10 Home Remedies for Insomnia

By Elizabeth Lilian
10 Home Remedies for Insomnia

Insomnia is an extremely common sleep disorder that affects one in three people at some point during their lives. Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and can be considered either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Short-term insomnia lasts for days or weeks and can come about due to stressful life situations or traumatic events, while long-term insomnia lasts for more than a month and can be caused by chronic pain, illness, depression, medications, other sleep disorders like sleep apnea, and alcoholism or substance abuse problems.

Women are more prone to suffer from insomnia than men, which is thought to be related to the prevalence of depression and anxiety among women. Insomnia can cause sufferers to lose focus and become unable to concentrate or retain memory. Insomniacs tend to be at a higher risk of traffic accidents and car crashes which are caused by excessive drowsiness, and are often more emotional, suffering from mood swings caused by sleep deprivation.

Treatment for insomnia varies, depending on the cause. Lifestyle changes like introducing healthy sleep habits and avoiding stimulants like caffeine and tobacco, cognitive behavior therapy and medications are just a few treatment options. There are many natural remedies for insomnia which can be effective and safe.

Here are 10 natural remedies for insomnia.

1.      Cumin Seeds

Cumin is an herb native to the Mediterranean and Indian regions. Biologically called Cuminum cyminum, it’s a member of the Apiaceae family, alongside parsley. The seeds of cumin are used in many different cuisines throughout the world, like Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern. There are several types of cumin seeds, such as black and green, and they can be used whole or ground into powder.

Medicinally, cumin has been used to treat fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and swelling, and can also be used as a galactogogue to boost breastmilk supply in lactating mothers. Cumin seeds can boost immunity, treat symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders. It’s also thought to have potential antidiabetic effects by reducing the risk of hypoglycaemia, which can prevent diabetes.

Cumin is rich in iron, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium and other essential minerals. It also contains powerful antioxidant properties and is a good source of dietary fiber, which is why it’s so effective at aiding digestion. Cumin seeds are a relaxant as well as a stimulant. The presence of B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin and niacin are believed to be able to support good sleep, because some B-vitamins are necessary in order for the release of specific neurotransmitters and hormones that can help regulate the circadian rhythm and sleeping patterns.

To use cumin seeds as a remedy for insomnia, you can make your own cumin tea by mixing three cups of water with one teaspoon of cumin seeds, one teaspoon of raw honey, and the juice of half a lemon. Drink cumin tea thirty minutes before you plan on going to sleep. Alternatively, you can mash up one teaspoon of cumin powder with one banana and eat that before bed.

2.      Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a warming spice that is grown from nutmeg trees, which are evergreen trees native to the tropical islands of the East Indies. The trees are a member of the Myristicaceae family, scientifically known as Myristica fragrans. The nutmeg tree is unique in that two spices can be made from the one seed, namely nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is made from the kernel of the seed, and mace is made from the aril, which is the reddish covering of the seed.

Nutmeg is considered an aphrodisiac and a curative, and is used to treat indigestion, detoxify the body, reduce pain, increase the immune system, improve circulation, strengthen cognitive functioning and regulate blood sugar levels. Nutmeg is believed to contain a compound called myristicin, that can potentially be used to fight cancerous cells. Nutmeg also contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

Nutmeg is a good source of essential nutrients like calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium. It’s also rich in B-complex vitamins, as well as flavonoids like crypoxanthin and beta-carotene. Nutmeg is a popular spice for insomnia remedies because it contains a chemical called trimyristin, which is believed to act as a relaxant to calm the muscles and nerves. Other sleep-inducing chemicals found in nutmeg are elemicin, safrole and eugenol.

To use nutmeg as a sleep aid, just add a pinch to any beverage, and drink before bed. Warm milk works best, as warm milk can also induce sleep. You can also mix a teaspoon of honey into some warm water and add a pinch of nutmeg to that. Nutmeg is not considered a nut and is safe to be consumed by those with nut allergies. Allergic reactions to nutmeg are rare but they can occur, with symptoms including a runny nose, sneezing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, stomach pain and bloating.

3.      Saffron

Saffron is a highly sought-after spice that is made from the dried stigma (the bulb of the flower where pollination occurs) of autumn crocus flowers. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world because it’s extremely difficult to harvest. Every crocus flower is hand-picked, and the three stigmas in each flower are separated by hand. Saffron has been used for thousands of years in cooking, medicines, perfumes and dyes.

Medically, saffron has been commonly used to treat fever, cramps and to soothe nerves. It can also be used topically for bruises, inflammation and other types of pain. Saffron can settle the stomach as it contains antispasmodic properties, and ingestion can promote a healthy digestive system and increase the appetite. It’s frequently used in Ayurveda therapy to support the immune system and reduce the severity of colds and symptoms of asthma.

