The Best Natural Remedies for Insomnia

By Val Silver

When you need help falling asleep and staying asleep, natural remedies for insomnia can help. Natural sleep aids help you relax and signal your mind and body that it is time to unwind and call it a night. 

A number of effective insomnia remedies emphasize good sleep hygiene and developing habits that help you sleep better. Sometimes though, despite your best efforts, sleep still eludes you. Your health and quality of life begin to suffer. When that happens, it may be time for a little extra help from supplements, herbs, and other proven natural remedies for insomnia.

Supplements and herbs for sleep have been shown to be at least as effective as pharmaceuticals. When used according to directions, they act gently, cause no morning grogginess and are safer than over-the-counter or prescription drugs. 

Natural Sleep Aids

The effectiveness of natural remedies for insomnia depends on matching the remedy to the cause. Insomnia is a symptom, not an illness. When you correct the reasons why you sleep poorly and your system regains balance, the problem naturally goes away.

For example, caffeinated beverages perk you up in the morning, but more than a cup or two can ruin your chance for a good night sleep. Stimulants like caffeine stress your adrenal glands and endocrine system, setting the stage for hormonal imbalances. Eliminate caffeine and other stimulants, especially after noon,  and see if your sleep improves.

If imbalances of melatonin and other hormones are behind your wakefulness, look at your lifestyle, health habits, stress levels and caffeine consumption.

It may be best to use supplemental natural remedies for insomnia only when you need them instead of all the time, or to rotate them every few weeks so your body responds to them instead of becoming accustomed to them.


This sleep-inducing hormone tells your body to sleep. Your body is designed to use morning sunlight to make melatonin. Aim for 15 minutes of sunshine outdoors every morning. 

As people age, they may not make enough melatonin. If that happens, natural sleep aids such as melatonin supplements and certain foods can help.

Prolonged-release melatonin in low doses (less than 1mg) appears to be most effective for older adults. A half cup of pitted cherries is a good natural source. 


5 hydroxytryptopan is an effective sleep aid that makes you feel calm and relaxed. It is a chemical byproduct of L-tryptophan. It may also be produced from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia. It works in the central nervous system and the brain by increasing serotonin production. 

Disturbed sleep may be a sign of serotonin deficiency. 5-HTP and B vitamins, especially vitamin B3 (niacinamide) and vitamin B6 boost production. A suggested starting dose is 100 mg of 5-HTP a half-hour before bedtime. Follow label directions when increasing dosage, if necessary.


Magnesium is essential for many body functions. It promotes relaxation and sleep, especially if you have a deficiency (which many people do).

Rich sources of this vital mineral are greens and nettles infusions.

You may supplement magnesium orally and/or topically. How much you take depends on how deficient you are and the type you are using. Choose absorbable oral forms such as magnesium citrate. Sip small amounts throughout the day and take less if your bowels get too loose.  Add magnesium chloride to your bath or beauty products.  It may take a few weeks or months to correct a deficiency.

Herbal Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Herbs are nature's natural remedies for insomnia. They can be quite useful when you need to unwind and fall asleep. Herbal insomnia remedies can be made up of one or several herbs. Some sleep herbs calm and soothe your nervous systems, others can help restore serotonin when you have an imbalance in brain chemistry.

Note that you may need to take herbal sleep aids for several weeks before noticing a real change with chronic insomnia. You may need to take your herbs a few times during the day and another dose a half-hour before bedtime. One bedtime dose alone will probably not be much help.

Match your symptoms to a particular herb for sleep or choose a blend of herbs with a broader spectrum of actions. Good blends also work in synergy, which may give you better results.

Choose high quality organic herbs for sleep as tinctures, capsules or teas. You may need to experiment to see which herbs or herb blends work best for you.

Do not take strong sedative herbs during the day when you need to stay alert or drive a vehicle.



Valerian is one of the best herb for sleep. It rivals prescription medications for effectiveness without side effects or addiction.

Valerian is a sedative herb, meaning it depresses your central nervous system so you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. It relaxes muscles and mitigates pain. Valerian was the botanical inspiration for the drug valium. 

Purchase valerian tincture made with alcohol and water or a freeze- dried extract. Take a dose 45 minutes before bedtime. If your mind is still running after 45 minutes, take another dose. 

Good quality valerian does not taste very good straight out of the bottle. Its odor has been likened to that of smelly socks. You can add your drops to water or  herbal tea.  It combines well with other sleep inducing, relaxing herbs such as catnip (good for children), chamomile, hops, skullcap, lavender, and eleuthero.

CBD oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil helps relieve sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and insufficient sleep. It may improve REM sleep abnormalities in people suffering with PTSD.  

CBD promotes relaxation and eases anxiety, pain, inflammation, nerve stimulation and muscle spasm. For best results, ingest the oil a few hours before bedtime. Vaporized CBD isolate provides immediate help. 

CBD does not make you "high". It is extracted from the cannibis or hemp plant or is produced synthetically in a lab.

More helpful herbs for sleep include:

  • St. John's Wort helps when you have trouble falling asleep, wake up too early, and/or are mildly depressed.
  • Passionflower relaxes tight muscles and a wound up mind that won't stop thinking about the same thing over and over.
  • California Poppy helps calm anxious thoughts and feelings. It helps you fall asleep faster and improves the quality of your sleep. 
  • Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which has an overall calming effect. It helps increase alpha-wave activity in your brain for a sense of calm relaxation. Avoid drinking green tea and other caffeinated beverages after mid-afternoon or they may keep you awake when you want to be sleeping.
  • Chamomile is a mild sedative. Sip a cup of the tea before bedtime. Make it strong with two bags brewed at least 5 minutes.

For an herbal sleep aid you can cozy up with, make or purchase a sleep pillow. A combination of hops, lavender and chamomile in a muslin bag will help lull you to sleep. Keep it within breathing distance of your pillow.

Other Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Brainwave entrainment audios are another option to help you sleep, especially if you want to calm your mind. By guiding your brainwaves into slower alpha, theta and delta patterns, you will be lulled to sleep. 

Practice good sleep hygiene and develop habits that help you sleep better. One reason people have trouble falling asleep nowadays is blue light exposure after sunset. Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime and interferes with the chemical signals that tell you it's time to get sleepy. Use light bulbs with a warm hue and tone down the light on your electronics. They emit powerful blue light. 

Good sleep is a pillar of healthy living. Fortunately, with the help of natural sleep aids, a good night rest is within your reach. Natural remedies for insomnia, along with good sleep habits, should have you snoozing away before you know it.    

Related Pages


Webmd: 5-HTP

Natural remedies for insomnia page updated 09/2021

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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