The Cleveland Clinic

Sleep Disorders: Alternative Therapy

A health treatment that is not classified as standard western medical practice is referred to as "alternative." Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines that include everything from diet and exercise to mental conditioning and lifestyle changes. Examples of alternative therapies include acupuncture, guided imagery, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage and many others.

Complementary medicine is essentially alternative medicine that is taken along with conventional treatments.

Some complementary and alternative therapies used to treat insomnia include supplements, acupuncture, relaxation and meditation, and exercise.

Supplements

Herbs

The effects of the root of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) on sleep have been examined in people with sleep problems. Some studies have suggested that valerian helps with the onset of sleep and with sleep maintenance. In one study, valerian extract was found to be as effective as the antianxiety drug Serax in patients with insomnia. However, more research is needed before a final conclusion can be made about the safety and effectiveness of valerian for insomnia.

Chamomile is another commonly used herb for the treatment of insomnia. The FDA considers chamomile to be safe and the herb has no known adverse effects.

Other herbs promoted as effective sleep remedies include passionflower, hops, ginseng, lemon balm and skullcap. The German government has approved certain herbs (valerian, hops and lemon balm) for the relief of sleep problems. However, clinical studies to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of herbs are scarce. More information is required before these herbs can be recommended as a first line of treatment against insomnia.