Insomnia and sleep disorders affect almost the entire population and are among the most discussed medical issues in the media (and by the general public alike).
Insomnia is actually the lack of sleep, which manifests itself on a frequent and regular basis.
It is important to note that the amount of sleep can vary from one person to another. A minority would be rested on less than 6 hours of sleep a night, but we know that most people need a night’s sleep of 7-8 hours to be well rested.
Insomnia and sleep disorders can sometimes be related to stress, digestive problems, pain (which prevents the person from sleeping) or even excessive consumption of alcohol and especially caffeine. Also read on insomnia causes.

Lack of sleep affects people’s energy and concentration, fatigue can dramatically affect people who drive vehicles, countless road accidents are related to lack of sleep, in the United States alone (USA) the number of these accidents reaches 100,000 per annum.

But sleep can also have long-term medical consequences, such as favoring weight gain (or preventing fat burning) and lowering resistance to microbes (viruses, bacteria,…). By reducing immunity, the person is more easily affected by infectious diseases (flu, bronchitis, etc).
Not to mention the psychological consequences of chronic lack of sleep, such as the development of diseases such as depression and anxiety, or problems in the cardiovascular system, with the development of diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.
To treat insomnia and its disorders, it is mainly necessary to change your lifestyle habits (drink less coffee, practice more physical activity – but not before going to bed, etc.) Read in tips , all our tricks to sleep better.

Sometimes the doctor or pharmacist (for over-the-counter medicines) may recommend a sleeping pill, to be used if possible for a short duration to avoid addiction.

It is also possible to use medicinal plants to treat insomnia, such as valerian , a famous plant that favors falling asleep and quality sleep.


To understand insomnia, you must first understand sleep.

Definition of sleep
Sleep is a temporary physiological state, immediately reversible, it can be recognized by the suppression of vigilance and the decrease in the speed of metabolism .

Sleep disorders
There are basically three sleep disorders: problems or difficulty falling asleep, waking up one or more times in the middle of the night, and waking up late at night but very early (e.g. around 4 or 5 am), having difficulty sleeping sleep again (in English this disorder is called early morning awakening ). The latter disorder mostly occurs in people over the age of 60, but it can also affect younger people. Genetic origins may explain this particular sleep disorder.
A person can suffer from one or more sleep disorders.

Sleep duration
– A regular night’s sleep can last from 4 to 10 hours, and can vary greatly from one person to another. For some people, a short night’s sleep is enough to be in shape, while for others, a night’s sleep of almost 10 hours is necessary.
– However, we observe that on average, people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep to feel rested.
– The duration can also vary greatly depending on age, some studies speak of a sleep duration of about 8 hours in people aged 18 to 30 years, 7 hours in people aged 30 to 45 years, and about 6 hours after the age of 45, but all these data can vary greatly from one person to another.Newborns need 20 hours of sleep to be well rested, kindergarten children about 13 hours, elementary school children 10 to 12 hours, and teenagers 8 to 10 hours.
– Recent studies have shown that short nights of sleep can lead to possible weight gain, a decrease in the beauty of the skin, insomnia in old age, and of course, a bad mood (irritability). So here’s some advice for people who sleep little: watch your sleep time for the sake of your health!

Sleep cycles, types of sleep
– There are two different types of sleep: slow sleep (characterized by 4 stages) and paradoxical sleep (or REM in English ). These two types of sleep occur approximately 3 to 5 times a night.
– It is during paradoxical sleep that we dream. In case of frequent interruptions of night sleep, the proportion of paradoxical sleep decreases. A decrease in the duration of paradoxical sleep causes restlessness and excitement during the day.
– It is important to note that the use of sleeping pills decreases paradoxical sleep (reduces the amount of dreams) and after discontinuing the sleeping pills, the amount of paradoxical sleep increases to compensate for the nights with sleeping pills, and this can give an impression of a restless night. This is why many people have difficulty interrupting a treatment with sleeping pills, but be patient, with time you will have balanced nights again (slow and paradoxical sleep) and that feeling of sleepless nights without sleeping pills will subside.


– It is estimated that 40% of the population has some sleep disorder (difficulty falling asleep, restless night) occasionally or frequently.

– In the United States, in December 2016 an article published in The Wall Street Journal estimated that about 30% of American adults suffer from some symptom of insomnia during the year. About 10% of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia, meaning they have trouble sleeping at least 3 times a week for more than 3 months.

– It is estimated that around the world 10 to 15% of the population suffers from chronic insomnia.

