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8 Home Remedies for Insomnia

Why use home remedies for insomnia?

Many people experience short-term insomnia. This common sleep disorder can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep until it’s time to wake up.

Although the amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, most adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night. If your sleeping patterns are affecting your quality of life, home remedies may be able to help.

Keep reading to learn how you can take charge of your sleeping patterns through meditation, exercise, and other home remedies.  

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Mindfulness meditation

Remedy #1: Mindfulness meditation

meditation

Mindfulness meditation consists of slow, steady breathing while sitting quietly. You observe your breath, body, thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they rise and pass.

Mindfulness meditation has numerous health benefits that go hand-in-hand with a healthy lifestyle promoting good sleep. It’s said to reduce stress, improve concentration, and boost immunity.

Researchers in a 2011 study found that meditation significantly improved insomnia and overall sleep patterns. Participants attended a weekly meditation class, a daylong retreat, and practiced at home over the course of a few months.

You can meditate as often as you like. If you don’t have time for a longer session, aim to do 15 minutes in the morning or evening. Consider joining a meditation group once a week to stay motivated. You may also choose to do an online guided meditation.

Meditation is safe to practice, but it has the potential to bring up strong emotions. If you feel it is causing you further angst or turmoil, discontinue the practice.

Check out: The best mediation apps of the year »

Mantra repetition

Remedy #2: Mantra repetition

mantra

Repeating a mantra or positive affirmation repeatedly can help focus and calm your mind. Mantras are said to produce feelings of relaxation by quieting the mind.

Researchers in a 2015 study taught women who are homeless to repeat a mantra silently throughout the day and before sleeping. Participants who continued to use the mantra over the course of a week experienced reduced levels of insomnia.

You may choose a mantra in Sanskrit, English, or another language. Search online for ideas or create one that feels right for you. Choose a mantra that you find pleasant and calming. It should be a simple, positive statement in the present tense. A good mantra will allow you to continually focus on the repetition of sound, which will enable you to relax and go to sleep.

Chant the mantra mentally or aloud, keeping your focus on the words. Gently bring your mind back to the mantra each time it wanders. You may also play music with chanting. Feel free to recite your mantra as often as you like. You might choose another mantra to use in the daytime.

If you feel the chanting is causing any ill effects or agitation, stop the practice.

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Yoga

Remedy #3: Yoga

yoga

Yoga has been found to have a positive effect on sleep quality. Yoga may also alleviate stress, improve physical functioning, and boost mental focus.

Choose a style that focuses more on moving meditation or breath work as opposed to difficult physical movements. Slow, controlled movements allow you to stay present and focused. Yin and restorative yoga are great options.

Strive to do a few longer sessions each week, and at least 20 minutes of daily self-practice. Performing the postures before bed can help you to relax and unwind.

If a pose doesn’t feel right for you, don’t force it. Forcing it may result in injury. It’s important to do what feels good for you and your body, and that varies from person to person.

Check out: 5 yoga poses perfect for beginners »

Exercise

Remedy #4: Exercise

exercise

Exercise boosts overall health. It can enhance your mood, give you more energy, aid in weight loss, and promote better sleep.

Participants in a 2015 study exercised for at least 150 minutes per week for six months. During this time, researchers found that the participants experienced significantly fewer symptoms of insomnia. They also showed reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

To receive these benefits, you should engage in moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes per day. You may add in some strength training or vigorous aerobic exercise a few times per week. Find the time of day that best suits your needs and that has the most positive effect on your sleep.

Take into consideration the condition of your body and exercise accordingly. Physical injury is possible, but can usually be avoided if you practice with care.

Check out: How to massage your pressure points »

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Massage

Remedy #5: Massage

massage

Researchers in a 2015 study found massage therapy to benefit people with insomnia by improving sleep quality and daytime dysfunction. It may also reduce feelings of pain, anxiety, and depression.

If professional massage isn’t an option, you can do self-massage. You may also find it beneficial to have a partner or friend give you a massage. Allow your mind to focus on the feelings and sensations of touch as your mind wanders. Research online for tips and techniques.

While massage is generally safe, check with your doctor if you have any specific health concerns that may impede the benefits. If your skin is sensitive to creams or oils, be sure to do a skin patch test before use.

Check out: How to massage your pressure points »

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Magnesium

Remedy #6: Magnesium

magnesium

Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral. It can help muscles relax and relieve stress. This is thought to encourage healthy sleep patterns.

Participants in a 2012 study took 500 milligrams (mg) of magnesium daily for 2 months. During this time, researchers found that participants experienced fewer symptoms of insomnia and improved sleep patterns.

Men may take up to 400 mg daily, and women can take up to 300 mg daily. You may choose to divide your doses between the morning and evening or take your dose before bed.

You may also add 1 cup of magnesium flakes to your evening bath, allowing the magnesium to be absorbed through your skin.

Side effects include stomach and intestinal issues. You may wish to start with a lower dose and gradually increase to see how your body reacts. Taking it with food may reduce any abdominal discomfort. Check with your doctor if you take any medications to determine potential interactions.

You shouldn’t take magnesium supplements constantly. Take a break for a few days every two weeks. Don’t take more than the recommended dose found on the product.

Check out: 7 healthy benefits of magnesium »

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Lavender oil

Remedy #7: Lavender oil

lavender oil

Lavender is used to improve mood, reduce pain, and promote sleep. Taking it orally is thought to be more effective.

Results of a 2014 study showed that lavender oil capsules were beneficial in improving sleep patterns in people with depression when taken with an antidepressant. People also showed lowered levels of anxiety, which would seemingly allow for better sleep.

Take 20 to 80 mg of lavender orally each day, or use as directed. You may wish to add lavender essential oil to a diffuser or spray it onto your pillow. Lavender tea is also an option.

Lavender is usually safe to use. Taking lavender orally may cause headache, constipation, or nausea.

Check out: What lavender can do for you »

Melatonin

Remedy #8: Melatonin

melatonin

Melatonin can help you to fall asleep more quickly and enhance the quality of your sleep.

Researchers in a 2016 study found melatonin to significantly improve sleep patterns in people with cancer and insomnia. Sleep quality was improved even more between seven and 14 days. 

Take 1 to 5 mg 30 minutes to two hours before going to sleep. You should use the lowest effective dose possible, as higher doses may cause side effects.

It may cause:

  • depression
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • stomach cramps
  • wakefulness in the night

Melatonin is generally safe to use for short periods of time.

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Lifestyle changes

What else can I do to help sleep through the night?

Certain lifestyle changes may also help reduce your symptoms of insomnia. You may wish to give these a shot before seeking out supplemental or medicinal options.

Tips and tricks
  • Avoid chemicals that disrupt sleep, such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Eat lighter meals at night and at least two hours before bed.
  • Stay active, but exercise earlier in the day.
  • Take a hot shower or bath at the end of your day.
  • Avoid screens one to two hours before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool, and try to use it only for sleeping.
  • Get into bed only if you’re tired.
  • Get out of bed if you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes.

See your doctor

When to see a doctor

If your symptoms persist for more than a few weeks or worsen, consult your doctor. Persistent insomnia may be the result of an underlying health concern.

This includes:

  • heartburn
  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • chronic pain
  • thyroid disease
  • cardiovascular disease
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • kidney disease
  • neurological disorders
  • respiratory problems
  • hormonal changes associated with menopause

Prescription and over-the-counter medications may also interfere with sleep quality.

If left untreated, insomnia can increase your risk for:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • heart failure
  • high blood pressure
  • substance abuse

Your doctor can help you to get to the root cause and decide how best to treat the issue.

Traditional treatments

How is insomnia traditionally treated?

If lifestyle changes aren’t working, your doctor may suggest behavioral therapy.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy can help you to develop habits that improve the quality of your sleep. Your therapist will work with you over the course of a few months to figure out which thoughts and behaviors are contributing negatively to your sleep patterns.

A cognitive behavioral treatment plan may include:

  • sleep restriction
  • relaxation therapy
  • sleep hygiene education
  • sleep scheduling
  • stimulus control

This usually has better long-term outcomes than medicine alone.

Medication

Sleeping medication should only be used occasionally and for no more than 10 consecutive days.

Over-the-counter options include diphenhydramine, such as in Benadryl, and doxylamine succinate, such as in Unisom SleepTabs.

Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills to be used while you’re adjusting to behavior and lifestyle changes.

Common prescription sleep medicines include:

Learn more: Lunesta vs. Ambien, two short-term treatments for insomnia »

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Outlook

Outlook

In many cases, making positive changes to your lifestyle can relieve insomnia. Infrequent insomnia typically lasts for a few days or weeks. In more severe cases, it can last three months or longer. If your symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, consult your doctor.

You may find it beneficial to have plan for what to do when you can’t sleep. You may decide to focus on relaxing in bed without sleeping, move to another room to do something relaxing, or get up and do something more active and productive. Find what works for you.

Keeping a sleep journal may help you identify any factors contributing to your insomnia. Be sure to record your nighttime routine, anything you had to eat or drink, and any medications you may be taking.

Keep reading: How to kick insomnia in early pregnancy »

Article resources
  • Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghi, K. Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012, December). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial [Abstract]. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1,161-1,169. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23853635
  • Barger, M. K., Weinrich, S., Bormann, J. E., Bouvier, M., & Hardin, S. B. (2015, June). Mantram repetition program decreases insomnia among homeless women: A pilot study [Abstract]. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 53(6), 44-49. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26091550
  • Fißler, M., & Quante, A. (2014, February). A case series on the use of lavendula oil capsules in patients suffering from major depressive disorder and symptoms of psychomotor agitation, insomnia and anxiety [Abstract]. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22(1), 63-69. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24559818
  • Gross, C. R., Kreitzer, M. J., Reilly-Spong, M., Wall, M. Winbush, N. Y., Patterson, R., … Cramer-Bornemann, M. (2011, March-April). Mindfulness-based stress reduction versus pharmacotherapy for chronic primary insomnia: A randomized controlled clinical trial [Abstract]. Explore, 7(2), 76-87. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21397868
  • Halpern, J., Cohen, M., Kennedy, G. Reece, J., Cahan, C., & Baharay, A. (2014, May-June). Yoga for improving sleep quality and quality of life for older adults [Abstract]. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 20(3), 37-43. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24755569
  • Hartescu, I., Morgan, K., & Stevinson, C. D. (2015, October). Increased physical activity improves sleep and mood outcomes in inactive people with insomnia: A randomized controlled trial [Abstract]. Journal of Sleep Research, 24(5), 526-534. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25903450
  • Kurdi, M. S., & Muthukalai, S. P. (2016, July-September). The efficacy of oral melatonin in improving sleep in cancer patients with insomnia: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study [Abstract]. Indian Journal of Palliative Care, 22(3), 295-300. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27559258
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, October 15). Insomnia: Overview. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/home/ovc-20256955
  • Tang, H., Chen, Z., Pang, J., & Mo, Q. (2015, August). Treatment of insomnia with shujing massage therapy: A randomized controlled trial [Abstract]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, 35(8), 816-818. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26571900
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