Alternative health and medicine have gained steam over the years and many herbs and natural supplements have been shown to improve sleep and insomnia in some cases, though studies are limited.
Melatonin is one of the more well-known natural treatments for insomnia, sleep disorders and sleep problems. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that melatonin “can help older adult insomniacs obtain a good night's sleep.”
However, other studies have shown that it can be ineffective. For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study that assessed the treatment of primary insomnia with melatonin, it was found that melatonin had no sleep benefits.
A summary by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that melatonin is not effective in many ways, though it can be used to effectively treat “delayed sleep phase syndrome with short-term use.”
Some adverse side effects of melatonin can be nausea, headache, dizziness and drowsiness.
Another natural treatment for insomnia and other sleeping problems is valerian. It’s an herb sold as a dietary supplement, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health.
It has been effective in some sleep studies, but more research is needed. Some negative side effects include dizziness, headaches, an itch or sensation causing a person to want to scratch (pruritus) and gastrointestinal problems. It may also cause liver problems, weakening of the heartbeat and paralysis in high doses, according to the American Cancer Society.
Chamomile is considered an alternative treatment for insomnia by some and is an herb. However, like many alternative treatments, not a lot of research has been done on its effects on sleep. Some people have found it to be effective or have used it, especially in tea.
Some sites suggest it for mild insomnia or minor sleeping problems, though for severe insomnia it probably won't be effective.