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What Natural Remedies/Alternative Treatments Will A Psychiatrist Prescribe to Help Me Sleep?

It is quite common to experience sleeplessness every once-in-a-while, but insomnia is a condition that occurs when you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis. If you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep almost every night then it is probably time to see a psychiatrist. Chronic insomnia can be a sign of another condition such as anxiety disorders, manic depression and clinical depression so it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

A psychiatrist may suggest the following natural remedies to help you sleep more soundly:


Melatonin is a natural remedy that is used to help people fall asleep when their sleep/wake cycle has been interrupted (such as: people who work night shifts and those who experience jet lag). Your body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone. In other words, at night, when light exposure declines, your body converts serotonin into melatonin. Melatonin, in supplement form, is usually taken approximately 30 minutes before bedtime to help you sleep more soundly.

Some medical professionals (physicians and psychiatrists) caution against melatonin if you suffer from schizophrenia, depression and/or autoimmune disorders because it can interact with prescription medications used to treat those conditions. In addition, you should also avoid melatonin if you are pregnant or nursing.

Relaxation Techniques

Your psychiatrist may recommend you partake in relaxation techniques to help you sleep. Relaxation techniques can help you sleep more soundly, fall asleep more quickly, stay asleep throughout the night and feel rested in the morning. In order for relaxation techniques to be the most effective in preventing insomnia, you should practice then at least 20 minutes before you go to bed.

The following relaxation techniques may help prevent insomnia:

  • Visualization– This relaxation technique consists of imagining a relaxing and/or calming scene. Practice visualization as you lie in bed. Make sure to use all of your senses. For example, if you imagine that you are walking on a sandy beach, try to feel the ocean breeze and the sand beneath your feet, listen to the ocean waves crash against each other, taste the salt water on your lips and smell the ocean water. The more graphic the image, the more likely it will relax you and help you sleep.
  • Mindfulness– This relaxation technique involves mediation. Mindfulness focuses on centering your mind so that it connects with your body. When you are mindful, you reframe from getting caught up on feelings and emotions that prevent you from living a calm existence. Mindfulness can relax you and help you disconnect from negative emotions like stress, anger, frustration, etc. so that you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Yoga– This is popular relaxation technique combines deep breathing exercises with stretching and mediation. Practicing yoga for 6 weeks straight can actually improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Light Exposure

Your psychiatrist may also recommend that you add a light sunshine into your day. If you have a hard time falling asleep at night, you may not be getting enough light during the day. Light exposure plays a significant role in how your body functions. In fact, the amount of light you receive each day alerts your body as to when it is time to go to sleep and wake up. Taking a brisk morning walk each day or taking several 5 minute walks throughout the day may help regulate your wake/sleep cycle.


Valerian is a popular herb that has been used to prevent and/or treat insomnia for centuries. It is unknown exactly how it works in your body, but it appears to work like traditional sleeping pills. In other words, this herbal sleeping aid may work by regulating your moods so that you feel calmer and sleep better at night. Unlike prescription sleep aids, valerian does not appear to be addictive. It also does not appear to cause drowsiness upon waking.

It is important to note that this herb is not effective for everyone and even though studies have been supportive, the final verdict on this alternative treatment is still uncertain. For maximum effectiveness, you should take valerian approximately one hour before bed.

Valerian takes several weeks to become fully effective. In addition, you should not take it more than twelve weeks at a time. You may experience some of these common side-effects when you first start taking valerian: dizziness, hot flashes, indigestion, palpitations and/or mild headaches. This herb is offered in capsules, liquid extracts and teas.

Valerian should not be mixed with other medications without doctor’s authorization. This is especially true for medications like antihistamines and sedatives because they slow your nervous system. Furthermore, you should not take this alternative medication if you are scheduled to have surgery and/or if you suffer from liver disease.


Your psychiatrist may suggest that you listen to music to calm your nerves and help you sleep. Slow, soothing music is a natural way to improve your sleep without the use of prescription sleep aids. In fact, music not only improves the quality of your sleep and prevents you from waking prematurely, it also helps you sleep throughout the night and helps you awaken refreshed and rested.


Do not be surprised if your psychiatrist suggests that you take a Benadryl to help you sleep. Antihistamines like Benadryl are often used as an over-the-counter sleep aid because they cause drowsiness. Frequent use of antihistamines can cause mouth and eye dryness so if you have to repeatedly take antihistamines to sleep, contact your psychiatrist for further instructions.

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