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Insomnia is often acute, or short-term, meaning that you have occasional sleep troubles for less than three months.
Acute insomnia is mostly caused by stress, like an important life event or big test, and it will generally resolve itself once the stressor passes. However, there are also a few key lifestyle changes that can drastically improve the quality of your sleep.
Chronic insomnia is a more serious condition, where sleep troubles occur at least three times a week for more than three months. It usually requires therapy or medication alongside these lifestyle changes.
Whether your sleeping issues are short-term or long-term, here’s how you can treat your insomnia and get better sleep with these 5 natural remedies.
1. Practice sleep hygiene
Good sleep hygiene can help those with insomnia.
This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, limiting daytime sleep, and not drinking caffeine close to bedtime. It can also be important to create a routine before you go to sleep.
“You can take the hour before going to bed to take a hot bath or drink a cup of chamomile tea, which can be helpful in slowing your mind and body down,” says Nate Favini, MD, medical lead of Forward, a preventive primary care practice.
In addition, you should avoid excessive screen time — especially before bed — as this has also been linked to insomnia.
A 2018 scientific review found that exercise helped people with insomnia, and in particular, allowed people to fall asleep faster.
In addition, a 2018 study of middle-aged women found that women who exercised at least three days a week had lower instances of insomnia.
Exercise is known to help with hormonal regulation and reduce stress, which could explain why it helps treat insomnia. Plus, Favini says, it’s just easier to fall asleep when you’re more tired from exercising.
For best results, exercise in the morning or evening, but avoid intensive exercise after dinner.
Insomnia often occurs “when your mind just won’t shut down,” says Michael Jay Nusbaum, MD, medical and surgical director for Nusbaum Medical Centers in New Jersey.
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Mindfulness meditation can treat insomnia by helping you learn to quiet your mind, and research has found many health benefits of meditation, including better sleep.
For example, a small 2015 study looked at 49 adults with sleep troubles. The participants were randomly assigned to a control group or a group that received six weeks of mindfulness instruction. At the end of the study, participants in the mindfulness group had lower rates of insomnia than those in the control group.
4. Try CBD
Some people find that CBD (cannabidiol) — a non-hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana — can be effective for treating insomnia.
In a small 2019 study of 72 adults reporting stress and anxiety, 66.7% of patients using CBD reported better sleep within the first month. Another 2019 scientific review found that CBD is associated with falling asleep faster, staying asleep, and having better-quality sleep.
However, the scientific review cautioned that research on CBD is limited, so you should talk with your doctor before trying it to see if this treatment might be right for you.
5. Take melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel tired. Your body produces melatonin naturally and usually ramps up production around bedtime.
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However, if you think your insomnia is because you’re not producing enough melatonin at night, you can purchase a melatonin supplement and take it about an hour before bed, Favini says. A 2020 scientific review found mixed results: while studies showed that people who took melatonin supplements fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer, there wasn’t consensus on whether this was clinically significant.
That means while melatonin had some effects on insomnia, scientists aren’t sure if it really makes a difference in the lives of people with insomnia.
If none of these home remedies work for you, it’s worth visiting a doctor, who can help you figure out how to effectively treat your sleeping troubles. Further treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, light therapy, or prescription medication may be necessary.
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