Sleep deprivation is a form of torture for a reason
I am tracking with you 1000% of the special form of suffering that is insomnia.
This is a mom blog, but this post will have (I hope) very relevant information for both moms AND those who are not moms – it’s for ANYONE who just. can’t. sleep.
For anyone who googles “how to cure insomnia quickly“, or “I’m tired but I can’t sleep” in desperation each night.
I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This is just a solid explanation of the things I personally did to cure severe insomnia naturally without medication, in a very short time.
I have had insomnia for over a decade, and I’ve been saying “I can’t sleep” basically my whole life. It was bad before kids. It was ten times worse after kids.
BUT, I believe there IS hope for you to get some sleep because I have drastically improved my sleep recently and if I can do that – I’d THINK anyone can.
I say this because, for me, insomnia has been an all-consuming battle… and yet, recently, by taking a number of steps and making some very drastic changes I’ve been able to find some SLEEP.
THERE IS HOPE!
Depending on the cause of your insomnia, some of the things that worked for me could work for you too! (I did not, and still do not really know the root cause of my insomnia. I think ORIGINALLY it may have been caused my anxiety, but that was not the problem recently. Even when I was not anxious, I still could not sleep.)
I’m not exaggerating about how bad my insomnia was. I have been awake for days in a row multiple times this year alone.
My goal “cure” for insomnia for myself was to get a consistent 4-5 hours of sleep per night. I decided I would be THRILLED with that, and I would be able to function more or less normally with that much sleep.
But I have been able to achieve MORE than that! At the time of writing this, my sleep is still broken – but I do still have 2 kids under 3 years old.
By taking the steps I have laid out in this article, I now fall asleep within half an hour of laying down, and can fall BACK to sleep after I wake in the night.
Because of the success I’ve seen, I’ve set a more lofty goal of getting past the night wakings (when my kids allow me) and I’m shooting for 6-8 hours of solid sleep! (Ha, that still FEELS like a pipe dream! But I think it’s possible!)
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
Just how badly was I sleeping?
I have always struggled with sleep – for as long as I can remember. Even as a very small child – I had night terrors – waking my parents up almost each and every night for almost 12 years.
And while I eventually stopped waking THEM up, it didn’t get easier for me.
Severe anxiety contributed to my sleep problems originally. I would have a hard time falling asleep – being overcome by anxiety while I laid there in the dark, so I’d stay up late reading or watching TV. When I was finally so tired that I knew I’d be able to fall asleep, I’d go to bed (at 2 or 3 am).
Around the time I was 20, I started taking an over the counter sleep aid that I generally credited with my being able to fall asleep at all. Without it, I just laid there awake for hours and hours and hours… until the morning came.
So I took one almost every night.
This was my normal for years, and as life went on and didn’t go in the directions I wished it would (totally unrelated to sleep), I became very depressed – maybe around 25 – and started drinking wine every evening. (A healthy and grown-up way to deal with problems – I KNOW!!) I couldn’t sleep without the wine because I was too depressed, and with it plus the over the counter sleep pill, I would at least fall asleep – but I only got about 3-4 hours of sleep per night – max (alcohol disrupts your sleep cycles terribly).
Although I eventually got my life “back on track” (or at least my attitude + habits), I never could correct my ruined sleep cycles. I continued taking the OTC sleeping aids but even with them, I couldn’t fall asleep till 3 or 4 am often (I had no reason to be out of bed before 9 though… so I still managed to get 4-5 hours in).
But then I got pregnant.
I had to stop taking sleep aids, and I had all kinds of new pregnancy anxiety. Plus I hurt everywhere. And, as the cherry on the cake, I developed a postnasal drip that I couldn’t take anything for so my throat was irritated and I laid awake clearing my throat all. night. long.
(My husband started sleeping in a different room because HE couldn’t even sleep with me there – my sleep was so awful it ruined his too!)
And, I thought all that was bad.
But then the baby was born.
And it just got worse.
At least before I had kids I could pull down a few hours per night, a few nights per week. After kids, no such luck.
Sleep deprivation for the parents of toddlers or newborns is no joke!
