One in three French people say they suffer from insomnia. It is most often occasional insomnia. But when the disorders occur more than three times a week and for more than three months, insomnia is then considered chronic with a major impact on quality of life and health. The causes being multiple (stress, anxiety, nervous breakdown or even sleep apnea, restless legs, etc.), a prior diagnosis is necessary to identify them, determine the level of severity and consider an appropriate treatment. Since the use of sleeping pills is not without risks, natural approaches are increasingly popular as complementary or alternative solutions... especially since they are validated by an increasing number of scientific studies. Furthermore, sleep being closely linked to our biological clock, other factors such as stress management or diet will have to be taken into account to sleep better and sustainably. This page was therefore designed with a global vision of health. You will find both natural solutions for everyone, which can be used occasionally or in cures, as well as lifestyle advice to help you get quality sleep again.

This article was updated on 11/01/2024

TOP 5 natural remedies

1. To fall asleep quickly: roman Chamomile essential oil.
2. To sleep deeply: valerian, alone or in association with passionflower.
3. In anticipation of a stressful event or in case of chronic insomnia: linden bud macerate in treatment for 3 weeks.
4. For sensitive users (pregnant women, children, babies): roman Chamomile hydrosol.
5. A grandmother's remedy for the evening ritual: lemon balm herbal tea, essential when stress and digestive disorders disrupt sleep.

To sleep better, it is also important to consult a doctor to identify the causes of your insomnia. Other factors such as stress management, physical activity or diet (times and composition of meals, magnesium intake, etc.) are essential to take into account to regain quality sleep.

Fast and powerful effects with essential oils

When are essential oils suitable?

Rich in molecules with anxiolytic, sedative and spasmolytic properties, several essential oils are particularly effective against insomnia with rapid effects in case of difficulty falling asleep, waking up at night or waking up too early in the morning. Essential oils are also useful in case of more specific problems such as night terrors or nocturnal anxiety.

We will favor olfaction, diffusion or skin application which are flexible and easy to adopt uses, and which contribute to create a pleasant climate of rest and relaxation. Their oral use is less common, but the effects on sleep disorders have been validated by various scientific studies.

Unlike the treatments usually prescribed for insomnia, these essential oils have thethe advantage of not causing addiction or dependence. Very concentrated in active ingredients, however, they will not be suitable for everyone.

Which essential oils to choose?

Among the essential oils to favor, we find the essential oils of Roman chamomile, True or Fine Lavender, but also Bergamot or Petit grain bigarade. There are many others with a wide range of fragrances allowing you to make your choice based on their chemical composition (presence of esters, coumarins, monoterpenols, etc.), while taking into account each person's own olfactory preference.

How to use them?

For adults and children aged 3 and over:

  • Inhaled, 2 to 3 drops of essential oil on the wick of an inhaler to breathe just before going to bed and whenever necessary, or 1 drop on the upper corner of the pillow or on a tissue to place on the bedside table .
  • In broadcast : pour the number of drops indicated on the diffuser instructions and diffuse for 15 minutes before bedtime.
  • Dermal : dilute 1 drop of essential oil in 4 drops of vegetable oil, applying to the solar plexus, the inside of the wrists and/or the soles of the feet.

For children and babies from 3 months:

  • In broadcast, pour the number of drops indicated on the diffuser instructions and diffuse 10 minutes before bedtime in the absence of the child.
  • Dermal, dilute 1 drop of essential oil in 9 drops of vegetable oil, massage on the solar plexus and/or the soles of the feet.

A global and deep action with bud macerates

In which cases are bud macerates relevant?

Complementary to aromatherapy, gemmotherapy will be especially interesting in the form of a cure in cases of chronic or predictable insomnia before an exam period or any other stressful event. Several bud macerates are in fact known to have regulatory effects on falling asleep and the quality of sleep. Their versatility also makes it possible to act in a global and synergistic manner on certain digestive or cardiac manifestations which are common in sleep disorders, particularly in cases of stress or anxiety.

Which buds to choose?

Linden bud macerate east essential, whatever the type of insomnia. It can be sufficient alone, but in situations of anxiety or stress it will be interesting to combine it with other buds. We will then choose fig tree macerate when the signs of stress manifest themselves on the digestive level or hawthorn macerate if it is rather a matter of cardiac manifestations.

How to use them?

Start with a 3-week treatment of Linden bud macerate, followed by a one-week break.

  • Adults and adolescents: 5 to 15 drops per day in a glass of water (or pure), 15 minutes before a meal, for 3 weeks. Start with 5 drops and increase gradually (for example: 5 drops the first week, 10 the second and 15 the last).
  • Children over 3 years old: 1 drop per day for 10 kilos, starting with one drop and gradually increasing the dose (for example: a 9 year old child weighing 40 kilos can ingest up to 4 drops).

Herbal teas as an evening ritual

In which cases should you choose herbal teas?

Many plants are mentioned in all the Pharmacopoeias of the world with sedative or anxiolytic properties. The best known, still widely used today, are Valerian (also called "vegetable valium"), Passionflower, Hawthorn, Hops and even Eschscholtzia... They are mainly found in the form of capsules or hydroalcoholic extracts, alone or in compound formulas. Much more concentrated than herbal teas, these presentations require personalized advice to take into account certain risks of use or drug interactions.

We therefore preferred to focus on herbal teas which also have the advantage of inviting you to take a break, to take the time for an “evening ritual” if beneficial, or even necessary, for falling asleep. You just have to be careful not to drink too much or too late to avoid counterproductive nighttime awakenings... All the plants in our selection are best used as infusions, but it is also possible to prepare an aromatic bath.

Which plants to choose?

To prepare an evening infusion, we have selected the bracts of Linden with versatile properties, essential in case of problems falling asleep and nervousness; lemon balm whose sedative and tranquilizing mode of action has been compared to that of benzodiazepines; there Verbena and woodruff odorous to favor in case of associated digestive disorders; there Lavender and the Marjoram, for their sedative effect.

How to use them?

Plants can be used alone or in mixtures to take full advantage of their synergistic effects.

  • In infusion : for a cup, pour simmering water (ideally at a temperature of 80-90°C) over a tablespoon of dry plants (or around 10 bracts for Linden). Brewing time ranges from 5 to 10 minutes to brew.
  • In an aromatic bath : make an infusion with 80 g of dry plants in 3 L of simmering water. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes then filter. Let cool if necessary. Add the preparation to the bath water.

Hydrosols for sensitive users

In which cases should hydrosols be preferred?

Hydrosols are ideal for pregnant women, children and babies from a very young age. Much less concentrated than essential oils, they are in fact more flexible to use. They nevertheless contain molecules to calming and sedative properties such as certain monoterpenols, terpene aldehydes, coumarins, esters... perceptible by their very aromatic odor.

Quick and easy to use, they will also please to those who are in a hurry and do not have time to prepare an infusion for an evening herbal tea or an aromatic bath.

Which hydrosols to choose?

Several aromatic hydrosols have soothing properties for the nervous system. To know which one to use, it is best to favor the one whose smell and taste are most appreciated by the person suffering from sleep disorders. Among the best known, we will remember: roman Chamomile hydrosol, orange blossom hydrosol or lavender hydrosol.

How to use them?

To promote sleep and benefit from their benefits, hydrosols can be used, alone or in a mixture, in different ways:

Orally :

  • For babies over 3 months : dilute 1 teaspoon in the bottle, preferably lukewarm. It is also possible to spray the hydrosol on the nipple before feeding, or directly into the oral cavity.
  • For adults and adolescents : dilute 1 teaspoon of hydrosol in a glass of water, preferably lukewarm, 2 to 3 times a day.

In atmospheric spray : spray the hydrosol in the air before bedtime or directly on the pillow and bed linen.

In broadcast : replace the water in a misting diffuser with one or more hydrosols, and diffuse in 10-minute intervals before bedtime. It is also possible to pspray the hydrosols as a mist on the pillow and bed linen.

Dermal : add the hydrosol to the bath water: 2 to 3 teaspoons for the little ones, and a few tablespoons for the older ones.

Take care of your lifestyle

The sleep cycle is part of this wake-sleep alternation which punctuates the production of cortisol or melatonin over 24 hours but also many other functions of the body such as digestion, appetite, growth, body temperature, immunity… In the event of sleep disorders, it is therefore throughout the day that we must ensure live more in accordance with your biological clock.

  • Have the most regular rhythm of life possible to avoid desynchronizing the biological clock. The ideal is above all to have regular bedtimes, wake-ups and meal times. Knowing whether you are more of an evening person or a morning person, knowing your chronotype, will then be an asset to be as in tune as possible with your own biological clock.
  • Avoid light sources before going to sleep. Exposure to light in the evening will have the effect of “making” the brain believe that it is still daytime and will greatly disrupt the natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. According to some studies, 10-15 minutes of exposure at the start of the night is enough to block the secretion of melatonin and delay the biological clock. We then better understand the negative impact of the famous blue lights of our LED screens on computers, televisions, smartphones or tablets.
  • Limit what can increase body temperature at bedtime such as intensive sport in the evening, a meal too late or too large, a temperature too high in the room... The effect of temperature is certainly less powerful than that of light, but it is also a factor to be taken into account into account. Above all, it is a question of respecting the natural drop in body temperature during the night, necessary for the proper functioning of the body during sleep. On the other hand, physical activity during the day will play a beneficial role in the depth of sleep.
  • Avoid stimulating activities, consumption of stimulants (tea, caffeinated drinks, etc.) and tobacco which can also disrupt the production of melatonin.
  • Reduce exposure to noise pollution, especially if your sleep is “light” and you wake up at the slightest noise. Delayed falling asleep and repeated awakenings throughout the night impair sleep and prevent recovery.
  • Opt for a nap. The benefits of a nap are numerous, provided you choose the right format. A long nap (approximately 1h30) should be reserved for situations with large sleep debts. Otherwise, a micro-nap (10 to 20 minutes maximum) will be enough to feel the effects on improving cognitive abilities, fatigue, alertness, stress management, etc.

Limit the effects of chronic stress

One of the main consequences of chronic stress is the maintenance of high cortisol levels even though they are supposed to drop in the evening to “make way” for melatonin. It's this overproduction of cortisol which contributes to disrupted sleep as well as most of the body's functions, with numerous repercussions on health such as cardiovascular diseases, excess weight, reduced immunity, etc.

Hence the importance of putting in place relaxation rituals, during the day and/or before going to bed. These rituals will help regulate the overproduction of cortisol linked to stress. It's up to everyone to find what suits them and pleases them best: mindfulness meditation, yoga, a hot bath or simply some reading time... Their benefits are increasingly recognized and certain methods, such as cardiac coherence, only take a few minutes to produce significant results. Take the time for a herbal tea in the evening or an olfaction session with essential oils is also one of these natural approaches that allow you to better manage stress and promote good sleep.

Adapt your diet

Diet is one of the pillars that are still too little known for taking care of your sleep, and yet... Meal schedules, like certain excesses or deficiencies, can indeed have a significant impact, beneficial or harmful, in the event of insomnia. As a reminder, if we fall asleep at night, it is not just because we are tired. It's also because our brain, as soon as daylight begins to fade, begins to produce melatonin. The diet must still be in phase with the biological clock and cover needs at the right time of the day. This may all seem complex, but it can be summarized in a few simple rules:

  • Start the day off right by promoting the production of dopamine, “the hormone of wakefulness and alertness”, rather than melatonin. At breakfast, you will need to introduce sources of protein (cheese, ham, eggs, almonds, plant-based drinks and yogurts, semi-complete cereals, etc.) and reduce foods with a glycemic index that is too high (white bread, industrial “cereals,” etc.). .). This will also help avoid feeling tired and "cravings" in the morning.
  • Take advantage of lunch time to take a break and regulate stress already accumulated. At least take the time to chew and savor to digest properly. If you are not vegetarian, this is also the preferred meal for eating meat.
  • Set up a snack to provide certain nutrients necessary for melatonin production with good sources of sugar (fresh fruit, whole grain products) and magnesium (chocolate, almonds, etc.). The benefits of snacking are not just for children!
  • Prioritize dinner early, 2-3 hours before bedtime, with a light meal, source of “slow” carbohydrates (legumes, semi-complete cereals, potatoes, etc.), in combination with vegetables as desired. To promote the synthesis of melatonin, we should especially avoid red meat. All this will also contribute to good digestion and satiety throughout the night.
  • Avoid certain foods and drinks in the evening and/or in excess : alcohol, coffee, late or overly copious meals, chocolate... Through different mechanisms (excitement, digestion, acid reflux, etc.), they all have negative effects on sleep, even if these effects will be more or less less marked depending on the person.

Furthermore, if certain essential micronutrients are not sufficiently provided by the diet (tryptophan, magnesium, vitamins B and C, omega 3…), supplementation could be considered for cover the needs necessary for optimal production of melatonin. If iron deficiency is suspected (fatigue, restless legs), a biological assessment and medical advice will then be necessary.

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About these tips

This aromatherapy article was written by Théophane de la Charie, author of the book “Treat yourself with essential oils”, accompanied by a multidisciplinary team made up of pharmacists, biochemists and agronomists. 

La Compagnie des Sens and its teams do not encourage self-medication. The information and advice provided comes from a reference bibliographic database (books, scientific publications, etc.). They are given for information purposes, or to suggest avenues for reflection: they should in no case replace a diagnosis, consultation or medical follow-up, and cannot engage the liability of the Compagnie des Sens.