Sleep. How many of us actually enjoy the privilege of that five-lettered luxury? Although ‘simple’ things in life like a plate full of nutritious food and a night full of uninterrupted sleep are necessities indeed, for some people it has become a luxury. This demon called insomnia that comes in between you and your peace is sometimes self-inflicted and sometimes self-inflicted. No, that is not a typo, you heard me right!
Mind you, it is coming from a person who found it difficult to fall asleep for the most part of her life. Nonetheless, no matter what on earth is stopping you from sleeping (chemicals gone berserk in the brain, a broken heart, closet with hidden pending bills, empty bank accounts, piled up syllabus for the next day’s semester exam, the zeal to enjoy the silence that night wraps in itself, wait, Candy Crush? … and this can go on!) it can wait until the next morning – only if you allow it to.
Yes, it is easier said than done. But ask yourself, “Have I waited for the morning?” Assuming that your answer is ‘no’ since you ended up on an article that is talking of “Home Remedies For Insomnia,” let me tell you, it is not late. Go ahead and read, if “help me sleep” is what’s on your mind as of now. (And I wouldn’t be too surprised if it is 3:00 AM and your tired eyes are groping for some techniques that could just tell you straight what to do when you have insomnia.) Fine then, since it is already 3:00 AM, let’s just get started.
What is Insomnia? Do I ‘Really’ Have It?
It sounds offensive when I use the word ‘really’, but really, it is important to start there. Quite often than not, we call it insomnia because that is how we just perceive it. Ask yourself the following questions and your answers will tell you if it is just your perception (easier to rid yourself of the burden because it is just the perception you have to let go of) or if there is more to the story!
1. Do I experience Trouble Initiating Sleep?
For majority of people, it is the falling asleep that is the problem. Once, asleep they seldom wake up until the next morning. Does it sound like I am talking about you?
2. Is My Problem That I keep Waking Up Several Times After Falling Asleep?
Did you mentally say ‘yes?’ Then the issue is that you find it difficult to maintain your state of sleep.
3. I wake Up Too Soon In The Morning
Ask a night owl and he will be overjoyed if he could do this. However, for you it is a compulsive problem because you feel you haven’t slept enough and even if you want to get some more sleep before starting your day, you just can’t seem to sleep a wink!
Well, if you go with these 3 complaints to a psychologist or a psychiatrist, on the basis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, they will certify you as an insomniac.
To be slightly more precise, speaking in technical terms, if you experience difficulty falling asleep or maintain your state of sleep for at least three days in a week during a minimum span of three months even though you weren’t otherwise preoccupied with any work during your sleep hours to the extent where your very functioning is at jeopardy – then it surely is something you need to take charge of.
Well, keeping the ‘textbook’ definition of insomnia aside, whether you are battling with the bookish insomnia or for that matter, any dissatisfaction with respect to your sleep, you alone can help yourself. Now, coming to the core of the issue –
How to Treat Insomnia
Now that you have finally decided to do something about your sleep-related difficulties, why not start with –
Finding Out the Underlying Cause
Sometimes it so happens, that insomnia in itself is not what could be bothering you. Rather you could be experiencing a medical or psychological problem along with insomnia that is more problematic than insomnia itself. Check if that’s what is happening!
For instance, an underlying problem of Anxiety and Depression could be contributing to your difficulty falling asleep. You hit the pause button all throughout the day, every time your mind wants to indulge in excessive thinking, so that you can finally let go of everything, because you have work to get done. And when it is finally time to bed, your mind refuses to obey your pause button anymore. Result – A sweet relationship with 3:00 AM.
And What You Can Do About It?
- This time you have the urge to hit the pause button, remember to remove the song out of your playlist forever. Just D.E.L.E.T.E! Spend a specific amount of time in a day to allow your mind to just think. That is what its role is, right? If you forcefully stop, it is going to backfire. So just consciously sit and allow your mind to play its role unabashedly.