Saffron has been used to treat insomnia for thousands of years as it’s believed to contain sedative qualities, and it’s a great source of essential minerals such as copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, iron, zinc and potassium. It also contains vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, and niacin. Saffron also contains natural carotenoids like crocin and crocetin, which are responsible for the rich, orangey-red hue.

Though saffron is known to be extremely expensive, a little goes a long way. To use as a remedy for insomnia, simply steep two strands of saffron in a mug of warm milk and drink before bed each night. You can also drink it in warm water with a drop of honey. 

4.      Chamomile Tea

Chamomile comes from the daisy (Asteraceae) family. Chamomile tea is made from the M. chamomilla and A. nobilis flowers by harvesting the flower-heads and drying them out. Chamomile has been used throughout centuries for many things, from treating parasitic worm infections to a natural hair dye. It’s also been used to treat colic, fever, nausea and cystitis.

Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, deodorant and astringent properties. It’s an effective topical cream for wounds, sunburn, rashes, insect bites, chicken pox and ulcers, and can be used as an exfoliant to slough dead skin cells. Chamomile tea is also used to calm the nerves and reduce anxiety, boost immunity and relieve menstrual cramps.

Chamomile tea is often called ‘the night-time tea’ due to its mild sedative qualities. It contains substantial amounts of essential phytonutrients like quercetin, luteolin and apigenin, which have natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and relaxant qualities. Chamomile has also been used in aromatherapy to treat insomnia, and is widely thought of as a mild tranquilizer.

Drink chamomile tea throughout the day and before bed. Simply heap two or three teaspoons of dried chamomile into a cup and pour boiling water over it, letting it steep for at least 10 minutes. You can sweeten it with cinnamon and honey, or stew some slices of apple and add them to chamomile tea for more flavor and health benefits.

5.      Banana

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world. With over 1000 different varieties, the first bananas were believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and are now grown in over 100 countries across the world. Contrary to popular opinion, the banana plant is actually not a tree, it’s a perennial herb, and one of the largest in the world.

Bananas are eaten for their flavor and wide array of health benefits. They can support healthy bowels and regularity, improve digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and are often eaten for weight loss purposes. Banana contains a large amount of dietary fiber and are a rich source of healthy carbohydrates. They are also full of vitamins and minerals like potassium, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.

Bananas are believed to be effective in treating insomnia because they contain an amino acid known as L-tryptophan, which is known as an essential acid because it can’t be produced by the human body. When L-tryptophan is ingested, the body begins to change it into serotonin, a hormone that is an important addition to a healthy sleep cycle. L-tryptophan has also been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.

Simply eat a banana a little while before bed time to enjoy these health benefits. If plain bananas don’t appeal to you, try making banana tea instead by cutting both ends of the banana and putting it whole (including the peel) into a pot of boiling water. Allow it to boil for 10 minutes before adding a teaspoon of cinnamon, then pouring the water into a cup. Add more cinnamon or some honey for flavor, and enjoy this tea before bed.

6.      Warm Milk

Milk is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It’s been consumed by people throughout the ages, and is an ingredient in a wide variety of different foods like butter, cheese, cream, and yogurt. Milk is rich in high-quality proteins that can be separated into two different kinds, depending on their water solubility. Milk protein that is insoluble is called casein, and protein that is soluble is called whey.

Both casein and whey are high-quality proteins and contain large amounts of essential amino acids. Milk is full of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B2 and B12, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, iodine and potassium. Modern milk is often fortified with other nutrients like vitamin D and vitamin A. Milk also contains a sugar known as lactose, which can be problematic for people who are unable to properly digest it.

Thanks to the vitamins and minerals found in milk, it can support strong, healthy bones, reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, aid weight loss, build muscle, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve symptoms of depression, support healthy teeth, boost the immune system and prevent hypertension. Milk also contains L-tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid also found in bananas.

L-tryptophan supplements are also available in order to provide an extra dose to counteract insomnia, however it’s best to get them straight from food and drink sources. To promote healthy sleep, just warm up some milk and drink it one hour before bed. For added flavor, mix a teaspoon of cinnamon, honey, vanilla or nutmeg in.

7.      Fenugreek Juice

Fenugreek, also known as methi, Greek clover, Greek hay, and bird’s foot, is a plant native to Southwest Asia, frequently used for medicinal and culinary purposes. The entire plant, known botanically as Trigonella foenum-graecum, can be used for different purposes: the seeds are used for spices, and the leaves can be either dried and used as herb, or used fresh like a vegetable.

