Insomnia is a common condition. Those experiencing insomnia who wish to avoid medication, such as sleeping pills, can try several remedies to encourage the onset of sleep and improve its quality and duration.
About a third of adults in the United States report that they get less than the recommended amount of sleep, which is 7 or more hours of sleep per night.
This article looks at some natural remedies, relaxation techniques, exercises, sleep hygiene, and behaviors that can improve the symptoms of insomnia.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that the brain produces to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Liquid or capsule dietary supplements of melatonin can help people with insomnia fall asleep more quickly. Melatonin can also help improve the quality of sleep. It may be most useful for shift workers, people experiencing jet lag, or people with sleep disorders.
Anyone thinking about taking melatonin should speak to their doctor about the best dosage to take, how long to take it for, and whether it is safe for them to take.
There are no guidelines for melatonin dosage, but experts consider a safe dose in adults to be 1–5 milligrams (mg).
Lavender oil is a type of essential oil derived from the lavender plant. People have used it for thousands of years as a natural remedy to improve sleep and induce feelings of calmness.
A 2015 study found that lavender patches, when combined with good sleep hygiene, improved the sleep quality of college students, while a 2020 review of plant extracts for sleep disorders found that lavender improved the onset of sleep, sleep duration, and quality of sleep.
People with insomnia can use lavender oil as a pillow spray or in a patch, massage oil, or aromatherapy diffuser.
Lavender is usually safe for people to take as a dietary supplement, but it may sometimes interact with other medications. Anyone already taking sleep medication or medication for high blood pressure should check with their doctor before taking lavender oil supplements. Look for supplements with around 80 mg of lavender oil for a safe and effective dosage.
The 2020 review also highlighted other plant extracts — valerian and chamomile — that research showed to be effective in improving the symptoms of insomnia.
The positive effects of mindfulness on well-being are well-documented and include reducing stress, boosting resilience, improving mood, and even enhancing immunity. However, mindfulness may also have an improving effect on sleep.
A 2014 study on mindfulness techniques in people with chronic insomnia found that mindful meditation interventions reduced total wake time in subjects. The study authors recommended mindfulness as a viable treatment alternative to traditional treatments.
Countless free and paid-for mindfulness apps, videos, and podcasts are available online. People wishing to try mindfulness may also prefer to do a course, join a local weekly class, or go on a retreat. They can also build this practice into physical exercise, such as yoga or tai chi.
Learn more about five places to learn meditation online here.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR),