There has been an increasing interest in Herbal Remedies in helping improve sleep. As our knowledge of how our bodies and minds work together develops, we are more aware of the affect of drugs and nutrients on our sleep. Many people seek to take responsibility for their own health and see sleep as a natural part of their life that is ‘out of balance’.
Although sleeping pills may have short term benefits most doctors would be reluctant to prescribe them in the longer term. The alternative is to look for remedies and therapies that will help through a difficult period and help regain long term sleep quality. Herbal Remedies are readily available over the counter and from specialist suppliers. Like pharmaceuticals they are best taken only when other methods are not supplying the relief needed. Other factors, such as anxiety, illness, alcohol and diet should be considered before looking at any form of medicine.
Comfort and Support
Traditionally, hot drinks have offered comfort and a feeling of relaxation that may help induce sleep. Milky drinks and even a small ‘nightcap’ are more likely to suggest sleep than have any physical affect. A routine that encourages relaxation and reflection before bedtime will help pave the way to a restful night.
Herbs and Sleep
Herbs may help sleep by creating a feeling of calm. They are used in massage oils and other products for their aroma that will influence the senses and help relaxation. Camomile and Lavender are often used for relaxation and can be found in many forms including sprays and oils that will scent the bed and bedroom. By trying to create an environment that is conducive to sleep, the mind and body are encouraged to connect and prepare for a restful night.
Massage and Herbs
Aromatherapy uses essential oils that are prepared for individual requirements. The effect of the oils and the calming action of the massage create a sensation of relaxation, calm and comfort that help encourage sleep. Smell is a powerful sense and different scents may help recapture memories of more peaceful times and a sense of wellbeing.
There are a number of different ‘sleep remedies’ on the market. Some have a combination of ingredients and many people report that they experience a calming effect that helps them sleep better. There is little research into the effectiveness of these products, but if they help improve sleep there are few reported side effects and they may offer the support needed to relax and fall asleep.
- Studies have shown that the herb Valerian can be as effective as the anti anxiety drug Oxazepan or placebos aimed at promoting sleep. It has been shown to encourage deeper sleep and is particularly recommended for those whose sleep is affected by anxiety and stress. As with all drugs, care should be taken when taking this or other drugs and alcohol should be avoided. Advice should be sought if taking any other medications.
- St John’s Wort is well known for treating mood disorders and depression. It works on serotonin and melatonin which both affect sleep. As it takes time to take effect it needs to be taken in the morning to promote a good night’s sleep. You should not take St John’s Wort if you are taking the contraceptive pill as it will make it ineffective.
- Passion Flower is also reported to help create a good night’s sleep and Hops have been used for centuries to encourage sleep.
- Camomile is also popular as a mild drink taken before bedtime. It may safely be taken by children and is a traditional medicine for nightmares. Lemon Verbena and Lime flower also have mild sedative properties and are safe to drink at any time.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine herbal remedies are used to restore the yin-yang balance within the body. There are around 6,000 herbs used to treat a number of conditions and restore harmony.
The herbs are classified according to the five elements of taste (sweet, bitter, salty and pungent) and their opposite qualities of hot and cold. A practitioner will prescribe a formula which may include as many as 15 herbs that are recommended for treating a particular ‘disharmony’. The herbs are usually taken as a tea, or may come as a pill, powder or as an ointment.
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine will take some time to diagnose the person and will look at other areas such as lifestyle and diet in an effort to restore harmony. They may also offer advice on diet and exercise to help overcome a sleep problem.
Herbal Remedies are increasingly popular as they offer a pleasant, non addictive way of promoting sleep. Taken in conjunction with other help such as exercise and a change in diet they will help re-establish a routine that will be beneficial to sleep. Used as a replacement for alcohol, caffeine and tea at night they will help the body ‘wind down’ and prepare for a relaxing night.