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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2021-08-23 (EDT)

Insomnia is defined as difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep for an adequate amount of time. It is estimated that 3.3 million Canadians a year, or about 1 in every 7 persons, have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.[1]


Causes Dietary Factors, Alcohol, Stress, Environmental Toxins
See Also Other Conditions, Sleep, Menopause, Pain, Anxiety
Books Books on Other Conditions
Articles Articles on Other Conditions
Article Kids With CIDS - Children With Insomnia and Disordered Sleep , NDNR; 2013 March
Article Adolescent Insomnia, NDNR [1], 2012 March

Naturopathic Assessment

Article Age Related Insomnia , IHP ; 2011 September

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. The factors that are associated with insomnia include:


Article Hidden Causes of Insomnia, NDNR [2], 2011 April
  • Stimulants such as coffee, tea, chocolate, cola beverages, sugar and headache pills that contain caffeine, should be avoided. Even decaffeinated coffee contains enough caffeine to disturb some people's sleep.[2]
  • Caffeine is a common cause of insomnia, even when it is ingested early in the day. Because it is a diuretic, it can also cause a deficiency in nutrients that are needed for sleep such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.[2] Caffeine intake should be reduced gradually to prevent withdrawal symptoms such as irritability headache, restlessness, and fatigue.[3]
  • Diets with too much sugar or that imbalanced can result in nocturnal hypoglycemia. When the blood sugar level drops, this causes the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which are stimulatory hormones that can disturb sleep.[4], [2]
  • Fruit prior to bed may disrupt sleep in some individuals.
  • Spicy and salty foods, and those that contain MSG, can induce heartburn thereby disturbing sleep.[2]
  • Foods with synthetic hormones such as those given to farm animals to increase the weight of their eggs, or to increase their milk production can disrupt hormones leading to insomnia.[2]
  • Alcohol consumption impairs sleep by causing the release of adrenalin, and by decreasing the absorption of tryptophan into the brain.[4] It also does so by disrupting brain activity that is conducive to deep sleep.[3], [2].


  • factors that contribute to insomnia include: anxiety, depression, nocturnal myoclonus, fear of sleep, and emotional arousal.[3]


  • Both insufficient exposure to natural bright light during the day, and exposure to natural or artificial light while trying to sleep, can decrease or inhibit the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which is necessary for sleep.[2]
  • EMF Radiation
  • Exposure to electromagnetic fields disrupts sleep by disrupting melatonin secretion, which in turn affects the body's circadian rhythm.[2] Electromagnetic fields affect enzymes in our body that are related to pineal gland metabolism. Sleep can be promoted by removing sources of electromagnetic radiation, such as electrical appliances, from the bedroom. In contrast to this, an insufficient exposure to the naturally occurring geomagnetic field emitted by the earth can also lead to insomnia.[2]
  • The accumulation of environmental toxins in the body can cause insomnia. Common sources of toxin exposure include: dental fillings that contain mercury, paints, plastics, and solvents.
  • Minimize exposure to synthetic chemicals, such as those found in pesticides, herbicides, and plastics, as many of these have been conclusively shown to disrupt the human endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for balancing hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When these hormones are out of balance, they can disrupt sleep.[2]
  • Copper piping can cause accumulation of excessive amounts of copper in the body which can lead to copper toxicity.[2]


Article Shift Work and Development of Chronic Disease, Vital Link; 2012 Fall
  • Shift Work
  • Shift work disturbs circadian rhythm and disrupts melatonin secretion, resulting in insomnia.[2]
  • Travel
  • Travel disrupts melatonin levels and can contribute to insomnia. For some, travel is also a time of anxiety which can further lead to insomnia.
  • Nicotine should also be avoided by people with insomnia. Nicotine is a nervous system stimulant which causes the release of adrenalin and noradrenalin, and has a stimulating effect on heart rate and blood pressure.[3], [2]

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Medications


Insomnia is divided into four types:

  1. Sleep onset insomnia - difficulty falling asleep
  2. Sleep maintenance insomnia - frequent or sustained awakenings
  3. Sleep offset insomnia - early morning awakenings
  4. Nonrestorative sleep - persistent sleepiness despite sleep of adequate duration

Related Conditions

Insomnia is commonly associated with the following conditions:

Diagnostic Testing

The diagnosis of insomnia is typically based on a person's history and recall. Further testing is not typically required.

