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Two-and-a-half years ago, I experienced a terrible case of insomnia. I took the sleeping drug Lunesta (eszopiclone), which afforded me a few wonderful nights’ sleep until I realized it substantially increased my anxiety during the day. Within a week on the drug, I became addicted, experiencing more and more withdrawal (anxiety) symptoms. Other sleep aids had the same effect — even over-the counter medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine). So I was forced to figure out how to get my sleep back on track naturally.
I asked anyone I knew who had ever suffered from sleep problems for tips on catching some quality ZZZs, and spent lots of time researching ways to get some shut-eye without taking drugs. Although it felt like I was the only one awake at night, I certainly wasn’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-quarter of the U.S. population occasionally does not get enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia. Sleep problems are associated with a number of chronic illnesses and, according to the CDC, are a real threat to our nation’s health.
Therese Borchard is the founder of Project Hope & Beyond, an online community for persons with treatment-resistant depression and other chronic mood disorders. She blogs for Everyday Health and is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes.
Editor: Arman Ahmed
For the last month I’ve been battling the beast of insomnia again — it’s common when you taper off of any medication — so I’m back to compiling techniques I’ve learned from other folks who lie awake at night.
Here are some natural remedies that have allowed them to get a better night’s sleep.
1. Herbal Teas
Many of my friends who suffer from sleep problems have benefitted from drinking different kinds of herbal teas an hour or two before they go to bed at night. You can make your own from dried herbs: Put a teaspoon of your mix into a tea ball or tea bag and add to hot water, or try some tea bags from a trusted boxed brand. You want to include or look for ingredients such as lavender, valerian, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, ashwagandha, holy basil, rosemary leaf, and dill seed. Some popular tea brands include Sleepytime, Yogi Tea (I like their Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea and Calming tea) and Traditional Medicinals (especially their organic Nighty Night tea and Cup of Calm tea).
2. Essential Oils
For nearly 6,000 years, essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes — sleep issues included. Several people in my online depression community use lavender oil to help them relax before bed and to help them sleep. They either apply a few drops to their temples before going to bed at night or spray a lavender mist on their pillow. I’ve used lavender oil myself for about a year now, and I do think it’s helpful. Other calming essential oils include valerian, vetiver, roman chamomile, and marjoram.