Getting sufficient sleep is vital for your physical and mental health. Sleep is the time our body recovers and recharges, and without the recommended eight hours per night, your body can start to struggle with even the simplest tasks.
Unfortunately, the CDC estimates that as many as one in five adults are not getting the right amount of sleep. When you’re having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, this is known as insomnia. This is one of the most common sleep-related conditions, affecting millions.
Insomnia can be inconvenient, and if suffered over the long-term, it can cause a range of health problems. That’s why many people turn to medication to treat the problem. Drugs to help with sleep can provide short-term relief, but some people dislike the idea of relying on medication to address a long-term issue.
In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the best ways you can overcome insomnia without turning to medication. Well, look at some natural remedies, as well as the importance of having a great sleep routine to help you get the rest you need.
Insomnia is a sleep condition that can affect anyone, at any time. It affects your ability to get the sleep your body needs. You may find it hard to fall asleep at night, or you may wake up regularly when you do fall asleep. Perhaps you wake up very early every day and find it hard to get back to sleep, or maybe you find napping almost impossible, despite being incredibly tired.
Everyone has days where they find it hard to sleep from time to time. However, if your lack of sleep starts affecting your daily life, it can be classed as insomnia. You may find that you’re grumpy and irritable during the day. You might notice that you have trouble concentrating or remembering things. These are all textbook signs that you’re suffering from insomnia.
What Are the Causes of Insomnia?
There are two main types of insomnia:
- Primary insomnia is a sleep condition that isn’t related to any other health problem.
- Secondary insomnia is when you can’t sleep due to an external issue. This could be a health problem like arthritis or heartburn, and it may be due to the consumption of a substance like alcohol, or a side-effect of medication that you’re on.
Depression and anxiety can also wreak havoc with sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep when you need to. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can make problems like depression and anxiety even worse. This can lead people to fall into an unfortunate cycle where anxiety causes lack of sleep, and lack of sleep exacerbates anxiety.
Doctors still aren’t sure what causes insomnia. It can vary between individuals – some are more susceptible to sleep problems than others. Lifestyle factors can play a part, as can genetics and environmental factors.
How Can Insomnia Be Medically Treated?
If you’re suffering from insomnia, it’s natural to want to treat it as quickly as possible. Many people turn to prescription medications to help them sleep. The most common prescription sleeping pills include:
- Doexpin (Silenor) – this drug enables you to stay asleep if you have trouble waking up during the night.
- Temazepam (Restoril) – this medication helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, but it can lead to dependency issues.
- Zolpidem (Ambien) – this prescription pill can help you fall asleep if you find yourself lying awake at night.
- Esczopiclone (Lunesta) – this pill can help people to fall asleep more quickly, and sleep through the night. However, it can cause grogginess the next day, which means it’s not recommended for people who have children, or those who need to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Its worth remembering that all prescription medication carries the risk of side-effects. These can include dizziness, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, drowsiness, and memory problems. Sleeping pills, in particular, can also affect your behavior while sleeping – you may engage in activities like sleepwalking or sleep-eating.
Relieving Insomnia Without Medication
Fortunately, medication is not the only way you can treat insomnia. There is a range of natural remedies and other techniques you can use to ensure you get a better night’s sleep. Here are some of the best natural herbs and remedies you can use to treat insomnia.
The humble lavender plant has been used as a remedy for those who can’t sleep for many years. Its scent has been proven to help those who are struggling with insomnia – and the best thing is, it’s available in a multitude of forms.
You can buy lavender hand and body creams which are ideal for applying before you go to bed. Lavender bath products such as bath bombs and shower gels can also help with relaxation.
Herbal teas aimed at helping you sleep often contain lavender, and you can also buy dried lavender in sachets to leave in your bedroom. Many people like to use lavender essential oil in a diffuser while they sleep to maintain relaxation throughout the night.
Chamomile is another favorite in herbal teas which aims to promote sleep and relaxation. This gentle herb doesn’t have an overstimulating flavor, and it contains the flavonoid chrysin. This is the ingredient that is responsible for chamomile’s reputation as a sleep aid.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital role in relaxation. If you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet, you’ll probably find it hard to relax and get good quality sleep.
You can consume magnesium in a number of ways. Magnesium supplements and pills are a good way to boost your intake and make sure you’re getting the recommended daily amount. For men, this is around 400mg – 420mg each day, and for women, it’s 310mg – 320mg per day. Bear this in mind when buying supplements.
You can also absorb magnesium transdermally – through your skin. This can also be combined with another great pre-bedtime activity: bathing. Adding Epsom salts to your bath can be a great way to bump up your magnesium levels. Epsom salts are actually made up of magnesium, and your body will absorb an appropriate amount to aid general relaxation. Soaking for just twenty minutes in an Epsom salt bath will certainly help you prepare your body to fall asleep.
You may not have heard of this unique plant, but it’s been used as a way to fight insomnia for hundreds of years. The roots of the Valerian plant stimulate certain receptors in the brain, opening the gateway for chemicals and hormones that promote good sleep. The effect of Valerian root can actually imitate the effects of some sleeping pills when fighting insomnia.
The best way to take Valerian root is in tea form. Just a teaspoonful of dried Valerian root infused in boiling water for ten minutes will create a cup of very relaxing tea. This can help you to get to sleep and remain that way until you’re fully rested.