- Sing, dance, write, yell – do anything that pleases you as a form of self-expression and that offers you catharsis. Try enjoying your alone time and don’t expect a viewer/listener for your self-expression. Remember, it is ‘self’-expression. Nonetheless, if you are struggling with a pathological issue and require professional help, go for it. Again, do that unapologetically!
2. Could You Be Suffering From Some Sort Of Chronic Pain?
One of the most common complaints from people finding it difficult to sleep is that it is some sort of pain stopping them from sleeping. Serious pain in some part of their body seems to just elevate in the night time, making them toss and turn on the bed every night.
And What You Can Do About It?
- Obviously, the first step would be that you indulge in pain management strategies. Taking medication or following certain remedies as a parallel approach to alleviate pain is inevitably one of the measures you can and in fact, should take.
- The second step is subtlerand requires you to have awareness about the nature of your insomnia. The rootof your sleep problem is quite often than not, psychological, in spite of the co-existence of other clinically approved medical or psychological conditions. Once you understand this fact, all there is left to realize is that it is your perception of pain that is not allowing you to sleep rather than pain itself.
A person suffering from tangible physical pain might not only disagree with this aspect but might also get annoyed that no one is understanding the fact that pain is causing their insomnia. However, even grudgingly so, try focussing less on the pain and believe in your well-being – three-fourths of the problem is already solved. Latest research proves that if you believe that you have slept well even when you actually haven’t, it provides psychological and eventually physical solace from the repercussions of sleeplessness.
3. Check Your Prescription, You Might Find The Cause
Medication used for certain health conditions like hypertension, cholesterol, neurological disorders, and anti-depressants could all lead to mild to severe sleeplessness. For instance, alpha and beta blockers usually intervene with your sleep patterns either by influencing the function of the melatonin hormone responsible for your sleep cycles or by disrupting the quality of your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
And What You Can Do About It?
- With careful examination, after ruling out all other possibilities, make sure if it is these medicines causing your insomnia or not. Once you are sure, bring this to the notice of your doctor and discuss if there are alternatives to these medicines that wouldn’t trouble you with insomnia. Also discuss if change in the timings of the medication might make any difference to the condition.
Make The Ambience Of The Place You Sleep In Slumber-Friendly
Why do we switch off lights before sleeping? Why do you turn the silent mode on while at bed? In reality, you could possibly sleep even with the lights and sounds ‘on’. However, we continue to follow the ‘lights off’ ritual before sleeping. This is because you set the tone for a peaceful slumber by turning them off. This is why ambience makes a huge difference, both psychologically and in some cases even biologically, to the quality of your sleep.
Here are some tips you could follow to provide a conducive ambience for your body to fall asleep easily and stay so for the rest of the night.
1. Switch ALL The Lights Off
No, this is not an obvious fact. Don’t mistake this simple suggestion to be commonplace and an unimportant tip. This is one of the best remedy to treat your insomnia and that too naturally – just by turning off all sources of light. By all, I mean even the smallest of lights that come from mobile phones, TV, computer/laptop screens, chargers, and even that little bulb that is left on throughout the light. All these sources of artificial light, specifically that come from the gadgets is termed ‘blue light’, which is of a specific wavelength and has powerful potential to penetrate deep into the eyes and hamper with the functioning of your retina.
The pineal gland secretes melatonin, which is primarily responsible to drive you drowsy by night. Plus, it helps to put youto sleep at the same time every night by developing a sleep-wake rhythmicity. However, owing to the intensity of blue light and the radiation that all your ‘smart’ phones and even more intelligent laptops emit, the melatonin production is considerably impaired.
Try dimming all the lights few hours before your bedtime to avoid melatonin suppression. Plus, limit your gadget-use to as less as possible in the late evenings. Also, close the curtains if your room happens to overlook any lights on the road. Also, if there’s nothing you can do to avoid usage of gadgets in the night, use protective apps or instruments that substantially minimize the exposure to the light.
