Several things happen to us when we sleep. Immune, muscular, skeletal and nervous systems are rejuvenated, energy is replenished, toxins are removed and hormones are released. One important hormone released during sleep is the growth hormone, sometimes called the anti-aging hormone. This hormone regenerates the tissue of the body and the liver. It also breaks down fat and normalizes blood sugar levels. Enough sleep and adequate sleep is necessary for proper cognitive function.
The Sleep Health Foundation claims that one in three people have at least a mild form of insomnia, a disorder characterized by the inability to easily fall asleep or to stay asleep for a period of time. The former is known as sleep latency, and the latter is known as sleep maintenance insomnia. Most people have experienced primary insomnia. This type of insomnia can be prompted by stress, a change of routine, an exciting event in the near future or a number of similar things and usually last a few days. Secondary , or chronic, insomnia is more worrisome as it can last for a month or more. It may be caused by any number of factors such as stress, drug or alcohol abuse, aging, acid reflux, menopause, hormone imbalance, obesity or other sleep issues including apnea and restless leg syndrome.
Secondary insomnia may lead to chronic fatigue, loss of concentration, loss of memory and a loss of emotional control. A person suffering from secondary insomnia may not be able to reason or react properly, may become depressed, have a lower immune function, or have an increase in bodily pains and may develop headaches.
The way insomnia is normally treated is through, of course, sleeping pills. Most of these kinds of medications are addictive and have dangerous side effects. In the realm of alternative medicine, there are several herbs that can bring the body back into balance to help treat insomnia. Natural medicine differs from bio-medicine in that these treatments tend to affect the underlying problem rather than treating symptoms of the problem. It is extremely important to figure out what causes the insomnia, or any problem, before treatment.
The following information is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or cure any medical condition. Before starting any herbal medication, consult a professional practitioner.
Nervines are herbs that have a calming effect on the nervous system.
Lemon balm is commonly used to treat insomnia in the herbal medication world because it is a relaxant (different than a sedative). Of particular importance, it taste good, like lemon! It is especially useful when the issue is caused from being excitable.
Lavender and chamomile work in similar ways. Both are relaxants and work well to help with both sleep latency and sleep maintenance insomnia.
It is a common practice to combine these three herbs into an herbal tea. Using equal amounts of lemon balm and chamomile and half the amount of lavender, steep for twenty minutes in hot water, drain, and drink a cup an hour before bed, and, then, again right before bed.
Some people prefer using the herbs as a tincture rather than a tea to treat insomnia simply because this will remove the issue of having to make a trip to the bathroom interrupting precious sleeping time. Tinctures are stronger than teas. However, they can be mixed as well. A general dose is an eyedropper full, or about sixty drops. In this case, and especially when a person is still learning how the herbs will effect them, twenty drops of each of the three tinctures is a good beginning place. The dose can be reduced or added to as necessary for one or all three after a person figures out what works for them personally.
Skullcap is useful when muscle tension is the cause of the insomnia. It is best used as a tincture for this purpose. An eyedropper full an hour before bed is a common dose.
Catnip is another relaxing nervine and is useful when stress is the cause of the insomnia. Follow the same dosage above.
Passionflower is another herb that is especially indicated for insomnia. It is anti-spasmodic, sedative, anti-depressant and lowers blood pressure. It is useful when over-active thoughts cause the problem. In other words, when the brain won’t shut off at night or a person stays awake thinking of nothing of particular importance, passionflower is the remedy. Steep a teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of hot water for twenty minutes. Drink a half cup twice daily to calm those trivial thoughts.
Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stressful situations.
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is particularly useful for insomnia when the problem is over stimulation. It works similar to benzodiazepines, a class of drugs indicated for insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety and seizures. Theses can be addictive whereas ashwagandha is not. For this purpose, mix ashwangandha root powder into a cup of warm almond milk with cinnamon and honey about an hour before bedtime.
Ginseng, basil and licorice are also adaptogens that will help stabilize fatigue and stress or anxiety.
The Sleep Health Foundation states that over sixty percent of post-menopausal women suffer from insomnia. There are several herbs to ease symptoms of bodily changes at any stage of life. For menopausal women, black cohosh is helpful. It will inhibit hot flashes and night sweats which, for some, makes sleep impossible. Remifem contains black cohosh.
Sage is also useful for inhibiting sweating.
When irritability or anxiety causes sleep issues in post-menopausal women, besides passionflower, blue vervain and kava are helpful.
All the herbs listed may be purchased online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
All dosing suggestions are for healthy adults between one hundred and fifty pounds to one hundred and seventy five pounds. When using natural medicine, consistency is key. It is important to give your body a couple of weeks to come into balance.