To follow-up HerWriter Vonnie Kennedy’s recent July article (posted July 2011), Top 12 Don’ts Before Bedtime, I wanted to share a powerful herbal supplement that aids in deep, restful sleep.
If you’re like 63 percent of Americans, you are not getting your sleep needs met throughout the week, according to a study done by the National Sleep Foundation.
Although the preventative aspects of getting good sleep are top priorities (as laid out in the12 Don’ts), desperate times call for herbal supplements . . . or something like that.
Allow me to introduce valerian. Valerian is a perennial plant whose roots are used as an herbal supplement in teas, tinctures or capsules (which are the most commonly used and convenient forms). Valerian has been used for centuries, and it has been shown to assist individuals in getting a more restful sleep, as well as decrease the time it takes to fall asleep.
In addition to aiding in sleep and sleep disorders, valerian has also been historically used for anxiety, gastrointestinal spasms, ADD and other health issues, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). However, much less scientific evidence has been found to support these uses.
Although the NIH discussed many studies in which valerian seemed clearly successful, each study’s conclusion states, for some reason or another, it cannot be counted as clinically significant.
After seeing significant sleep improvements from participants in the studies and experiencing my own success with the herb, it is very curious to me that this natural herb (which is much less expensive and safe than any synthetic, man-made, doctor-prescribed drug) can be so easily discounted. However, can all make our own conclusions.
While on the topic of natural sleep remedies, I’d like to discuss another natural supplement called melatonin, also used to aid in poor sleep.
Melatonin may sound familiar to many because it is already a hormone our bodies produce and is associated with our circadian rhythm (our internal 24 hour clock). Melatonin production increases when it is dark and decreases when it is light out, which is why many of us sleep better at night. Many researchers believe that the production of this hormone decreases with age, explaining why adults experience more difficulties with sleep than the youth (University of Maryland Medical Center).
Melatonin used for sleep aid is generally found in capsule form, tablets or dissolvable lozenges. Because every individual’s sensitivity to the supplement can vary, it is best to start with a very low dose and increase dosage depending on what works best for you.
Although melatonin is a safe supplement, there may be some side effects including sleepiness, morning grogginess and vivid dreams, among a couple of other possible side effects (WebMd).
Suggested melatonin dosage for adults is 0.2 to 20 mg, based on necessity, individual size and tolerance. However, as with every medication or supplement, it is important to consider your health and talk to your doctor before beginning use.
Before reaching for synthetic sleep aids, or giving up your dreams of great sleep, try an herbal supplement and turn those hopeless nightmares into restful dreams!
Reviewed Aug 2, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle