Research shows that approximately 30% of adults suffer from one or more symptoms of insomnia. The condition has been especially prevalent during the COVID19 pandemic since so many people’s daily routines have been upended and anxiety levels are running high. While there are plenty of medications available to help you fall asleep and stay asleep, it’s a good idea to explore all of your options. There are some very effective home remedies that don’t carry a risk for side effects or dependency. We’ve pulled together a list of 5 of these tools you can easily incorporate into your daily life with the goal of improving the quality of your sleep.
Meditation can help to combat stress and alleviate insomnia. There are so many ways to practice, from simple mantras you repeat while lying in bed to guided meditations you can find online. The best thing about meditation is that it is safe and you don’t need any special products or equipment. It can be used not only to treat insomnia, but stress and anxiety also. People of all ages can learn and benefit from meditation. For those with no experience meditating, there’s nothing special to know, no book or complicated instructions.
Find a quiet place to sit or lie down comfortably. Then simply focus on your breath. There is no need to change your breathing in any way; simply observe it. If your mind wanders or an intrusive thought pops in, no need to panic, just refocus your attention back to your breath. That’s it! There’s no goal to achieve a zen state or completely quiet your thoughts. It’s simply the practice of noticing them and redirecting your attention to your breath. You will likely need to do this repeatedly, as it’s quite natural, and normal, for your mind to wander. You may try this practice for two or three minutes to start and eventually work up to longer periods.
If you prefer a guided experience, there are plenty of guided sessions available online specifically designed to help people fall asleep. Some people may actually fall asleep with the programs running, so it’s helpful to set a timer to turn off your phone or computer after a certain amount of time.
Practicing yoga close to bedtime can be effective in treating insomnia, particularly if stress is one of the issues contributing to the problem. There are plenty of yoga sequences to be found online that are designed specifically to help. Unlike working out with aerobic exercises that are meant to get your heart rate up, which can help with insomnia if practiced regularly during the day, a bedtime yoga sequence should be gentle and calming. The goal is to wind down, so it’s important not to exert too much energy or get caught up on attempting a pose you’ve never been able to do before. It may be tempting to try and tire yourself out with a vigorous sequence but doing so may actually complicate the problem further.
Aromatherapy, the use of a variety of essential oils to boost physical and emotional health, has long been used to treat stress and insomnia. Most people are probably familiar with chamomile tea or scented oils that are used in massage for relaxation. These are just a couple of examples of the ways people have used plant derivatives for centuries to aid in calming the mind and body.
To get started you will need to acquire some essential oils from plants that are commonly used to promote sleep, such as lavender, bergamot, valerian, and cedarwood. These are usually sold in small vials from healthfood stores or online. It’s a good idea to get familiar with the scents before purchasing. Some oils will smell more pleasing than others, and may also be combined into a custom combination based on your preferences. There are lots of specialty blends available online that have been developed especially to promote drowsiness and relaxation.
There are many ways to use the oils to combat insomnia. You can apply and mix a few drops into a bath or place some into a diffuser, or even place a few drops on your pillowcase. As long as you dilute the oils with a carrier such as coconut, olive, or jojoba, it’s safe to apply a few drops directly to the chest, palms, wrists, or neck. If you suffer from sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine, keep in mind that it is not safe to put these highly concentrated oils anywhere in or on your device.
There are a host of dietary sleep aids to help combat insomnia, melatonin being one of the most widely used. Melatonin is a hormone that your brain already produces and its function is to regulate your circadian rhythm. Research on the effect of melatonin supplementation is limited, though it’s generally accepted that it’s helpful in the short term to promote sleep– especially for shift workers and those with jet lag.
Because of its connection with circadian rhythms, it’s important to take melatonin only at night before bedtime, and maintain the other habits that can help you stay on track. These include exposing yourself to sunlight during the day (or undergoing light therapy) and avoiding screens and bright lights for 2 hours before bedtime.
Currently, melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA and there is no mandate that manufacturers show proof of effectiveness or safety. It’s important to talk with your doctor before taking any dietary sleep aids or other OTC products.
The best home remedy for insomnia is a good routine that combines multiple tools into one solid, consistent strategy. Sleep hygiene refers to all of the habits you have surrounding sleep, from the establishment of a regular bedtime to the avoidance of alcohol and caffeine after a certain time in the afternoon. Diet in particular can play an important role in sleep quality. It’s important to know what foods to include in a sleep-friendly diet and what foods to avoid.
The goal is to establish a ritual to cue your mind that it’s time to relax and rest. This can include making your environment sleep friendly, turning off all lights, lighting a candle, taking a bath, or putting on a pair of PJs. Especially for people who work from home, it’s easy to let your working life intrude on your down time, so establishing this clear boundary between the two is crucial.