In the natural cure of insomnia, early to bed and early to rise is a good rule. Two hours of sleep before midnight are more beneficial than four after. Research has shown that people with chronic insomnia almost invariably marked deficiencies of such key nutrients as B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C and D as also calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. The sleep mechanism is unable to function efficiently unless each of these nutrients is present in adequate amounts in the diet. A balanced diet with simple modifications in the eating pattern will go a long way in the treatment and cure of insomnia. Such a diet should exclude white flour products, sugar and its products, tea, coffee, chocolate, cola drinks, alcohol, foods containing additives that are chemicals for preserving, colouring and flavouring, too much use of salt and strong condiments.
In the modified eating pattern, breakfast should consist of fresh and dried fruits, whole cereals, seeds and yogurt. Of the two main meals, one should comprise a large mixed salad and the other should be protein-based. A cup of milk sweetened with honey at bedtime is helpful as the amino-acid tryptophan contained in milk induces sleep. Any attempt to force sleep only drives it further away. It is better to redirect the mind with soft music or light reading. While going to bed, the patient should visualise a blank black wall occupying the entire field of vision. During the night, the position of the arms and legs should be changed regularly and a healthy sleeper usually shifts from one side to the other a number of times in the course of the night.
Controlled breathing is also a great help in inducing sleep. The method is to lie on one's side in bed, and then take three deep breaths expanding the abdomen entirely. Then breath should be held as long as possible. While holding breath, carbon dioxide accumulates in the body and induces natural sleep. Regular, active exercising during the day and mild exercise at bedtime enhances the quantity and the quality of sleep. Exercise stimulates the elimination of lactic acid from the body which correlates with stress and muscular tension. Regular exercise also produces hormonal changes which are advantageous to the body and to the sleep pattern. Walking, jogging, skipping, swimming are all ideal exercises. Vigorous exercise should, however, be avoided at night as this can be over-stimulating.
Yoga asanas helps a majority of cases of insomnia in two ways. Firstly, yoga treatment helps tone up the glandular, respiratory and nervous system. Secondly, yoga also gives physical and mental relaxation as a safety value for one's disturbing problems. The traditional yoga asanas which are effective for insomnia patients are shirsana, sarvangasana, paschimottanasana, uttanasan, viparita karani and shavasana. Hydrotherapy is also effective in treatment of insomnia. Along with the various measures for the treatment of insomnia, all efforts should be made to eliminate as many stress factors as possible. The steps in this direction should include regular practice of any relaxation method or meditation technique, cultivating the art of doing things slowly (particularly activities like eating, walking and talking), cultivating a creative hobby and spending some time daily on this, avoiding working against unrealistic targets and completing one task before starting another.