11 Insomnia Cures Former Insomniacs Swear By

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

No one likes having insomnia, whether you have trouble falling asleep or fall asleep just fine, but then wake up in the middle of the night, wide awake — you may want to sleep but your brain wants to do anything but. Luckily, however, there are cures for insomnia that former insomniacs swear by.

For instance, I used to toss and turn until I started using the Headspace app every night. Not only is the narrator’s voice soothing, but there are also several meditations to choose from outside of the free 10 ones, one that’s even called “Sleep.” Before Headspace, I was not a meditation person at all, so trust me when I say it’s been a sleep game-changer. Before Headspace, I tried other natural ways to fall asleep, including melatonin and valerian root, but Headspace has proven the most effective for me. However, as you will see below, different insomnia-combatting methods work for different people.

Christi-an Slomka, community manager for Calm (a meditation and sleep app) and a yoga and meditation teacher, believes that mindfulness is one key component in combatting insomnia. “Our busy minds are most often what keep us up at night, and when we try to stop thinking, our thoughts can become anxious and fuel insomnia,” she tells Bustle. “Mindfulness helps us to focus our attention so that we can settle the mind and relax the body, the perfect recipe for a good night’s rest.”

Slomka suggests that even if you can’t fall asleep right away, a mindfulness practice will allow you to let go and enjoy the quiet time before you naturally drift into sleep. “Rather than getting swept up in past regrets or making your to-do lists for tomorrow, something like Calm’s Sleep Stories or the Deep Sleep Body Scan can work,” she says. She says there’s also a seven-day meditation program on sleep (also on the app), which guides users on how to develop daily mindfulness habits and bedtime routines that lead to a good night’s sleep.

In addition to meditation apps, there are many other ways women have overcome insomnia, and they share some below.

1Andrea, 33

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I had terrible insomnia in college, and a doctor told me to make sure my bed is ONLY for sleeping. I had a tiny room, so I sat on my bed all the time — especially when I was watching TV (no iPads yet, and no Internet on my cell phone). I made sure I was never on my bed for any length of time unless I was sleeping, and that totally worked. I actually still adhere to that for the most part — no TV or tablets in the bedroom — and I haven’t had insomnia since.”

2Sarah, 34

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“This may sound silly, but I stopped drinking caffeine after lunch, and it’s been amazing! Because of my job, I used to drink it till at least 7 or 8 p.m., and then after dinner sometimes, too. But ever since I stopped all my coffees, teas, and Cokes after lunch, I’ve been able to sleep soundly.”

3Maria, 31

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“I used to suffer from insomnia all the time, but now I have a bedtime ritual I do, and it works almost every time. First, I stop using all electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed, but aim for an hour. Then I take a warm bath or shower, followed by reading a book (but nothing that’ll stimulate my brain too much). After the book, I put on an eye mask that has lavender inside (but my friend puts drops of lavender essential oil on hers and it has the same effect), and I take several deep breaths, holding each breath a few seconds before I exhale. And then, I’m asleep!”

4Maureen, 63

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“I suffered with terrible insomnia for years and I swear by meditation. I was caught in a chicken/egg scenario — stress caused my insomnia, insomnia caused my stress, BUT I really didn’t understand the root cause of my insomnia until I started meditating. A specific practice opened the gate to memories I had suppressed for years. Once I uncovered this cause, I could deal with it, and I’ve had good quality sleep ever since.”

5Jennifer, 36

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“I go for a walk after dinner, at least an hour before bed, and it helps me fall asleep. My doctor had said daily exercise is important in order to get a good night’s sleep, but I don’t always have time to get to the gym every day (read: rarely), so these nightly walks have helped. I didn’t want to take prescription pills ... (I know too many people who are addicted), so my walks are a win-win and all-natural to boot.”

6Jayne, 45

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“I tell everybody that this is the only insomnia cure they need: a boring book. It works without fail and costs far less than any other remedy or medication (just pick some up at a used bookstore or garage sale). Then, read until you literally cannot keep your eyes open anymore — with a dim light, if possible, though I’ve done it so much in all light conditions that I can literally fall asleep under any conditions now, boring book in hand, of course.”

7Brandi, 35-40

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“I am the owner and lead therapist at Reach Counseling Solutions, PLLC, in Charlotte, NC, and a former insomniac. As a therapist, I have found that depression and anxiety disorders are often linked with insomnia. I have found that essential oils, particularly lavender-scented oils, help to calm the body and often lead to sleep. I’ve also found that hot tea, like chamomile, helps to calm the body and often guides many people to slow down, given the heat of the tea. Using things like essential oils and tea allows many people to take a minute to pause, reflect, and breathe slowly.”

8Fabian, 25-30

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“I’m an editor at Napseason.com with experience in insomnia and the science behind sleep. I am a former student of the study Nutrition and Dietetics at the Hague University of Applied Science. During my study, I used to work at a hotel doing the night shifts. The night shift pretty much messed up with my sleep rhythm. After some long research and a lot of tweaking and testing, I finally managed to sleep normally again.

A simple therapeutic approach that worked for me is to dump all your thoughts and things you need to do from your brain to a piece of paper; doing this is a scientific proven way to fall asleep faster. Baylor University did research on this. The results were that the participants who wrote things down fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. It also turned out that the more specific you are as you write things down, the sooner you will fall asleep. The theory behind this is that writing things down removes your worry from your brain, and in turn, you will be more relaxed and ready to go to sleep. Journaling has helped me a lot. To be more specific, I wrote everything that I had to do for the next day in chronological order of importance (and how to do it).”

9Camilla, 63

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“Before bed, I take a long bath while drinking a calming tea. Afterwards, I fall asleep within minutes., and my insomnia has not returned.”

10Bethany, 23

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“I work for Mattress Advisor and use an insomnia-fighting cookie recipe to fall asleep. I made various renditions of this recipe before finalizing it, and baked numerous batches of the final recipe. I ate them an hour before bed each night and tracked my experience with them. I still eat them now if I have had caffeine or feel I have not used enough energy during the day. If you google ‘foods that help you sleep,’ everyone will talk about the amino acid tryptophan. It is a necessary ingredient for your body’s melatonin and serotonin production/regulation, BUT people won’t always explain what you need to do to optimize your tryptophan intake. This cookie recipe is designed to give you the right balance of carbs and protein to help to sleep through the night.”

11Andreia, 35

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“My reflexologist taught me that breathing is the key to falling asleep — and staying asleep. So when I have a bout of insomnia, I concentrate only on my breathing and do not think of anything else; it clears your mind and calms you down. You’ll see — it’s impossible not to fall asleep.”

As you can see, there are several different insomnia cures that people swear by, and the only way to see what works for you is by testing them out. Hopefully, one of the above will work for you before you have to go through the whole list — but if not, at least there are plenty of insomnia-fighting remedies to try.