For many different reasons, the effort to eliminate insomnia is elusive for many people. For some, this sleep disorder is caused by anxiety and stress caused by family and work problems. For others, insomnia can be caused hormonal imbalance and nervous disorder.
As we age, we tend to have sleeping problem. Although there are many OTC and prescription sleep meds on the market, there is always a chance that we can become addicted to them. Natural aids are obviously the best choice for many people having insomnia. These are a few of them:
Valerian or valeriana officicanlis had been used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat insomnia, anxiety and nervous disorders. It is an effective relaxation agent that can help people to fall asleep naturally. A number of researches have been performed on its effect on insomnia and participants showed an improved ability to relax and sleep.
GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is a substance in valerian that is believed to promote sleep. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can calm the brain. Some researchers also believe that this herb works as a natural anti-depressant by adjusting the brain serotonin level. It appears that valerian works like typical sleep aids but without causing harmful side effects. In addition, valerian is not addictive like some prescription sleep aids. Side effects of valerian are relatively mild, including stomach upset, headaches and dizziness. However, it acts like a stimulant on some people, which makes sleep harder to achieve.
The lower stems and roots of valerian can be used to make tea, tinctures, extracts and capsules. Valerian is often sold in tea form. Boil a cup of water, add one teaspoonful of loose valerian teas and let it sit for five minutes. It tastes a little bitter and the odor may not be pleasant. You can add some honey to make it taste better. If you take the capsule form, you should take it 30 minutes before bedtime. People who already take anti-depressant or prescription sleep aids, shouldn’t take valerian to avoid compounded effects on the brain. Valerian is also prohibited for people who regularly drink alcohol, children under age 3 and pregnant women.
Passionflower or passiflora incarnate has been used for centuries to treat insomnia, seizures and anxiety. It is found in the wild in some parts of North and South America. In Europe, the plant is added on some sedative drugs. Passionflower also contains GABA, which can calm the brain. Passionflower is not as strong as valerian, which is appropriate if you can’t tolerate side effects of valerian. If you find that passionflower is not strong enough to treat insomnia, but you can’t tolerate valerian side effects, you should combine it with chamomile, lemon balm, kava or a small amount of valerian. Passionflower exhibits no or negligible side effects. Even so, people who take MAO inhibitors, anxiety medication, sleep aid or prescription sedative shouldn’t take passionflower.
The plant can be used as tea, tincture, extract and capsule. If you take the tincture form, about 25 drops (0.5 ml) before bedtime should be enough. If you take the capsule form, choose 500 or 1000 mg, depending on the severity of your insomnia.
Scullcap or scutellaria lateriflora increases the endorphin (the feel good hormone) level in your brain. Higher endorphin level is not only help to treat insomnia; it can also eliminate anxiety and worries that prevent you from sleeping well. For centuries, Scullcap has been used to treat restlessness, spasms, emotional trauma, delirium and convulsions. Pagan people used the plant as a potion for couples who wanted to be together in the afterlife.
The plant presumably got its name from the appearance of its flower that resembles a hooded skull at certain angles. The plant contains minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, silicon, and zinc. Calcium and magnesium feed your nervous system and may help you to sleep better at night. A healthy body requires balanced mineral and make sure you get enough nutrients by eating wide variety of food. You can combine skullcap with valerian, passionflower and hops to improve its effectiveness. When making an infusion, you should use the aerial part of the plant and put it in a cup of boiling water. To make it more effective in treating insomnia, you should combine scullcap with passionflower or wild lettuce.
Chamomile or matricaria recutit is a very gentle remedy for insomnia, which can safely be used on children. Although it can be taken in powder or pill form, you should use chamomile tea instead. Boil a cup of water and add a teaspoon of dried chamomile, wait for ten minutes. You can add apple juice or honey to make it taste better.
Jasmine or jasminum sambac is also a gentle herb that causes no side effects. Jasmine is even gentler than chamomile, so it can be combined with more powerful herbs. Obviously you shouldn’t drink jasmine tea (regular tea combined with jasmine), as regular tea contains caffeine that can prevent a good night’s sleep. Boil a cup of water and add 5-6 jasmine flowers, wait for 10 minutes. Add some sugar or honey when necessary.
Sage or salvia officinalis is a safe sleep remedy. To help you to sleep, you can make a sage tea, but it is recommended to add sage in your cooking as culinary herb instead.
Waterspinach or ipomoea aquatica is a semi-aquatic plant and commonly used as vegetables in many Asian countries. It grows very easily and has been introduced in United States. Due to its rapid growth, USDA even categorizes it as noxious weed in Florida and Texas. Waterspinach is commonly stir fried and can be cooked with either Asian or European condiments. This crunchy-textured, nutritious vegetable can induce relaxing sleep and people who eat a bowlful of waterspinach actually expect to have a sleep within hours. Eat a plate of moderately seasoned stir-fried waterspinach (add some sage, if possible) during dinner a few hours before bedtime to induce a good night’s sleep.
Although there is no clear connection between milk and sleep, it appears that the warmth of milk brings comfort and makes sleep easier. Because, chocolate contains caffeine you shouldn’t add it to your milk.
Melanin supplement seems to be successful in regulating sleep cycles, especially for jet lag and when traveling. Melatonin is also produced inside our body by the pineal gland in our brain, which seems to be beneficial in maintaining the sleep/cycle pattern and maybe even affecting dream. Melatonin supplements are made from animal’s pineal glands, especially cows. Sunlight suppresses the melatonin production in the brain, and the production picks up in the absence of sunlight, which can make you sleepy. The melatonin supplement is often used for people above 50, because their melatonin production appears to slow down.
Melanin and melatonin are far from the same thing! Cow's milk is not easily digestible and though may help induce slumber it may also cause sleep disturbance so not a great idea.