Natural Alternatives to OTC Sleep Medications

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

These days, the typical response to insomnia is to rush to the drugstore to pick up an over-the-counter sleep aid. But before you do that, you might first consider some natural remedies. Most of the following may not only help you fall asleep, but also stay asleep. And here's an added bonus: they can even promote muscle relaxation.

Wild lettuce

Ever heard of wild lettuce? If not, you should know it’s often used by those who deal with insomnia from headaches and anxiety, as well as joint and muscle pain. Some even use it to help with restless leg syndrome. The good news is wild lettuce can be purchased as a supplement, so searching through grocery aisles isn't necessary. A 30 to 120 mg dose before bed is a good guideline for treating insomnia.

Calcium and magnesium

Calcium and magnesium are both sleep boosters. When paired together they are even more effective at promoting sleep. Dosage recommendations are 600 mg of calcium nightly, combined with a 200 mg dose of magnesium. Some people get an upset stomach when taking magnesium; if you do, lower your dosage.


Most people who drink beer know it can have a calming effect. This is due to the hops, the female flower used in the production of beer. But hops can also be purchased simply in supplement form. To get the mild sedative effect that may help treat insomnia and anxiety, consider taking 30 to 120 mg nightly.


If insomnia is something you have just started experiencing, you may not know about melatonin. This is the sleep-inducing hormone produced by the body in response to darkness. Melatonin can also be purchased in supplement form, with a dosage of .3 to .5 mg before bed to start with.

Essential oils

One of the more natural ways to deal with insomnia is through the use of essential oils. Lavender, chamomile, marjoram, sandalwood, and vetiver oil are all scents that can promote relaxation and sleep. Essential oils can be diluted with olive or vegetable oil and applied directly to the skin. Or they can be added to bath water or placed in an aromatic.

A lst tip

Try some natural remedies to treat your insomnia before deciding on an OTC sleep aid. Keep in mind that every person is unique--a natural treatment that may work for one person may not work for another. Explore various options to see if you can find one that works for you.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.