As someone who struggles with occasional bouts of insomnia and general difficulty sleeping, I understand that sleeplessness can really get in the way of work and family life.
Sleepless nights can leave you exhausted and unmotivated. Your body responds to sleepiness with symptoms including increased hunger (which can cause you to gain weight) and negative mood (which can negatively affect your social life).
Below, we discuss the causes of insomnia, natural sleep remedies that work, and lifestyle changes that will help you achieve a good night’s sleep without a pill or prescription.
Causes of insomnia
If you feel like you can’t get to sleep because you can’t “turn your brain off,” you might be right. Your brain has a “wake cycle” and a “sleep cycle.”
In recent years, researchers have started to view insomnia as a problem with this cycle – either you have too little sleep drive or too much wake drive.
Insomnia can also be caused by unhealthy sleep habits, biological factors, specific substances, and psychiatric/medical conditions.
Here are a few conditions that might make falling asleep difficult:
- Sinus allergies
- Endocrine problems like hyperthyroidism
- Gastrointestinal problems like reflux
- Chronic pain
- Lower back pain
- Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s Disease
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Sleep apnea
On top of that, medication used to treat the following conditions has been linked with insomnia:
- Heart disease
- Nasal allergies
- Common cold
- Birth control
- Thyroid disease
General anxiety is one of the most common causes of sleeplessness among adults. Here are a few thoughts and feelings that can lead to insomnia:
- Thinking about past events
- Worrying about the future
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling over stimulated
Anxiety is associated with maintenance insomnia (when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep) and onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep). When insomnia persists, just the thought of going to bed can make you feel anxious.
Home remedies to fall asleep quickly
Dab lavender essential oil on your temples and wrists before bedtime. The soothing scent will help you fall asleep, especially if you continue to incorporate it into your bedtime routine.
Using your thumb, close your right nostril so that you are only breathing through your left nostril. Breathe deeply and count to 30 breaths. This exercise will help you focus on breathing – and silence other annoying thoughts.
Here’s another breathing exercise to try:
- Breathe in slowly for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Breath out slowly for 8 seconds
- Repeat until you fall asleep
Sleeping pills can be addictive, which is why we’re recommending the natural option.
Valerian is a natural sleep pill that has long been used to combat insomnia and nervousness. Another natural option is chamomile, which is sold in the form of extract, tea, and topical ointment.
*Read all labels to ensure you’re taking quality supplements. Don’t combine natural sleeping pills with other sleep aids.
Ayurvedic tips for good sleep
Ayurvedic medicine – commonly referred to as “Ayurveda” is an ancient holistic healing system that was developed in India over 3,000 years ago.
Like certain forms of massage, Ayurveda focuses on the body’s energy and the balance between mind, body, and spirit. This method of healing considers sleep just as important as diet in maintaining overall health.
Practitioners believe there are three types of sleep imbalances:
Vata: when you can’t fall asleep because your mind is “busy” thinking about events and emotions. This is caused by a lack of coordination between learning, retention, and recall.
Pitta: when you fall asleep easily but wake too early and can’t get back to sleep. This is generally caused by emotional trauma.
Kapha: you can sleep but you still feel tired the next day.
Ayurvedic tips to help you sleep:
- Avoid too much stimulation before bedtime
- Share a massage with your partner before bedtime
- Release body tension
- Don’t eat after 7pm, and go to sleep before 10pm
- Keep your bedroom cool at night
- During the day, eat warm meals and sweet fruits
- Avoid exercising in the sun
- Don’t skip meals
- Drink tea instead of coffee
- Exercise frequently
Cure insomnia and get to sleep within 30 minutes
Melatonin is a hormone that is believed to play a key role in regulating a person’s circadian rhythm.
Taking a low dose of melatonin is a good way to fall asleep quickly, but you shouldn’t depend on it every night. We recommend taking 0.5 mg about 60 minutes before bedtime.
Long Term Prevention
In some cases, difficulty sleeping can be easy to cure. It might be as easy as changing your diet or avoiding bright screens before bedtime.
Other times, it is necessary to speak with a doctor or sleep specialist. Either way, you should never accept poor sleep as a way of life.
The long term prevention and cure for insomnia may require some changes in lifestyle.
Working in the evenings (especially on a computer screen) and working irregular hours can make it difficult to sleep. Try your best to normalize your sleep schedule, avoid bright screens before bedtime, and take some time to unwind between work and bedtime.
Avoid taking naps in the afternoon, even if they are short. Napping can be helpful for some, but for others it makes sleeping at night more difficult.
Don’t sleep in on the weekends to make up for lost sleep during the week. This habit can confuse your internal clock and make it harder to fall asleep.
Alcohol can help you get to sleep, but it can make sleeping through the night more difficult. It can also give you a hangover in the morning. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. Avoid these substances in the evening hours.
Don’t eat a large meal before going to bed. Instead, enjoy a larger lunch and a light dinner.
What is the best natural sleep aid?
What’s best really depends on the person. Your insomnia may be caused by bad habits, a medical condition, or a substance. Speak with a doctor if your efforts to combat insomnia fail. Remember, never accept insomnia as part of a normal life.
Click here to learn more about preventing insomnia.