Natural Remedies for Insomnia: A Comprehensive Guide

Modified on May 24, 2024 | Earth Clinic Team

Home Remedies for Insomnia on Earth Clinic.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and it can significantly impact a person's quality of life. While prescription medications are often used to treat insomnia, they can have side effects and be habit-forming. As a result, many people turn to natural remedies to help them sleep. 

Natural remedies can be a useful alternative or complement to traditional treatments for insomnia. The remedies discussed in this article have been researched and found to have potential sleep-promoting effects.

Natural Remedies for Insomnia

It's important to remember that while the below natural remedies are generally considered safe, they may interact with other medications or have side effects in some individuals. It's important to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or herb. Additionally, these remedies should not be used as a substitute for addressing underlying medical conditions contributing to sleep disturbances.

A comprehensive approach to addressing sleep problems may include a combination of natural remedies, lifestyle modifications, and medical treatment as needed.

Exercise

One of the best natural remedies for insomnia is exercise. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, increase total sleep time, and reduce insomnia symptoms. Exercise can also help reduce stress and anxiety, which are common contributors to sleep problems. However, it's important to note that exercising too close to bedtime may have the opposite effect and make it harder to fall asleep.

Exercise for Insomnia: Research Findings

A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that regular exercise significantly improved sleep quality in older adults with insomnia. The study participants were divided into two groups, with one group participating in regular exercise sessions and the other maintaining their usual activity level. The exercise group showed significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and reduced wake time after sleep onset, compared to the control group.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is a natural remedy used for centuries to promote relaxation and sleep. Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which is believed to have a sedative effect on the body. Drinking chamomile tea before bed may help calm the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Chamomile Tea and Sleep: Recent Studies

In a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that chamomile extract had a mild sedative effect on participants with mild to moderate insomnia. The study participants were given either chamomile extract or a placebo before bed for two weeks. The group that received the chamomile extract reported significantly better sleep quality than the placebo group. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and duration of chamomile for insomnia.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is an herb used for centuries to treat sleep problems. Valerian contains compounds that act as a sedative on the nervous system, helping to calm the mind and promote relaxation. Valerian is available in supplement form and can also be brewed as tea.

Valerian Root and Better Sleep: Research Findings

In a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers found that valerian root extract significantly improved sleep quality in participants with insomnia. The study participants were given either valerian root extract or a placebo for four weeks. The group that received the valerian root extract reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Lavender

Lavender is a fragrant herb commonly used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and calm the mind. The lavender essential oil can be added to a diffuser or applied topically to promote relaxation and improve sleep.

Lavender and Insomnia: What the Research Shows

In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that lavender essential oil significantly improved sleep quality in participants with mild insomnia. The study participants were given either lavender essential oil or a placebo for three weeks.

The group that received the lavender essential oil reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and improved mood, compared to the placebo group.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is important for many bodily functions, including the regulation of sleep. Magnesium can help calm the nervous system and promote relaxation, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Magnesium can be found in many foods, including leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains, and it is also available in supplement form.

Magnesium Supplementation for Insomnia: Research Findings

A study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that magnesium supplementation significantly improved sleep quality in elderly participants with insomnia. The study participants were given either magnesium supplements or a placebo for eight weeks. The group that received the magnesium supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body in response to darkness, and it plays a crucial role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin supplements are widely used as a natural remedy for insomnia, particularly for people with difficulty falling asleep. Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter and can be taken in pill, liquid, or gummy form.

Melatonin and Sleep: Recent Research

A meta-analysis of 19 studies found that melatonin supplementation significantly improved sleep quality in people with insomnia. The studies included 1,683 participants, and the researchers found that melatonin supplementation reduced the time it took to fall asleep, increased total sleep time, and improved overall sleep quality compared to a placebo.

Passionflower

Passionflower is an herb traditionally used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Passionflower contains compounds that act as natural sedatives, promoting relaxation and sleep. Passionflower is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Passionflower and Insomnia: Research Findings

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that passionflower supplements significantly improved sleep quality in adults with insomnia. The study participants were given either passionflower supplements or a placebo for two weeks. The group that received the passionflower supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it can help the body adapt to stress and improve overall well-being. Ashwagandha is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Ashwagandha for Better Sleep: Recent Research

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Cureus found that ashwagandha supplements significantly improved sleep quality in adults with insomnia. The study participants were given either ashwagandha supplements or a placebo for six weeks. The group that received the ashwagandha supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is an herb commonly used to improve cognitive function and blood circulation. Ginkgo Biloba has also been found to have a mild sedative effect, potentially useful for promoting sleep. Ginkgo Biloba is available in supplement form.

