Natural Sleep Aids and How They Work (or don’t!)

Natural Sleep Aids - Meditation


Advertisement

If you’re battling to get to sleep at night, this site has many articles to help you; this one is concerned with natural sleep aids. I have compiled a list of natural sleep remedies including herb based sleep remedies, Aryurvedic (traditional Indian) remedies, supplements such as melatonin, melatonin based insomnia products and many others.

The Insomnia Cycle

There are some conditions that prevent you from sleeping that need treatment by themselves, such as stress and diseases that cause physical discomfort and pain. However, some conditions such as apathy, exhaustion and even mild depression can be caused by poor quality sleep and fixing that issue will also fix the condition.


Advertisement

These conditions can feed on each other and get you into a vicious cycle that will leave you permanently exhausted and jittery, so it’s worth trying to break the cycle by fixing the insomnia first. Remember though – if you are really unwell, you need to see your physician – don’t just take advice from a web site, no matter how reputable.

Our Preferred Natural Sleep Solution

No matter what your interest in sleep may be, academic or personal, then do browse our articles on Melatonin (in the sidebar menu) and on sleep generally (in the menu at the top of the page but also at the end of this article). Now on we go!

Natural Sleep Aids

Herbal sleep remedies don’t always have great medical pedigree, and it’s not always clear whether they work, or if they do work, if there is a powerful placebo effect at work. These are the best known herbal insomnia remedies:

Lavender for Insomnia

lavender as a sleep aid

In an experiment at Wesleyan University, subjects were asked to sniff lavender essential before retiring at night, alternating with distilled water -and then distilled water the next. These people then had their sleep cycles monitored, On the night they sniffed the lavender before bed, these people slept more soundly and felt much more refreshed next morning – so yes, lavender does seem to help with insomnia and stress.

The researchers also found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, the very deep slumber in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax. During this phase, the brain is thought to organize memory, as well.

For more research on lavender, try the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Lemon Balm for Insomnia

lemon Balm for Insomnia

Lemon balm is a herb used as far back as the middle ages to assist with insomnia, stress, pain and appetite problems. Here is what the University or Maryland Medical Center says:

“Several studies show that lemon balm combined with other calming herbs (such as valerian, hops, and chamomile) helps reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Few studies have examined lemon balm by itself, except for topical use. For example, in one study of people with minor sleep problems, 81% of those who took an herbal combination of valerian and lemon balm reported sleeping much better than those who took placebo.”

Why does it work? Lemon balm, which is made from the leaves of the plant, contain terpenes which promote relaxation and which are also known to have some anti-viral effects.Other substances in rhe essential oils of Lemon Balm are tannins which have an anti viral effects and eugenol which kills bacteria and calms muscle spasms. You can read more from the University of Maryland here.

Chamomile for Insomnia

Chamomile  - a pretty solution for Insomnia

Chanmomile is a substance used by humans as a general health supplement for thousands of years and is still widely regarded as a mild sedative. Claims for CHamomile include it being an effective remedy for a variety of ailments including insomnia, menstrual problems hay fever and general problems of inflammation.

There are two common versions – German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. The flowers of these plants contain chemicals known as terpenoids and flavenoids, which are a complex range of substances for which a wide array of benefits are claimed.

Not all these claims are true though and claims for flavenoids as anti-oxidants have been mainly disproven because they do not stay in the body long enough to have a significant effect. Similar claims exist for terpenoids. But because the compounds in Chamomile are caries and complex – and safe – I would suggest retying a nice cup of chamomile tea before bed and seeing if it helps!

Hops for Insomnia

hops for insomnia

Hops do not seem to be recommended as an aid to insomnia by themselves, but in combination with Valerian. This combination seems to help people to get to sleep faster, but it only seems to become effctive after about a month of taking the mix. VAlerian is used in the melatonin based product Melatrol– we have a list of the ingredients and an explanation of the role of Valerian – here.

Valerian for Insomnia

Valerian herb for sleep supplements

A range of studies has shown that valerian not only helps to get people to sleep faster, but also improves the quality of sleep. Valerian has been used for insomnia tratment for about two thousand years, and it became popular in Europe around the 1600’s – about 500 years ago.

German medical research has acknowledged that valerian is a mild sedative and it has been approved as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration. No one is certain how valerian works, but there are indications that it increases the amount of the substance GABA in the brain. GABA tends to suppress anxiety and quieten the nerves. It is derived from a European plant that grows to about 2 feet tall.

Passion Flower for Insomnia

Passion flower for insomnia

Passion flower is native to the Americas and it has been used for centuries as a ‘calming’ substance to deal with hysteria, anxiety and stress. Like Valerian, it is believed to increase GABA levels in the brain. The plant is grown in Europe where it has also been used medicinally for centuries. Although experiments have shown Passion Flower ro be effective, there is still no scientific consensus.

American Skullcap for Insomnia

American-Skullcap for insomnia

American Skullcap is a plant native to North America where it has been used for 200 years as a mild sedative. It is also grown widely in Europe now. There are no definitve studies of its efficacy and it is almost always combined with other substances.

Claims are made for Skullcap as a remedy for everything from premenstrual tension to insomnia and inflammation.

Corydalis for Insomnia

Cordyalis for insomnia

There are around 470 types or variations of cordydalis which is native to the Northern hemisphere and high mountains of of East Africa. Here’s what the University of Michigan says:

“In laboratory research, it has been shown to exhibit a wide number of pharmacological actions on the central nervous system, including analgesic and sedative effects.10 dl-THP has been found to exhibit a tranquilizing action in mice. Scientists have suggested that dl-THP blocks certain receptor sites (e.g., dopamine) in the brain to cause sedation.”

So this herbal aid does have a solid scientific basis for its action. Like most herbal remedies, many claims are made for Corydalis, but there is some evidence showing it to be a useful aid to easing the discomfort causes by stomach ulcers.

Homeopathic Insomnia Remedies

Homeopathy has always seemed to be without foundation in my opinion. When you look at the concentrations of substances in homeopathic products, you quickly realise that havng a few parts per billion (and that’s being generous!) of anything in water isn’t going to make any medical difference. Of course, there are almost certainly placebo benefits for thos who believe, but I do not propose to cover homeopathic products on this site – I simply don’t believe in them. Here’s a good article on why homeopathy is nonsense.

Traditional Indian Insomnia Remedies

Indian Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine in South Asia. It claims to ‘balance your body’ and help you to sleep with such solutions as warm milk with saffron and nutmeg. I haven’t found any medical evidence that the substances really work, but a cup of warm milk with a nice nutmeg flavoring never hurt anyone and may well make us feel calm and drowsy.

I will look further into Ayurveda in another article – it’s interesting and most old traditions have a kernel of truth in them!

Meditation for Insomnia


Free Meditation Course

Meditation can without doubt help you to sleep soundly. Executed properly, it can change your whole outlook on life and lead to a healthier and less stressed life. I have a whole article and some basic instructions on meditation for sleep here

.


Summary of this Page
Article Name
Natural Sleep Aids and How They Work (or don't!)
Description
Nature has a host of safe, natural sleep aids we can apply to our insomnia. We provide a list you can use to test the ingredients of many modern products.
Author