If you’re suffering from trouble sleeping, desperately searching for how to sleep better at night naturally, I feel your pain. I suffered from severe insomnia for about two years after having my first child until finally determining the cause of my sleep problems.
In this article, I won’t tell you to drink warm milk or take any drugs natural or otherwise. Those are often not lasting solutions. Instead, I’ll share exactly what I did to relieve both my physical symptoms of restless energy and my mental anxiety. Read on to learn some insomnia causes and cures I’ve discovered which may help you, too.
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The Frustrating Search for Insomnia Solutions
Finding insomnia causes and cures online can be so frustrating. No home remedy of cumin seeds and honey is gonna touch the kind of insomnia that keeps you up for 24 hours without even a wink of sleep.
As for Valerian Root, Tylenol PM, and Melatonin? Those drugs can make your tired brain feel even worse. Drugs aren’t the solution to sleep problems, either.
To discover real cures for severe insomnia, we need to look at the causes first.
Insomnia Cause #1: Caffeine.
You already know not to drink caffeine before bed; that’s a no-brainer. But did you know that your morning coffee intake may be to blame for your sleep problems?
That’s right: The coffee you stopped drinking at 9 am may still be lurking in your body, frazzling your nerves and causing your insomnia.
This is because caffeine has a variable half-life in everyone. What does that mean?
The half-life is the time it takes for a drug to be halfway eliminated from the body. For most healthy adults, caffeine has a half-life of about 5-6 hours. Source: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Caffeine-Pharmacology.aspx
So if you drank 3 cups of coffee between 8-10 am, then half the caffeine should be out of your system by 4 pm. And what about the other half of the caffeine? That depends on the person. It may be another 5-6 hours, or it may take much longer.
Our bodies are different. Some of us can eat gluten, some cannot. Some of us are deathly allergic to shellfish, and some of us have caffeine half-lives that are way longer than 5-6 hours.
If your personal caffeine half-life is longer than 6 hours and the second half of your caffeine half-life is slow, too, then there you have a very clear possible insomnia cause.
The caffeine/ insomnia link you wouldn’t suspect
You may not suspect caffeine to be the cause of your sleep problems at first. You may think you have a reasonable caffeine intake.
When I discovered it for myself, I was stunned. More stunned than I should have been, in retrospect, because it now seems blatantly obvious.
I was drinking 3-4 cups of coffee per day, ending around 10:30 am for my last cup, thinking that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with my insomnia because I drank the coffee early in my day rather than the afternoon.
NOWHERE did I ever read that the coffee I drank at 9 am might affect me over 12 hours later. This is something I concluded on my own from intuition, common sense, and also a nurse background, (I’m an RN turned blogger.)
But why wouldn’t this information be widely available? Why do we not hear much talk about caffeine half-lives and caffeine sensitivity as related to sleep issues? (Beyond the generic advice not to drink coffee later in the day.)
Maybe because coffee is a multi-billion dollar industry, and so is the sleep-aid industry.
That is why I HAD to share my experience with you.
For women, (and for men as well,) our caffeine sensitivity may change as we get older. And especially after giving birth for women. After having babies, I can’t swing on a swing anymore as it nauseates me. Among other strange side effects. Our bodies change so much.
Insomnia solutions as related to caffeine:
Obviously, cut back on your coffee or caffeine intake. I now drink no more than 2 small cups per day before 8:30 am and that has solved 95% of my insomnia. Experiment with the amount of coffee that works for you. And I hate to tell you, but if you’re super-sensitive, you may have to quit completely.
When I first realized coffee was the cause of my insomnia, I quit cold turkey for 2 years. I’m not going to lie; the detox was horrible for about 5 days. Really rough.
But immediately after quitting coffee, I noticed my body felt much calmer physically. Way less jittery energy and physical restlessness. My mind was also far more relaxed. The racing thoughts which kept me up all night with meaningless chatter were silenced.
My insomnia problem was GONE.
I could fall asleep in 20 minutes and stay asleep straight through the night, not counting when my daughter woke me up. And when she did wake me up, I could fall back asleep with no problem.
It was life-changing.
Instead of drinking coffee in the am, I switched to Dandelion Root tea. Dandelion Root Tea has a smooth, almost nutty flavor that is somewhat similar to coffee but is completely caffeine-free. It’s an excellent natural solution to stopping coffee.
I stayed off coffee completely for two years, and that was a good thing, but I was also dealing with other health problems then.
Slowly, I began incorporating coffee back into my mornings after 2 years of being coffee-free.
I experimented and found that I can tolerate some caffeine in moderation, but I still drink Dandelion Root tea regularly. Not only is the taste pleasant, but it helps the liver and kidneys with elimination. It’s part of my self-care when I’m feeling tired or need a little detox.
Insomnia Cause #2: Anxiety
So many of us suffer from anxiety. It’s such a widespread mental health issue with so many causes. As we all know, drugs for anxiety do help many people.