Gingko and Sleep: Recent Research

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that ginkgo biloba supplements improved sleep quality in participants with sleep disturbances. The study participants were given either ginkgo biloba supplements or a placebo for four weeks. The group that received the ginkgo biloba supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is an herb traditionally used to promote relaxation and relieve stress. Lemon balm contains compounds that act as natural sedatives, making it potentially useful for promoting sleep. Lemon balm is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Lemon Balm and Sleep Quality: Recent Research

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that lemon balm supplements significantly improved sleep quality in adults with mild to moderate anxiety disorders. The study participants were given either lemon balm supplements or a placebo for 15 days. The group that received the lemon balm supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

California Poppy

California poppy is an herb traditionally used to treat insomnia and anxiety. California poppy contains compounds that act as natural sedatives, making it potentially useful for promoting sleep. California poppy is available in supplement form or as a tea.

California poppy and insomnia: Research Findings

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Phytotherapy Research found that California poppy supplements significantly improved sleep quality in adults with insomnia. The study participants were given either California poppy supplements or a placebo for two weeks. The group that received the California poppy supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Cat's Claw

Cat's claw is an herb commonly used in traditional South American medicine to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Cat's claw is believed to have sedative properties that can help promote sleep. Cat's claw is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Cat's Claw and Sleep: Recent Research

There is limited research on the specific effects of cat's claw on sleep quality. However, some studies have suggested that cat's claw may have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects, which could help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Mulungu

Mulungu is an herb that is commonly used in traditional South American medicine to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Mulungu is believed to have sedative properties that can help promote sleep. Mulungu is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Mulungu for Insomnia: What the Research Shows

There is limited research on the specific effects of mulungu on sleep quality. However, some studies have suggested that mulungu may have anxiolytic and sedative effects, which could potentially help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Jujube

Jujube, also known as red date, is a fruit traditionally used in Chinese and Korean medicine to promote relaxation and relieve stress. Jujube contains compounds that act as natural sedatives, making it potentially useful for promoting sleep. Jujube is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Jujube and Sleep Quality: Studies

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that jujube extract significantly improved sleep quality in adults with chronic insomnia. The study participants were given either jujube extract or a placebo for four weeks. The group that received the jujube extract reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Kava

Kava is an herb traditionally used to promote relaxation and relieve stress. Kava contains compounds that act as natural sedatives, making it potentially useful for promoting sleep. Kava is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Kava and Sleep: Recent Research

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that kava supplements significantly improved sleep quality in adults with anxiety disorders. The study participants were given either kava supplements or a placebo for four weeks. The group that received the kava supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

It's important to note that kava has been associated with liver damage in some cases, so it should be used with caution and only under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Additionally, more research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and duration of use for these supplements and herbs. As always, it's important to talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements or herbs, especially if you are taking any medications or have any medical conditions.

Kacip Fatimah

Kacip Fatimah is an herb commonly used in traditional Malay medicine to promote overall health and wellness, including improving sleep quality. Kacip Fatimah is believed to have sedative properties that promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Kacip Fatimah is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Kacip Fatimah and Insomnia: Research Findings

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that kacip fatimah supplements significantly improved sleep quality in postmenopausal women. The study participants were given either kacip fatimah supplements or a placebo for eight weeks. The group that received the kacip fatimah supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Bai He

Bai He, also known as Lily Bulb, is an herb that is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote relaxation and relieve anxiety. Bai He is believed to have sedative properties that can help promote sleep. Bai He is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Bai He and Sleep Quality: Recent Studies

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that bai he supplements significantly improved sleep quality in adults with insomnia. The study participants were given either bai he supplements or a placebo for four weeks. The group that received the bai he supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali is an herb that is commonly used in traditional Malay medicine to promote overall health and wellness, including improving sleep quality. Tongkat Ali is believed to have sedative properties that promote relaxation and reduce stress. Tongkat Ali is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Tongkat Ali and Sleep: Recent Studies

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that tongkat ali supplements significantly improved sleep quality in middle-aged adults with stress-related insomnia. The study participants were given either tongkat ali supplements or a placebo for four weeks. The group that received the tongkat ali supplements reported significant improvements in sleep quality, including increased total sleep time and decreased wake time after sleep onset, compared to the placebo group.

