What is insomnia?

Insomnia is when a person has difficulty falling asleep, however insomnia can also affect a person’s ability to stay asleep. There are different types of insomnia that can be characterised by duration.

Acute insomnia is often brief and can be caused by changes in life circumstance such as stressful situations or bad news. Acute insomnia tends to resolve itself without the need for any treatment or intervention.

Chronic insomnia is characterised as disrupted sleep for three or more nights per week for a period of at least three months. This may be contributed to by how someone lives, with lifestyle elements such as shift work, unhealthy sleeping habits, certain medications, and other clinical disorders possibly having a negative effect on sleeping patterns. Chronic insomnia can be linked to psychiatric or medical problems, but the relationship between these problems and insomnia can be difficult to understand.

There can be many reasons why a person’s brain cannot shut down and being awake for extended periods of time can lead to several secondary problems.

Causes of insomnia

Medical reasons

  • Body pain or aches
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Hormonal issues like hyperthyroidism or hot flashes due to menopause
  • Sinusitis
  • Chronic physical discomfort
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Restless leg syndrome

Some medications that are taken to treat other medical conditions can lead to insomnia. Various drugs have insomnia as a major side effect.

Other conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, mood disorders, and depression can also lead to insomnia. Insomnia’s causes will differ from person to person, since habits, diet and overall behaviour can affect our sleep. Insomnia can also be formed as a habit and if not taken care of, can become a problem.

Insomnia symptoms

The primary symptom of insomnia is an inability to sleep, but there are other secondary symptoms that can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Low energy levels
  • Frequent headaches
  • Nightmares
  • Low attention span
  • Irregular sleeping cycles
  • Inability to focus
  • Issues in handling relationships
  • Behavioural problems
  • Fatigue or tiredness throughout the day

These are all common symptoms of those who suffer from insomnia, while the presence of some of these symptoms is not conclusive evidence of insomnia, they can be indicators.

Natural remedies for insomnia

Natural sleep remedies may be used depending on what has caused the insomnia. Ayurvedic texts state that people who live unhealthy lifestyles and have an improper diet are at a higher risk of experiencing energetic (vata) aggravation and insomnia. An excess of vata (air, ether) can travel through different channels in the body and cause sleeplessness.

An imbalance of certain energies (kapha – earth, water elements) can lead to malnourishment of brain cells and insomnia. Ayurveda believes that different people can have varying reasons for having insomnia and will need individualised treatments.

Herbal insomnia remedies

Certain herbs can be used as sleep remedies in cases of insomnia, including:

  • Tagara
  • Sarpagandha
  • Brahmi
  • Shankhpushpi


Tagara is an Ayurvedic herb helpful for treating a wide range of sleep disorders, working as an aphrodisiac and a diuretic. Tagara can assist in bringing a sense of calmness and relaxation to the nervous system, and may aid in sleeping by helping to calm anxiety.


Sarpagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that may help to treat insomnia. The herb has sedative properties and the root can be used as an anaesthetic. Sarpagandha can help to alleviate tension, hypertension, and anxiety, and if these are relieved, it may easier for people to sleep.


Brahmi can treat a wide variety of disorders and is considered to be a rich Ayurvedic herb. It may help to ease pain when applied to the scalp, and can ease anxiety and nervousness to help people fall asleep more easily. Brahmi is generally used in cases where nervousness and tension are the main causes of insomnia.


Shankhpushpi may be used as a nerve tonic primarily for the mental development of a person. It may also be used to help improve memory capacity and increase calmness.

Ayurvedic therapies for insomnia

Some Ayurvedic therapies can be used with herbal products for those who suffer from long-term insomnia, including:

  • Shirodhara
  • Ayurvedic massage


Shirodhara is an ancient form of Ayurvedic therapy, which uses different types of oils gently poured onto the head to encourage mental relaxation. The therapy may also help to calm the mind by pacifying the vata and releasing pent up thoughts and emotions. This form of therapy is best practiced for treating conditions such as insomnia, stress, and anxiety, as well as other mood-related disorders.

Ayurvedic massage

There are many different ways that an Ayurvedic massage can be carried out. Massages are emphasised heavily by Ayurveda, because when performed correctly they may be able to encourage a relaxed state of mind and clear any unwanted substances from the body. It is important to not be anxious or stressed in order to sleep peacefully, which is where Ayurvedic massage may be able to help.

Natural herbal remedies to help relieve insomnia

  • Aswagandharishtam – herbal tonic
  • Anu thailam – herbal nasal drop
  • Balarishtam – herbal tonic
  • Saraswatharishtam – herbal tonic
  • Brahmi Gritham – herbal ghee
  • Aswagandhadi lehyam – herbal paste
  • Chandanadi thailam – herbal oil
  • Sarpagandha Gulika – herbal tablet
  • Brahmi thailam – herbal oil
  • Hinguvachadi choornam tab – herbal tablet
  • Dasamoolarishtam – herbal tonic
  • Brahma Rasayana – herbal paste
  • Saraswatha ghritham – herbal ghee

Natural sleep help

A change in lifestyle may be one of the most effective natural sleep aids to help with insomnia. Certain lifestyle changes such as trying yoga and other forms of exercise or meditation may help relieve unwanted anxiety and stress. These changes may be able to assist in getting rid of possibly harmful substances and stress points in the body.

Ayurveda is an area that may help to relieve symptoms caused by many different problems, including insomnia. Ayurvedic therapies should be used in conjunction with a mix of lifestyle and dietary changes.

For a different way to help manage your insomnia, make an appointment at our clinic.

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