14 Natural Sleep Remedies to Beat Insomnia

Plus Tips to Get a Better Night's Rest

Natural sleep remedies include meditation, yoga, supplements, and essential oils. Whether you are dealing with the occasional poor night's sleep or long-term insomnia, many people find these natural sleep aids helpful.

This article discusses 14 natural sleep remedies. It also explains the evidence to support the claims for natural sleep aids and other ways to get a good night's sleep.


Watch Now: Natural Remedies to Beat Insomnia


You may have heard that melatonin supplements can help you sleep. Evidence suggests they are best for sleep problems caused by shift work or jet lag.

Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone. It helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle in the brain. Your body makes it at night when the light is low.

Melatonin supplements are good for conditions associated with low levels of melatonin, such as:

  • Aging
  • Mood disorders like depression
  • Delayed sleep-phase syndrome , which occurs when you fall asleep late at night and wake in the late morning or afternoon
  • Jet lag, when your sleep cycle is disrupted by a time zone change

Melatonin supplements may improve sleep quality and morning alertness in older adults with insomnia.

Timed-release melatonin is used to treat insomnia in people over age 55. In most studies, melatonin was taken up to two hours before bedtime for up to 13 weeks.

With melatonin, the timing is important. When taken in the morning, melatonin may disrupt your normal sleep cycle. Taking in the afternoon or early evening can help regulate your sleep cycle.

Light Exposure

Light therapy is sometimes used in sleep treatment plans.

Light exposure helps tell the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try an outdoor walk first in the morning.

A home light therapy unit can also help. Ask your doctor or sleep specialist about these devices.

If you wake too early in the morning or fall asleep very early in the evening, you may need more light in the late afternoon. Take an afternoon walk while it is still sunny outside. You can also try light therapy for two to three hours in the evening.

Meditation and Relaxation Techniques

Meditation may help you sleep. Regular meditation can slow breathing and reduce stress hormone levels. 

During meditation, you direct your attention to a point of focus. This could be your breathing, a sound, or a word. Meditation can help:

  • Increase awareness of your body
  • Relax your body
  • Calm your mind

Types of meditation include:

  • Guided meditation, where someone else's voice helps you relax
  • Vipassana meditation, a Buddhist mindfulness practice
  • Yoga Nidra, a kind of guided meditation
  • Body scan, where you focus your attention on the feelings in different parts of your body

You can also try:

  • Visualization: This involves imagining a relaxing scene. Try this for 20 minutes while lying in bed. Involve all your senses. For example, picture yourself on a tropical island. Think of the way the warm breeze feels on your skin. Imagine the scent of the flowers. Look at the water and listen to the waves. The more vivid the image and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
  • Relaxation response: This is a way to counter daily life's "fight or flight" stress. It is usually achieved by sitting quietly for a few minutes while concentrating on a single focus word.
  • Mindfulness: This type of meditation involves focusing on your mind in the present.

Early evidence suggests meditation may improve sleep. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says there's good evidence that these techniques can be helpful for insomnia. More research is still needed, though.

Yoga and Tai Chi

Yoga is a system of relaxation, breathing, exercise, and healing. It has origins in Indian philosophy. It has been described as the union of mind, body, and spirit. 

A 2017 review cited evidence that yoga can relieve insomnia symptoms. The review also found benefits for mindfulness-based stress management and tai chi. Tai chi is a type of slow-motion exercise.


Hypnosis is a state in which a person is more focused, aware, and open to suggestions. How it works is not well understood.

Hypnosis may bring about changes in the body. Examples include:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • An increase in alpha waves, slower brain waves that help you relax

This is similar to meditation and other types of deep relaxation.

Hypnosis may be helpful when used alongside cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques. So far, though, the studies have not been well-designed.


Acupuncture and acupressure may help with insomnia. Studies have shown some evidence that acupressure can help. There is mixed evidence for how well acupuncture might work.


A 2019 analysis of 23 studies concluded that aromatherapy improves sleep quality. Aromatherapy massage was more helpful than inhalation. However, the review also noted that better-quality studies are needed.

English lavender has long been used as a folk remedy. It is one of the most soothing essential oils.

Try putting a lavender sachet under your pillow. Or, place one to two drops of lavender essential oil in a handkerchief.

You can also try adding a few drops of lavender oil to a bath. A warm bath can also help decrease body temperature. This may help you sleep.

A few other aromatherapy oils are believed to help with sleep. These include:

Food and Diet

What you eat and what you don't eat can impact your sleep.

Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine

Caffeine and nicotine can have a pronounced effect on sleep. Both these substances can cause insomnia and restlessness.

Drinks containing caffeine include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soft drinks

You may also find caffeine in unexpected places like:

  • Chocolate
  • Cough and cold medicines
  • Other over-the-counter medicine

Alcohol can also cause nighttime wakefulness.

Cut back on sugar

Sugar can give a burst of energy, but it's short-lived. It can also cause uneven blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels fall during the night, it may disrupt sleep.

Eat Foods That Help You Sleep

Tryptophan is a naturally-occurring amino acid found in certain foods. It is a building block of serotonin. Serotonin is converted to melatonin. Research shows mixed evidence for the effectiveness of tryptophan.

Try eating carbohydrate snacks such as whole-grain crackers before bedtime. Also include foods rich in vitamin B6. This vitamin is found in wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and bananas. B6 enhances the body's conversion of tryptophan.

Note that L-tryptophan supplements are not recommended. They have been linked to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, a condition that causes pain and skin problems.

Eat Foods Rich in Magnesium

The mineral magnesium is a natural sedative. Some research shows that magnesium supplements can help with insomnia.

