How to Identify & Treat Insomnia Naturally
Find a healthy solution for those sleepless nights
Insomnia can have negative consequences on an individual's physical, emotional, and cognitive capacity.- Dr. Navya Singh, psychologist and founder of the wayForward app
Along with the stress of the pandemic, unemployment factors and changes within the home dynamic can make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. In fact, according to SleepAssociation.org, up to 70 million US adults suffer from sleep disorders. Furthermore, insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, and a reported 30% of adults struggle with acute insomnia, while 10% of adults are plagued by chronic insomnia.
Oftentimes, however, adults turn to prescription medication to treat sleeplessness, which can cause unfavorable side effects, as well as possible addiction issues. If you’re seeking natural ways to achieve sounder sleep, there are healthy alternatives to consider.
How to Define Your Insomnia
According to Dr. Navya Singh, psychologist and adjunct associate research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, insomnia might be a primary problem for some individuals, but for others, can be associated with physical and mental health problems. “Lifestyle factors, such as excessive use of substances, like alcohol and caffeine, can also have an impact on one’s quality of sleep,” says Dr. Singh.
If you are unsure of whether or not you are struggling with insomnia, Dr. Singh says to look out for the telltale symptoms. These include:
• Difficulty falling asleep.
• A hard time remaining asleep.
• Inconsistent sleep patterns.
• Not feeling well-rested the next day.
• Next-day lethargy or tiredness.
• Daytime irritability and anger.
• Trouble concentrating and remembering, and increased errors.
• Consistent worry surrounding ongoing sleep issues.
The Negative Effects of Insomnia
The average recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7 to 8 hours per night, according to Dr. Singh. However, individual requirements for sleep might vary based on age, genetics, physical exertion, medications, health status, and more. “In addition, insomnia can have negative consequences on an individual's physical, emotional, and cognitive capacity, and hence, impact their ability to function in everyday settings,” says Dr. Singh.
To illustrate, insomniacs may have trouble focusing, experience mood instability, and worry too much about lack of sleep to the point that the relaxation needed for sleep cannot be reached. “These symptoms can combine in various ways to impair everyday functioning, causing problems at work and within personal relationships,” Dr. Singh says.
Unfortunately, long-term insomnia can increase the risk for other health conditions, like hypertension, cardiovascular complications, obesity, fertility-related issues, and lower overall immunity, according to Dr. Singh. “For those with pre-existing emotional problems, insomnia can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms,” she explains. “It can also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety that stem from when insomnia worsens and feels unmanageable, or more directly impacts someone's functioning and productivity.”
Healthy Ways to Treat Insomnia
In addition to her work as a psychologist and researcher, Dr. Singh is also the founder and chief clinical officer at wayForward, a behavioral health app that uses a combination of clinical expertise and technology to match patients with customized mental health solutions. The app assists those with low-severity insomnia through a self-guided, computerized CBT program, while people with chronic insomnia can access a behavioral health coach. Both in-person and telehealth sessions are available for patients seeking personalized help for sleeplessness.
Moreover, Dr. Singh recommends adopting healthy habits to combat insomnia naturally. Her tips include:
• Practicing calm breathing, meditation, and mindfulness techniques.
• Indulging in physical comforts, like drinking warm tea.
• Switching off devices and not looking into the blue light/screens before bed.
• Imagery and relaxation exercises involving pleasant images and/or visions.
• Reading informative (but not overly stimulating) books and magazines.
• Re-centering your mind when sleep and insomnia issues arise.
• Stretching, like light yoga.
• Listening to calming music.
Pro Tip: Dr. Singh recommends exploring other apps that can help track sleep cycles, promote relaxation, and improve sleep hygiene, like the Calm app.