Simply put, just create a cave-like environment. Convince your brain that night has arrived and there’s nothing else to do other than rest. Make this a part of your winding-up routine everyday if your sleep-wake cycle has gone for a toss!
2. Stop Scrolling
There’s another strong reason why you’d rather put your phones down well before you want to call it a day. Any activity – replying to a mail, browsing the net, scrolling through your Facebook and Instagram posts – would stimulate your brain further. The brain ‘thinks’ you still have got something important to do before falling asleep. Make it a point to keep your phone away at least an hour before you sleep so that your system can finally shutdown for the day.
3. Paint Your Walls Blue
Think of blue. Those turquoises and aquamarines have such a soporific effect, don’t they? Pale blues, greys, and light yellow-greens work perfectly well apart from blue. Your retina finds these colours soothing and sends a signal to the brain that it is time to relax. If the walls of your bedrooms along with your bedspreads and curtains have a splash of these nature-inspired colours in them, this will prove to be the best natural sleep aid.
4. Plant Some Indoor Trees
Having another living entity (apart from humans, of course!)indoors is a whole new ball game altogether. Pets and plants, for instance – they rely on you for nourishment. This way you have a sense of companionship based on love and responsibility. This will not only help you with your psychological problems but also bestow you with a host of other benefits.
Having indoor plants increases the oxygen levels in your bedroom, and this purer air will undeniably calm you. Also, indoor plants often reduce the toxins produced from paints, varnishes, carpets, and more, whichwill help you keep irritants at bay. Plus, the calmative effect that just the sight and smell of plants have on you is indescribable.
5. Regulate The Indoor Temperature
The body finds it absolutely conducive to sleep when the environment temperature reaches what is called as thermonuetrality. To create this thermoneutral zone, see to it that the temperature ranges between 16-19 degrees whenever possible. Again, going beyond the limitations of ‘standardized’ measurements, try experimenting with what temperature puts you to sleep better and create that atmosphere to help you sleep better. Ideally, anything above or below this thermoneutral temperature causes a disruption in the sleep cycle. So, discover yours then!
6. Turn On The Right Kind Of Sounds
Although ‘noise’ in the middle of the night can disrupt your sleep further, you could listen to appropriate sounds that in fact help you sleep better. Listening to specific frequencies of sounds helps the brain induce the state of sleep quickly. For instance, Binaural Beats are sounds that work wonders to induce sleep. When two pure tones are played at the same time, it is believed that this can even bring about a state similar to that of trance.
Similarly listening to what is called the “white noise’ is another solution for sleeplessness. White noise is something that includes all possible sound intensities that can be perceived by human ear. By doing so, it blocks and masks off any other external noise that can possibly keep you awake. In a way, listening to the sounds of nature like ocean and rain sounds has a lullaby-like effect similar to that of white noise. And that is exactly why this is a perfect sleeping aid for light sleepers.
Natural Home Remedies For Insomnia
1. Foods That work As Natural Sleeping Aids
Now that you are familiar with which hormone helps you sleep, let me tell you that consuming foods rich in melatonin or tryptophan helps you sleep better. Here’s a list of foods that are the best natural sleeping aids,
- Milk – A warm glass of milk is replete with melatonin that can give you immediate relief from insomnia and its consequences.
- Cheese – Specifically Cheddar and Parmesan
- Cherries – Having a glass full of Tart Berry Juice at night is a popular natural remedy for sleep problems
- Bananas – Excellent sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that increases the production of melatonin.
- Pineapples – An increase of more than 250% in a melatonin metabolite is observed with the consumption of pineapples.
- Oranges – Eating these juicy citrus fruits helps you elevate the melatonin amounts by increasing aMT6s (melatonin metabolites).