Magnesium deficiency can cause health problems, including:

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Legumes and seeds
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables
  • Wheat bran
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Whole grains

Include these whole foods in your diet. You can also try juicing dark leafy green vegetables.

Vitex Agnus Castus

The herb Vitex agnus castus is also called the chaste tree. It may help with insomnia and sleep disturbances associated with menstrual periods and menopause.

In one study, females were treated with Vitex agnus castus combined with:

  • Magnolia extracts
  • Soy isoflavones, a plant compound that has properties similar to the hormone estrogen
  • Lactobacilli, a beneficial bacterium sometimes added to yogurt

Study participants were followed for one year. This treatment was found to be safe and effective.

Keep in mind that this herb should not be used by:


Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an herbal home remedy. It is brewed as a tea or taken as a supplement. Its uses include:

  • Reducing anxiety
  • Improving sleep quality
  • As a sedative

For insomnia, clinical trials of valerian have had inconsistent results. Studies measuring sleep quality have found no difference between people taking valerian and those taking a placebo.

However, some people in the studies anecdotally reported that their sleep quality improved with valerian.

Valerian is thought to affect levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is a calming chemical in the brain. Valerian also relieves muscle spasms. This is thought to help menstrual period pain.

Valerian is typically taken an hour before bed. A standard dose is 450 milligrams. If taken during the day, it may make you drowsy. It is often taken in two to three 300 milligram doses with meals. 

Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a tea and herbal supplement. It is said to relieve anxiety and calm nerves. It is sometimes included with valerian in supplements.

One 2013 study found lemon balm to be helpful. Unfortunately, reviews of studies have not found any evidence for lemon balm or other herbal "sleep formula" supplements.

Chamomile Tea

Clinical trials have not shown that this herb is helpful for insomnia. Chamomile is traditionally used to:

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Soothe digestion
  • Reduce anxiety

This may help induce sleep.

Try sipping a cup of hot chamomile tea after dinner. Don't drink too close to your bedtime, though. It may cause nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Other herbs sometimes used for insomnia include:

  • Hops
  • Passionflower

These remedies also have not been shown to be effective in studies.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, insomnia is thought to be related to kidney energy weakness. This belief is not shared by Western medicine.

A few signs of kidney energy weakness are:

  • Low backache
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • A burst of energy at about 11:00 in the evening

People in menopause sometimes have this type of insomnia, including those taking anti-estrogenic drugs such as Soltamox (tamoxifen). People taking these drugs should not take herbal combinations such as the herbal formula liu wei di huang. These formulas may increase estrogen levels.


Ayurveda is an Indian healing philosophy. It is based on a balance between mind, body, and spirit.

In Ayurvedic medicine, insomnia is often associated with a Vata imbalance. In Ayurveda, Vata is one of the three energies or life forces.

In Ayurveda, Vata regulates breathing and circulation. People with a Vata imbalance are said to have irritability, anxiety, and fear of insomnia.

One Ayurvedic treatment is the application of oil on the head and feet. For Vata imbalance, this is usually warm sesame oil.

Improve Your Bedroom Feng Shui

Feng shui comes from the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. This practice provides instructions on how to arrange rooms to maximize energy flow. Try using feng shui tips for your bedroom.

Other Natural Remedies

  • If you have hot flashes, try a Chillow. This is a thin, flat foam pillow insert. It can help cool your head during the night.
  • Gentle, slow music may also help improve sleep. Music therapy has been found to improve sleep quality. It may also decrease nightly awakenings, lengthen sleep time, and increase satisfaction with sleep.
  • Kava is sometimes recommended for anxiety-related insomnia. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised consumers about the potential risk of severe liver injury from using supplements containing kava.
  • Lack of exercise can contribute to poor sleep. Muscle tension and stress build in the body. Exercise can promote deep sleep that night. Avoid exercise too close to bedtime, though. This can increase adrenaline levels, leading to insomnia.


You can try many natural remedies if you're having trouble sleeping. Some have been proven through research. The value of others is mixed or inconclusive.

Melatonin, light exposure, meditation and relaxation, and yoga seem helpful for some people. Acupressure may also help. There is less evidence for hypnosis, acupuncture, and aromatherapy.

You may be able to improve your sleep by avoiding certain substances like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar before bed. Some foods may also help you get to sleep.

Herbal teas and supplements have long been used to treat insomnia. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence for their effectiveness. 

You may also want to try traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and feng shui, or other remedies like music and exercise.

A Word From Verywell

Ask your doctor before starting any natural remedies. Chronic insomnia can be a symptom of another condition, such as:

  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Lung disease
  • Hot flashes
  • Diabetes

Think of insomnia as a "wake-up call." Ensure you get early treatment for potentially serious conditions. The Doctor Discussion Guide can help you start that conversation with your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do natural sleep aids have side effects?

    Some natural sleep aids can have side effects. For example, certain herbs or supplements may cause allergic reactions in some people. Melatonin may cause:

    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Excessive sleepiness ("hangover effect")

    Drug interactions can also occur. This is why it's important to check with your doctor before taking any new supplements.

  • Are natural sleep remedies safe if you're pregnant?

    Certain natural sleep remedies like yoga, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques are great if you're pregnant. They can help you maintain a healthy, relaxed body and mind. If these techniques also aid sleep during pregnancy, that's a plus.

    However, some supplements, aromatherapies, herbs, and teas may not be safe to use while pregnant. Always ask your doctor before trying any of these methods.

  • What foods naturally contain melatonin?

    Foods that contain melatonin and can promote a good night's sleep include:

    • Almonds
    • Banana
    • Cow’s milk
    • Eggs
    • Fatty fish, including sardines. salmon, and trout
    • Pistachios
    • Tart cherry juice

Insomnia Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man
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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.