There are seven main factors that can contribute to sleeplessness: stress, chronic illness or pain, poor nutrition and digestion, over-consumption of stimulants, a poor sleep environment, poor sleep posture, and a disruption to your natural circadian rhythm cycle.

While Over-the-Counter (OTC) and prescription sleep aids can often help alleviate the symptoms by providing heavy sedation, they rarely resolve the problem. And because they can become addictive and have other unpleasant side effects, it's best to seek out safer, natural solutions to the problem.

Here are 4 natural solutions you can use to address the possible causes of your sleep troubles:

1. Stress-Reduction Techniques
If the main source of your stress is mental or emotional then there are proven techniques to help you relax and get in the proper frame of mind for rest.

Journaling. More often than not, restless sleep is the result of your subconscious mind trying to resolve conflicts and fears. One way to get a handle on these is to write them down in a journal, then next to them write down one or more possible solutions for addressing each one. Having a strategy or plan for handling problems that may come up will put your mind at ease. Also, look for the underlying or "hidden" emotions behind some of your problems. Naming and directly facing your feelings (i.e. fear, anger, sadness, hurt), will also help quiet your mind come bedtime.

Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. These are all excellent ways to induce relaxation by releasing stress, quieting the mind, and, depending on the type of yoga you do, provide the exercise you need to stay fit and improve the overall quality of your sleep. Take a class or find a good CD or DVD to guide you. For best results, stick with a regular program.

Deep Breathing Rituals. Deep breathing alone can change your brain chemistry and allow you to relax, or return to sleep if you wake up unexpectedly. Practice taking deep breathes before you go to bed, upon waking, and at various intervals during the day. Inhale slowly through the nose to the count of 5 (or whatever feels comfortable for you). Hold it in for the count of 20 (or four times your initial count) and slowly exhale through your mouth to the count of 10 (double your initial count). Then repeat 10 times (this takes about 5 minutes).

If your stress is physical (i.e. chronic pain due to injury or illness), some of the methods listed above can help, but if you have an acute case you might consider getting a regular massage and consulting a naturopathic doctor for alternative solutions for pain management.

2. Nutrition & Supplementation
Vitamins and Minerals. Experts say a deficiency in magnesium can cause symptoms like stress, low energy, fatigue, anxiety, and the inability to sleep. To get more of this mineral, eat foods like raw almonds and cashews, dates, brown rice, steamed shrimp, cheddar cheese, and roasted turkey, and take it as a supplement. B-Complex vitamins can greatly assist with stress reduction. And Lactium - a milk-derived protein - has been clinically shown to promote restful sleep in individuals with moderate anxiety or depression, or who have high reactions to stress-related events.

Amino Acid Therapy. Amino acid supplements can greatly assist with sleep irregularities. L-Tryptophan creates serotonin, one of the brain's four key mood regulators, which in turn is converted into melatonin, the amino acid that regulates your natural circadian rhythms and helps you sleep. L-Theanine (found in green tea) can help increase levels of the brain's natural calming agent GABA, which, when combined with ingredients like low-dose melatonin can help the body de-stress and wind down in preparation for a good night's sleep.

Herbal Remedies. Valerian works by calming the nerves and relaxing the muscles while herbal teas made with passionflower and skullcap can soothe agitated nervous systems and help reduce mental chatter, and chamomile is sedating. It may take 2-3 weeks of using herbal remedies to experience real results so be patient and stick with it.

3. Flower Power: Aromatherapy, Flower Essences and Homeopathic Remedies
Clinical studies have shown that aromatherapy can have the same impact on brain wave activity as deep meditation, and can result in a rapid and measurable decrease in stress hormones.

Essential oils or blends of lavender, chamomile, geranium, clary sage, cedarwood, or sandalwood can relieve stress and induce a state of calm for a more restful sleep. Place 5-15 drops of your "sleep" blend in a diffuser or place a drop or two on a handkerchief that you put under your pillow. You can also try a few drops in a cup of Epsom salts or baking soda and add it to a warm bath before bed.

Flower essences like Rescue Remedy are excellent for addressing any bouts of anxiety or nervousness, and you can find homeopathic remedies for insomnia at your local natural foods store. The trick to using these methods successfully is experimentation - until you find the right combination and amount that works for you.

4. Sleep Environment and Posture
A good sleep environment is very important to your ability to fall and stay asleep, and the key to a good night's rest. This includes everything from ensuring the room is cool and totally dark when you go to bed, to sleeping with the pillows that are optimized for your sleep posture style, to bed clothes and linens that are comfortable.

Pillow Talk. Sleeping flat on your back with no pillow is the best position to sleep in because it allows your spine to rest with its natural curves in place. The next best position is on your side. Side-sleepers should look for a pillow that fills the space between the ear and the outer edge of the shoulder, when lying on your side. If you sleep on your stomach, try a body pillow - one of those long cylinder-shaped ones. It mimics the pressure on the front of the body that sleeping on your stomach offers, without compromising your neck or your breathing. Back sleepers who still want a pillow should choose the thinnest one they can stand like a soft down pillow.

Eliminate Distractions. A Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center survey revealed that among patients with pets 53% reported that they disturbed their sleep every night! If you have a pet consider keeping them out of the bedroom at night or provide a separate pet bed to minimize disruption from their nocturnal movements. Remove electronics from the bedroom (i.e. TVs, radios, computers, stereos, etc.) because they emit electromagnetic fields that can interfere with your circadian rhythms.

Use a battery-operated alarm clock and place it so it's facing away from you. That way, if you wake up in the middle of the night you're not tempted to look at the clock and panic as your brain calculates how many hours you have left before you have to get up and how little sleep you will have had. Anxiety over falling or not falling asleep can impact your ability to fall asleep, so this simple shift alone can make all the difference.

© Copyright 2010 Dropwise Essentials

Author's Bio: 

Donya Fahmy is the founder and owner of Dropwise Essentials, a San Francisco-based green business specializing in pure aromatherapy and organic plant-based personal care products that enable people to safely and effectively relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or manage their emotional state any time or place. An experienced writer, content producer, and Internet consultant, Donya transformed her avid interest in alternative health and aromatherapy into a business committed to making clean, safe, and sustainable products, as well as educating and empowering people to create low-stress, low-impact, toxin-free lifestyles.

Donya researches and personally creates all the products and unique essential oil blends that make up the Dropwise product line. She is an expert on safety in personal care products, green beauty and living, alternative health, and using aromatherapy to achieve maximum health and wellness. If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it please subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine by visiting You can also find interesting and valuable information by visiting the Aroma Zone blog at