Insomnia Alternative Treatments

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 13, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on October 13, 2014

Insomnia Alternative Treatments

There are many alternative treatments for insomnia. Relaxation techniques like meditation, massage, and warm baths can encourage and improve quality of sleep. Herbal teas and natural supplements are also known to increase relaxation and improve sleep.

Like many alternative treatments, opinions are mixed as to their effectiveness. Research is often minimal compared to traditional treatments.

However, many people have had success with alternative treatments in the management of diseases and conditions, including insomnia. Before trying any alternative treatments, you should check with your doctor to be sure that the methods are safe and right for you.

Mind and Body

Stress and anxiety are the most common causes of insomnia. Relaxation techniques that are known to promote sleep include massage, meditation, and deep breathing

Light yoga and stretching are other methods of relaxation that can help you sleep.

Herbs and Supplements

There are a number of over-the-counter herbs and supplements that have shown promise in relieving insomnia. However, much of the research is ongoing and inconclusive. Always consult a doctor before trying any alternative treatments to find out if they are safe.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a non-prescription supplement sold as a sleep aid. Your body produces melatonin naturally and releases it into your bloodstream in increasing amounts, starting in the evening. Your body produces it throughout the night and decreases toward morning. Many people have claimed success with melatonin as a sleep aid.

A study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggested that melatonin significantly helped in reducing the symptoms of jetlag. It’s recommended for adults travelling across five or more time zones.

Some studies have shown that melatonin can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and reduce the number of times you wake up throughout the night.  But it may not lengthen total sleep time. Other studies show that melatonin has no benefit at all.

Valerian

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an herbal supplement marketed as a sleep aid. It’s prepared from the roots of the valerian plant and is usually packaged in a capsule. Studies about its true effectiveness in treating insomnia are inconclusive.

Herbal Teas

Adding an herbal tea to your bedtime ritual can help calm both your mind and body. Some herbal teas promoted for their relaxation qualities are:

  • chamomile
  • hops
  • passion flower

Hypnosis

Hypnosis or hypnotherapy is used to treat a number of medical conditions. It’s commonly used to treat stress, mental health conditions, and other illnesses that can cause insomnia. It’s a procedure often used to enhance effects of other therapies.

Unlike what’s often portrayed, you don’t lose control over your actions when under hypnosis. You are awake and aware, but just more open to suggestion. Hypnotherapy doesn’t work for everyone. In very rare cases headache, nausea, and anxiety have been reported as side effects.

Acupuncture

According to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, acupuncture treatment has been used for more than 2,000 years. First used in China, acupuncture treats illness with ultra-thin needles placed at key body points. How acupuncture works is not fully understood, yet it has proven effective in treating insomnia and many other medical conditions. 

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