Jamu

Jamu is a traditional Indonesian herbal medicine used for various health conditions, including promoting relaxation and improving sleep quality. Jamu is made from a combination of different herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients. Jamu is available in various forms, such as drinks, pills, and powders.

Jamu for Insomnia: Research Studies

There is limited research on the specific effects of jamu on sleep quality. However, some studies have suggested that certain herbs and spices commonly used in jamu, such as ginger and turmeric, may have sedative properties and promote relaxation.

Javanese Turmeric

Javanese turmeric, also known as temulawak, is an herb commonly used in traditional Indonesian medicine to promote overall health and wellness, including improving sleep quality. Javanese turmeric is believed to have sedative properties that promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Javanese turmeric is available in supplement form or as a tea.

Javanese Turmeric and Sleep Quality: Recent Studies

There is limited research on the specific effects of Javanese turmeric on sleep quality. However, some studies have suggested that Javanese turmeric may have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects, which could help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Pandan Leaves

Pandan leaves, also known as screwpine leaves, are an herb commonly used in traditional Indonesian medicine to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Pandan leaves are believed to have sedative properties that promote relaxation and reduce stress. Pandan leaves can be used to make a tea.

Pandan Leaves and Sleep: Recent Research

There is limited research on the specific effects of pandan leaves on sleep quality. However, some studies have suggested that pandan leaves may have anti-anxiety and analgesic effects, which could potentially help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Home Remedies for Insomnia

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of the sugar cane refining process rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and calcium. While there is limited research on the specific effects of blackstrap molasses on sleep quality, it has been suggested that the nutrients in blackstrap molasses may have various health benefits that could indirectly improve sleep, such as reducing stress and anxiety, promoting relaxation, and improving overall health.

Blackstrap molasses is also a popular solution for RLS (restless leg syndrome), another malady that interferes with sleep. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar that is made from fermented apples. While there is limited research on the specific effects of apple cider vinegar on sleep quality, it has been suggested that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may have various health benefits that could indirectly improve sleep, such as reducing inflammation, promoting relaxation, and improving overall health.

Two teaspoons in a glass of water once or twice a day is a common way to use apple cider vinegar.

Castor Oil

As off the wall as it may sound, Earth Clinic readers suggest that a drop of castor oil applied to each eyelid (on the outside) at bedtime can encourage sleep. This remedy is too simple to discount and can even promote eyelash growth, so it is worth a try.

While there is limited research on the specific effects of castor oil on sleep quality, it has been suggested that its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties may have various health benefits that could indirectly improve sleep, such as reducing pain and promoting relaxation.

Summary

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects many people worldwide. While various prescription and over-the-counter medications are available to treat insomnia, some people may prefer natural remedies as an alternative or complement to traditional treatments. Several herbs and supplements have been researched for their potential to promote sleep and alleviate insomnia symptoms.

Valerian root, chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm are among the herbs studied for their sleep-promoting effects. Valerian root has been found to improve sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Chamomile has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality in some individuals. Lavender has been found to improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances in women after childbirth. Lemon balm has been found to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which can aid in sleep.

Magnesium is a mineral that is important for many bodily functions, including sleep. Studies have found that magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality, especially in older adults with insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and some studies have found that melatonin supplements can improve sleep onset and duration in people with insomnia.

Other herbs and supplements that have been studied for their potential sleep-promoting effects include passionflower, ashwagandha, blackstrap molasses, apple cider vinegar, and castor oil. Some traditional herbs used in Southeast Asian and South American cultures, such as kacip fatimah, tongkat ali, mulungu, jujube, pandan leaves, and Javanese turmeric, have also been studied for their potential to alleviate insomnia symptoms.

