Can't sleep? Discover a variety of insomnia treatments from alternative medicine to use as sleep aids. Find an insomnia remedy that works for you. Get insomnia help, including natural remedies for insomnia.
Weighted blankets are an easy, inexpensive, home remedy for insomnia. These blankets mimic other kinds of deep touch pressure (DTP), such as hugging, swaddling, massaging, that soothes and comforts. Research shows that DTP releases serotonin, the brain chemical that creates relaxation. DTP also opposes our anxiety-generating "fight or flight" response.
A 2015 issue of Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders said study participants' sleep time increased and their tossing and turning decreased. They found it easier to go to sleep and felt rested in the morning.
Universally, patients like sleeping under a weighted blanket because they feel like they are sleeping better. They also report less anxiety, less chronic pain.
For more details, do an Internet search on: journal of sleep medicine 2015 weighted blanket insomnia
Weighted blankets have a wide variety of other treatment applications. The information above is from Nutrition & Healing newsletter, November 2017, by Glenn S. Rothfeld, M.D., but you can find lots of information on the benefits of weighted blankets by simply doing Internet searches.
Glycine is your body's "natural sleep trigger," says Alan Sears, M.D., in his February 2015 newsletter, Dr. Sears' Confidential Cures. Our modern diet is to blame for our glycine deficiency. Until the 20th century, cooks made soups and stews that used bones, joints and other parts of animals, as well as the flesh we use almost exclusively today. The parts missing from our modern diet are the parts containing glycine, which is one of the amino acids that make up protein.
Before reading any further,
see our medical disclaimer.
Our brains need glycine to keep us calm and balanced instead of stressed. That's why it helps you sleep, because it triggers your brain to relax. It also tells your body to reduce your core temperature, which is necessary for sleep.
A Japanese study showed that subjects who took 3000 milligrams of glycine as an insomnia treatment before bed enjoyed "improved sleep quality, increased sleep time, and it also shortened the time time it took to fall asleep." Glycine also lessened daytime sleepiness and it improved memory. So not only did subjects sleep better; they also performed better during the day.
You could also try 500-1000 milligrams 3-4 times a day, says Frank Shallenberger, M.D., in Real Cures Healing Series Vol. 1.
In another study, subjects with no sleep problems were given 9000 milligrams of glycine during the day, three times as much as in the sleep studies. The glycine did not make them groggy or sleepy, but it did improve their memory.
If you're not willing to increase the amount of bone-based soups and stews you eat, which would be the best sources of glycine, you could eat more pork, chicken, and beef, which are among the best food sources of glycine.
Or, you could take a glycine supplement, readily available at your health food store or online.
For sleep onset insomnia, that is, you can't go to sleep, the herb valerian has proven as effective as the benzodiazepine drugs, such as the prescription drug Valium (diazepam), and it doesn't cause mental fogginess. In one study of over 200 insomnia sufferers, age 18 to 73, treatment with either 600mg/day of valerian extract vs 10 mg/day of a benzodiazepine drug found that valerian was at least as effective for insomnia treatment as the prescription drug for improving sleep quality without impaired mental functioning.
Another trial found 400 mg. before bedtime significantly shortened the time to fall asleep.
The reason Valerian (above) works as an insomnia treatment is that is causes your nervous system to release more GABA, which calms you down. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid, is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in your central nervous system. When you are excited or stressed, GABA relaxes you.
Valerian is often combined with hops in over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. A clinical study on this sleep aid, with patients receiving two tablets at night, each tablet containing 250 mg valerian extract and 60 mg hops extract, showed that after two weeks of treatment, patients found they could go to sleep faster and their overall sleep efficiency was better. Jonathan Wright, M.D., recommends 600 mg valerian with 120 mg hops taken about an hour before bed for sleep onset insomnia.
L-theanine is a natural, amino acide that calms the mind, relaxes the body and makes it easier to sleep. It also reduces the stimulating effect of caffeine. If you can't sleep because your mind is racing, try 100-200 milligrams about half an hour before bed. It's safe, gentle, and can be taken for long periods. Health & Healing newsletter, 1/15, and Real Cures Healing Series Vol 1 by Frank Shallenberger, M.D.
Insomnia treatments for sleep maintenance problems, also known as sleep interruption insomnia, include the herb chaste tree. Research has shown that chaste tree can increase the body's natural production of melatonin, which helps produce continuous, uninterrupted sleep.
Patients in the study took 120 to 480 mg of chaste tree extract for 14 days, which caused a 60 percent increase in natural melatonin production. Although chaste tree is also used for female problems, it is fine for men, for sleep disorders.
For both valerian and chaste tree, keep at it for at least two weeks, to see their benefit as sleep aids in alleviating sleep disorders.
Any list of insomnia treatments that includes alternative therapies will include melatonin. A 2001 article on melatonin for insomnia treatment reported studies by MIT researchers published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showing a correct dosage of 0.3 milligrams of melatonin for insomnia in adults over 50.
When I can't sleep, I take the convenient one milligram tablet as an insomnia treatment, rather than trying to split it into thirds for 0.3 mg. I used to take three milligrams as a sleep aid, but I found that dose gave me a melatonin "hangover" of drowsiness and fatigue. This side effect is discussed in the article. Melatonin helps me stay asleep through the night, or it helps me go back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night.
Recently, I was under heavy stress and was waking up at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, so I took one milligram of melatonin about an hour before bed and half of a one milligram tablet when I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Then I started sleeping through until 6:30 a.m. Then I upped the dose to one milligram before bed and one milligram of melatonin in the middle of the night, but I didn't sleep any more, and the next day I had the melatonin "hangover," described above, so I cut back the dose.
