Are you one of the 50 – 70 million Americans who say they have some kind of sleep disorder? Do you often find it difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep for a full night?
While nutrition and exercise can do a lot of good, sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle — and yet, many of us find a full night of Zzz’s extremely illusive.
If you want to improve the quality of your rest, but don’t feel like taking actual medication, these herbs may be just what you’re looking for! While we advise checking in with your doctor before trying any of these, there’s a very real possibility that one of these natural aids could be your ticket to a glorious night of sleep!
Native to Europe and parts of Asia, valerian is a perennial flowering plant with sweetly scented pink and white flowers that bloom in the summer. The root of the plant is what is commonly found in tea blends.
Studies show that valerian root reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep. It can cause sedation by increasing your brain’s GABA level. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and in large quantities can cause a sedative effect. Valerian has also been shown to help ease anxiety, which can also aid in sleep.
Unlike many prescription sleeping pills, when taken in small doses, valerian has negligible side effects, and is less likely to result in morning drowsiness.
In one double-blind study conducted by the Foellinge Health Center in Sweden, the effects of valerian on poor sleep were significant. Of the study participants, 44 percent reported perfect sleep while 89 percent reported improved sleep when taking valerian root. In addition, no side effects were observed for this group.
When you think of a nighttime tea, chamomile is most likely what comes to mind. This mild herbal tea has been used for centuries due to its healing purposes. Studies have shown that this flowering herb can be used to relieve insomnia, promote a healthy sleep cycle, and improve overall wellbeing.
One of the active compounds in the chamomile plant is apigenin, which, research shows, helps reduce locomotor activity. Chamomile is also comprised of flavonoids, mucilages, and coumarins, which can also have a calming effect on the body, allowing for a more restful sleep.
A traditional European remedy, lemon balm has been used for hundreds of years to calm the nerves and improve mood. It’s also commonly used for aromatherapy purposes.
Lemon balm has various documented benefits including: being an anti-depressant, PMS relief, and acting as an anti-microbial and sedative. Like valerian, lemon balm is thought to promote relaxation by increasing levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.
Try using lemon balm tea, or via essential oils to promote relaxation before sleep!
Passion flower is a shrub native to the tropical parts of the United States. It produces a beautiful flower that develops into a large, fleshy fruit. Traditional herbalists have used passion flower as a sleep aid, especially when patients complain of restlessness and interrupted sleep due to exhaustion.
Similar to valerian, passion flower may contribute to a better night of sleep by increasing GABA levels in the brain. Recent studies show it is one of the most effective herbal anxiety remedies, in addition to its usefulness in improving sleep and treating insomnia.
In one study, 41 subjects drank passion flower tea or placebo tea every night for a week before going to sleep. Sleep quality was significantly better in those drinking passion flower tea compared to those drinking placebo tea. Using passionflower has also be known to have beneficial effects on anxiety, blood pressure, insulin levels, and inflammation, which can also lead to a more restful night.
It seems like every health and beauty company has lavender scented products that are supposed to soothe and relax us. However, there is a method to the lavender madness! Studies have shown that exposure to lavender essential oil just before bedtime increases the sleep time spent in slow wave sleep (SWS), a sleep stage considered essential to deep, replenishing sleep. In contrast to rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep — which is when dreams occur — SWS sleep is a recuperative stage when the body releases hormones and proteins that restore tissue and boost the immune system.
One 2015 study reported in Nursing in Critical Care examined the effects of lavender oil aromatherapy on critical-care patients who typically cannot sleep well. The study focused on 60 intensive care unit (ICU) patients with coronary artery disease, and found that patients who were administered aromatherapy of lavender essential oil for 15 consecutive days slept better and experienced reduced levels of anxiety.
The study recommended lavender oil aromatherapy as a non-invasive clinical practice for other cardiac patients in ICUs.
By diffusing lavender before or during sleep, or sipping on some lavender tea prior bed, you may improve the quality of your sleep by reducing restlessness and the time is takes to drift off into la la land.
Having a warm cup of peppermint tea before bed can help improve sleep due to the menthol that is naturally present in the leaves of the herb. Menthol is a muscle relaxant — which can also translate to stress and anxiety relief.
Try drinking a cup of peppermint tea after a long gym session, or before bed, and you might just find yourself calmer and ready to rest.