Insomnia

Uses

  • Sleeplessness
Insomnia is a disorder that causes sleep problems. It can lead to fatigue, confusion, and sleepiness during the day.
Medicine and healthy habits can help ease symptoms. Natural therapies have also been used to improve sleep and sleep quality. However, they should only be used with standard care.

Natural Therapies

Likely Effective

These herbs and supplements are likely to help manage insomnia:
  • Aromatherapy is the use of scented oils from fresh herbs to improve health. F3
  • Chamomile is an herb that comes from a daisy-like flower. B6
  • Melatonin is a hormone made by the body to help regulate sleep. B3, B10
These therapies are also likely to help:
  • Acupressure uses pressure on body points to improve health. G1-G3
  • Acupuncture is the use of thin needles on body points to improve health. A1-A8
  • Chinese herbal medicine is a system of medicine based on herbs that began in ancient China. B5, B8, B12
  • Foot reflexology is the use of pressure on points on the feet to improve health. F4
  • Meditation and mindfulness uses methods to train attention and awareness. C1, C2
  • Music therapy D1, D2

May Be Effective

May Not Be Effective

  • Homeopathic medicine is the use of natural materials to improve health. F5
  • Suanzaoren decoction is a Chinese herbal medicine. B11

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Cannabis (Note: Cannabis is not safe for children or women who are nursing or pregnant.) B4
  • Hops (Note: People taking sleeping medication should not take hops.) C1
  • Hypnotherapy F2
  • Moxibustion B7
  • Valerian (Note: People taking medication for diarrhea, pain, anxiety, or sleeping medication should not take valerian.) C2
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as.
  • Cannabis is not safe for children or women who are breastfeeding or pregnant.
  • Toxicities and side effects of Chinese herbal medicine vary depending on the herb and amount used.
  • Hops should not be taken by people taking sleeping medication.
  • Valerian should not be taken by people taking medication for diarrhea, pain, anxiety, or sleeping medication.

References

A Acupuncture
A1 He W, Li M, et al. Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: An overview of systematic reviews. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:407-416.
A2 Cao HJ, Yu ML, et al. Acupuncture for Primary Insomnia: An Updated Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(5):451-474.
A3 Vieira A, Reis AM, et al. Does auriculotherapy have therapeutic effectiveness? An overview of systematic reviews. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018 Nov;33:61-70.
A4 Dong B, Chen Z, et al. The Efficacy of Acupuncture for Treating Depression-Related Insomnia Compared with a Control Group: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9614810.
A5 Choi TY, Kim JI, et al. Acupuncture for Managing Cancer-Related Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. Integr Cancer Ther. 2017 Jun;16(2):135-146.
A6 Lee SH, Lim SM. Acupuncture for insomnia after stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Jul 19;16:228.
A7 Shergis JL, Ni X, et al. A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Jun;26:11-20.
A8 Lan Y, Wu X, et al. Auricular acupuncture with seed or pellet attachments for primary insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Apr 2;15:103.
B Herbs and Supplements
B1 Corin CM, Koetter U, et al. Valerian-hops combination and diphenhydramine for treating insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Sleep. 2005;28(11):1465-1471.
B2 Fernández-San-Martín MI, Masa-Font R, et al. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Med. 2010 Jun;11(6):505-511.
B3 Auld F, Maschauer EL, et al. Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 2017;34:10-22.
B4 Contreras T, Bravo-Soto G, et al. Do cannabinoids constitute a therapeutic alternative for insomnia? Medwave. 2018;18(1):e7152.
B5 Zhang H, Liu P, et al. Effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine for patients with primary insomnia: A PRISMA-compliant meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(24):e15967.
B6 Hieu TH, Dibas M, et al. Therapeutic efficacy and safety of chamomile for state anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials and quasi-randomized trials. Phytother Res. 2019 Jun;33(6):1604-1615.
B7 Sun YJ, Yuan JM, et al. Effectiveness and safety of moxibustion for primary insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Jul 13;16:217.
B8 Ni X, Shergis JL, et al. Updated clinical evidence of Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med. 2015 Dec;16(12):1462-1481.
B9 Leach MJ, Page AT. Herbal medicine for insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2015 Dec;24:1-12.
B10 Ferracioli-Oda E, Qawasmi A, et al. Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PLoS One. 2013 May 17;8(5):e63773.
B11 Xie CL, Gu Y, et al. Efficacy and safety of Suanzaoren decoction for primary insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Jan 22;13:18.
B12 Yeung WF, Chung KF, et al. Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. 2012 Dec;16(6):497-507.
B13 Sarris J, Panossian A, et al. Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2011 Dec;21(12):841-860.
C Meditation
C1 Gong H, Ni CX, et al. Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Psychoderm Res. 2016;89:1-6.
C2 Rash JA, Kavanagh VAJ, et al. A Meta-Analysis of Mindfulness-Based Therapies for Insomnia and Sleep Disturbance: Moving Towards Processes of Change. Sleep Med Clin. 2019 Jun;14(2):209-233.
D Music
D1 Jespersen KV, Kornig J, et al. Music for insomnia in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(8):CD010459.
D2 Feng F, Zhang Y, et al. Can music improve sleep quality in adults with primary insomnia? A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Int J Nurs Stud. 2018;77:189-196.
E Mind Body Therapies
E1 Irwin MR, Olmstead R, et al. Tai Chi Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Randomized, Partially Blinded, Noninferiority Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2017;35(23):2656-2665.
E2 Mustian KM, Sprod LK, et al. Multicenter, randomized controlled trial of yoga for sleep quality among cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2013;31(26):3233-3241.
E3 Wang F, Eun-Kyoung Lee O, et al. The effect of meditative movement on sleep quality: A systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2016 Dec;30:43-52.
E4 Sarris J, Byrne GJ. A systematic review of insomnia and complementary medicine. Sleep Med Rev. 2011 Apr;15(2):99-106.
F Other Therapies
F1 Perach R, Allen CK, et al. The psychological wellbeing outcomes of nonpharmacological interventions for older persons with insomnia symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2019 Feb;43:1-13.
F2 Lam TH, Chung KF, et al. Hypnotherapy for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2015 Oct;23(5):719-732.
F3 Hwang E, Shin S. The effects of aromatherapy on sleep improvement: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Feb;21(2):61-8.
F4 Lee J, Han M, et al. Effects of foot reflexology on fatigue, sleep and pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Korean Acad Nurs. 2011 Dec;41(6):821-833.
F5 Cooper KL, Relton C. Homeopathy for insomnia: a systematic review of research evidence. Sleep Med Rev. 2010 Oct;14(5):329-37.
G Acupressure
G1 Waits A, Tang YR, et al. Acupressure effect on sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2018 Feb;37:24-34.
G2 Yeung WF, Chung KF, et al. Acupressure, reflexology, and auricular acupressure for insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med. 2012 Sep;13(8):971-984.
G3 Sarris J, Byrne GJ. A systematic review of insomnia and complementary medicine. Sleep Med Rev. 2011 Apr;15(2):99-106.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
  • Review Date: 11/2019
  • Update Date: 06/03/2020