Note: Time-release melatonin may be best. A study of insomniacs over 55 showed that a time-release melatonin pill improved sleep without compromising morning alertness.
Lavela is a special formulation of lavender oil that inhibits anxiety and promotes relaxation for sleep. "This is fast becoming my favorite product for sleep and anxiety," says Aviva Romm, M.D. "I've had several patients come off long-term benzodiazepines (like Valium and Xanax) using it. Her dose: 80 mg before bedtime.
Source for time-release melatonin and Lavela: Prevention Magazine, October 2014, p. 109.
Natural Remedy For Insomnia: Soothing Music
Another insomnia solution is soothing music. A six-month study at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky, studied 25 adults with insomnia. To induce sleep, patients listened to baroque or new age music. Listening to the music at bedtime, all but one of the patients showed improvement in the quality of their sleep, going to sleep quicker and sleeping longer. When they stopped listening, their insomnia returned.
Some insomnia treatments work, even though they are unorthodox. When I can't sleep and I really need to sleep, I take half of a 50-milligram tablet (25 milligrams) of chewable Dramamine, an over-the-counter (OTC) drug, which is usually used for motion sickness, but causes drowsiness in many people, like me. (Sometimes, though, for other people, it has just the opposite effect!) I used to take the whole 50 milligram tablet as a sleep aid, but I find I get results just as good with half a tablet. For me, the Dramamine for sleep takes about a half hour to kick in, but then I sleep a long time. If I take it because I have waked up in the middle of the night at 3 or 4 a.m., I even sleep till 10 or 11 a.m., so if I need to catch up on my sleep, it works great for me.
I like the fact that Dramamine has been around a long time, so a lot is known about it, but Dramamine has many negative side effects, and people with certain conditions should not take it. (Lucky me; the only side effects are drowsiness and dry mouth.) I'm not going to say any more, because you know the drill: See your doctor.
A woman with severe chronic insomnia since childhood wrote her personal experience with lithium orotate to Dr. Jonathan Wright's newsletter. She had tried everything: Ambien, herbs, melatonin, hot baths, bedtime rituals, exercise, restriction of time in bed, diet, supplements, filtering her water. Nothing worked. Then she started taking 20 mg of lithium orotate per day. During the first month she took it, she had three or four "not-so-good" nights, and the other nights she slept like a normal person through the night.
Dr. Wright comments that this particular woman's results are probably related to her family history of alcoholism (although the woman is not an alcoholic). He says that even "totally dry" relatives of alcoholics have found that low-dose lithium provides improvement in a variety of symptoms. Dr. Wright also recommends at least one tablespoonful of flax oil per day to prevent lithium toxicity.
Sources for lithium:
Health News Weekly, an e-mail newsletter from healthresources.net, May 12, 2008.
Nutrition & Healing, February 2005, by Jonathan Wright, M.D.
Reader's Digest, October 2007
A simple breathing technique can put even the worst insomniac to sleep. Pause to hold your breath at the beginning and end of each breath. For example, if it takes you two seconds to breath in, then hold your breath for two seconds before you breathe out. At the end of your exhale, hold your breath for two seconds before inhaling again. Or three seconds or however many seconds it takes you to take a normal breath. It's as simple as that.
Expand your abdomen, NOT your chest, when you breathe in, and deflate your abdomen when you exhale.
You are getting sleeeepy...so sleeeepy.
If you have sleep apnea, sometimes misspelled sleep apnia, an effective insomnia remedy from alternative health methods is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. Sleep apnea is a condition involving intermittent partial or full collapse of the airway, which contributes to insomnia. Many insomnia suffers have achieved relief with CPAP, which involves wearing a mask that applies air pressure through the nostrils, keeping the airway open to prevent sleep apnea. For more information, see our page on Sleep Apnea Treatments.
Fatty Foods May Contribute To Insomnia
Insomnia treatments may include certain foods or the elimination of other foods. Research indicates that eating fat may contribute to insomnia, especially if you eat fatty foods close to bedtime. A study using mice found that fat disturbs sleep by disrupting metabolic bodily functions. The eating of fat interferes with the natural rhythms that induce sleep.
A high-fat diet, say researchers, affects DNA in the body, and that can cause permanent sleep problems. As if that's not enough, eating fat causes you to want more fat, which just makes everything worse.
For a better night's sleep, cut down on fat, especially at night.
Second Opinion Health Alert, May 16, 2008. Subscription information at secondopinionnewsletter.com
Science Daily, November 7, 2007; Cell Metabolism, November 2007, Vol 6, 414-421, 07.
Source: "The Slumber Diaries," Prevention Magazine, 10/08.
Deep sleep at night is as necessary as good food and proper exercise. Artifical light at night (ALAN) can interfere with your sleep even at low levels. Sleeping with even a 10-lux light (like 10 candles a meter away) can interfere with your alertness and ability to focus.
Clear your sleep room of all light-emitting devices, including clocks, night lights and glowing screens. If outside lights shine in, get light blocking curtains.
Here are some books you might be interested in.
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28.
A number of studies have linked prayer to healing, and although the results have been inconclusive, what could it hurt to talk to the omnipotent creator of the universe? A prayer for healing might go something like this:
"Dear Lord, please hear me now as I pray for your help with (name your problem). I pray you’ll cleanse my body and heal me completely. In Jesus’ name I pray; Amen."
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