Natural Remedies for Insomnia

woman sleeping on bed under blankets

Chronic insomnia is a major health problem and if you suffer from this frustrating and debilitating condition, you are not alone. A large proportion of the population experience frequent bouts of this sleeping disorder which can affect them dramatically in their daily lives

Simple lifestyle changes can help to restore better sleep

The following lifestyle changes can encourage better sleep:

  • Avoiding eating a big meal or drinking alcohol within at least four hours of bedtime can help with a better night’s sleep. Also drinking coffee, tea, cola or cocoa can also affect sleep patterns. Chamomile tea is a good, relaxing substitute.
  • Stress of any kind such as worry, emotional problems or tension can keep you awake. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing and relaxation exercises can restore emotional and physical equilibrium until you can resolve the source of the stress itself.
  • Aromatherapy oils can be very helpful as they can reach the brain in a matter of minutes to have a calming influence. Lavender is a great essential oil to start with and can be sniffed straight from the bottle, massaged into the skin (in a carrier oil) or a few crushed sprigs in the pillowcase can do wonders. Lavender can even inhibit stimulation from caffeine, so have some with you when do have that last cup of coffee. Other relaxing essential oils such as chamomile, lemon balm, neroli, or marjoram can also be helpful.
  • A totally darkened and quiet room is vital for beneficial sleep as a night light or outside lighting can affect melatonin production in the brain and upset sleep patterns. Extended night-time exposure to light by staying up late will also disturb melatonin production and can also cause other¬†possible health problems.
  • Herbal teas, used alone or combined, before bed can induce restful sleep and reduce anxiety and muscle tension. Rooibos tea relaxes the nervous system and promotes healthy sleep due to its sedative effect. Catnip is a powerful sleep inducer and chamomile gently reduces muscle activity and eases anxiety. Hops has a gentle sedative action, and lemon balm is a mild tranquilizer and calms the digestive system. Other useful herb are passionflower (for an overactive mind), zizyphus, or valerian (which can take one to four weeks to work). All of these herbs can be taken in a liquid extract form and your local herbalist can make up a formula to suit you.
  • Magnesium deficiency can cause chronic insomnia with frequent nighttime awakenings. In a study done by James Penland at the Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota, a high magnesium, low aluminum diet was found to be associated with deeper, less interrupted sleep. If you regularly take an antacid, especially in a liquid form, you should note that many brands contain as much as 200 to 250 milligrams of aluminum per teaspoon.

The Chinese Traditional Medicine Viewpoint of insomnia

Insomnia can often be the result of liver and gallbladder imbalance, especially if the person has trouble sleeping between 11pm and 3am, when the body is channeling energy to these organs. If these two organs are weak, the person can’t remain relaxed during these hours especially if they have eaten before bed or consumed alcohol or spicy foods.

Overeating and food additives (such artificial colors and preservatives, for example) can all disturb the liver and gallbladder before bed and therefore interrupt sleep.


Penland JC, Effects of trace element nutrition on sleep patterns in adult women, FASEBJ 2 (4): A434

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.Copyright Anne Dubois. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.