Fenugreek is a common ingredient in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. In Ayurveda, it’s used to induce labor and increase breastmilk supply. It’s also an effective treatment for indigestion, diabetes, respiratory disorders, fever, inflammation, wounds and ulcers. Fenugreek has antioxidant, carminative, expectorant and laxative properties, and contains a wide variety of essential nutrients like iron, copper, magnesium and manganese.

Fenugreek can aid detoxification of the body by cleansing the blood and stimulating the lymphatic system, and help relieve congestion. It’s also believed to have protective effects against some cancers, though more research is necessary. Fenugreek contains powerful phytonutrients like choline, niacin, thiamine, folic acid, trigonelline and diosgenin. It also contains L-tryptophan, making it an effective sleep aid.

Fenugreek can be ingested in many different ways, but the easiest way to use it to induce sleep is by juicing the leaves and drinking it. This can be done by thoroughly washing fresh fenugreek leaves in warm water and removing any roots, stems and flowers. Feed handfuls of leaves into a juicer until you have at least half a glass of juice. Fenugreek can taste quite bitter, so add some sweet fruit like berries, apples or bananas to make it more palatable.

8.      Valerian

Valerian, botanically known as Valeriana officinalis, is a perennial flower that has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. Native to Europe, valerian has been used to treat a variety of health issues like menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, anxiety, stomach problems and restless leg syndrome. It is also thought to reduce stress and even manage obsessive compulsive disorder.

The oil and root of valerian is most commonly used in treatment, and both are believed to hold sedative qualities. Acids found in valerian root are thought to be able to translate into gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that regulates and inhibits the activity of neurons in the central nervous system. Added GABA in your system is believed to lower stress levels and encourage relaxation, which can induce sleep.

Studies have found that valerian was able to reduce the time it took to fall asleep. It was also found that valerian has similar effects to prescription benzodiazepine medication, which is commonly used as a mild sedative, though more research is necessary before the full effects can be discovered. Valerian is generally thought to be a safe herbal remedy, but side effects can include apathy, drowsiness, dizziness, depression and stomach pain. It should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing, as the risks of valerian during pregnancy and infancy has not been investigated.

To enjoy the sleep-inducing effects of valerian, you can grate a valerian root and mix a half teaspoon with another half teaspoon of nutmeg before adding to boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes or more before straining it out and drinking the water. Valerian supplements are also available.

9.      Hot Baths

For thousands of years, baths have been a very popular way to relax. They’ve been a common activity throughout many cultures, however they’re done in different ways. In Scandinavia, they take a quick dip in an ice-cold plunge pool after saunas, and in Japan, they frequent bath houses to wash away stress and fatigue, and calm the nervous system.

Taking a bath for therapeutic benefits is known as hydrotherapy, and it has many different health benefits like improving blood circulation, relieves sore muscles and stiff joints, lowers blood pressure, cleanses the skin, relieves headaches, and alleviates symptoms of flue and the common cold. It can also improve metabolism, elevate the mood, relieve skin conditions and calm arthritic pain.

Having a warm bath 60-90 minutes before bed can help induce sleep by raising your inner temperature and kick-starting the production of melatonin, which acts as a signal to the body to begin winding down, getting ready for sleep. To make it even more relaxing, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to further promote sleepiness.

Avoid taking baths that are too hot as it can bring on hyperthermia, a heat-related illness that happens when the body heats up to a dangerous degree. Always take a drink in with you so you remain hydrated, don’t soak for more than 20 minutes, and if you’ve got cardiovascular issues, it’s best to consult with your doctor beforehand.

10. Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey

Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples and has been thought of as a ‘cure-all’ for centuries, dating all the way back to Hippocrates, who was known to use it as a health tonic. It’s a popular treatment for a wide variety of things, like diabetes, heartburn, sore throat, weight loss and digestive health. It’s also a common ingredient in household cooking and cleaning.

Apple cider vinegar is believed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce dandruff, treat acne and balance the pH levels in the body. Organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains a ‘mother’, which is strands of protein, good bacteria and enzymes that look like cloudy pieces of jelly, but are hugely beneficial.

Drinking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before bed can trigger the release of L-tryptophan, and mixing it with honey can both enhance the taste and promote relaxation, as honey contains sugars that naturally produce serotonin, the hormone that can help relax us and improve mood.

Insomnia can be hugely detrimental to your health and wellbeing, and reduce the quality of life. However, it can be treated effectively in many different ways. It’s important to follow a sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day. This can help regulate your sleep cycle. Create a comfortable bedtime routine, avoid napping, especially in the afternoon, and try to stay away from caffeinated beverages from 2pm onwards.

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