Using CBD as a Natural Sleep Supplement
Jessica Bates, founder and CEO of Boulder, Colorado-based Moon Mother Hemp, is an advocate of integrating daily CBD as a natural sleep aid option. CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, is a cannabis-derived compound recognized for its various health benefits, from relaxation to anti-inflammation. Additionally, consumers take CBD as a bedtime remedy. “CBD is not a sedative,” explains Bates. “It will not put someone to sleep, however, many clients report feeling a sense of calm after their dose, which then assists them with falling asleep easier.”
In the US, it is legal to purchase, possess, and consume CBD that contains 0.3% THC or less. “Education is so important,” Bates says. “Some clients are hesitant to try full-spectrum CBD because they don't want to feel impaired.” However, Bates says that the trace amount of THC in full-spectrum Moon Mother Hemp products is non-impairing, and serves the purpose of creating an enhanced “entourage effect” with the other cannabinoids. Consequently, those who are hesitant to consume full-spectrum CBD products can consider other varietals that strip the THC content during the extraction process, like broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate.
How to Consume CBD at Bedtime
So, how do you take CBD to help you fall asleep? There are several popular formats, including tinctures, inhalants, topicals, edibles, transdermals, and suppositories. “All of these options are valid routes to promote relaxation,” shares Bates. “It is really an individual choice.”
In addition, Bates says that people commonly consume CBD 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed, but that different routes have different onset absorption times. “The quickest are vapes, smokables, and sublinguals (like tinctures), whereas ingestion will likely take longer.” Ingestibles, which are commonly referred to as edibles, take longer to activate due to digestion time.
Currently, Moon Mother Hemp offers several products that aim to assist with nighttime relaxation, including flavored tinctures, bath salts, massage oil, and CBD Dream Balm, which is infused with calming herbs like passionflower, lavender, mugwort, hops, and chamomile, in addition to cannabidiol, to create a soothing effect.
How to Shop for CBD for Sounder Sleep
When considering CBD to help you naturally fall asleep, make sure to do your homework, first. In addition to certified-organic ingredients and clean extraction methods (free of harsh solvents involving hydrocarbons), look for published third-party test results to break down potency and purity. As an extra precaution, Bates says to look for a Certificate of Analysis online prior to making a purchase.
Not sure about which CBD brands and products to consume? Five, additional brands that commit to high-quality testing, transparency, and assisting with nightly rest include:
• Green Gorilla: Certified organic, in addition to higher-dose tinctures, try the Sleep CBD Capsules, which integrate tryptophan, chamomile, and vitamin B-6 to encourage tranquility, as well as longer and better sleep quality.
• Foy CBD: In you are conflicted about THC, Foy’s broad-spectrum tinctures mean 0% THC. Also, for aches and pains, lather on the all-natural CBD lotion for topical relaxation before bed.
• Bace Health: Experiment with three, different CBD doses in capsule form, and find your “sweet spot,” courtesy of the Discovery Pack.
• Dr. Dabber: For high bioavailability, vaping these clean and flavorful CBD cartridges is typically quicker on the uptake.
• Yesterday Wellness: In addition to balms and tinctures, try out CBD soft gels infused with melatonin, a supplement used to treat short-term insomnia.
Additionally, CBD is not the only cannabinoid currently extracted and available on the market. CBN (cannabinol) is a hemp-derived CBD alternative, and companies like Slumber have introduced CBN-only products to offer relief specifically to those struggling with insomnia.
However, prior to consuming CBD or any type of supplement for your sleep problems, make sure to talk to your doctor. “Everyone responds differently to supplements, so patients must consult a physician accordingly before trying anything,” concludes Dr. Singh.
Apps Mentioned in ArticleClick on an app to see more details
wayForward: Overcome anxiety and stress, based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy1K+ Downloads
Calm - Meditate, Sleep, Relax
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I initiated my career as a lifestyle and entertainment writer/editor in Miami, Florida in 2006. Since then, I have worked with more than 100 clients, from startup ventures to established companies and new websites to veteran publications. My work has been featured on Zagat, NBC, Prevention, The Points Guy and Thrillist, just to name a few.
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