Natural Cures for Insomnia
Written by Karen R Litinsky MpsyD RMT
Cover photo from matthew H on Unsplash
Before kids, I was the deepest sleeper EVER - I'm talking Olympic level-sleeping. I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow every night. I'd fall asleep absolutely anywhere, in any position. I could sleep solid for 12-14 hours when left to it. I even slept soundly through fire alarms... I was an extremely gifted sleeper.
A colicky year of infancy later, with my first taste of insane sleep deprivation, I not only lost my phenomenal sleeping skills - I felt I had lost my ability to sleep AT ALL.
Days and days would go by before I'd even be able to catch a 30 minute nap - four days in a row without ANY sleep was my sad record. Any by this time my son was sleeping soundly through the night! (...Isn't that the worst!). Anyhow, the insomnia created vicious sleep anxiety in me that completely took over my life.
I was a victim of insomnia for close to a year, until I started taking control of myself with the natural cures for insomnia listed here on this page. It took probably another year or so of recovery for me to entirely normalize (without sleeping pills). And I can say with a huge sigh of relief, that insomnia is no longer a part of my life.
Although I am not the champion-sleeper I once was (which is probably a good thing, considering sleeping through fire alarms is not the safest parenting attribute), I can definitely say that I typically fall asleep within 20 minutes or so and sleep the whole night long. And if my sleeping patterns are off, I always identify why - and most importantly, there is absolutely no anxiety about it.
So many things affect our sleep that I think it's wild when people treat insomnia so generally. I believe that the cure to insomnia entails curing many components within the body, mind, and energy fields. This blog is broken down into these very sections; BODY, MIND, then ENERGY. We will start with the physical, because it's the most well-received.
Physically, priming the body for sleep
We toy around with our own biological clocks when we miss meals, sit in a chair all day, and expose ourselves to bright screens at night. So here are some helpful, somewhat obvious pointers for your natural cure for insomnia journey:
1. Feed yourself regularly. Don't let your adrenals reach the red alert "starvation mode" during the day - because that mode follows you into bed. Even a missed lunch can cause enough adrenaline in your body to get your hormones out of whack for the night. Try to eat something of substance later in the day so your body can shift into rest-and-digest gear. Even you no-carb people out there, a good night's sleep might be worth the smidge of carbs.
2. Eat for sleep. Let's get specific now with some dietary tips since nutrition controls so much of our hormonal balance. Here are some ingestibles that are known to promote sleep: eating pistachios, walnuts and almonds, boiling bananas and drinking the water, tart cherry juice, magnesium supplements, soda crackers, and of course, drinking chamomile tea - especially when you do it regularly at night, it becomes a sleep trigger that signals the body to shut itself down.
3. Blood work. You'll hear me say this in many blogs, because wow, it can be such a magical turning point. Find out if your body isn't getting everything it needs. Sometimes just adding one simple, lacking supplement can alleviate our symptoms and help our parts function together so much more efficiently.
4. Move that awesome body of yours throughout the day. Especially if you have restless legs, or the "tossing and turning syndrome" at night. Amp up your activity level and get your circulation going. The role that circulation plays on our biological clock and circadian rhythms is highly underrated. A certain amount of blood, lymph, and tissue fluid needs to circulate through your body before your body considers a day to be done. And if you're stagnant and that full-day "flush" takes 34 hours - your biological clock can be confused and the time-to-sleep-message to your brain may be delayed.
By getting our juices flowing through the day, we can better control our biological clock and inner rhythms. Do what you can during the day to conk your body out at night. The bodily temperature changes initiated by exercise helps us fall asleep quicker and sleep longer. And obviously outdoor exercise is the best, since we've all experienced the conking-out power of fresh air.
5. On the topic of circulation, ice your feet before bed. Run them under the coldest water possible in your tub for around 30 seconds. This draws your blood down from your head, which is also a natural remedy for restless legs. When I was pregnant, I had to do this every night to relieve my wild jimmy legs. It really helped me balance out my body's volume before bed.
6. Assume a birds-eye view on your insomnia patterns. Watch for consistencies between your schedule and your sleep. For example, if every Wednesday morning you notice you're exhausted - maybe it's because you go out for coffee every Tuesday night. Pay attention to your routine and your typical stimulant intake. Or perhaps every Tuesday night you go to the library and sit in florescent lights for three hours, or drink a glass or two of red wine. Just see if you can notice any obvious "ah-ha's" when it comes to self-sabotaging your sleep patterns.
7. Habit and hygiene. I remember when I was going through my crazy insomnia days how often I heard the whole 'sleep hygiene and habit' spiel, and initially disregarded it because it sounded anal and too simple. But holy moly, what time you wake up and go to bed everyday really does make sleep happen - or not, especially as you're recovering from insomnia. The more night-time ritual habits that you have, such as reading before bed, or taking a shower, or having that chamomile tea while you watch your (non-action-packed) show... and once these habits become ingrained, the more you set yourself up for a successful solid nights sleep.
Here are some of the typical sleep hygiene tips you will find on the web https://www.tuck.com/sleep-hygiene/
The only thing I personally disagree with on many sleep hygiene blogs/lists, is the whole "don't lie in bed for more than 20 minutes" segment. This is where I eventually tossed my Cognitive Behavioral Therapist's program... I was instructed not to lie in bed for more than 20 minutes under the theory that "bed is only for sleeping and sex" and "don't let your body get used to being in bed awake". So after 20 minutes if I wasn't asleep, I was supposed to get up and out of bed and do something relaxing until I felt tired, and then try again.
I did this religiously for a month and in the end, it just f'd my sleep up more. I felt I was always watching the clock, feeling the pressure to sleep, and after doing it for some time, my body began to get another wind every 20 minutes. Don't get me wrong, this method of CBT works for a lot of people, but it didn't work for me. So instead I did the opposite, I used each night as an opportunity to retrain my body to fully relax and decompress... I'll elaborate on this shortly.
Priming the boss (the mind) for sleep.
The most common insomnia cause that I hear my clients mention is that hamster wheel spinning in their head all night long. And how terribly hard it can be to unplug from life at night and get those gears to stop grinding. Here are some tips and tricks that can help with this:
8. Understand that your day-time brain activity affects your night-time brain activity. So by controlling the quantity of thoughts during the day, you set the stage for your mind at night. Break up your thought-stream during the day with some good hard deep breaths and mindful moments. Try to get yoga or meditation in somewhere in your day if possible. And if that doesn't seem like an option, at least treat yourself to some inner silence as you go about your daily routine. The more you pay attention to your mind, the more rein you'll have over it. Stop and smell the flowers and be present while you do.
9. Let yourself be human. Don't expect yourself to be able to stop thinking the second you lay your head down. It's more compassionate to give yourself a short debriefing period each night to process thoughts. And once you notice you are re-thinking the same things over and over again, that's your cue to tell yourself "ok mind/ego that's enough for tonight". And if it's a topic that you want to, or need to pick up later - just imagine putting the topic up on a shelf for now. Like a parent putting all distractions away and out of reach so the kids are forced to unwind.
10. Meditate at night. Now to build upon the last point, of course your mind is going to resurface thoughts and try and pull those topics down from the shelf to continue analyzing. This is what minds do. It's normal. The mind needs something to focus on. So rather than letting your mind aimlessly find it's own topics to focus on - direct it to a positive focus.
This is where a guided meditation can become the perfect slow-moving target. I've created a 9+ hour night long meditation retreat on the Ego-Less app that you can try if you're looking for a good one, it helped me so much in my recovery. Download the free Ego-Less app and go over to sleep island and you''ll see it right there at the top. It's free. Give it a good week of effort before you adjust to it, and then the effect really comes to life.
11. Back to retraining the body to relax part: if getting out of bed every 20 minutes doesn't resonate with you either, I highly suggest to take up the "practice of resting". This is huge because as a Metaphysical Psychologist, I personally feel that each time you move at night you stir up energy. So my philosophy is, the more you can resist the urges to interrupt your body's stillness, and triumph over the distractions of rest, the less you will interfere with your natural sleeping process.
I believe major mental components to insomnia are impatience, temptation and urgency - all of the things us, Westerners are conditioned so well in. As we practice unlearning these vices (at least at night) and detach from our impulses associated with them, we naturally remember how to relax. And the more you practice resting, you better you get at it.
12. Protect your unconscious mind. What are you watching at night? Are you filling your brain up with complex food for complex thought? Or are you riling yourself up with some heated topics? Maybe watching the news at night? Or checking your "likes" (or lack thereof) on social media? Or dealing with difficult clients right before you call it a day? Try not to engage in anything that will rev you up at night - positive or negative. Careful what kind of media and externals you expose your unconscious mind to at night-time.
13. Maybe there's more to your story. Maybe you actually need some expert help to deal with some serious obstacles. Are you straight up stressed out? Do you have inner alarms going off all at once? Is this an unprecedented insomnia marathon? Could it be related to a crisis that you're going through? If so, you should seek out professional help. See a counselor or check in with your doc. Organize a solid supportive team to help you stabilize your stress levels so you can begin to stabilize everything else in your life.
It is possible that you are going through a destruction cycle in life, which is a powerful, yet painful season of ultimate change. Destruction cycles are special times of self-recreation, when we have reached a readiness to massively evolve who we are and where we are going in life (read more about it: https://www.destructioncycles.com/post/what-is-a-destruction-cycle-and-why-i-wrote-the-book) ;)
If you suspect you may be in a destruction cycle and want a holistic guide to help you through the process from the inside out, my book Destruction Cycle is now available on Amazon.
14. Get rid of the sleep anxiety. In my case, this was critical, because it was mostly the sleep anxiety keeping me awake. A sharp dread of night-time would have me cringing as I crawled into bed, petrified with worry of not being able to sleep.
I became completely powerless over insomnia, and every time I'd cancel an appointment because of it, it would get bigger and bigger and louder and louder, and gain more and more power over me. I am completely obsessed over sleep. I obsessed over the clock too. In fact, I remember going to see a local acupuncturist Rebecca Sprintz at Corydon Family Acupuncture in Winnipeg to find a natural cure to my insomnia, and I read my sleep notes to her (yes, I charted my sleep) "I went to bed at 10pm, didn't fall asleep until around 2:40am, was up at 3:45am and then had a half hour nap that day at 11:35".
She caught me off guard when she asked "...what would happen if you just didn't look at the clock all night?"
Baffled by the idea "- then how would I know how much I slept?!!!"
"Does it really matter? Does knowing how much you slept really change anything?"
I wasn't entirely ready to hear this when I did, because I was so attached to whatever control I had left on my sleep-life, and knowing exactly how much sleep I got each night, if any, gave me a spec of control ...But I didn't realize then, how much it was my obsession with time and sleep that was actually building the anxiety in me. So thank you Rebecca for that;)
When it comes to conquering sleep anxiety (or anxiety in general), I'd like to share a relevant piece of the Destruction Cycle book with you:
"[talking about sleep focus] After I reminded myself that what I’m focusing on, I’m expanding; I made the decision to stop focusing on anything to do with sleep. I didn’t want sleep to be a thing in my life anymore. I wanted to be like a normal person who sleep just happens normally to. So the topic of sleep was forbidden from my mind.
It was like arm-wrestling with myself alllllll night long. My ego vs my focus. “As if I’m not sleeping!” vs “This is a great opportunity to meditate”. I would snap every thought about sleep in half, and bring my attention elsewhere over and over and OVER again. I wouldn’t allow myself to even think the word “sleep” or about anything related to sleep. I had to train myself to stop wandering down that thought-path before I got lost there, before it led me into the sleep-anxiety insomniac state. I had to board up my ego’s sleep-thoughts gateway door. It took A LOT of hard work. I was constantly rerouting my attention, which is really freaking hard when you are sooooo tired. But my only other choice was a lifetime of wide-awake-night-terrors.
Slowly, with a lot of relapses, after many many many lost battles, my determination was a tad stronger than my ego’s thought habits and VICTORY. The sleep anxiety thought path gradually became fully closed and abandoned. It started to grow in and disappear from my life. And my sleep habits changed completely. Wow did my ongoing efforts ever pay off in the long run. Thank you Karen-of-the-past, for doing all of that work for me!
Sometimes I still need to flex my focus muscles when my ego acts up every now and again. If I drank coffee late in the day or on an empty stomach, the old faint phantom memory of “am I going to sleep tonight?” occasionally drifts through my head. But I always win. I always ditch the subject of sleep and catch the thoughts that once upon a time lead me into the sleep anxiety. Even times when I don’t sleep well, there is absolutely no anxiety about it." - Destruction Cycle Book, Karen Litintksy MpsyD RMT
For more on positive thinking click here: https://www.destructioncycles.com/post/piercing-through-negative-thoughts
Now. The least explored natural cures for insomnia... Priming our ENERGY for sleep.
15. When it's time to crank up your snooze, dial down your productivity. Cut yourself off from your to-do list at least two hours before bed, because getting shit done, gives you energy - which is great... during the day. The buzz of being constructive doesn't buzz you into dreamland. The slow energies of lazy are much more compatible. Avoid cultivating energy at night so you can wind down instead of winding up. Be aware of your energy gauge at night and save your peak-potentials for day-time hours.
16. Pay attention to moon cycles. Full moons and new moons, know when they are - especially full moons. The moon governs our ocean tides. And we are 70% water. Yes. The moon affects us. Full moons and new moons are micro-cycles in life where our energies readjust and the"tide of our emotions" come flowing in. If there are things you need to process in your life, chances are you will feel them more during the rise of moon cycles. The stronger the energies you are sorting out, the more your sleep may be affected. When you simply accept this and trust in it, you can sync with the natural ebb and flow of moon cycles.
17. Balance your energy. Imbalanced energy yields disjointed operations. By aligning our body, mind, and energy fields and opening up our energy centers - we optimize our health and well-being, sleep included. I have recently posted a free guided meditation video that can help you do this on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZukFHxRbWY
18. Sexual health. Poorly circulating sexual energy not only affects our mojo, but can also affect our sleep. The second chakra (our sex region/sacral energy centre) works specifically with our sixth chakra (our third eye/sleep related chakra) when one is imbalanced, so is the other. We can end up with all of this congested energy on one end and all of this depleted energy on the other, causing both to malfunction. So by focusing on your sexual health you are focusing on your sleep health - at least from a metaphysical point of view.
The other thing I'd like to add to this, is a little forewarning that, it can take 24 hours or so for the energy to fully rebalance between paired chakras. So an orgasm today is more so an investment for tomorrow night's sleep. So why not be proactive, and try to have an orgasm every night! That's some fun homework, wouldn't you say. Plus, like icing your feet, orgasm pulls the energy down from our head and spreads it around our body, which can also help with detaching from that mental hamster wheel.
19. Speaking of the sixth chakra, DON'T BLOCK YOUR SLEEP CHAKRA by smooshing your face into things (see picture below). What I mean by this is, try not to rest your forehead in your hands, or on anything else. Your sixth chakra - energy sleep center, is located in the lower part of your forehead, between your brows - this area needs to breathe to energetically function properly.
This point was my own little light-bulb moment during my recovery; I began to notice I was doing this all of the time during my insomnia days. Every night when I would be trying to put my son to sleep, I would press my forehead right into the crib from sheer exhaustion. When I would sit on the couch I would press my palm into my forehead to hold my fatigued head up. All the while, not thinking that I am directly blocking the in-flow of energy to my sixth chakra. By stopping doing this, and making a conscious effort to keep the "energy doors" wide open, sleep energy seemed to naturally regulate itself in my being.
20. Change the feel of your bedroom and the attitude you have about your bed. Orchestrate good, positive, healthy energy all around and within your sleeping quarters. Decide to like bedtime. Do whatever you need to do to make this happen.
Design the comfort of your bedroom to make you smile at night. Cooler colors on the walls and warm, soft, earthy, fluffyness in your bed. Get yourself some lavender or sleep-aid essential oils and squirt them into a nice decorative diffuser. Invest in pillows and sheets that make your bed irresistible. Create a relaxing sleep haven that automatically promotes good sleepy vibes. And make the effort to remind yourself how good it feels to lie in your bed at night. That energetic shift alone, can shift your entire physiology.
For more ideas to shift your energy, check out this other blog I wrote: https://www.destructioncycles.com/post/tips-to-change-your-energy-today
21. Let go of the energy of "insomnia" by letting go of the word itself and your story about it, at least until you're fully recovered. Exit the frequency of sleep problems, by not associating with them, talking about them or participating in them in any way. Thoughts and words are both energy. Abandon the wave length of insomnia and energetically detach from the insomniac world.
I've created many deflection ideas on the Ego-Less app that can help you find new healthy focuses. Go to Trek island and click Destruction Cycle: Defection ideas - they are all there for you with free access.
22. Take your power back. Know that you can live your best life regardless of your sleep situation. Rekindle your relationship with your passions and remember how to enjoy life. Inspiration makes us more resilient and happy. And a strong sense of purpose overrides suffering.
We are either victims or creators. Start creating the best life for yourself, with or without sleep. By taking control of your life, you can transcend the energy of your problems. Act like you are recovered and engage with "recovered energies". This will help you kick start your rejuvenated chapter, that you so deserve, in your new well-rested life;)
I hope these natural cures for insomnia work as well for you as they did for me and my clients. The more consistent and committed you are, the greater results you will experience. A holistic recovery can take time and effort, but it's well worth it. Once you start sleeping soundly, without crutches, you will see for yourself. These points have been life changing for me, which is why it feels so important for me to share them with you and the world.
If you found this blog helpful, please share it with anyone and everyone you think needs to hear it. To dive in deeper, you can buy your copy of the Destruction Cycle book from McNally Robinson or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Destruction-Cycle-Leverage-self-destruction-optimize/dp/1772803014/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1583253605&sr=8-1
I wish you a future abundant with effortless sleep:) To stay in in touch please subscribe below!
Karen Litinsky MpsyD RMT
Author of Destruction Cycle
Co-Creator of Ego-Less meditation app (www.ego-less.me)
Owner of Paradise of Reality (www.paradiseofreality.com)