Sleep is one of the most deeply healing and revitalizing experiences known. When we can get enough restful sleep each night, the entire world looks brighter. The amount of sleep varies from individual to individual. Normally 7-8 hours of sleep every night is adequate and normal.
Insomnia is a lack of healthful, restful sleep and is a common problem experienced by as many as 20% to 30% of adults at various times in their lives. Although it’s common to have the occasional sleepless night, insomnia is the lack of sleep on a regular basis.
The causes of insomnia are many and varied but they can be divided into two groups: primary and secondary.
Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder for which there is no specific underlying condition and is the most common form of insomnia. Stress, environmental changes (such as noise and temperature), disruptions to your normal sleep pattern (caused perhaps through shift work or long-haul travel), and the side-effects of many medications can all give rise to primary insomnia. Other contributory factors include the excessive use of drugs, alcohol or caffeine and taking naps during the day.
Secondary insomnia can be attributed to a specific underlying physical or psychological condition. These include other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and circadian rhythm disorder. Other physical and psychological conditions that often give rise to insomnia include depression, respiratory problems (including asthma), heart problems (such as congestive heart failure), arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and hyperthyroidism. So, before starting with any sleep aid, consult your doctor.
Natural sleep medications vary from herbal sleep remedies to hormones and even certain foods. Its a broad category so its worth experimenting to see which of these remedies is the most helpful for you. Its a good idea to try these natural insomnia remedies before jumping into the stronger “hypnotic” sleep medications.
Chamomile is a time-honored sedative herb which can be safely used by children and adults alike. Chamomile tea is commonly used in Europe, South America, and Mexico for insomnia and restlessness combined with irritability, particularly in children. Chamomile oil can also be put in bath water (5-6 drops) to soothe overwrought nerves, diluted to 2% to make an excellent massage oil, or used as an inhalant.
Epsom salts, naturopathic practitioners recommend this remedy for sleepless nights. Add 1 to 2 cups Epsom salts to a hot bath and soak for about 15 to 20 minutes before hitting the hay.
Hops, a major flavoring component of beer, has a long history of use for sleeplessness, nervousness, and restlessness. Hops pillows are sometimes used for mild insomnia.
Folk remedies often advise people with sleeping difficulty to eat a little honey. It has the same sedative effect as sugar and may get you to bed more quickly. Try adding 1 tablespoon honey to some decaffeinated herbal tea or even to your warm milk for a relaxing pre-sleep drink.
Lavender is a gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system. A few drops of lavender oil added to a bath before bedtime are recommended for persons with sleep disorders. Additionally, the oil may be used as a compress or massage oil or simply inhaled to alleviate insomnia.
High carbohydrate, low-protein bedtime snacks can make sleeping easier. Carbohydrate-rich foods(i.e. toast, bread…) tend to be easy on the tummy and can ease the brain into blissful slumber.
Passion flower is used for minor sleep problems in both children and adults. It is an excellent sedative with no side effects even when used in large doses.
Drinking a glass of milk, especially a glass of warm milk, before bedtime is an age-old treatment for sleeping troubles.
Valerian is a herb that has been long used as a remedy for insomnia. It is recommended for those type of people who have a hard time falling asleep, because it shortens sleep latency. It also reduces nighttime waking. Valerian is an excellent herbal sedative that has none of the negative side effects of Valium and other synthetic sedatives.
Dill seed essential oil has the most sedative-producing properties. Though scientists haven’t proved its worth, this herb is often used as a folk cure for insomnia in China.
Wild lettuce is a mild sedative and nervine used for restlessness and insomnia. Because of its safety of use and calming effects, wild lettuce is a good children’s remedy.
Taking a 5-HTP supplement may be a benefit if your body has low levels of tryptophan. How do you know if you’re low? Low levels of tryptophan are most common in people who are depressed. If your insomnia is associated with depression, it might be a good question to ask your doctor.
California poppy is a sleep-promoting herb. Clinical and laboratory work on California poppy have clearly demonstrated the plant’s sedative and anti-anxiety properties. It has been shown to improve both sleep latency and quality.
Melatonin is a popular remedy to help people fall asleep when the sleep/wake cycle has been disturbed, such as in shift workers or people who with jet lag. It’s a hormone that regulates your biological clock.
Kava is the national drink of Fiji. It imparts a calm feeling, relaxes the body, and sometimes enhances communication and dreaming. This sedative herb is often used for sleeplessness and fatigue. However, FDA has issued an advisory to consumers about the potential risk of severe liver injury resulting from the use of dietary supplements containing kava. Not recommended if you are taking any other relaxants or anti anxiety medications. Karva karva can cause dizziness. Stay away from cars, machinery and alcohol.
St. John’s Wort is a common yellow-flowered weedy herb from Europe. Modern scientific studies show that it can help relieve chronic insomnia and mild depression when related to certain brain chemistry imbalances. Because this herb can sensitize the skin to sunlight, if you are taking a full dose, avoid direct skin exposure to bright sunlight.
Also, relaxation techniques are one of the most effective ways to increase sleep time, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested in the morning. They require a minimum of 20 minutes before going to bed. There are many different techniques like yoga, meditation, deeper breathing, visualization, massage,…
Diet is another way to go. Eat carbohydrates (i.e. crackers) but avoid sweets and protein rich foods like meat. It is obvious and redundant to say that drinking caffeine and energy drinks before sleep is a certain way to experience insomnia and restlessness.
Filed Under: Health & Fitness