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

  • Sleep Hygene The information under the heading sleep hygene comes from the book Natural Relief from Headaches, Insomnia, and Stress: Safe, Effective Herbal Remedies by David Hoffmann.
  • Create a safe, comfortable, dark, and quiet sleeping environment.
  • Often, looking at clocks can be a source of great anxiety when one is having trouble falling asleep.Consider not having a clock in the bedroom or turn it away from you when going to bed.
  • Make a habit of using the hour or so before bed time to do something that you find calming and relaxing, such as: taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or reading.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. Do not use it for working, watching TV, or surfing the internet.
  • Wake up at the same time every day and do not take naps. This will help to regulate your circadian rhythm.
  • Do not think or worry about problems, goals, or projects while trying to sleep. If you are prone to doing so at bed time, set another time during the day to do so. If you find your self worrying while trying to sleep, get out of bed, go to another room, and write down the problems that you are thinking about and some possible courses of action you can take to solve them. This should help you go back to bed without having to think of them again.
  • Limit the time that you spend lying in bed trying to fall asleep. If you find that you are not able to fall asleep, get up and go to another room and do something relaxing that you enjoy for a while and then go back to bed later. Repeat this process until you are able to fall asleep.
  • If you cannot sleep in your bedroom, try sleeping in different locations. Many people with insomnia find it easier to sleep in their guest room, on the couch in the living room, on the kitchen floor, or in a hotel, than they do in their own bedroom. This can be because they have learned to associate their bedroom with activities that they do in their bedroom other that sleep, such as working, or with the anxious feeling that they typically get when they are not able to fall asleep.

  • Because the accumulation of environmental toxins in the body can cause insomnia, sources of toxins should be avoided. Common sources include dental fillings that contain mercury, foods that were grown with the use of pesticides and herbicides, meat that comes from animals that were given food that was treated with pesticides and herbicides, and paints, plastics, and solvents, mercury, lead, copper, thallium, and arsenic.[2]


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Reducing stress and learning how to deal with stress effectively are two of the best ways to prevent or eliminate insomnia.[3]
  • Exercise on a regular basis has been shown to be an effective treatment for insomnia.[5]. Exercise increases the release of growth hormone, which is needed for the establishment and maintenance of a regular circadian rhythm.[2] Twenty minutes of exercise per day, at a heart rate of 60-70% of maximum is recommended. It is best if this is done at least six hours prior to bed time so that the body has adequate time to calm down following the exercise.[4]
  • Sleep can be improved by practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, qi gong, and progressive relaxation. [3]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

  • There are a variety of factors that can cause insomnia. The most effective way of treating this condition is to identify, and treat the cause.[3]
  • Identifying and resolving psychological issues that are causing stress or anxiety, or health problems that are causing pain or discomfort, is the most effective way of treating insomnia.[4]

Naturopathic Therapies for insomnia include:

  • Soy products, especially those that are fermented such as tempeh and miso can help to balance estrogen in the body, thereby ameliorating insomnia in women that results from estrogen dominance. Other foods that help to balance estrogen levels include: fresh fruits and vegetables, vegetable juice (especially green vegetable juice), cabbage, avocado, grapes, apples, beets, spirulina, chlorella, seaweed, wheat germ, and wheat germ oil, and essential fatty acids.[2]
  • Oligoantigenic diet.
  • Consuming foods that one is allergic to can cause hypoglycemia and insulin imbalance, which can contribute to insomnia. The ologoantigenic diet can identify foods that are causing an allergic reaction.[2]
  • Detoxification.
  • As the accumulation of toxins in the body can disrupt sleep, detoxification protocols can be helpful in ameliorating insomnia.[2]
  • Treating infections.
Parasitic infections, and the overgrowth of Candida albicans can both contribute to insomnia. Parasites can do this both by contributing to nocturnal hypoglycemia and by interrupting the binding of hormones to hormone receptors which can cause hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism. Parasites can also provoke chronic immune reactions that can cause allergies which can contribute to insomnia.[2]

Accupuncture can help to resolve insomnia. Points that are indicated in this condition include: Liver 2 and 3, Heart 7, and Kidney 3.[2]

  • Naturopathic or chiropractic spinal manipulation can improve nerve conduction and thereby balance the autonomic nervous system. This can help to relieve insomnia that is caused by an overactive sympathetic nervous system.[2]
"A message before bed time from a loved one can be an effective way to wind down and relax such that you are ready to fall asleep.[3]
  • Naturopathic soft tissue manipulation, and massage therapy can relieve muscle tension. Muscle tension can lead to muscle and nerve pain, and a buildup of metabolic waste products in muscle tissue, which can in turn cause sleep disturbances. Soft tissue manipulation/massage can be deeply relaxing.[2]


  1. Canada S (Nov 2005) Study: Insomnia. Retrieved June 14, 2010, from statistics Canada: the daily:
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 , Ross Herbert, Brenner Keri (2000) Sleep Disorders: Clinically Proven Alternative Therapies To Help You Get a Good Night's Rest
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 Hoffmann David (1999) Natural Relief from Headaches, Insomnia, and Stress: Safe, Effective Herbal Remedies Keats Publishing
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Murray Michael (1995) Stress, Anxiety, and Insomnia: How You Can Benefit From Diet, Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs, and Exercise Prima Publishing
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Pizzorno Joseph, Murray Micheal, Joiner-Bey Herb, 2007, The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine Churchill Livingstone
  6. Lu Henry (1986) Chinese System of Food Cures, prevention and remedies Sterling Publishing Co. New York.
  7. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul Richard, Barlow Kerry, Gilbert Cyndi, Gowan Matthew, Smith Fraser 2010 Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs, CCNM Press, Toronto
  8. Boon Heather, Smith Michael 2004 The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, Robert Rose, Toronto
  9. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  10. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing