Alternative medicineBy Mayo Clinic staff
Many people never visit their doctor for insomnia, and instead try to cope with sleeplessness on their own. Several therapies that may be helpful include:
- Melatonin. This over-the-counter supplement is marketed as a way to help overcome insomnia. Your body naturally produces melatonin, releasing it into your bloodstream in increasing amounts starting at dusk and tapering off toward the morning. Older people seem to have a greater benefit from melatonin, but no convincing evidence exists to prove that melatonin is an effective treatment for insomnia. It's generally considered safe to use melatonin for a few weeks, but the long-term safety of melatonin is unknown. The dosage is usually between 0.3 and 5 milligrams (mg) a day.
- Valerian. This is another dietary supplement that's sold as a sleep aid because it has a mildly sedating effect. But, this supplement hasn't been well studied. In addition, this product has been associated with liver damage in some people, though it's not clear if valerian was the cause of the damage. The recommended dose of valerian is 400 to 900 mg daily with an extract containing 0.4 to 0.6 percent of valerenic acid.
- Acupuncture. During an acupuncture session, a practitioner places numerous thin needles in your skin at specific points on your body. There's some evidence that this practice may be beneficial for people with insomnia.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or over-the-counter products as some can interact with medications, and others, such as L-tryptophan, may be dangerous on their own.
- Insomnia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/inso/inso_all.html. Accessed Oct. 7, 2010.
- Approach to the patient with a sleep or wakefulness disorder. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec16/ch215/ch215b.html. Accessed Oct. 7, 2010.
- Ancoli-Israel S. Sleep and its disorders in aging populations. Sleep Medicine. 2009;10:S7.
- Doghramji K. The evaluation and management of insomnia. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2010;31:327.
- Bonnet MH, et al. Overview of insomnia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 29, 2010.
- Owens JA, et al. Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2010;164:608.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of insomnia. National Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 8, 2010.
- Cao H, et al. Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15:1171.