How to do without sleeping pills?

Sleeping pills allow you to fall asleep, but you should not abuse them. The ideal is even to do without it completely. How ? Infusions, therapy, eating starches, sport, sophrology… A tour of the natural alternatives to consider with Dr Olivier Pallanca, psychiatrist specializing in sleep.

The French swallow too many sleeping pills and anxiolytics, warns theMedicines Agency (ANSM). About 46 million boxes of sleeping pills are sold each year in France, according to its latest report. It is in particular the statute of limitations which is problematic. However, this over-consumption exposes you to a number of side effects. The ANSM has collected more than 200 adverse effects linked to taking melatonin between 1985 and 2016: neuropsychiatric disorders, risks of abuse and dependence. But how to do without it? Plants, tips, relaxation methods, behavioral therapies… Natural Alternatives Tour and advice with Dr. Olivier Pallanca, sleep specialist psychiatrist.

A gradual weaning

The idea is to reduce the doses of sleeping pills stepwise : if you take one tablet a day, you start by taking only 3/4, then half, then 1/4 and so on. Then, we can space the frequency of taking: one day out of two, then one day out of three until complete cessation. Each stage can last several days or even several weeks. The duration depends on each person.

Valerian herbal tea, anti-stress plant

In tablets, herbal teas… Some plants are known for their sedative properties. “The only plant that has proven its scientific effectiveness in making it easier to fall asleep is valerian.. Valerian-based herbal teas or herbal mixtures in valerian-based tablets can therefore be interesting. On condition ofbuy a product whose compound is active“, advises our expert. Beware, for example, of plants purchased on the markets, whose effectiveness is not necessarily controlled and prefer the pharmacy.

Cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT)

The CCT are particularly aimed at patients with psychophysiological insomnia. They wake up in the middle of the night and toss and turn in their bed thinking about the previous day. People who suffer from it often have strong performance anxiety“, specifies our interlocutor. Cognitive and behavioral therapies help to recondition falling asleep. They make it possible to find rituals of falling asleep, to reduce theanxiety nocturnal, to relax. They must be done with a psychologist or a psychiatrist specializing in sleep. 8 one-hour sessions can be enough to restore good sleep.

Eat pasta at night

No hot milk before bed!

Good quality sleep requires a relatively low internal temperature. If the evening meal is too abundant or too close to bedtime (less than two hours), digestion takes longer, increases body heat and disrupts your sleep. Choose foods with slow carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, bread, pasta). They promote sleep because they allow better regulation of intake throughout the night. Good to know, “even if it is part of a sleep ritual, drinking a hot drink, containing fat and rich in protein in addition (a hot milk for example), on the contrary has an anti-sleep action“, warns our interlocutor.

No sports in the evening!

Better to avoid gyms in the evening. Between the light which is often too strong there and the music, these are not conditions that allow relaxation. On the contrary, this atmosphere tends to disturb the biological rhythm by giving the body signals of awakening. In addition, the sport increases the internal temperature, therefore makes it more difficult to fall asleep if it is practiced at home.r”, explains Dr. Pallanca. Sport to relieve tension and have fun: it is recommended during the day, but not recommended in the evening! Avoid intensive sport 2 to 3 hours before sleeping.

Read before sleep

Reading before sleeping is a very good idea. “Three conditions anyway: do not read on the Internet or on a touch pad, make sure you are lit by a soft light and choose a reading that is not very stimulating! Avoid novels that are too anxiety-provoking and stressful or too complicated, for example. Why not a comic strip?“, advises the sleep specialist. Pay attention to sleep signals: yawning, heavy eyelids, stretching, itchy eyes, etc.. Your body is telling you that it’s time to rest.

See a doctor

If you have problems withinsomnia, you should consult a health professional, ideally a sleep specialist. With his help, the first step will be to properly analyze what is behind these sleep problems. “In most cases, we are faced with anxiety disorders and chronic stress, linked to professional or personal difficulties. This is where you have to start“, says Dr. Pallanca.

Homeopathy (occasionally and not for everyone)

There are few studies on the effectiveness ofhomeopathy. But it can be a solution for people who just need a ritual for them. help to find sleep punctually. In contrast, it’s not a miracle drug and in any case, it is not suitable for anxious people, whose sleeping troubles are more entrenched. I very often see patients who consult after having tested alternative methods and who cannot get out of their insomnia problems. A real analysis of the causes of sleep disorders is sometimes necessary and essential“, advocates Dr. Pallanca.

No screen before sleep

Television, computer, smartphones, crosswords… All of these activities increase the level of tension and are not recommended, including crosswords or other games that tend to upset and put pressure to complete them. It must be understood that the anxiety of the night, which causes insomnia, is closely linked to daytime anxiety. It is not by maintaining an active state that you will succeed in relaxing“, explains the specialist. The end of the day activities must be soothing and non-stressfulwithin a quiet environment (no strong light, no noise).


Relaxation is effective against sleep disorders because it allows you to empty your mind and not think about anything just before falling asleep. But when done well. 5 minutes is not enough. Neither do CDs or methods available on the Internet. “What is needed is to start with take lessons with a professional (sophrologist, psychologist) in order to have a good foundation and to be able to really relax“, advises the specialist.

No coffee, tea and alcohol

It is essential avoiding coffee and tea, which are stimulantswhen you sleep badly and you are sensitive to it, which is the case withone in two people. As for the glass of wine, it can be tolerated if it is part of a ritual that promotes sleep. On the other hand, when you drink alcohol to reduce your anxiety, there is a real problem behind the sleep disorder and that is what you have to think about. Moreover, although alcohol helps you sleep, it also tends to fragment sleepit increases the risk ofsleep apnea, it increases dehydration, etc. All of this affects the quality of sleep and usually results in waking up in the middle of the night.”he explains.

Thanks to Dr Olivier Pallanca, sleep psychiatrist.

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