The scent of the aromatherapy oil English lavender has long been used as a folk remedy to help people fall asleep. Research is starting to confirm lavender's sedative qualities. It's been found to lengthen total sleep time, increase deep sleep, and make people feel refreshed. It appears to work better for women, possibly because women tend to have a more acute sense of smell.
The good thing about lavender is that it begins to work quickly. Try putting a lavender sachet under your pillow or place one to two drops of lavender essential oil in a handkerchief. Or add several drops of lavender oil to a bath -- the drop in body temperature after a warm bath also helps with sleep. Other aromatherapy oils believed to help with sleep are chamomile and ylang ylang.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you may need more light in the morning. Light exposure plays a key role in telling the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Try taking a walk first thing in the morning. Just be sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays.
On the other hand, if you find you're waking up too early in the morning, you may need more light in the afternoon. Try taking a walk in the late afternoon.
Gentle, slow music is another remedy that can help to improve sleep without medication. Music therapy has been found to improve sleep quality, decrease nightly wakenings, lengthen sleep time, and increase satisfaction with sleep.
Acupuncture may help with insomnia. A University of Pittsburgh analysis concluded that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for insomnia. A preliminary study found that five weeks of acupuncture increase melatonin secretion in the evening and improved total sleep time.
See my article on acupuncture.
10) Traditional Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, insomnia often stems from kidney energy weakness. This syndrome is not necessarily related to kidney disease in Western medicine. A few signs of kidney energy weakness are low back ache, tiredness and fatigue, and a burst of energy at about 11 pm in the evening. Women in menopause often experience this type of insomnia. People who are taking anti-estrogenic drugs such as tamoxifen also experience this type of insomnia, however, they should not take herbal combinations such as the herbal formula liu wei di huang that may increase estrogen levels.
11) Ayurvedic Medicine
In Ayurvedic medicine, insomnia is often associated with a vata imbalance. Vata regulates breathing and circulation. People with a vata imbalance often notice irritability, anxiety, and fear with insomnia. One Ayurvedic treatment is the application of oil on the head and feet. For the pitta type, room temperature coconut oil is used, for the vata type, warm sesame oil is applied, and for the kapha type, warm mustard oil is often applied.
Lack of exercise can contribute to poor sleep. Muscle tension and stress build in the body. Exercise can promote deep sleep that night. However, intense exercise too close to bed can increase adrenaline levels, leading to insomnia.
13) Other Natural Remedies
- For hot flashes, a thin, flat foam pillow insert, called a Chillow, can help to cool the head throughout the night.
- Chamomile, hops, passionflower, lemon balm, and ashwagandha are other herbs that are often used for insomnia. Some people may find benefit from simply having a cup of chamomile tea one to two hours before going to bed. Chamomile can reduce anxiety, calm the digestive system, and relieve muscle tension.
14) Feng Shui
Feng shui, which originates in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, instructs on how to arrange rooms, furniture, offices, houses, and other arrangements to maximize favorable energy flow throughout living spaces. Here are some recommendations that may help promote relaxing sleep and also read these 6 feng shui tips for your bedroom:
- Try not to have the bed in a corner of the room. The corners are where energy tends to be stagnant.
- Avoid putting your bed next to a window. Energy can be drained this way.
- The bed shouldn't be positioned so that the soles of the feet, when lying face-up in bed, directly face the doorway.
- When lying in bed, you should have full view of anyone coming in the door. If you can't do this directly, hang a mirror to reflect the entranceway.
- Try to avoid facing sharp corners from desks, bookcases, and other pieces of furniture.
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Khalsa SB. Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: a preliminary study with sleep-wake diaries. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 Dec;29(4):269-78.
Lewith GT, Godfrey AD, Prescott P. A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Aug;11(4):631-7.
Spence DW, Kayumov L, Chen A, Lowe A, Jain U, Katzman MA, Shen J, Perelman B, Shapiro CM. Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: a preliminary report. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004 Winter;16(1):19-28.
Sok SR, Erlen JA, Kim KB. Effects of acupuncture therapy on insomnia. J Adv Nurs. 2003 Nov;44(4):375-84.