Read also: 10 tips to banish insomnia


Insomnia can be caused by many factors:

– Emotional shocks (death, sadness, overload,…)

–  stress

– Physical or health problems ( cough , pain, fever , hormonal problems, breathing disorders)

– Use of certain medications (antidepressants, caffeine-based medications, weight gain medications)

– Drinks based on stimulants (caffeine, guarana )

– Use of sleeping pills for long periods (paradoxical effect)

– The spouse wakes up a lot and this prevents him from sleeping properly. In that case, look for a solution with him or a doctor. In the worst case, sleep in separate beds.

– Restless legs syndrome

– Tobacco use (nicotine)

– Very frequent consumption of alcohol. In fact, alcohol can promote sleep (falling asleep), but it can also – due to the consequences of its metabolites – disturb sleep during the night, with (more) frequent awakenings, in addition to favoring nightmares.

– Psychological problems (depression, often characterized by awakenings in the second part of the night, around 3 am).

– Anxiety and stress from not being able to sleep, creating a vicious cycle

– Certain diseases such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke

– Bedroom environment: noise, light, temperature…

–  Jet-lag (discomfort caused by changing time zones): for travellers, businessmen or because of work (for people who “stay the night” working). If this is your case, find out about the possible use of  melatonin , as it apparently has a positive effect on jet-lag: ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

– Sport or intense physical exercise (singing,….), wait 2 to 3 hours to regain calm and be able to go to sleep.

– Electronic devices: TV, computer, smartphone and tablet in particular (we are more active in front of the computer than the TV). These devices seem to be one of the main causes of insomnia, according to a Swiss doctor [study published in September 2007]. Subsequently, other international studies have shown that tablets and smartphones emit light that can be harmful. The lux (units of measurement of the intensity of the light emitted) can disturb the circadian rhythm (internal clock), which regulates sleep. Just as light (artificial or not) decreases the concentration of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

According to a study published at the end of 2012 (found on our website French teenagers addicted to computers at night have significantly less sleep time than non-addicts. On average, they sleep no more than 8 hours and 6 minutes a night instead of 8 hours and 50 minutes like the others. For those who have an Internet-connected cell phone, the effects are comparable with just 7 hours and 59 minutes of sleep. On the other hand, university students who prefer to sleep with the good old “paper” book, sleep more.

It is advisable not to use a computer, tablet or smartphone before bedtime (an hour break before going to sleep without using these devices).

– Inactivity: for example, for unemployed or retired people. The body does not get physically or mentally tired enough during the day and this makes it difficult to sleep.

– Important intellectual activity: proofreading, work on the computer (writing, internet research,…). Wait about 2 hours between the end of intellectual activity and bedtime. Of course, there are exceptions and working the brain can have the opposite effect on some people, who can get sleepy.

– With age, as the years go by, we have less need to sleep. This can thus become a cause of insomnia, if the person tries to get more hours of sleep than he needs.

– The full moon. Read more: This is not a myth: the full moon interferes with sleep

– Eating too much at night before going to bed, this can disturb sleep. It is advisable to have a light meal in the evening, especially in the hours just before going to bed.


Insomnia is characterized by difficulties with sleeping.
These could be difficulties falling asleep and/or difficulties staying asleep (sleep disorders).

Depending on the type of sleep disorder, adapted therapies will be proposed by the doctor.

The consequences of insomnia can in the short or medium term bring bad mood, headaches, concentration disorders (which can lead to accidents). But in the case of insomnia or repeated sleep disturbances, the long-term consequences for health can be serious: weight gain (a study has shown the importance of sleeping well), hypertension , heart attack (to limit the risk it is necessary to sleep 7 hours a night), diabetes , depression , anxiety , etc.

According to a study carried out in Brazil by USP (University of São Paulo) at the end of 2010, a bad night’s sleep, especially a sleepless night, increases the concentration of white blood cells in the blood, which is manifested by signs of inflammation ( general inflammation). The researchers also observed a drop in IgA (immunoglobulin A) in people deprived of long REM sleep.

It is estimated that changes in the immune system can lead, in the long term, to the development of autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes or thyroid disorders. Night workers (nurses, taxi drivers, porters, security functions, etc.) are particularly affected by this problem.


Lack of sleep will not cause real medical complications in the short term, but in the long term.

It has been proven that people who sleep less than five hours a night have a higher risk of suffering from:

– Type 2 diabetes

– Depression

– stroke ( cerebrovascular accident )

– Heart diseases: hypertension , heart failure  (read here for more information, causes heart failure),  heart attack (a scientific study published in 2010 showed the importance of sleeping 7 hours a night, more or less, to reduce the risk) .

