Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from insomnia, across all age ranges (1) . As of 2016, it’s estimated that chronic insomnia may impact upwards of 1 in every 3 adults in the United States, many of who never seek treatment for their sleep issues (2).
It’s presumable that people with insomnia simply don’t want to have to rely on a prescription just to get a good night’s rest. But there are other ways to treat insomnia, many of which you can do without the risk of adverse effects.
Causes and Symptoms of Insomnia
Insomnia is thought to be a disorder related to daytime hyperarousal, which causes the neuroendocrine system to be in a state of chronic activation (3). In layman’s terms, the stress response system is in a perpetual “alert” mode, making it very difficult to relax and drift off to dreamland at night.
Hence, many people who experience insomnia are also likely to have other mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder (4).
The symptoms of insomnia are what you would expect given the essentiality of sleep to human health and wellbeing. These symptoms may include:
- Daytime drowsiness/tiredness
- Brain fog/inability to focus
- Cognitive impairment/poor memory
- Craving sugar during the day
- Dependence on stimulants (which further perpetuates insomnia)
In addition, there is a laundry list of health risks associated with insomnia that goes untreated. For example, insomniacs have a significantly higher risk of developing depression, type-2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cognitive dysfunction, and a variety of other health conditions (5).
It’s not yet fully understood how insomnia contributes to the risk of bodily diseases, but the link is irrefutable.
The good news is that insomnia is treatable and many people are able to achieve deep, restful sleep without the need for prescription medications. Read on to learn more about some of the top natural insomnia treatments.
4 Natural Insomnia Treatments
If you’re at your wits end to try and nod off and stay asleep at night, these four natural insomnia treatments might be just what you need. Best of all, these are risk-averse solutions and non-habit forming so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving them a shot!
Try Binaural Beats for Sleep
To fall asleep, you want your brainwaves to shift from the normal waking state (alpha and beta brainwaves) to the more restful theta brainwave state, and then finally all the way to the delta state. Binaural beats – playing a distinct pure tone into each ear – are a scientifically proven way to expedite this transition into these lower brainwave frequencies, helping you fall and stay asleep (6).
And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of listening to pure tones, most binaural beats audio sessions feature ambient background noise, like ocean waves or rain falling, to make it more pleasurable. All you need is a pair of headphones that are comfortable to wear while laying down and a binaural beats for sleep, which can be readily found on things like YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora. Start listening to the binaural beats about 20 minutes before bedtime and see how you respond.
Cut Out Caffeine
One of the most common vicious cycles insomniacs run into is habitual, excessive use of caffeine (or other stimulants), which further exacerbates sleep issues. Remember, hyperarousal during the day is thought to be the underlying cause of insomnia. Drinking copious amounts of energy drinks, coffee, soda, etc. is only going to make the problem worse.
If you have the willpower, try stopping all caffeine/non-prescription stimulant use cold turkey. You will feel some withdrawal effects for the first week or two, but if you can get past that hump, chances are you’ll finally be able to sleep at night and have more energy throughout the day.
Put the Phone Down
Sometimes the source of insomnia is staring us right in the face, literally. Many people are now in the habit of staring at their brightly-lit smartphone or tablet right before bedtime. This is a major no-no if you want to get some quality sleep since the blue light of screens cause the brain to think it’s daytime – the exact opposite of what we want. Get into the habit of turning off your smartphone/tablet/computer/TV about 30 minutes before bedtime and instead use this time to calm down with some easy reading material, relaxing music, or binaural beats.
Drink Chamomile Tea before Bed
Being stressed out and anxious is well-known to cause restlessness and acute insomnia. Interestingly, chamomile tea has been shown in research to improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and decrease the frequency of sleep disturbances in adults with prior sleep issues (7).
No matter which tactic helps you catch your Z’s, consider adding a few drops of CBD oil into the mix to enhance the relaxing effects, making it easier to drift off at night.
So there you have it! Four simple and natural ways to treat insomnia without the side effects of prescription sleep medications. Give them an honest chance and you might be pleasantly surprised by their impact on your sleep quality.