While these natural remedies are generally considered safe, it's important to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or herb, especially if you are taking any medications or have any medical conditions. Additionally, these remedies should not be used as a substitute for addressing underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to sleep disturbances. A comprehensive approach to addressing sleep problems may include a combination of natural remedies, lifestyle modifications, and medical treatment as needed.

Continue reading below to learn how Earth Clinic readers have used natural remedies to get more sleep! Do you have a natural remedy for insomnia? Please send us some feedback!

Citations:

  1. Chen, L. J., Wang, L., Chen, R. Q., & Zhang, Y. (2017). Effects of exercise on sleep quality among middle-aged and older adults with chronic insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(20), 2028-2035. 
  2. Zick, S. M., Wright, B. D., Sen, A., & Arnedt, J. T. (2011). Preliminary examination of the efficacy and safety of a standardized chamomile extract for chronic primary insomnia: A randomized placebo-controlled pilot study. Phytomedicine, 18(4), 235-241. 
  3. Taibi, D. M., Landis, C. A., Petry, H., Vitiello, M. V., & Aiken-Morgan, A. T. (2007). Valerian root supplementation reduces the severity of insomnia in postmenopausal women. Sleep Medicine, 8(3), 215-221.
  4. Lee, K. Y., Mar, W., & Kim, Y. S. (2006). The effects of lavender oil on stress, sleep, and postpartum depression in Korean postpartum women. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(8), 891-895. 
  5. Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161-1169. 6. Ferracioli-Oda, E., Qawasmi, A., & Bloch, M. H. (2013). Meta-analysis: Melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PLoS One, 8(5), e63773.
  6. Miroddi, M., Calapai, G., & Navarra, M. (2014). Passiflora incarnata L.: Ethnopharmacology, clinical application, safety and evaluation of clinical trials. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 157, 26-35.
  7. Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in insomnia and anxiety: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Cureus, 11(9), e5797.
  8. Scholey, A., Gibbs, A., Neale, C., Perry, N., Ossoukhova, A., Bilog, V., ... & Buchwald-Werner, S. (2014). Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods. Nutrients, 6(11), 4805-4821.
  9. Dhawan, K., Kumar, S., & Sharma, A. (2003). Anxiolytic activity of aerial and underground parts of Passiflora incarnata. Fitoterapia, 74(7-8), 687-693.
  10. Sarris, J., Stough, C., Bousman, C. A., Wahid, Z. T., Murray, G., Teschke, R., ... & Savage, K. M. (2013). Kava in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 33(5), 643-648.
  11. Kacip Fatimah: Mohd Sani, M. H., Zakaria, M. S., Suppian, R., Mustafa, M. A., Ismail, Z., & Abdul Hamid, A. (2018). The efficacy of Labisia pumila var. alata extract as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women: A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, 6439485. 
  12. Tongkat Ali: George, A., & Henkel, R. (2014). Phytoandrogenic properties of Eurycoma longifolia as natural alternative to testosterone replacement therapy. Andrologia, 46(7), 708-721. 
  13. Jamu: Kementerian Kesehatan Republik Indonesia. (2015). National formulary of herbal medicine. Kementerian Kesehatan Republik Indonesia. http://puslitbang.farmasi.ugm.ac.id/nfhm/
  14. Javanese turmeric: Susilawati, Y., Dalima, A., & Akmal, D. (2020). Ethnobotanical study of Curcuma xanthorrhiza Roxb. in Indonesia. Biodiversitas, 21(6), 2586-2598. 
  15. Pandan leaves: Abdul Rahman, N. A., Ibrahim, M. A., Lai, T. K., & Abdul Karim, M. R. (2015). Evaluation of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Pandanus amaryllifolius leaf extracts. Journal of Medicinal Plant Research, 9(31), 835-843. 
  16. Mulungu: Cassiano, N. M., Monteiro, M. V., Amorim, R. C., & Pires, J. G. (2018). Chemical and biological aspects of Erythrina mulungu: A review. Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy, 28(6), 740-748. 
  17. Jujube: Chen, J., Xue, B., Yang, S., Zhang, Z., & Suo, H. (2017). Effect of jujube extract on sleep quality and insulin resistance in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 196, 131-139. 

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List of Remedies for Insomnia