Insomnia: Non-Drug Solutions

Lately almost everyone I see in my practice complains of some insomnia. Here’s a list of everything I could conjure up to help you if you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.



An IMPORTANT NOTE about herbs: They can easily interact with medication you might be taking, so please call your pharmacist to check if you can safely use them.

Lemon Balm tincture (I generally recommend tinctures over capsules as it makes it easy to adjust the dose). This is both a sleep aid (soporific) and an anti-ruminative to help you quell those repetitive thoughts.

To start, try half the recommended dose suggested on the bottle in a little water 15 minutes before bedtime or if you wake up during the night.

Passionflower tincture, same dosing as Lemon Balm, but this targets anxiety.

Valerianis a central nervous system depressant, just like Valium, Librium, Xanax, alcohol and ether. If using the tincture, read the directions and start with a lower dose. Sometimes, the label will say something like, “Take 5-50 drops.” Usually, one dropper full, about 25 drops, is a good place to start; but, if you weigh very little, or are sensitive start with less. Mix the herb with a little water.

Valerian is often added to stress reducing herbal combination remedies. Just be careful when taking it not to operate heavy machinery, as it may slow down your coordination and reaction time.


Calms Forte is a combination remedy that’s safe for all ages. One tablet 15 minutes before bedtime to start.

You may take up to two, but don’t take more or you will feel sleepy the next day.


Magnesium Citrate 100-200mg before bed. Too much magnesium can give you diarrhea, so start with a smaller dose. Also, an Epsom salt bath is incredibly relaxing as it has magnesium which gets into your body through your skin.


“Sleep With Me” tries to both bore and slightly annoy you to sleep.

“Selected Shorts” is an assortment of wonderful short stories from most genres read by famous actors.

Yoga Nidra:

An ancient yogic meditation that you do lying on your back with earbuds, preferably, that systematically relaxes your body-mind. Here are some programs I like:

  • Free yoga nidra: Go to iTunes, go to Elsie’s Yoga, and scroll down until you hit episode No. 62, “Deep Relaxation.” This is her wonderful version of yoga nidra. The first 15 minutes she is chatting with a fan, so you can skip through that to the one-hour program that follows. I have been using this for years and highly recommend it.
  • Maalika Shay Devi Yoga Nidra on Amazon.
  • Richard Miller, PhD, is the major proponent of yoga nidra in America. In fact, he has successfully shown how regular use of yoga nidra calms posttraumatic stress symptoms in service people coming back from deployment. His CD is excellent. There’s a version of the longest track available for $1.95.
  • Swami Janakanada also has a great yoga nidra CD that is available on Amazon. It has a shorter practice, a seven-minute music interlude, and a longer, 45-minute practice. He is a true yogi with an Indian accent, and the CD is done in a serious but light-hearted way, which makes it different from almost everything else currently available.
  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati’s yoga nidra is very monotonic, which can be hypnotic.
  • Jennifer Piercy on the Insight Timer app.
  • John Siddique on the Insight Timer app.
  • Julie Murphy’s Night Night Yoga Nidra on the Insight Timer app for free and her yoga nidra courses that you have to be a member to access.

You may want to listen to a sample on Amazon, iTunes or the Insight Timer app and see if the person’s voice appeals to you. If not, try a different version.


Lavender is alsoquite effective as a relaxant and pain reducer. Put a few drops of essential oil of lavender on a tissue and place it about six inches from your pillow. Lavender will put you to sleep in no time. Men should not use lavender too frequently as it is a hormone disrupter and can activate estrogen receptors. (Ditto for Tea Tree oil.)

Balsam Fir Needle, Pine, or Cedar are all scents that evoke the forest. The Japanese love these for their rejuvenating and calming properties.


Chamomiletea brewed to a good strength for 3-5 minutes, is an excellent sleep inducer. If one tea bag isn’t doing the trick, try making a stronger brew with two. Tazo brand CALM tea is an especially delicious blend with camomile.

Rescue Remedy:

This is a Bach combination remedy made from the essences of five different flowers:

Rock Rose – for terror and panic
Impatiens – for irritation and impatience
Clematis – for inattentiveness and to counteract faintness
Star of Bethlehem – for shock
Cherry Plum – for irrational thoughts and lack of self control

Rescue Remedy is remarkable. It’s safe, gentle, but strong enough to take the edge off what you’re feeling, whether it’s anger, anxiety, panic, or shock.

If you are avoiding alcohol try the pastilles. They come in many different flavors flavors in a handy little tin.

Rescue remedy is also safe for children.

Rescue Sleep: This is Rescue Remedy with an extra component that quells repetitive thoughts. I find it far better than rescue remedy, and since it doesn’t have a soporific effect, per se, it’s fine to take during the day if you find yourself  ruminating.

Hot Milk With Saffron and Nutmeg:

Heat up any milk you like, cow’s, almond, rice, chocolate, etc… and adda few grinds of nutmeg, if available, or a pinch of ground nutmeg

anda mixture of ground saffron with a tiny bit of sugar (You can grind about 1 TBSP of saffron threads with 1 tsp. sugar in a coffee grinder. Keep this in a small jar and use a pinch for each cup of milk.)

This really works to soothe your nervous system, relax you, and promote a great night’s sleep.

White Noise Machine: Many people love the calming, comforting and slightly distracting sound of a white noise machine.


There are many options, but here’s a link to one by Jeffrey Chand:


Any forward bend, preferably seated, will relax your nervous system. Child’s pose is often a great place to start. Restorative practices are available on YouTube and I love the ones called “Hurry Up and Slow Down” by Marla Waal. There are both 35 and 60 minute versions.

Black Silk Eye Pillow:

This one change has radically affected my sleep more than anything else.

I found the cheapest, thinnest, most lightweight style with an adjustable strap is typically about five dollars on Amazon.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.