Around 25% of the population are troubled by insomnia at some time in their life. Being awake in the middle of the night can be a frustrating problem and people often feel alone and isolated by their wakefulness, when everyone around them is deep in blissful sleep.
Ongoing sleep issues can lead to health problems and can also affect quality of life, relationships, productivity and create a safety risk for certain jobs and for driving.
Children can also be susceptible to sleep issues, although a more common problem in children are things like nightmares and sleep talking and walking. You do occasionally, however, come across children who are wide awake and wanting to play in the night!
Generally I find that someone will present with poor sleep as part of an overall health profile, rather than as an isolated issue. What we need to address is the whole picture. We want to bring the whole system back into balance, not just try to fix the sleep, because just treating the sleep doesn’t usually go deep enough.
Why can’t I sleep?
There are so many reasons for sleep to be disturbed and of course in homeopathy we look for the underlying reason to help find an individualised remedy, rather than just using a “sleep product”. If our system is out of balance for whatever reason, night-time may be when our troubles come back to haunt us!
One of the main reasons for sleep issues used to be poor sleep hygiene or just plain old bad habits. However most people these days have googled their problem and tried a lot of techniques, made some changes and experimented with a few products before they even arrive in the clinic.
Prescriptions for sleeping tablets are pretty rare these days and most GPs would avoid this I suspect, also looking a little deeper for the answer. Side effects can be horrible and addiction is a very real risk.
There is no such thing as a homeopathic sleeping tablet, although there are some very good remedies for the acute events we sometimes experience. A well-selected remedy, if it includes the pattern of the sleep disturbance, is always going to be the best option.
Usually there are underlying issues such as stress, which can lead to the system being over-stimulated and restless, resulting in inability to fall or stay asleep, and anxiety can lead to hyper-vigilance, fight or flight which happens in the night in some cases.
A big problem these days is a busy mind, where you just can’t switch off after the day or busy thoughts waking you in night, with difficulty falling and/or frequent waking.
Depression sometimes manifests in the middle of the night, with dark and dismal thoughts and different remedies have affinities for wakefulness at certain times. Remember how you’re suddenly wide awake at three o’clock every morning!
Occasionally the problem can be linked back to a life event which may have rocked you to the core; so a fright, trauma or other highly emotional or shocking experience can have the effect of keeping you on your guard or hyper-vigilant in the night.
For long term or serious sleep issues with or without depression or anxiety always check in with your GP to assess other factors.
If your insomnia is a long term problem or not responding to anything you’ve tried, it’s always best to address the underlying reasons with your homeopath as there are many more remedies than those listed here. Hopefully though, in short term or mild cases, a little support with one of the remedies listed may bring some relief.
Hormones – menopause, menses, peri-menopause can all affect our sleep as the hormones cycle and surge. Did you know peri-menopause starts from around age 35 when the hormone levels begin to change? You may not get full on symptoms of menopause until much later but this is often an overlooked reason for changes to health and disturbed sleep.
Prostate can often be a reason for frequent waking for the bathroom and is something that can be supported with homeopathy.
Allergies – allergies can be a cause of insomnia and if you track back six hours from when you wake, you may find the source. My own take on this is that if you have an intolerance rather than an allergy, it can be low grade and it may be more difficult to track it down. Preservatives, alcohol and sugar are classic causes of insomnia. Cut out the sugar and see how you sleep!
Remedies for insomnia
Homeopathic remedies can be really helpful for sleep issues in the short term. Here is just a little information on the more common remedies that come to mind. Further reading may be required to see which remedy suits you or consult your homeopath.
Most of the remedies listed below can be found in our online store.
My favorite, which is why it comes at the top of my list, is Nux Vomica which covers everything from stress, to over-eating and too much alcohol. People needing Nux Vom often wake at 4am and then can’t get back to sleep until the alarm is about to go off and wake feeling horrible and grumpy.
Aconite can be useful where someone is panicky on going to bed. They may fear going to sleep and fear they won’t wake up, and fear of death may be front and centre. Others may wake in fright around midnight and this could be in relation to some sort of shock or fright. It may also be due to fever or acute illness, where they are wakeful and fearful and Aconite will also be indicated here.
Arnica may help when the individual cannot get comfortable because the bed feels too hard. Since Arnica is one of our big trauma remedies, there may be an underlying element relating perhaps to an accident, injury or mental and physical shock which has left them feeling battered and bruised. Or they may really be battered and bruised from over-exertion after the gym, a big day in the garden or similar.
Arsenicum Album may help the restless, meticulous types who cannot get to sleep because they have to get everything ordered in their mind. They may then have a tendency to wake restless and anxious around midnight or 1am and then lie awake worrying.
Aurum metallicum may be prescribed by a practitioner when someone feels very low, perhaps with thoughts of self-harm, waking around 4 or 5am and not being able to fall asleep again, which is very common in sadness and depression.
Belladonna – if woken by bad dreams which prevent further sleep, Belladonna may be a good choice, especially if the dreams are of falling.
Cocculus is the remedy one thinks of when someone has been sleep deprived, perhaps through nursing a sick partner, getting up frequently to a child or after shift work. We often think of this as the “carer’s remedy”. They are totally exhausted, often with that swaying dizziness as if they’ve been at sea (it also helps seasickness) and just want to lie down and sleep, but are too over-tired. It’s also a useful remedy if jet lag has resulted in insomnia due to a disturbed sleep pattern.
Coffea – homeopathic coffee – has those classic symptoms of too much coffee! Overstimulation, over excitement, hyperactivity, so can be good after situations which have put you in this state – or just too much coffee or other stimulants! Sleep tends to be light and they may wake from the least noise due to heightened sensitivity, causing difficulty getting into the deeper stages of sleep
Chamomilla – sleeplessness may be due to pain. These patients are oversensitive to pain and and can have a tendency to irritability and irrationality at these times. It’s a useful remedy for teething infants who will often fall asleep when given the remedy if indicated for their particular symptoms.
Hepar sulph is one of our most sensitive remedy types and might suit someone who wakes if a toe or foot somehow gets exposed to cold or draught in the night. They are likely to be irritable when aroused, very cold generally and perhaps prone to ear or throat troubles.
Ignatia is one of our major grief remedies, often indicated in the early stages. It can be useful for people who experience insomnia after a loss or some other event that leaves them emotional almost to the state of hysteria. They may sigh and yawn but find falling sleep impossible and then restless and fitful when they do fall. They may twitch, toss and turn and experience nightmares.
Kali Carb always comes to mind for those dutiful, responsible types who tend to wake up between 2 and 4am with an aggravation of some symptom, maybe asthma, perhaps anxiety.
Kali Phos as a tissue salt (Kali Phos 6x) is what I call a nerve tonic and may help with sleeplessness in nervous, anxious people. This is usually taken regularly as tissue salts can take days or weeks to work, although in my experience a well-indicated remedy should bring a fairly quick response even in this low potency.
Lycopodium may be helpful if troubled by bad dreams especially if there are also digestive issues, such as colicky pains or rumbly tum. Didn’t someone say don’t eat cheese before going to bed or you’ll get bad dreams?!
Mag Phos – people who need any of the magnesium remedies are often terrible sleepers, waking very unrefreshed and irritable and of course we know that magnesium as a supplement can be helpful for sleep. They are also prone to getting cramps at night (other reason for this may be iron deficiency), so this can be a useful remedy to take regularly for a little while in the 6x (tissue salts) potency or just 30c as required for general poor sleep.
Natrum Muriaticum is a classic remedy for difficulty falling asleep in people who have suffered a grief or disappointment, after an upset or slight or in people who are just pretty serious and responsible! They may lie there churning things over, feeling isolated and aggrieved, and finally cry themselves off to a fitful sleep. It is one you may find useful in children with this type of personality who are having troubles at school.
Nux Vomica covers everything from stress, to over-eating and too much alcohol. People needing Nux Vom often wake at 4am and then can’t get back to sleep until the alarm is about to go off and wake feeling horrible and grumpy. They tend to be “A” type personalities, so driven, competitive, frequently business people with over-active minds, possibly less need for sleep than others and a bit of a tendency to over-indulge in alcohol, coffee, rich food and recreational drugs.
Sepia may be helpful pre-menstrually or if you are irritable and averse to company and/or sex!
Sulphur – people needing Sulphur may feel they catnap through the nightand may wake with hot feet, feeling like the bed has become too hot so that it makes them itchy and irritable.
Zincum metallicum may be helpful in nervous types who are prone to twitchy feet and restless legs.
And of course we have a couple of other solutions: our Sleep combination which includes the remedies traditionally indicated for sleeplessness generally or how about Sweet Dreams from our WyldChyld Essences range?
There are of course many hundreds more remedies for sleeplessness and because homeopathy treats the person and not just the symptoms, if your home prescribing is unsuccessful, consult your homeopath for an individualised remedy. Long-term sleep issues will always be best addressed by a constitutional remedy, ie a remedy that fits “me” not just “insomnia”!
How to take your remedies for insomnia
I always suggest:
- a dose one hour before bed
- a dose as you turn the light out
- and if you still wake in the night another dose
Obviously if your insomnia is a long-term problem you may need to address the underlying reasons with your homeopath as there are many more remedies than in the list above, but hopefully a little support with one of the remedies listed may bring some relief.
What else can you do?
There are any number of things you can try for insomnia and as we’ve said above, treating the whole person is always best in cases that have been going on for a long time.
See your GP
I know this is something many of you want to avoid, but sometimes there are things you can have tested which may give some insight into what is going on. Thyroid, iron levels, calcium and magnesium, hormones, PSA levels (prostate), etc, are among the raft of tests available. It may also be helpful to access some counselling which can offer life strategies generally. I do also find some GPs are very sympathetic and well resourced to make some other suggestions!
Get a hair analysis
Sometimes when an issue is ongoing we might consider looking for underlying issues with mineral ratios, heavy metals, high or low copper and nutritional status generally. I’ve used hair analysis as a tool in clinic for 20 years and find it a useful way to assess what is going on, balance up the system and select remedies.
Read one of the blogs here and check out the rest through our search bar if you’re interested.
Write it down
My Mum is a list writer and I do think it’s a good practise if your mind is whirring and chuntering in the night! If you are waking in the night stressed, anxious or over-thinking for any reason at all, try writing down what you are thinking about so you let it go from your mind and hopefully drift back to sleep. Journalling when you are awake can also be helpful in getting to the bottom of life issues.
Eat something high in tryptophan before you go to bed; chocolate (pure not Cadbury’s-type!), oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, bananas and peanuts.
Hunger in the night can sometimes be an issue too, so finding that balance between too little and too much is important. This can be about gut health and anxiety will also lead to increased gut transit.
Watch how much you drink
If you are going to have a big night out (which I don’t encourage!) drink plenty of water and try taking some Nux Vomica 30c before you go to sleep and if you wake in the night. Make sure you drink plenty of water during the day generally which may also help with cramps and will aid lymphatic drainage and detoxing generally.
Don’t eat too late!
We all know how we can feel after a rich or heavy meal late at night, a curry or just too much. As for too much alcohol, try a dose of Nux Vomica 30c before bed or perhaps our Indigestion combo. Gastro combo can also be useful if you wake in the night with an upset tummy.
Magnesium deficiency can sometimes be a reason for poor sleep and supplementation will often resolve things quickly if it is the issue. Buy the best brand you can afford in a powder or if this hasn’t worked for you, try one of the oils or sprays on your legs or rubbed on the soles of your feet before bed.
I could write a whole list here but you may well have tried many and sometimes you’re better to address the whole problem with a consulation with your homeopath or naturopath, rather than continuing to throw money at the problem by buying and trying every sleep product and gadget on the market!
I love my essential oils and after using Young Living for the past decade know that for me they are the best money can buy. I’ve tried lots of other popular brands with disappointment and lots of sleep blends, which can often make the problem worse. We’re all unique and so the level of oils we need and can tolerate is going to be very individual. I do have a non-Young Living sleep oil that I find really effective (Good Sleep Blend from Healing Solutions, USA), but you might enjoy either making your own or buying a roll-on or mix ready made. Do buy the best you can afford though because it’s the quality of the essential oils that does the job, not the nice smell!!
Too much stimulation before bed can cause sleep problems so avoid having a TV or mobile phone in the bedroom and try to relax for 1/2 hour before you want to go to sleep. Try repeating a mantra, counting sheep or meditating. There are several relaxation/meditations you can download for free from the store. Download here.
EMFs – Internet/5G/Smart Meters, etc
Some people are very sensitive to EMFs and electricity generally, so making sure your bed head is not right by your fuse box or smart meter is important, switch off the internet if you are able and generally reducing the EMF load at night can be helpful. If you live in a city or apartment block where you are going to be susceptible to other people’s wifi, there are gadgets which can help reduce the load.
We also have Electro-emissions which may be a good option to reduce your own load before sleep and this comes in a room spray and oral doses.
There are many great resources to help bring you into a restful space for sleep. Yoga Nidra is one of these and has been around for thousands of years. It always made me fall asleep in yoga class without fail!! Following the in and out breath and gradually extending the length of the breath can be a simple form of meditation for sleep.
You can download the free version of our yoga nidra relaxation here. This was a standard end to all our yoga classes and you can experience this with our very own Dean in this recording!
If life is busy and your mind is too, more exercise (at any time of day) can often be helpful. Some people find they sleep better after doing some vigorous exercise or going for a walk in the evening.
Check your mattress & pillow
Simple though this sounds, it can be a reason for poor sleep if you are uncomfortable or the materials are wrong for you.
Is your bed facing a direction that suits you? This may sound strange, but if you are sensitive and your body is incorrectly positioned for sleep you may find yourself restless or wakeful. Below is a list I found online (source at the end).
- Good supporting wall behind your bed.
- Grounding and balanced energy on both sides (e.g. bedside tables.)
- No sharp angles (from wall or furniture corners) pointing at you while you sleep.
- It is always smart to position your bed away from the walls that have electric appliances on either side (the computer, powerboard, the fridge, or the TV.) And, of course, it is best feng shui to limit (or completely eliminate!) the electrical appliances in your bedroom. If you switch the electrical alarm clock for a battery operated one, you will considerably lower the harmful EMFs in your room. And your body will thank you!
- Avoid a bed in line with the bedroom door, as well as any other doors – be they balcony doors, bathroom door, walk-in closet or patio doors.
- If possible, place the bed according to your best, or lucky feng shui directions (you can go to the website for this bit of information!).
- Sleep with your head to the South. Top of your head pointing to the south and feet pointing north. I can attest to the impact of incorrect orientation, so try this out. The ancients said, that our intellect improves by east facing head or house, and life lengthens with the head facing south. North brings disease and west dulls the brain.