One study showed that women who sleep 6 hours or less a night have a 62% higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who sleep seven hours a night.

Women who work at night may also be more likely to suffer from this disease, a study of 120,000 American nurses showed an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Another study, this time French and published in June 2012 by INSERM (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) showed that night work by women increases the risk of developing breast cancer by 30%.

Lack of sleep can also increase the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.


Treatments (sleeping) available without a prescription from pharmacies

– Valerian

– H1 antihistamines (H1 receptor antagonists), such as: diphenhydramine, doxylamine.

We have observed that diphenhydramine can cause side effects such as urination disorders and drowsiness during the day.

Prescription-available treatments (prescribed by a doctor who has made a diagnosis)

– Benzodiazepines: the best known sleep aids (generally indicated in a higher dose than the anti-anxiety treatment)
. Unless the doctor sees this treatment as the only alternative.

– Zolpidem and zoplicon which act more or less like benzodiapezines but are less addictive.

– (Barbiturates, currently little used because there is a high risk of toxicity)

– (Chloral hydrate, rarely used as tolerance sets in quickly)

– Melatonin , it can be prescribed by a doctor, in case of sleep disturbance. Melatonin can be useful to treat jet-lag (time lag), especially when traveling from West to East (eg North America to Europe). There are few serious studies on melatonin and so far it is difficult to know whether it has a real impact on sleep disorders that are not related to jet-lag, that is, on a common sleep disorder. Talk to a doctor about this matter.

Herbal medicine

You should know that natural treatments to help you fall asleep and ensure a good night’s sleep are often disappointing. They can work as a complement, but the most important thing to sleep well, without a chemical medicine, is to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep: sunbathe during the day, exercise, eat little at night and slow down about 2 hours before bedtime. go to bed (more tips below in Prevention and Tips). Chemical sleep aids work well, but are often addictive and have side effects.

The medicinal plants below have been shown to be effective in promoting sleep and combating sleep disorders:

– valerian (valerian root), which can be found in the form of capsules, tablets, infusion or tincture (drops).

– linden , which can be found in the form of linden infusion or capsules.

– chamomile , which can often be found in the form of chamomile infusion.

– verbena , which can be found in the form of an infusion.

– Passiflora , which can be found in the form of infusion or capsules.

– orange blossom , which can be found in the form of an infusion.

– hops , which can be found in the form of infusion or capsules.

– lemon balm ( melissa ), which can be found in the form of infusion or capsules.

– the mulungu , which can be found in the form of an infusion.

–  ashwagandha , a plant in Ayurvedic medicine is often used in sleep disorders, usually consumed in capsule form.

– The kiwi. A study published in 2011 in the scientific journal Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. demonstrated that eating kiwifruit at night can improve sleep. Kiwi is rich in serotonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

– Try to drink plenty of fluids regularly throughout the day, especially in summer when it is hot. This helps to avoid waking up at night to go to the bathroom, especially if you drink a lot of fluids at night or just before going to bed. Drinking regularly during the day also helps to dilute the sugars, spices and salts, which promotes better sleep.

Other natural remedies or supplements 
– Melatonin (more information in our full archive)
– L-theanine. Theanine (or L-theanine), an amino acid commonly found in tea (Camellia sinensis), can help with sleep disorders, depression and anxiety. This molecule is mainly used in Asia (eg Japan). It is advisable to consume L-theanine for example capsules during the day, the dose can be from 100 to 200 mg, 2 to 3 times a day.
– Magnesium. 300 mg dose, 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
– Calcium. 300 mg dose, 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.

insomnia tips

A: Respect some strict rules

– Go to bed at fixed times and as soon as you feel tired (don’t wait). Avoid large variations between bedtime and waking time.

– Avoid playing sports or physical exercises (singing,…) before going to bed. Wait two hours between the end of the exercise and the time to go to bed.

– Do not drink drinks rich in stimulating ingredients and, in particular, caffeine-based drinks. Normally, coffee, coca-based soft drinks, and even black tea should be avoided in the evening and after 4 pm.
Obviously this applies to people who are sensitive to caffeine. It is known that, for some, caffeine can be quite stimulating, while for others it may have less effect or none at all.

– Avoid drinking too much alcohol, because at first it can make you fall asleep, but it can also, due to the metabolism of alcohol (EtOH), disturb sleep during the night, with (more) frequent awakenings, in addition to also favoring nightmares.

