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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are some natural remedies for insomnia?

    I have heard that foods that raise melatonin are useful? Is this true? Are there any other natural remedies to treat it?
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    Nyema Hermiston

    Homeopath, Naturopath, Registered Nurse

    Nyema has been in ‘general practice’ treating adults and children for acute and chronic illnesses for over 20 years. She is Vice President of The … View Profile

    There are a number of natural treatments available for insomnia. However, whatever the treatment is, it must relate to the cause of the insomnia. Many patients that I see respond well to a   melatonin supplement. One of the best ways to naturally produce melatonin is to be out in the sunlight early each morning.

    Regular sleep routine is important. Staying up late can affect melatonin production, so early to bed and early to rise may make a huge difference.A healthy diet can also help you produce your melatonin. Vitamins B3, B6, calcium and magnesium are all involved in melatonin production. Foods like leafy green vegetables, fish and red meat, wholegrain cereals, turkey, chicken, beansm peas and lentils contain important nutrients. Some medications can affect your melatonin production, so checking what you were taking around the time your insomnia started may be informative.

    Stress has a negative effect on many body functions, and melatonin production may be one of these. Avoiding stress, or managing stress better may make a huge difference to your ability to sleep.

    Sleeping well after a period of insomnia can be life changing and is highly beneficial for health and wellbeing. Keep going until you find a long term natural solution!


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    Claudette Wadsworth

    Homeopath, Naturopath

    With 12 years of clinical experience, Claudette is one of Sydney's expert Naturopaths and Nutritionists practicing at Better Health Clinic in Bondi Junction. With prior … View Profile

    It depends on the underlying cause of insomnia. Is it stress levels? Too high adrenaline throughout the day which then wakes you up in the night? Or are you dosed with too much alpha brain waves that you can't actually wind down and get some sleep in the evening? I would suggest calming things, such as calcium magnesium, that have a sedative effect. That's the old remedy of having a warm cup of milk or a piece of cheese after dinner to provide that calcium. Try to avoid bedtime snacks like grains or sugars which raise blood sugars and inhibit sleep. In terms of melatonin, obviously homeopathic melatonin you can get in Australia and it works because melatonin is a hormone that's secreted by the pineal gland and induces sleep. But, in terms of actual foods that induce melatonin, there are none specifically.

    Anything with lots of oils is going help. For example, all your Omega 3 oils, your good oils and your nuts like almonds and walnuts, etc. will help. But they're precursors to actually building the melatonin, neurotransmitter, or hormone. However, it is a long way down the reaction chain, so there's no actual specific foods for melatonin, as such. It does become one of the prime building blocks, if that makes sense.

    It’s really about also making sure to wind down and have an outlet for that stress. That might be having a warm bath with Epson salts and some lavender oil in the evening. If you don't have a bath at least have a hot shower before bed. Maybe put some lavender oil on your temples which is quite fine to use directly on the skin, because that's quite a mild, essential oil. Having chamomile tea obviously helps. Even getting down and doing some stretching before bed helps. I often suggest to clients to use a relaxation CD. Just put it in and listen to it while going to bed just in an ear phone so it doesn't disturb your partner. And it just really helps if you wake up in the night, you can just put it back on again and it gives your mind actually something to listen to, to start to relax. Obviously exercise during the day is important since there's lots of well-researched benefits for insomnia with that. Meditation is fantastic and that has also been shown to raise melatonin – perhaps meditate fifteen minutes a day. Make sure that you sleep in complete darkness so there's not too much light that can come in the room and disrupt circadian rhythms. If you do have to get up in the middle of the night to got to the bathroom, try not to turn the light on as that melatonin production will immediately stop. Try to avoid too many stimulants during the day like caffeine and sweets and sugars because that will stimulate the body too much before going to bed.

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    The Sleep Health Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of ‘valuing sleep’ as part of a healthy lifestyle alongside regular exercise, a … View Profile

    One of the best natural remedies for insomnia is using our thoughts and our behaviours to try to see changes in our sleep and our emotional state.  This is known as CBT-i (cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia).  This is considered to be the gold standard in insomnia treatment and is effective.  It is usually delivered by a psychologist, and information is available from your GP.  It is important to make use of bright natural light too in order to keep our bodyclocks (circadian rhythm) healthy and at the correct time phase. Making use of many relaxation techniques including Mindfulness based stress reduction is also an important part of managing and treating insomnia. It is best to speak to an experienced health professional who has knowledge and expertise in understanding and treating insomnia.
    You can find more information about insomnia on the Sleep Health Foundation website here.
    Answer provided by:  Dr Moira Junge, Psychologist.

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