That being said, there is much you can do to help heal your own anxiety aside from drugs. Because what is anxiety at its core? It’s fear, emotional pain, nervousness, physical symptoms of dis-ease, and more. Anxiety is complex and varies from person to person. Its root cause varies as well.
If you identify the root cause of anxiety, you may be able to heal some of the anxiety which keeps you awake at night. Then you can get some peace and some rest.
Insomnia solutions for those suffering anxiety:
What worked for me was writing. Journaling to be exact.
At the time of my insomnia problems, I was on a self-healing journey. I wanted to understand the exact causes of my anxiety. I knew there were things affecting my mental health that I wasn’t fully aware of- old memories, traumas, and circumstances of my past that shaped my perceptions and beliefs. I was determined to examine all of these things and learn from them.
It wasn’t easy and healing didn’t happen overnight. But I do consider that time in my life to be an awakening.
Through journaling, I was able to recognize grief and trauma that I’d brushed aside at the time it happened; I was too busy to process it when it happened, or to young to understand it, so I blocked it out.
The problem with blocking things out is that they remain. Left unexamined, they rot and cause diseases such as anxiety and depression.
Another thing I realized is that I’d previously written off certain bad things that happened or crappy circumstances as “no big deal” when in fact they were a big deal. This is super common. Many people undermine trauma in order to better deal with it. It’s a coping mechanism.
Although healing anxiety can be an incredibly long, painful process, facing your traumas will eventually help you understand and process them. Facing the causes of your anxiety will eventually bring you peace. And you need peace to sleep well.
I recommend writing every day if you can, as well as reading uplifting self-help books. A few of my favorite books for healing anxiety include:
Please take care of yourself on your healing journey and get help if you need it. You don’t need to go it alone.
The trauma many people hold inside is beyond comprehension. If that is you, I’m sorry, and you are a warrior for living with it.
It may be downright dangerous to face certain demons. I’d venture to say that in rare cases, certain traumas should never be re-visited. But again, I’m no doctor, and I don’t really know. Please do talk to your doctor.
Insomnia Cause #3: Adrenal Insufficiency
Adrenal insufficiency is a medical diagnosis and you should consult your doctor about this concern.
According to SFAdvancedHealth.com if you have this problem “You may feel energized and tired at the same time. Cortisol levels may be high at night, leading to insomnia. As the condition progresses, you will start to feel more stressed and tired, with fluctuating sleep patterns.”
Adrenal insufficiency can be what is called “primary” which is most often caused when the immune system attacks healthy adrenal glands. Or it may be called “secondary” which is when the pituitary gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormone ACTH.
But what we want to know is WHY.
You will probably want to take a close look at diet, exercise, stress levels, and current medications. Examine your mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well as physical.
I have never been diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency but I believe I know when my adrenals feel fried and/or when my cortisol is high. *This is my intuition.*
When I eat a lot of sugar at night, I have trouble sleeping. If I smoke a cigarette (which is extremely rare for me these days but old-school habits die hard) or if I drink alcohol I have problems sleeping because my body wants to party like it’s 2003. So, I avoid stimulating substances before bed since they can cause insomnia for me personally.
Possible insomnia solutions if you suspect adrenal problems:
Talk to your doctor. You may want to consult more than one doctor. Sometimes other wellness practitioners such as Chiropractors or Naturopaths can help, too.
Importantly, get to know your own body and the substances or foods that stimulate you physically. These foods and substances may affect your adrenal glands. It doesn’t matter if they are common foods or substances- some people are more sensitive than others. You may have to experiment with dietary changes, quit smoking, or quit drinking.
Consult family members and friends that have had similar problems and see what helps them, and what doesn’t.
Keep looking for answers and don’t give up on your own well-being. You have to advocate for yourself.
Sleep Luxuries That May Also Help:
A hot bath before bed with Lavender essential oil.
Foam rolling- Relieves tightness in your muscles and fascia and helps with the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid. Foam rolling feels like a deep tissue massage. This is very similar to the foam roller I use:
A white noise-maker- I use this one, which makes the perfect noise and is good for travel:
Lux silk pajamas- These are my favorite ones:
Fabulous sheets– I like these:
Use a weighted blanket such as the best-selling quilted heavy blanket below:
Read a book.
I hope this article sheds some light on what I believe to be the biggest reasons for insomnia: caffeine, anxiety, and adrenal issues.
Please experiment with reducing your caffeine intake to see if that helps- you may be as surprised as I was to learn how sensitive you are to it. Have a look at your dietary, medication, and substance intake. Consult your doctor and other wellness experts.
Try journaling to uncover mental health, stress, and other emotional issues you may have suppressed. Work to heal them and/ or seek the help of a doctor or therapist. You don’t need to suffer alone.
Additionally, if you have a stressful job or relationship which causes you to worry all night, see what solutions you can find. Consider lifestyle changes. Or, maybe you can re-frame your thoughts, find acceptance, or make other mindset changes.
Let me know what you think about investigating these issues to sleep better naturally in the comments, and feel free to try some of the creative writing exercises offered below!
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