Natural Sleep Remedies

Photography by: courtesy of Shutterstock
Natural Sleep Remedies

Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Alcohol consumption can cause night wakefulness, while caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that keep you awake. Caffeine is found in chocolate, coffee, black teas, soft drinks, and many OTC cough and cold medicines.

Skip daytime naps. Some people find that an afternoon siesta improves alertness and reduces the symptoms of fatigue. But if you have insomnia, naps may leave you less sleepy at night.

Exercise several hours before bedtime. "A brisk walk or a bike ride in the early evening can release muscle tension and stress and promote deeper sleep that night," Kavey says. However, exercising too close to bedtime will boost adrenaline levels and keep you awake.

Get out of bed. "Insomniacs who stay in bed waiting to fall asleep are training their brains to associate wakefulness with being in bed," Sateia says. "You want to replace that message with one about bed as a place of relaxation and sleep. So restrict the amount of time you spend there. Don't watch television, read, pay bills, or do anything other than sleep in your bed until you've conquered your insomnia."

Get some acupuncture. "This can help balance the nervous system and clear the obstructions in muscle and nerve channels that might be causing stress and sleeplessness," explains Wong. A small-scale German study, published in Forschende Komplementarmedizin, found that acupuncture improved sleep quality (measured by polysomnography in a sleep laboratory as well as through patient interviews) when compared with a placebo group.

Sleepless cycles
Some people worry so much about sleeplessness that it keeps them from sleeping. "The longer they're awake, the more they worry about the impact that not sleeping will have on them the next day, and the worse the problem becomes," says Sateia. He suggests cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to recognize the distorted thought patterns that are part of insomnia and replace them with more calming, sleep-conducive alternatives.

Most likely, some combination of lifestyle changes, natural supplements, and alternative therapies will finally bring you relief from all your tossing and turning in the wee hours. "Whichever route you go, make sure you do it with a doctor's supervision," Sateia cautions. "And remember that the first step toward getting a good night's sleep is to relax. So close your eyes, take a deep breath, and stop stressing about insomnia."