Warm Milk and Honey
A warm drink before bed is a great way to relax. The best drink to consume if you’re struggling to sleep is warm milk with a small drizzle of honey. Milk contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps with sleep. It increases the serotonin in your body, which works as a sedative. When combined with carbohydrates like those found in honey, it helps delivered these hormones to your brain more quickly.
Why is Good Sleep Hygiene Important?
Having a sleep routine and good ‘sleep hygiene is also a great technique for those trying to beat insomnia. Your body craves routine, and settling into one can help you get the sleep you need.
Here are some tips for better sleep hygiene and starting off your sleep routine:
- Try to create a schedule for sleep and stick to it. Choose the same bedtime every night, and set your alarm at the same time every day. You should follow these 7 days a week, even at the weekend when you might usually stay in bed.
- Consider a warm shower before bed. You could try incorporating a lavender soak or soap into the mix for further relaxation.
- Incorporate exercise into your routine – thirty minutes per day, for as many days of the week as you can.
- Vigorous exercise should be done in the morning or afternoon. During the evenings, stick to more relaxing forms of exercise like yoga, pilates, or swimming.
- Exposure to natural light can help regulate your body’s internal clock. When you get up in the morning, open your blinds straight away. Try to spend time outside each day, and soak up plenty of vitamin D. Before electric light, the body would regulate itself with the rise and fall of the sun, so this can be a useful way to fall into a strong sleep pattern.
- Try out techniques like mindful breathing and meditation before you get into bed.
- Your bed should be associated with sleep only – try to avoid working, watching TV, scrolling through your phone, or eating in bed.
- Don’t confine yourself to your bed if you find that you’re tossing and turning. Get up for a while, consider practicing some yoga, or complete a menial task around the house, then get back into bed when you feel tired.
Other Ways to Overcome Insomnia
As well as natural remedies and a strong sleep routine, there are many other things you can try to get rid of insomnia. Let’s take a look at some of them:
White Noise Machines
Humans weren’t built to sleep in total silence. It goes back to our time in utero when we would be soothed by the constant whooshing sounds surrounding us. Many people also live in crowded, built-up areas, where it can be difficult to sleep with the sounds of traffic, sirens, or other people in the area.
The best white noise machines can be very helpful in this instance. Not only do they provide a pleasant background hum for you to fall asleep, but they can also block out disturbing noises that may be keeping you awake. Dogs barking, sirens blaring, couples arguing – these disruptive sounds can be a huge obstacle when trying to sleep.
You can also buy white noise machines which act as nightlights. Many also come with essential oil diffusers, which you can fill with relaxing scents like lavender or jasmine.
As mentioned earlier, the human body uses light as an important clue when it comes to regulating its internal clock. The body’s circadian rhythms naturally respond to the rising and the falling of the sun. Electric lights have somehow wreaked havoc on our ability to naturally regulate our sleep patterns.
When fighting insomnia, it’s important to consider how much light you’re exposing yourself to during sleep. If there’s the slightest bit of light pollution leaking through your curtains, it can cause you to wake up prematurely. It may also make it difficult for you to fall asleep in the evenings.
One way you can prevent any exterior light from getting into your bedroom is with blackout curtains. They’re relatively inexpensive, and they will ensure you can sleep in blissful darkness. You can also pick up blackout curtain liners which can be sewn into your existing curtains, so you won’t need an entirely new set.
To fight insomnia, you need to make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible. If your bed is bumpy or your sheets are scratchy, you’re not going to enjoy getting into bed. The level of discomfort may even prevent you from falling asleep.
Upgrading your bedding is a great way to transform your bed into a more comfortable place. Choosing natural materials like pure cotton can help regulate your temperature, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Also, the right pillow can prevent neck pain (or help you to overcome discomfort).
Stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and nicotine can all be problematic when you’re trying to overcome insomnia. Many people believe that an alcoholic drink before bed can help them settle. However, the dehydrating effect of alcohol can cause you to get up in the night to rehydrate. It may also lead you to feel parched and unwell the next morning. Relying on alcohol is not a sustainable way to overcome insomnia.
Sugar, nicotine, and caffeine will make it difficult for you to sleep. They cause a rush of energy in your body which can cause problems when it’s time for bed – especially if you consume the stimulant close to bedtime.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This therapy technique is a great way to manage feelings of anxiety or stress that might be affecting your sleep. It’s primarily a talking therapy, but many people find CBT worksheets very helpful in managing their feelings.
This type of treatment is a great alternative to prescription medication when it comes to treating insomnia. In fact, a study from Harvard University found that CBT was more effective at helping people to overcome insomnia than conventional sleeping pills.
Overcoming Insomnia with No Medication
Medication can provide some short-term relief for those who are having difficulty sleeping. However, it comes with a range of issues and side-effects that must be dealt with. It can cause everything from dizziness and headaches to problems with memory and even dependency. Many sleeping pills have addictive qualities, and relying on them to cure insomnia is not sustainable.
Instead, it’s worth trying the many different alternatives to medication. From herbal and natural remedies like lavender and chamomile to activities like having a bath or doing some yoga before bed, there are many ways you can enhance your ability to get good sleep.
Maintaining a sleep routine is also a great way to beat insomnia without medication. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will help your body clock regulate itself. The human body craves routine, and once you settle into one, your sleep patterns will become more predictable and easier to manage.