– Do not drink too much liquid before going to bed, as you may wake up during the night and disturb your sleep.

– Do not eat too much at night, a light meal can help you have a good sleep.

– Avoid very long naps or short naps during the day.

If you need or want to take a nap during the day, it should last no more than 30 minutes.

– Eat 6 dates 1 hour before bedtime! They are rich in tryptophan (« the sleep amino acid » and can help you fall asleep.

– Air-condition your bedroom at a temperature of around 18°C, which is conducive to falling asleep and a good night’s sleep.

– If you can’t sleep, get up and move around a bit, but don’t stay in bed. In fact, sleep obeys cycles of about 1 hour and a half. Some experts associate sleep with a train, that is, every 1h30 you can take a train (sleep), so if you miss it, it’s better to get up and wait to feel tired again to take the next one!

– Preserve a good quality of life: smoking, for example, due to nicotine, has an exciting effect; alcohol, as we’ve seen, can also prevent healthy, restful sleep.

– Practice exercises during the day, this allows you to feel more tired at night, which favors falling asleep.

– Do not spend too much time in front of the television, especially if you feel tired, also avoid using a computer too late (worse than the TV, because it emits more artificial light), a tablet or a smartphone (read more information at causes of insomnia). This artificial light can disturb sleep and has the same effect as sunlight on our brain. Take a one-hour break before going to bed without using these electronic devices. Avoid exposing yourself to very strong light before going to sleep.

– Take a warm bath in half light before going to sleep. This practice is very relaxing.
Warm baths also help reduce body temperature. In fact, when you take a hot bath, the blood circulates more to the surface of the body. Upon exiting the bath, the blood cools and then the whole body. A low body temperature helps you fall asleep better.

– Hide the clocks, so as not to be restless and nervous.

– The place where you sleep should be as dark as possible. It is advisable to cover any light manifestations.

B: Use natural treatments, for example herbal

– Infusions or pills based on valerian, orange blossom, linden or hops can be beneficial. They should be taken about 30 minutes before bedtime.

C: Look for the cause of insomnia

 Observe for 3 weeks the duration of your nights sleep, how you feel at night, if you rested during the day, … This will allow you to better understand the causes of your insomnia and better inform your specialist.

D: Be calmer, serene (or reassure the patient)

– Excitement, fear of not being able to get “your” hours of sleep can make it difficult to fall asleep. Calmness will help you fall more easily into Morpheus’ arms.

If you don’t sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, read or listen to music for a while, and then go back to bed when you feel tired.

E: Other complementary measures (relaxation, cold feet)

– Make a foot bath, a hot shower or a hot bath, for example, with extracts of lavender, chamomile or lemon balm. The purpose of the baths is to help you relax.

– Sometimes sleep disturbances can be caused by cold feet, in which case don’t hesitate to wear socks or slippers! You can also prepare a hot water bottle.

– An interesting alternative treatment sometimes proposed by doctors against sleep disorders, and falling asleep in particular, consists of sleeping just 6 hours one or more nights. Thus, the person will feel tired (6 hours is not normally enough for people to feel well rested) and will have a greater desire to go to bed. The concept of anxiety that often precedes the nights of many people who suffer from sleep disorders will subside, as the person will feel acute fatigue and hence the primary need for sleep.

– Listening to music like the composer Debussy before going to sleep. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that older people who listened to music like Debussy at 60 to 80 beats per minute for 30 to 45 minutes fell asleep more easily and also slept longer. The next morning, participants felt more rested than those without this type of music. According to researchers, this music has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and increases the release of oxytocin, a type of “feel-good” hormone. Musical rhythm beats close to 60 correspond to the heart rate during the moment of falling asleep.

– It is important to have a suitable temperature in the bedroom. A temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3°C) is recommended for a good night’s sleep. In other words, most people who own a thermostat must set it a few degrees lower than usual in other rooms in the apartment or house. These results come from a study published in 2015 in the scientific journal Current Biology, surprisingly showing that temperature had more of an impact on sleep on average than light. What is important to understand is that for a good sleep, the body often needs to have a lower temperature than the rest of the day. In summer or in hot countries without air conditioning, it is recommended to wear clothes as light as possible to sleep and ventilate well. This study was primarily performed by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

– Try to drink plenty of fluids regularly throughout the day, especially in summer when it is hot. This helps to avoid waking up at night to go to the bathroom, especially if you drink a lot of fluids at night or just before going to bed. Drinking regularly during the day also helps to dilute the sugars, spices and salts, which promotes better sleep.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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