Babies just compounded my sleep problems into something almost unlivable. Postpartum insomnia is more complex than regular insomnia because HORMONES, plus, it’s hard to treat with someone crying at you all the time.
There have been many many nights in the past few years where I did not fall asleep – at all – not even for ten minutes. And there have been many weeks where these nights would pile up into 2-3 100% sleepless nights in a row.
My husband would often find me crying in the kitchen stuffing my face with toddler cereal bars when he got up at 6 to go to work.
Life was getting pretty difficult, and I started to function less and less well. As the mom, this started affecting EVERYONE pretty harshly.
I finally reached the point where something needed to be done… I HAD TO GET SOME SLEEP.
So I decided, once and for all, I would do WHATEVER IT TOOK to get myself sleeping.
I did try zolpidem (Ambien), and it did work – mostly – but I knew it wasn’t a long term solution. (I used it for a handful of nights here and there for my sanity while I was researching how to cure insomnia.)
My goal was to cure my insomnia naturally.
And here’s what it took, in order from most important to least important – as far as I can tell:
- Complete diet overhaul
- Eliminating caffeine and alcohol
- The addition of a number of supplements
- Elimination of blue lights in the evening
- A new mattress
- Essential oils
- I stopped going to bed SO late
I truly believe all of these things played a role in curing my insomnia (although, some more than others).
Some of them won’t apply to you, for example – if you’re not breastfeeding a baby all night, the weaning thing is moot… but there are other things on the list I would bet money will likely help you.
I would also be surprised if you have TRIED all these things so far.
Let’s look at each of these things in detail.
How I cured my insomnia quickly:
When my baby was nearly a year old I found out that the over the counter sleeping aids I had been DREAMING of being allowed to take again soon (when we weaned) were actually prettttty bad for me, I was basically devastated.
My insomnia had reached new levels of horrible, and I had been hanging onto those little blue pills as my light at the end of the tunnel.
I’d tell myself “just one more month and then I can wean and FINALLY get some sleep!” (I had a goal of one year of nursing.)
I mourned the loss of those pills for about a week, and then I decided it was time to make some real changes.
A Complete diet overhaul is perhaps the single MOST important thing I did to cure insomnia naturally
I swear, this is the thing that made THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE THE FASTEST – this is what I credit the MOST for curing my insomnia in less than a week.
Also, you can do a complete diet overhaul for very little money… depending on how you normally eat, this might even SAVE you money!
I removed from my diet (and fridge) – sugar, grains, processed foods, non-vegetable carbs and pork.
Now, even though that’s a short list, it actually eliminated MOST of the food I’d eat on a daily basis.
In fact, at first, some days I struggled to figure out what I COULD eat. For the first few weeks I stuck pretty hard to this list:
- ANY vegetable, raw or cooked – and ESPECIALLY juiced
- ANY fruit, fresh, frozen, pureed, cooked – NO added sugar
- Chicken, fish, or beef (in an unprocessed, unbreaded form)
- Eggs – scrambled, hard-boiled, how ever you like ’em
- Limited dairy – a little cheese here and there, a little cream or milk in recipes that needed it
- Nuts, seeds, limited beans
- Vega protein powder, (because it’s not gross, it doesn’t have fake bad for you crap in it, and I needed something really fast for breakfast or a snack some days)
It took me some practice to come up with meals I could create from this list of foods. It was hard.
I am going to write a separate post with a ton of meal ideas and details on exactly how and what I eat if you are interested in trying to eat this way!
Now, you might be wondering why I choose these foods as “safe” foods – and how I determined what to quit eating.
When my dad was 38, he had a heart attack. I was 12.
That was the year that my family became “healthy” – my mom and dad visited a naturopath each month, and she helped them learn what was good for you – and what wasn’t. Over the years (into my adulthood on my own) I have met and worked with MANY nutrition based doctors.
Most of them have very similar advice, and the “diet” I created for myself was a compilation of what I’ve learned over time. So it’s not a “real” diet that you can go out and buy and follow along with… this one is just based on my own common sense.
Eat WHOLE foods. Foods that are closest to how they come out of nature.
Within a matter of days of beginning to eat this way, I was able to fall asleep in under an hour after getting into bed and remain asleep for at least 3-4 hours.
After the first week of eating this way, with the addition of supplements, I was able to fall BACK to sleep after waking in the night.
This week I read an interesting blurb about food and sleep, that confirmed for me that I am absolutely on the right track when it comes to diet and sleep:
“…foods can actually undermine your nightly rest. Foods that can interfere with sleep include high-sugar, high-carbohydrate, heavily-processed foods. The same junk food that’s problematic for your waistline can also be troublesome to your sleep. Eating sugary foods throughout the day can cause pronounced changes to blood sugar, which can bring on feelings of fatigue that can alter your daily routine and your sleep patterns at night. Large meals high in carbohydrates can have a similar effect on blood sugar. Eating heavy meals close to bedtime interferes with the body’s process of winding down for sleep.” read more here
I Eliminated Caffeine and Alcohol
I have this one UNDER diet in order of importance for curing insomnia quickly and naturally because I actually eliminated caffeine and alcohol 100% two weeks BEFORE making any other diet changes and saw only very limited improvement in my sleep.
However, I’m confident that should I have a big glass of wine before bed, I would NOT sleep as well – or perhaps at all. Same with coffee.
I think it was eliminating these things in conjunction with the diet changes that make a big difference for me when it comes to sleep.
Giving up coffee was hard, and giving up wine was harder. I just adore both of them… but I was totally committed to curing my insomnia naturally.
Now, in the evening when I want to sip on something I have a cup of this sleeping tea.
I Added Sleep Supporting Supplements to My Night Time Routine
I’ve always been pro-supplements (largely because I knew my diet was poor, and they allowed me to feel like I was still being “healthy” while eating ice cream and fries).
So, I’ve actually always taken magnesium (which is touted as one of the most “sleep-enhancing” supplements out there and it sure DID help me sleep when I was pregnant).
Magnesium alone wasn’t cutting it anymore, though.
I tried the magnesium and melatonin alone for about a month (before starting the diet changes) and saw minimal improvement. Some nights I did manage to fall asleep after a couple of hours with this combination, but I wanted much better than that.
I also tried CBD oil with zero THC for about three months and saw absolutely no improvement. The oil that I have that contains the TCH has minute amounts. There are NO psycho-active effects at all from the oil. (Cannabis is legal in Canada so it is easy to get “whole plant” CBD oil here, but in the USA or other places, it may be more difficult? I’m not totally sure, to be honest.)
I saw an instant improvement in my sleep the DAY I started taking the whole plant CBD oil.
Because the Ortho-sleep contains 3 mg of melatonin, I decided to try skipping the melatonin as a stand-alone when I took the Ortho-sleep.
I found it took me longer to fall asleep without the extra melatonin… after experimenting, I find that taking 3-6 mg of melatonin PLUS the Ortho-sleep, 5-htp, magnesium, and the CBD oil is what produces the best sleep for me.
I (mostly) Eliminated blue lights in the evening
Over the past three years, I have worked my behind off creating a very profitable online business… but I have small children, which means I have worked mostly in the evening when their dad is home.
Sometimes, after I get my kiddos down, I go back to the computer and work ’till 1 or 2 am.
If I DON’T work on the computer, I almost always hang out on my phone in bed for an hour trying to “wind down”.
We know that blue lights can be devastating for your sleep. We KNOW this. (But, I liked to ignore this.)
I now try to stay away from the computer in the evening when I can (which means often getting up earlier than the kids to work, but that’s not a problem when I’ve actually gotten some sleep the night before).
But, a job is a job and sometimes we HAVE to work when we can. So I bought these blue light blocking glasses and am diligent to wear them if I have to work after 6 pm or so.
I also broke up with my phone. I have a strict no phone in bed policy now. If I DO have to use my phone for something in the evening, I have a blue light filter app that comes on around 8.
(A big bonus to this is that I stay off personal facebook, which I find causes anxiety which ALSO disrupts my sleep. Facebook is full of negative things that bring me down… my sleep is instantly better without it!)
TV never seems to bother me that much, so I do still watch a little TV in the evenings now and then – but I sure don’t sit there for uninterrupted hours!
We got a new mattress
This one is down here at the bottom of the list for me, because I DO believe the mattress we purchased HAS contributed to my better sleep, but before starting the new diet and supplements and staying away from the computer at night, I have spent numerous sleepless nights on the mattress, so it was not a fix for me in and of itself.
However, I have spent NO sleepless nights uncomfortable on the mattress and I think that’s a big deal.
You are gonna think I’m crazy here, but just under a year ago, we bought a brand new king size mattress on sale for about 900$. It was a STEAL – it was some sort of euro-top pro back top of the line thing…
And I HATED it.
I was always uncomfortable within a few minutes of laying down. I found myself MISSING our old worn out mattress (which was in seriously bad shape – hence the buying the new mattress).
Around the time I got pretty desperate for sleep, I started googling about if your mattress can really affect your sleep THAT much… and it turns out it can.
So I threw myself into researching the best mattresses – the absolute best rated for sleep you can find, and I ended up buying this one.
I kid you not, I am IN LOVE with this bed. It is unbelievable and deserves every 5-star review it’s ever got. (If I was on more of a budget, I would have seriously considered this one. I think it would be quite similar.)
I Started using Essential Oils (again)
The other day I suddenly remembered that before I was pregnant I had some success improving my sleep with Cedarwood oil.
I had tried all the other sleepy-oils; lavender, frankincense, and ylang-ylang… but the trick is finding the oil that your body likes best, apparently.
For me, it’s Cedarwood.
I pulled my Cedarwood oil out and added it to my bedtime routine as well. (I put a few drops on the insides of my wrists, and on my neck, and I put a few drops in my hands and inhale for a few minutes).
I stopped going to bed SO late
Over and over again I had read that you need to keep a somewhat normal “sleeping routine” (like, go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, even on the weekends).
I am the farthest thing from type A and routine and schedules just DO NOT work for me. I am basically the anti-routine.
So this is literally never going to work for me.
But, I did set myself a firm “bedtime” of midnight (unless I HAVE to work).
I was doing myself no favors by going to bed at 2 knowing it would take me 2 hours to fall asleep. I would just get more and more stressed as the clock approached 4 am and I was still awake.
At least if I’m in bed by midnight and it DOES take me 2 hours to fall asleep, I’m still asleep by 2. (These days, it’s taking me less than half an hour or so to fall asleep though! Woohoo!)
I do try to be very consistent with my mornings, and I am always up by 9ish. (I work from home, so this is not a problem for me. And my kids sleep ’till 9 or 930 because that’s what works for us.)
What gave me the best results the FASTEST on my hunt to treat insomnia naturally?
I did explain this farther up, but in case you’re skimming and looking for the answers – it was the diet change (including eliminating coffee and alcohol) and the supplements.
Everything else helped little bits, but the difference in my sleep once I eliminated sugar, grains, processed foods, non-vegetable carbs, and pork, plus caffeine and alcohol, was unbelievable.
If you’ve tried everything else for insomnia and nothing has worked, TRY THE DIET CHANGE.
If you’re looking for a place to start to cure your insomnia I would start there. I would also incorporate the other things I mentioned – using essential oils, having a regular sleep routine (if you can handle it), being VERY diligent about your blue light in the evening, and consider a new mattress.
I am also not quite DONE changing things up to improve my sleep
As I said at the beginning, I am so blown away by the amount of sleep I’ve been able to achieve, I’m not ready to quit yet! I’m now shooting for a full 6-8 hours without waking.
I have an appointment next week to start upper cervical spinal care, which I have heard will often be VERY beneficial for insomnia. I will update this post if I think it’s merited!
The final thing on my current list of must-tries is cardio.
I used to run, and I did sleep better (and feel better in general) when I did.
Since having kids it’s just been downright impossible to get out and run… so I have a treadmill in the house now, but I haven’t USED it because I have been SO FREAKIN’ EXHAUSTED.
Now that I’m getting some sleep, I feel like I can get on that thing!
I can’t wait to see my sleep continue to improve even farther.
I hope some of these natural remedies for insomnia can work for you!