14 invaluable insomnia solutions

Posted on February 28th, 2013

Hey, I’m not alone. I’m not the only sad soul trapped in the insomniac vortex going by the comments on my recent I’m an insomniac get me out of here post. Respect to you all who shared and reached out. And a big, virtual hug if you’re going through tough times just now. I know your relentless, inescapable pain. I do.


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So many of you shared such great tips following my post. Thank you! So generous. Let’s spread them about, shall we?

1. Avoid caffeine after 2pm. Caffeine stimulates the production of stress hormones, and inhibits the absorption of the hormone adenosine, needed to give us a sense of calmness, which can contribute to sleep problems.

2. Try an evening breath meditation – Patty. 

30 minutes of left nostril breathing really activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest part of us).

3. Eat green leafy veggies. To increase magnesium levels, which calms and supports the nervous system.

4. Exercise during the day – Lucy.

5. Ultra Muscleze Night. Someone at Bioceuticals read my post and sent me a pack of this. Which was very thoughtful. The stuff has been working really nicely. I take a scoop at night before bed and it chills me the fork out.

6. Try Paraliminal recordings – Nadia. They distract both sides of your brain at the same time making you really calm and relaxed. If you are laying there talking to yourself about being tired, and that you should sleep, they quieten down the conversation.

7. Get sun. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced at night to promote a deep and restful sleep. Other than taking melatonin tablets – which aren’t easily available in Australia – try increasing your sunlight exposure (especially in the morning), meditation, reducing stress levels, eating melatonin-rich foods like oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, almonds and seeds.

8. I use a Pema Chodron quote – Meg. It resonates with me when I’m scared about not being able to sleep. It’s (paraphrased):

not only invite the demon (i.e. my fear) in, but sit him down and invite him for a cup of tea.

9. Warm milk is good. Milk is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to make serotonin and melatonin, two of the brain’s calming and sleep inducing neurotransmitters. Pop a smidgen of cinnamon on top for good measure. Other foods that contain tryptophan include almonds, turkey, chicken, beef, brown rice, and eggs.

10. Use an earthing mat – Melinda. It’s also anti inflammatory, & has helped people with chronic pain, inflammation, helps athletes heal & recover faster… definitely worth having in your arsenal of tricks and you don’t have to actually do anything once it’s on your bed.

11. Read up on the meaning of insomnia in Chinese Medicine – Becki. A) disturbed Shen (spirit) – overthinking, b) heart heat – emotional much?, c) blood or Yin deficiency – as women we lose blood monthly, or our digestion is not up to speed and can’t absorb nutrients/fluids from food, d) phelgm – comes down to diet/digestion, inactivity, e) food retained in the stomach – poor digestion/spleen Qi deficiency,

the time of night you seem to frequently wake will correspond to a particular organ.

12. Black out your room – Claire. Or try a “NightWave” blue light thingy – it’s a fluctuating blue light that illuminates your ceiling that you sync your breath with. it sounds silly but far out it helps. and no for me doing breathwork on my own was not nearly as good as this. it’s around $60 – worth a try.

13. Use a Neti Pot to clear your nasal passages – Caroline. (With a focus on the left nostril clearance)
14. Take An Shen Ding Zhi Wan (a Chinese herb) – Panda. You can buy them online for about $14 for a bottle of 200 pills. I take 8 of these before I go to bed.

So, a slew of options…Let me know how you go…

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  • Thanks for sharing, I sometimes suffer from insomnia and definitely a fear of getting it. I hadn’t heard of Muscleze, I think I will look into it. I usually make sure to exercise, do some stretching to ease my muscles and then read a book until I feel sleepy.


  • Mia Bluegirl

    Nice list.

    If you like winding down with a book before bed, I recommend Stephen Fry’s biographies. I am reading them now. He is a delightfully beautiful and troubled soul. It’s nice to read about other people who dont have life together perfectly when you feel exactly like that yourself. Plus he is also very funny.


  • Cover mirrors in your bed room, according to Feng Shui they prevent energy from settling…I think theres something in it!


  • Yet another benefit of green leafy vegetables! Gotta get some more into me… Any chance of a post with some ideas about good ways eat more leafy greens? 🙂


    Steph Reply:

    Sarah did a very recent post re clever ways to eat foods and green ideas were in there. A lot of her recipe blogs are also about greens. Plus here e-cookbook includes green meals, both smoothies, pestos, hash meals and soups 🙂


  • Jos

    I went to a hypnotherapist who taught me a technique to relax and get back to sleep. It’s (!!!!) working – I still wake up at odd hours constantly but can get myself back to sleep. After pretty much 30 yrs of really bad sleep – I’m (quietly) beyond relief and belief.


    Kay Reply:

    So what’s the technique? I’m intrigued.


  • Chantelle

    A few weeks ago I had my first acupuncture session. Have been sleeping like a dream ever since. Well only waking 1 to 2 times through the night and then getting straight back to sleep. Amazing what a good sleep can do, especially when one has fatigue issues.


  • Samantha

    Wow, just found out I can’t breathe through my left nostril! 😐


    seeker Reply:

    hi samantha!
    isnt that interesting – the things we learn about ourselves from reading blogs! i was wondering, if you woudnt mind sharing, are you someone who has trouble sleeping/feeling calm? im just curious as the teachings say breathing through the left nostril soothes the nervous system, and i wondered if that imbalance affects you that way. (btw totally understand if you dont feel like exposing that info!)

    i believe most people usually find one nostril is a little more difficult to breathe through than the other, and apparently there is a procedure that can fix that up! it is also said that how we breathe can have a large effect on our dental structure – so if you have any teeth problems (which in turn affect sleep!) you might be interested to know that!

    i know this from my yoga learnings, but also i am going through some dental stuff and had to see an ear nose and throat specialist to check my passages out before my treatment. and i breathe better through one nostril than the other, but declined the procedure, as my nostril’s not fully blocked and i practise nadi sodana (alternate nostril breathing) every day, so i think that’s enough for me.

    also, fyi and/or anyone that may be interested, with a blocked nostril, it is possible to still practise nadi sodana, you just VISUALISE the practise – the air entering through the left nostril, and passing out through the right, then in through the right and back out through the left …. although if anyone was interested in that, it’s probably best done under supervision of a yoga instructor to start off with …

    on topic – if i cant sleep nadi sodana works for me!

    sorry for the long comment! just fascinated by this stuff!


  • Try yoga nidra, which is sleeping yoga – this really helps those with insomnia. I also suggest doing pranayama such as alternate nostril breathing g (not just left nostril breathing) – you would need to find a well qualified yoga teacher who can assist with this…


  • I have friends that say that Valerian tea works for a few days anyway.


  • mw

    Avoid coffee after midday .. wear sunglasses in the afternoons .. All body work is good, sex included .. keep exposure to digital/electrical shit to a minimum after midnight .. Don’t join a Rock Band .. don’t listen to well meaning people who haven’t experienced what you’re going through .. Remind yourself that it’s quality and not quantity that counts.
    Be glorious !!!


  • Megan

    I have magnesium. It’s a great natural sleep aid. Works for me. I sleep like a baby.
    The Bioceuticals brand in powder form is really good.


  • Ivy PiM

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned you install f.lux on your computer/MAC and wear blue-blocking glasses after sunset? Blue light = cortisol production. Block the blue light= melatonin.


    Stephanie Reply:

    I agree – f.lux has saved me, if I don’t use it I get headaches from the light.


  • anne

    I have found a connection between getting on top of multiple food intolerances and my insomnia. For example, the salicylates in oranges give me restless leg syndrome which seems to kick in around 2 – 4 am. I am investigating whether the amines in chicken broth give me digestive issues which leave me uncomfortable and restless – in both body and mind. So the whole gut-brain axis seems to be key for me. Also had relief since testing positive to Pyrolles Disorder and taking the correct supplementation – includes magnesium along with zinc, B6, B12 etc. Pyrolles is still relatively unknown but it has had a massive impact on my life. Consider this possibility.


  • Ellie

    I find I can’t sleep if I have had too much sugar. If I haven’t fallen asleep within 20 mins, I will get up and take one chromium pill (meant to help your body digest sugar) and take one or two calcium and magnesium pills. Theses minerals get sucked out of our body to help digest sugar too. No restlessness, once I have them going down I sleep deeply and well. Also Melissa oil is an incredible inducer of sleep! In Australia Roseneath organics make it, and it has also really helped me get to sleep. I alternate techniques.


  • miss mary

    I have just realised that my current insomnia coincides with a new, busy, stressful job and a fall off the sugar wagon!! i think they are related. i have been taking some (can’t remember the name) ‘naturally occurring’ vitamins which are helping me stay relaxed and easier to drop back off when i wake up in the night – sometimes 5 or 6 times. very interesting to read connections between auto-immune diseases and insomnia – i have coeliac disease and am a on/off again insomniac. sweet dreams…


    Gemma Reply:

    I would check to make sure your body is absorbing all the nutrients it needs:

    5HT (iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin C) + ZINC & VITAMIN B = SEROTONIN


    (See my post below – people with Coeliac’s disease are often nutrient deficient no matter how well they eat)


  • Something I learnt from Sleep School (yes I went!)
    Avoid technology at least 1hr to 2hrs before bed. TV’s, Monitors and smart phones have blue lighting in them which they’ve discovered suppresses melatonin (a natural hormone which helps regulate sleep). You can even rent blue lamps from chemist to help wake you up in the morning. Not a well known fact but it should be! Especially since we are surrounded so much by technology today.

    Also a sleep herbal tea before bed also helps me. Clipper Tea make a beautiful Sleep Tea.


  • Gemma

    I’m not a lifelong insomniac, but I did develop insomnia as a symptom of my anorexia.

    I tried meditation, exercise, relaxation techniques to no avail. Since I have started eating again I am back to my natural 10pm – 7am sleeping pattern.

    Despite the dramatic increase in stress eating has caused me, the following have been so effective that my body falls asleep anyway:

    1. Never going to bed hungry (most people say not to eat late at night, but having an extra small bowl of dinner – something easy to digest like kitchari or rice with veggie soup)
    2. Avoiding spirulina after morning tea – works the same for me as caffeine
    3. Making sure I’ve had a good carb-y dinner before my warm milk or having some carbs with the warm milk – carbohydrates are needed for tryptophan to pass into the brain (this can be fruit or sweet potato if you are grain-free)

    Finally, if you are deficient in any nutrients* (iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B6), seretonin will not covert to melatonin, it will be ‘stolen’ by your body to form Niacin.

    Also it is important to note that this effect from warm milk is not as effective if it is low fat – full fat is the only way.

    *a side note: though I ate 7-10 serves of vegetables every day, I ate no fat. Literally. None. I ended up deficient in ALL the above – even my iron and B vitamin supplements weren’t working.


  • Gemma

    Oh and lying with my bum against the wall and my legs up the wall – don’t know why, but it helps!


  • Sophie

    Quit coffee full stop. Guaranteed better sleep! I can vouch for it. The first few days are awful and you just need to take paracetamol when you wake for 2-3 days. Then you may or may not have serious cramps and muscle tension (I did, it was like years of tension leaving my body) and then…. Free! Try it, just for a week! See how you go. I’d love to hear others opinions on coffee and sleep/muscle tension!


  • Thyroid disease both hyper- and hypothyroidism can be a cause of insomnia. Thyroid hormones directly affect production of a brain neurotransmitter serotonin which participates in chain reactions involved in the sleep mechanism.

    You may be surprised but there are at least 10 health conditions that are associated with thyroid problems that can cause insomnia. The best treatment for insomnia is to correct the underlying problem.



  • I love Leo Babauta’s advice : http://zenhabits.net/sleep/


  • Scarlett

    I have struggled with insomnia for an age but recently I have been taking kava at night and it is a miracle worker!! not only do I become almost instantly relaxed and sleepy, it also makes me feel cheerful – a lovely way to go to sleep!


  • Thank you Sarah xx Lots of great suggestions here, especially No.8!

    In Ayurveda Insomnia is understood to be caused by aggravated Vata and also an overly active/agitated (Rajasic) mine – the two very often go hand in hand. My hubby (an Ayurvedic Practitioner) wrote a cool article on the subject and how to treat it. Thought I’d share it in case anyone is interested, as this knowledge has helped me enormously. Here is the link: http://www.muditainstitute.com/Article/Entries/2011/6/1_OVERCOMING_INSOMNIA.html

    Also, my occassional bouts of insomnia have been related to stress or anxiety. I’d love to share my article about my experience with that in case it helps you or anyone else too: http://www.muditainstitute.com/Article/Entries/2012/7/1_LOOKING_AFTER_ANXIETY.html

    Thank you for the work you do xx



  • suzanne

    Thank you for your website Sarah. Thank you, thank you thank you. When I was younger, working very hard in my late 20’s early 30’s I did not have access to this type of information – and wondered why I had sleep problems, or energy swings. The information you provide is invaluable. I am still not living a perfectly healthy life, but your research has lead to a much healthier life.


  • We’ve had great success helping insomniacs sleep better with memory foam mattresses too! Check out this article about how insomnia is costing the workplace: http://www.ergoflex.com.au/blog/category/sleep-research/How_insomnia_costs_the_workplace


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  • Diana

    You may want to try getting more Omega 3s from a pristine source. Omega 3, when taken from a good source and consistently is anti- inflammatory and can help with things uh asinnsomnia. The best source to help with a variety of inflammatory issues is called Mila (form of chia seeds). You can learn about it here: http://home.lifemax.net/mila/


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  • Sue

    I have 2 other really helpful solutions that have helped me get through insomnia – 1. Stopped drinking wine at night – even the one glass – has helped me because my liver is not overworking and waking me up – Chinese medicine helped me work this one out and 2 – Herbs of Gold Sleep ease is BRILLIANT. None of the other work but this one is brilliant. Also Herbs of Gold Stress Ease. All my friends now take it since sharing some with them. Seriously reduces the stress during the day and not overreacting to things.


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