How to Overcome Insomnia Naturally
This post contains affiliate links. If purchases are made through these links, I receive a small commission to help offset the cost of running this website (read more here).
One of the more brutal consequences of medication withdrawal can be insomnia.
I took prescription sleeping pills (trazodone, benzodiazepines, etc.) for the better part of twenty years to help combat the side effects of other medications, to ease anxiety, and ensure I got a good nights rest. Eventually, I became concerned about the long-term consequences of relying on medicine for sleep.
My intuition told me it was possible to learn how to sleep unmedicated, but it took time and patience to get there. Here are my top tips to beat insomnia and drift off to dreamland – naturally.
Control Your Fears
By far the worst part of not sleeping is the FEAR OF NOT SLEEPING. If you have struggled with mental health then you know, being tired is going to make symptoms worse. This is why insomnia is such a frustrating issue. The more you worry about not sleeping, the less you sleep, and the less you sleep, THE MORE YOU WORRY ABOUT NOT SLEEPING! It’s a vicious cycle – that you have the power to stop.
Put on a Guided Sleep Meditation
I wish I had started meditating before trying to get off meds, but I didn’t. However being awake at night gave me lots of time to learn. Insight Timer is my favorite meditation app, but there are tons of sleeping meditations available online. When I cannot sleep, I find listening to a soothing voice keeps me out of my fears and gets me in a restful state. Even if I cannot sleep, resting helps me get through the night and following day. I might still be tired, but I’m not as tired as I would be if I’d allowed my thoughts to run away with me. So, meditate!
Take Long, Slow, Deep Breaths
This one is my favorite. Not sleeping can be anxiety producing, and this is how I calm myself down. Controlling my breathing is so effective that at times I’ve fallen asleep using this technique alone. If I am having an extra challenging night, I will use the phrase “accepting and allowing” on my in breath and “letting go” on the out breath. I cannot promise you this will put you go to sleep, but it will help you be at peace, which in my opinion is the next best thing.
Get Up and Do Something Soothing
Instead of focusing on what is going to happen if you don’t sleep, find something peaceful to occupy your thoughts. If you cannot meditate at least don’t lie there and ruminate on ALL THE THINGS that come with not sleeping. Read something, stretch, start a mental health blog (see what I did there?), do what you can to distract yourself until your body says it is time to go back to bed.
When I realized it was going to take a little bit of time to remember how to sleep, I decided I was going to enjoy being awake. I go the extra mile in the self-care department and make sure I have what I need to stay comfy and cozy – no matter how much sleep I get! Here’s how:
Hot Baths with Essential Oils and Epsom Salt.
Dim the lights and get ready to soak. I like to add lavender.
- Organic Better Rest Blend Herbal Tea
This is the heavy hitter of teas. It contains Valerian, an herb that is used for insomnia and anxiety. This tea tastes good and comes with a high cozy factor.
- Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea
This is my second favorite tea. It combines Chamomile Flower, Skullcap and L-Theanine, along with a few other popular sleepy time ingredients. It doesn’t pack the same punch as the previous one but it useful for relaxing and also scores a high cozy factor.
- Organic India Tulsi Caffeine Free Tea, Sweet Rose
This is my go-to tea for any time of day when I want to relax. It tastes great and the benefits of Tulsi tea are many. Drink it whenever you are looking for a great tasting tea that also ranks high on the cozy scale.
Support with Supplements
Just because you aren’t taking medication doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support your sleep. Supplementation can be beneficial, especially during medication tapers or times of stress. Please consult your medical provider and do your own research before taking any supplements; they can interfere with medications, and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health. That said, here are my top 3 supplements for sleep:
- Quicksilver Scientific Liposomal GABA with L-Theanine
This is the closest thing I’ve found to a sedative that is NOT a sedative. This combination of Gaba and L-theanine supports rest and relaxation without impairing your cognition the way pharmaceuticals can. I’ve recommended it to others who agree its helpful.
- Pro’s: It works.
- Con’s: It is not cheap.
- Note: There is some controversy over whether or not GABA is effective for easing anxiety. The question is whether or not it can cross the blood-brain barrier. However, Julia Ross and Trudy Scott (two authors in the holistic healing community) report using it with great success.
- Somno Pro Tropical Breeze 90 Chewable Tablets
This also uses L-theanine but in combination with 5HTP and Melatonin. Again, talk to your doctor before using 5HTP; it can interfere with SSRI’s and mood-altering meds. I used this for about six months after I tapered off my medication and now I use it occasionally if I am struggling with sleep.
- Pro’s: It tastes good and promotes relaxation without the nasty side effects you can get from sleep meds.
- Cons: It is a chewable tablet so you have to brush your teeth after taking it. It can also be a bit of a heavy hitter. If you are sensitive to medication or supplements, you might feel groggy in the morning.
- Pure Encapsulations – Magnesium (Glycinate)
I take this daily. Ideally, we would get all our nutrients from food but that is difficult, so I choose to supplement with this. Magnesium can help anxiety and less anxiety can mean more sleep! I aim for about 400mg/day. In times of stress, I’ve used more.
- Pro’s: There’s an endless list of reasons to take magnesium!
- Con’s: Some forms of magnesium can upset your stomach in high doses.
There are many supplements useful for promoting sleep. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross is my go-to guide for supplementing. I highly recommend buying a copy.
Set yourself up for sleep success!
What you do with your day can make or break your nighttime sleep routine.
First Things First: If you are drinking coffee, Stop
You may not have to quit forever, but caffeine isn’t going to do you any favors come nighttime. This is MY LEAST FAVORITE suggestion, but I find it is sometimes necessary. You can do it! It might seem like the end of the world, however, in the quest for good mental health, it is a small price to pay.
Move Your Body
Depending on your overall health this can look like a lot of things. When I first started on my healing journey, walking was enough exercise. Now I do some HIIT (high-intensity interval training), Yoga, or CrossFit. Do what feels right to you and know that exercise will help you sleep. I know this can be difficult when you are tired or struggling with your mood but even a little movement will help.
Support Yourself with Good Nutrition
I will come back to this over and over again because EVERYTHING starts here. The brain needs proper nutrition to heal. A Paleo-type diet with good healthy fats will help nourish your body, balance your blood sugar, and set you up for a good nights rest.
Trust your body knows how to heal and will remember how to sleep.
You may have temporarily forgotten how to fall asleep, but the body has an amazing ability to heal, given enough time and patience. Since completing my medication taper, I’ve found sleep comes and goes. At about nine months off all medication, I went through an extraordinarily difficult period and began to wonder if it was possible to sleep unmedicated. Even though the urge to consult a doctor for a prescription was intense at times, I trusted my body would eventually sleep again. And it did. I am learning my symptoms are always leading me to a deeper understanding of what is going on beneath the surface if I will listen. Sleep is no exception.
This part of the journey has been worth it. Healing is possible.
What methods have you used to beat insomnia? Let me know in the comments.