Underlying Causes and Natural Therapies for Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders

Insomnia, Underlying Causes of Sleep Disorders

Do you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep? You’re not alone. In fact, 40% of adults in the US get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep, while 10-15% of adults deal with chronic insomnia.

Not getting enough sleep may have negative effects on your mind, body, and spirit. It might make day-to-day living a struggle, reducing alertness, cognitive function, and motor function. It may also increase your risk of chronic disease, including heart and kidney disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension, as well as affect hormone production, immunity, and metabolism. 

Getting enough high-quality sleep, on the other hand, might improve your mental and physical health, as well as your quality of life. Good sleep allows your body to support a healthy brain and body function. 

While most people will suffer from short-term temporary insomnia at some point in their lives, others struggle with a long-term chronic sleep problem that significantly impacts their lives. Fortunately, there are some natural therapies that may help you fall asleep.

Underlying Causes of Sleep Disorders

Sleep problems can be caused by a multitude of possible factors, including environmental and lifestyle factors, medical conditions, and psychosocial issues. To help treat your sleep disorder, it’s important to spend some time with a physician to try to determine the underlying cause. 

Common causes:

  • Lifestyle factors include alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine use. Poor sleep quality has been connected to lower proportions of microbiota (gut microbiome). Thus, a diet filled with refined sugar and simple carbs may also impact sleep. 
  • Your environment can also make restful sleep difficult, including noise, light, and room temperature. Irritants in the environment, like pollen and dander, can also impact your Circadian rhythms. 
  • The connection between sleep and mood runs deep. Emotional and psychological causes can lead to disrupted sleep, including stress, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Hormonal imbalances, particularly in cortisol, melatonin, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen, can contribute to sleep problems.
  • Some medications can cause insomnia and other sleep problems. This includes medications for thyroid disease, high blood pressure, allergies, heart disease, depression, asthma, and even birth control. Even medications prescribed for sleep problems can affect the quality of the sleep you get!
  • Some medical conditions can cause insomnia and other sleep disorders to become lifelong, chronic issues. These include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and sleep apnea.

Natural Therapies for the Symptoms of Insomnia & Other Sleep Disorders

While sleeping pills are available to help with insomnia and other sleep disorders (and many people use them), they’re typically used on a short-term temporary basis. That’s because they often come with unpleasant side effects, including daytime fatigue, headaches, constipation, and dizziness. What’s more, many people grow a tolerance to sleep medications over time, making them less effective the more you use them.

If insomnia is a long-term issue for you, you may be looking to go the natural route for falling asleep. Fortunately, there are some natural therapies that may alleviate the symptoms of these sleep disorders.

Medical Cannabis

If you want to try medical cannabis for a sleep disorder, choose an Indica strain that’s considered to be soothing and relaxing, specifically one with higher THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that is known to induce sleep. Specifically, studies show that higher levels of THC can reduce REM sleep, which means reducing dreams — or nightmares in the case of PTSD. When you are dreamless, you can spend more time in deep sleep, which can be more restful and restorative.

To start the process of getting your medical marijuana card, sign up with Heally, and we’ll connect you with a licensed doctor in your state.

Addressing a Microbiome Imbalance

insomnia microbiome imbalance

Another natural therapy for insomnia symptoms is to address a microbiome imbalance with a healthy diet. Cutting out refined sugar and complex carbs (like those found in desserts, soda, and potato chips), and switching to whole foods filled with fiber, like fruits and veggies, may help you feel better and sleep better. Probiotics and fermented foods may also help address a microbiome imbalance. 

Certain foods are also known to be natural remedies for insomnia symptoms, including cheese, almonds, salmon, whole grains, cherries, and low-fat milk, so add them to your nighttime snack list.

Addressing Emotional and Psychological Causes

woman meditating - addressing insomnia symptoms

When emotional or psychological issues are involved, it’s important to address these underlying causes to help rid the symptoms of your sleep disorder. In these cases, behavioral therapies are especially useful. These include:

  • Mindful meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Botanical medicine, including passionflower, adaptogens, GABA, and L-theanine

Addressing a Hormonal Imbalance

If you suspect a hormonal imbalance may be the root cause of your sleeping issues, you’ll want to get tested. Fortunately, hormonal imbalances can often be treated with nutraceuticals, including melatonin, tryptophan, and glycine.

Improving Sleep Hygiene

lavender to help with sleep hygiene for insomnia

Making small changes to your lifestyle and nighttime environment can also go a long way to promoting better sleep. These changes include reducing screen time in the evening and limiting noise and light to improve relaxation. Showering at night and filling your bedroom with lavender scents can also help. Finally, make your bedroom as comfortable as possible: Find the perfect cool temperature and invest in a good pillow and mattress.

Increasing Physical Activity

manage insomnia with physical activity

Evidence indicates that exercising regularly may help treat chronic insomnia. In fact, one study showed that people who exercised for one hour per day, five days a week, had more normal REM sleep. Making time for physical activity is therefore a simple way to get more restful sleep as it can promote feelings of relaxation and reduce levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. 

Interested in more natural remedies for the symptoms of sleep disorders? Book a telehealth appointment to talk to a functional medicine doctor online.


Interested in using cannabis as an alternative treatment? Get your cannabis card with a licensed physician.

Interested in using cannabis as an alternative treatment? Get
your cannabis card with a licensed physician.