- Turkey – This is again a good source of tryptophan which ultimately helps in the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, and melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
- Chocolate – Another reason to indulge in some rich dark chocolate – it boosts the serotonin levels in the body. Also, it regulates blood flow to the brain and heart, which in general, help you relax remarkably.
2. Herbs and Spices – As Natural Remedies For Insomnia
- Nutmeg –MyristicaFragrans – the scientific name of nutmeg or Jaiphal seems like the answer for what in this spice helps you fall asleep indeed. The chemical compound myristicin, present in the spice is what helps you relax the body sufficiently enough to knock you off for the next 8 hours. You could add a teaspoon of this spice to that warm glass of milk an hour before you are planning to doze However, make sure you don’t go overboard with this spice because nutmeg is a potential hallucinogen when taken in large doses!
- Poppy Seeds –These seeds are abundant supplies of the ‘Holy Triad’ – Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium, all of which help you set your biological clock going. Poppy seeds are perfect natural sleeping pills, for they help in muscle relaxation, reducing symptoms of anxiety, and also reducing inflammation and pain. Like nutmeg powder, poppy seeds or khuskhus can also be consumed with milk. However, remember that poppy seeds when taken excessively can prove to be addictive owing to its opium-like constitution and properties.
- Saffron –When one says sleep is a ‘luxury,’ now we know why! Imagine having to consume these little threads of pure magnificence to fall asleep. But your body is worth the extravagance! Saffron is a natural tranquilizer and consuming it with milk before sleeping proves to be an efficient at-home insomnia treatment. Directly eating saffron is also as effective as drinking saffron-infused milk. Place a few strands on the tongue and savour it at bedtime.
- Valerian Root – Mildly sedating the nervous system is what the herb Valerian does and by doing so, it is proved to be successful in reducing symptoms of a host of psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, hysteria, and hypochondria. The sedative effect that Valerian root induces is because of its ability to promote the production of the neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA. Increased production of GABA helps in calming you and making you doze off. This is exactly how sleeping pills work.
However, Valerian is a safer and more natural version of sleeping pills. The safest way of using this herb is by brewing a steaming cup of tea. You could also use Valerian sleep supplements. However, make sure you speak with an expert before deciding upon the dosage and safety of its usage.
- Lemon Balm – In ancient times, Lemon Balm was often prescribed in combination with Chamomile or Valerian as a natural remedy for insomnia. The leaves of this tree can be used directly as a flavouring ingredient in cooking or to prepare a herbal tea. Lemon balm comes in various forms like essential oil, topical creams, and even supplements. Take professional help if needed and decide on what is the most effective way that suits your body constitution for relief from insomnia and restlessness in the night.
3. Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is one of the best ways you can pamper your body with if you are worked up and find it absolutely difficult to sleep. The very thought of it is so restoring and enlivening, isn’t it? Bask in the therapeutic qualities of these oils as a natural insomnia cure. You will thank me later, for this is a natural sleep remedy actually works.
- YlangYlang – This floral smelling essential oil is one of the best things you can get your hands on if you are searching for one that has calmative effects. Specifically, if it isanxiety and those gushing thoughts that are stopping you from sleeping, YlangYlang (pronounced as ee-langee-lang) is the best way to cure your insomnia.
Best Way To Use As A Natural Sleeping Aid– YlangYlang is best inhaled from the essential oil diffuser. As an alternative, you can add 5 to 10 drops of the oil to Epsom Salt and use it for a relaxing body soak. If you get lucky and find the purest form of this elixir, do yourself a huge favour and add few drops of the oil in your tea.Another way you can brew YlangYlang tea is by steeping the flowers of this tree.
- Bergamot – As serendipity would have it, I picked up a body mist from an organic store. First, it was the picture of the citrus on the bottle that compelled me to buyit. As I opened the lid, bam! The aroma filled the room and the next thing I knew was a sense of unparalleled calm. I desperately looked for the ingredients, and that was when I officially fell in love with Bergamot essential oil.
Bergamot essential oil is one of those gifts from nature that instantly brings about that feeling of elation. It has the property of that of a mood uplifting agent. What better natural sleeping pill than this oil if it can uplift your mood and rid you of the clutches of your own mind!
Best Way To Use As A Natural Sleeping Aid – Bergamot’s aroma is something that should be enjoyed in its purest form. Just take a good number of drops on both your palms, rub them against with each other to generate some body heat. And now sit back, relax, and inhale all the goodness of bergamot essential oil.
- Lavender – A blessing in disguise for those of you who can’t fall asleep is Lavender essential oil. This pleasant-smelling aroma oil slows down the functioning of your nervous system. If you are making conscious efforts of trying to get a grip on your anxiety and the resultant sleeplessness, Lavender is a must-try.
Best Way To Use As A Natural Sleeping Aid – Since Lavender is mild and skin-friendly, you can directly inhale it or apply on your skin. Choose sensitive points like the temples, forehead, and the pulse points in the body. Another great way of topical application is by making your own lotion and adding generous amounts of the oil to it. You could make your own Lavender soaps and shampoos too. A luxurious soak in the Lavender-infused water followed by gentle application on the skin is all you need to relax your mind and unwind for the day.
- Chamomile– Be it the essential oil or the herb, Chamomile has been in widespread use since ages for its properties of supressing anxiety. It is mild and gradually puts you off to sleep when inhaled. Chamomile also reduces inflammation and relieves you of arthritic and spasmodic pain which makes it an excellent choice of oil to relax not just the mind but also the body.
Best Way To Use As A Natural Sleeping Aid – Chamomile is gentle and safe for topical use. However, always do a small patch test to ensure it suits your skin without any adverse effects. You could either directly inhale the oil or spread few drops across your temples and forehead before going to the bed to enjoy uninterrupted sleep. As a cure for insomnia, you could also brew a cup of tea with the Chamomile herb, which has similar efficiency as the essential oil.
- Clary Sage – Another great companion from the world of essential oils for your nights is Clary Sage. It not only has a soporific effect on your body, but it also calms your nervous system. It has the capacity to even control attacks of convulsions. Plus, if you have spasmodic aches in the body coming in between you and your peaceful slumber, Clary Sage is the best oil that can help you snooze like a baby.
The good news for women suffering from hormonal imbalance is that clary sage is wonderful at treating symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Plus, women who find their insomnia to increase during their cycles should know that Clary Sage can relieve you of menstrual cramps and symptoms of PMS.
Best Way To Use As A Natural Sleeping Aid – Like most essential oils, Clary Sage can be mixed with bath salts for a therapeutic bathing ritual before you go to bed. You could also use this in the diffuser and fill your bedroom with the aroma. As an alternative you could spray some drops gently on your pillows and bedspreads.
Another way you could reap the benefits of this relaxant is by adding few drops of the oil to honey and consuming it as a natural remedy to induce sleep. Just remember to grab a bottle of really pure and therapeutic grade oil if it is for internal use.Plus, you could always mix the essential oil in carrier oils like coconut or almond oil and give yourself a massage which will relax you even more.
Just a word of caution, though! When you take the refuge of any natural sleeping aids like spices, herbs, and oils, make sure you don’t overuse them in the first place. Secondly, when you are on sleep medication, try limiting the usage to avoid feeling groggy the next morning. Plus, these natural sleeping aids have the tendency to accentuate the effect of alcohol. So, when you are high, avoid the consumption, application, or inhalation of these substances.
4. Sleep-Inducing Fitness Regime
Studies conducted onthe effect of acute and chronic exercise on sleep quality says that chronic exercise had remarkably positive influence on the circadian rhythm, thereby bringing a consistency in the sleep-wake cycle. This happens primarily because exercising on a regular basis helps solve problems like discrepancies in serotonin production. Here are some exercise-related tips that will help you fall asleep and enhance the quality of sleep:
- Spending more time with aerobic exercises is a great way to cure insomnia naturally. If you want to put an end to sleepless nights and sleepy mornings, aerobics it is. Aerobic exercises stabilize arousal and relax your body. Also, it improves the quality of your sleep. You might not feel the necessity to snooze for 8 hours every night and are still active for the next day.
- Timing matters a great deal when it comes to exercising as a sleep-inducing remedy. Some individuals find exercising stimulating while others perceive it as relaxing. So, if you find it arousing, make sure you follow a morning schedule, and if you find it relaxing, make exercising an evening ritual. Experiment and strike a relationship with your body’s rhythm.
- Try channelizing all your focus on the body, and more importantly on your breath while exercising, this helps you consciously release tension and fills your body with a surging sense of relaxation.
- Indulge in outdoor exercises as far as possible, because this way you end up enjoying a wonderful sun-soak. It is essential to spend enough time under the morning sun. This is because exposure to sun promotes the production of serotonin in the morning. It doesn’t end there anyway. This serotonin once secreted over the day, gets converted into melatonin during the absence of light (night) and that’s when you tend to doze off. For this cycle to be consistent, make it a point to absorb the morning sun.
- Include a lot of stretching and restorative forms of physical activity including Yoga to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Two of the poses that are sure shot remedies for insomnia are the Forward Bend Pose and Shavaasana (The Corpse Pose).
In the Forward Bend, simply sit cross legged and bend forward gently as much as you can and touch the ground with the head. Be careful not to overdo the stretching. Relax and allow your spine to bend only as much as it can. This will instantly relieve all the tension that is there in the spine and perfectly allows you to unload your body and mind of all the accumulated ‘baggage’. You could try a variation of the same pose but this time in the standing position (Standing Forward Bend Pose)
Shavaasana – This pose is similar to that of a corpse. Just sleep on the ground without tensing or clenching any of the muscles, including the mind. This is another effective pose to free yourself of not just physical load but also the mental and emotional stress.
5. Correcting Bad Lifestyle Patterns and Sleeping Habits
Now, this is where I will tell you the don’ts rather than the dos. A quick list of what could be causing insomnia in you and that you should stop it all immediately if you wish to end your abusive relationship with 3:00 AM once and for all!
- Limit your caffeine intake by all means to probably one cup a day. Make it a point to not consume any form of caffeine in the afternoons and evenings.
- Like caffeine, alcohol is tricky too. It works as a relaxant initially but an overdose and chronic usage leads to it working like an arousal. So, that’s one thing you need to work on, if that’s the reason behind your sleepless nights.
- The next in the list to avoid is excessive consumption of energy drinks. They stimulate you more than necessary, sometimes making you jittery if the amounts aren’t regulated.
- Do everything you can to not get into the vicious cycle of substance abuse and sleeplessness. Depending on any form of drug for sleep can look irresistibly tempting initially, but later this is only going to make your insomnia worse and worse still – you have allowed addiction to get the better of you.
- Like I had said in the beginning, being able to sleep in the night is truly in your hands. Start maintaining a strict regime where you sleep and wake up just at the same time every day including weekends. Disrupting your cycle on weekends is going to influence the sleep quality of the week days.
Now that you have realized how you can stop recurring insomnia from coming in between you and your peace, you have successfully finished the first step (yes, it is hard for one to accept at first that one is responsible for their own sleeplessness and the fact that realizing is just the first step – been there, done that!) But once realized, there was no turning back.
So now it is me, my Himalayan Salt Lamp (purifies air, generates negative ions that help you immensely relax, and increases blood flow in the body – go ahead and add this to your to-do remedy list), my headsets playing binaural beat lullaby, and then my bergamot-smelling bed. Period. Now it is more like In so-what? Who insomnia? Kidding aside, now I know what they mean by ‘good’ night, do you?