have research on it yet, however some people report better mood and sleep when doing earthing. Whenever you have a chance to be barefoot on the earth’s surface, you should do it, since this practice has no downsides.
7. Adjust Your Diet
We recommend avoiding processed foods and eating as much fruits and vegetables as possible, however these particular foods have been shown to increase sleep:
- Cherries – tart cherries have high levels of naturally occurring melatonin.
- Kale and Spinach – dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are high in calcium, which has been shown to help production of melatonin.
- Walnuts – walnuts have an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps the production of melatonin.
- Almonds – studies have found that magnesium plays a key role in having good quality sleep. Since almonds are high in magnesium, they are recommended to include in a healthy diet.
- Kiwi – kiwis are high in serotonin and anti-oxidants, which help sleep.
Another thing to keep in mind is to not go to sleep on an empty stomach.
Whether you have acute or chronic insomnia there are natural ways of treating this condition. There is no excuse of using synthetic sleeping pills, because they promote dependency and have many negative side effects.