Beyond “Band-Aid” Insomnia Remedies
The conventional medicine community looks at insomnia with the same view of so many other dysfunctions: they treat it as a symptom, without addressing the root causes. Sometimes, the “Band-Aid” approach with sleep drugs – either pharmaceutical or over-the-counter – can do more harm than good.
I approach all health problems with the question, “what are the underlying causes, and how do we treat the root causes so the symptoms disappear?” When it comes to insomnia, there are often these three factors (one, two or all three) at play:
- Imbalanced hormones, specifically melatonin and cortisol. The steps below all encourage balanced hormones. In addition, read my post 15 Ways to Balance Hormones Right Now.
- Disruptive blood sugar fluctuations. For more info, read my post 10 Ways to Balance Blood Sugar Naturally.
- Liver and gallbladder congestion. For more info, read my post 8 Ways to Improve Fat Malabsorption.
The following five steps primarily focus on the hormonal aspect of insomnia. After struggling with insomnia for most of my life, these were the most important changes I made to improve my sleep.
1. Ditch the melatonin supplements
Many people reach for melatonin supplements as a “natural” sleep aid. I’m here to tell you: there is nothing natural about taking a hormone into your body! Melatonin is supposed to be produced by your body according to the circadian rhythm, and supplementing with this hormone – especially without the guidance of a medical practitioner – can throw of the delicate balance of other hormones.
For more information, please read my post Melatonin Isn’t a Sleeping Pill: 3 Reasons to Avoid Melatonin Supplements.
2. Balance your melatonin naturally
Don’t think I’m hating on melatonin! It is a crucial hormone for healthy sleep and wellbeing. I just don’t believe it should be carelessly supplemented.
Here are the 7 steps I take to balance melatonin naturally.
3. Use a wakeup light
I’ve only been using this wake up light for a few weeks, but I am hooked. A wake up light produces an artificial dawn, also called dawn simulation, to wake you up in the morning. The gradual light – a type of artificial daylight – gently pulls you out of slumber and can support healthier hormone balance throughout the day.
A wake up light can help balance two hormones that regulate our sleep cycles: melatonin and cortisol. Studies show that exposure to daylight in the morning helps spike cortisol (a good thing – cortisol should peak in the morning and diminish during the day). Research also shows that dawn simulation supports better melatonin balance throughout the day (read more in my wake up light article).
The most significant change I noticed after switching to my wakeup light? I feel much more rested in the morning, plus I no longer experience heart attacks from my blaring alarm clock. With my wakeup light, it is drastically easier for me to get out of bed.
Are you intrigued by a wake up light? You can get one for free! Read the bottom of this post for the deets 🙂
4. Get into parasympathetic mode
The Autonomic Nervous System has two major divisions: Sympathetic Mode (fight or flight) and Parasympathetic Mode (rest and digest). When we are chronically stressed, we get stuck in sympathetic mode. Unfortunately, this is another stressor on the body and leads to health complications, including insomnia.
In order to fall asleep and stay asleep, we need to trigger the parasympathetic mode for deep relaxation. Here are three simple steps to get into parasympathetic:
- Tapping the back of your neck – This is one trick I learned from a Qi Gong master who gave a demonstration in one of my classes. Flatten your hands, with your fingers together, and use the palm of your hands and fingers to firmly but briskly pat the back of your neck. Go up and down the back of your head and neck a few times.
- Stimulate the vagus nerve – The vagus nerve connects the digestive tract to the brain, and is responsible for shifting the body into parasypathetic. You can get into parasympathetic mode by activating the vagus nerve through a few simple exercises, such as deep breathing and chanting “OM.”
5. Change your sleeping surface
I never thought I would get passionate about mattresses. But life is so weird… and here I am, researching and writing about how one’s mattress ties into one’s health.
It started when I learned the huge amount of toxins, including carcinogenic fire retardants, used to produce conventional mattresses. These chemicals offgass and are correlated with health concerns including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The point hit home when I realized the worst flareup ever of my autoimmune disease coincided with the week that I began sleeping on a new mattress, when offgassing is the worst.
Long story short, I got connected with IntelliBED because they create the best, safest mattress I’ve found. After struggling with insomnia my whole life, my quality of sleep drastically improved overnight when I switched to IntelliBED, because the mattress supports proper alignment and restorative sleep. Most importantly, I know that I am not inhaling off-gassing chemicals because I am sleeping on a non-toxic surface.
If you struggle with insomnia or are concerned about the toxins in your – and your children’s – sleeping environment, read more about my experience with IntelliBED here.
Hi, I’ve been reading your posts and am loving everything I’m finding on your website so THANK YOU!
But I was looking on the websites for intellibed and found the all wool mattresses. I was wondering what you thought about those? I was actually more interested in the all wool ones than the intelliBED so if you can give me your input I would really appreciate it, thanks!
I just watched the we binary with you and Anthony Morro . Can you please let me have his website. Thank you.
so who has time to sleep?
I bought one of their pillows because it highly came recommended by you and it was such a waste of money. I tried to get used to it but it was so uncomfortable and gave me neck problems and I couldn’t sleep. I tried to adjust the pillow with no luck. I requested a refund by the company but they said NO, sorry we don’t take back pillows, you’re out of luck! Worst customer service ever! Not even a partial refund! SO glad I didn’t buy a mattress!!
Hey there! I you’re suffering from insomnia let me tell you somenthing that worked really great for me 🙂
Two months ago my life changed completly, I got fired from my job and two days later my boyfriend left me for another girl. By that time my head was full of thoughts and my nights started to be a nightmare, sleeping an average of two or three hours a night, leaving me tired and unable to concentrate the rest of the day.
Two weeks ago I came across this website: http://sleepsync.co.nf, like you will see they promise you to “get 8 hours of unbroken deep sleep” using audio recordings. At that time I was really desperate and decided to give it a try… Thanks to god I’ve done that! I don’t really understand what this audio recordings contain (they’re so relaxing) but when I play them i fall asleep in minutes, they help me to keep my mind clear and without thoughts.
I wanted share this because I know how fustrating can be having insomnia and if this worked for me probably will work for you too 🙂
Hope this can be helpful for someone 😀
Susannah ~ HealthyGreenSavvy.com
Question about using a wake-up light rather than being woken by sun coming through the window: is that because you want to control the time you wake up rather than have it vary over the course of the year?
Thanks for the great post!
Yes, and that’s a good question. I actually find myself not using it in the summer, when the sunlight naturally wakes me up around 6:30 or 7. But in the winter, I use it consistently.
What is your advice for people who have already been screwed over by the medical system and are currently hooked on sleeping pills? How to get off?
Sleeping surface is the most important thing towards a healthy sleep which affects our body and mind. A natural-organic surface is always appreciable. Avoid mattresses that are made of petroleum-based polyester, nylon and polyurethane foam and treated with flame-retardant chemicals like boric acid, silicone and phosphates etc as these very toxic and bad for health. Change your sleeping surface from toxic to natural and organic one. Feel the effect and quality sleep. Choose bedandwood to get the right one.
Nice posts it was really helpful
I really love this post about insomnia. I don’t know if I’m starting to suffer from insomnia. I go to sleep early but I always wake up in the middle of the night . When I wake up early in the morning I don’t feel rested.