Herbs to help you sleep
While sleep is a necessity for all of us, that doesn’t mean it always comes easy. Study after study has shown that prolonged periods of poor sleep can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.
While there are a number of treatments available to aid sleep, one area that is often overlooked are natural and herbal remedies.
Below are several herbs – some of which may be unexpected or less usual, while some are already in your kitchen cupboards – that can help you relax and fall asleep:
Native to Asia and Europe, Valerian root has been used since ancient times as a dietary supplement for insomnia and depression. It was even documented that Valerian was used during World War II to help relieve the stress caused by air raids on British soil. To this day is it one of the most commonly used sleep promoting herbal supplements in the European and US markets.
Studies have shown Valerian root can have a positive impact on the time taken to fall asleep, although others believe there is no concrete evidence. The studies also concluded there doesn’t appear to be any side effects such as morning drowsiness while taking the extract, however, everyone is different, and it may be wise to avoid operating machinery or driving after taking the herb.
As well as being beautiful to look at, Passionflower is also highly regarded as an effective remedy to help promote relaxation and calm the mind. It’s believed the vine was given its name by Pope V in 1605 who regarded the flower as a symbol of the ‘passion of Christ’.
The chemical composition of the plant is rich in alkaloids, coumarins and flavones, while the extract also contains GABA, an neurotransmitter which can have a calming effect on the nervous system.
As it is very mild, it is often used with children in Brazil – but make no mistake, this works very well on adults too! Years ago on a hot summer’s day I made up a tall glass of passionflower juice (maracujá in Portuguese) – and in less than an hour, I nearly broke my jaw yawning and couldn’t understand why….until I remembered that nice cold glass of juice I drank!
Lemon Balm (also called Melissa) is a citrus scented herb that belongs to the mint family and is found all over the world. The dried leaves can be used to make a cup of tea.
Lemon Balm has a calming effect to help reduce anxiety, restlessness and sleep problems, although it is more commonly used for digestive problems.
With the holidays coming up, Nutmeg isn’t just for flavouring your desserts! This warming spice has a reputation for its settling and calming properties in both traditional Indonesian herbal medicine and Western herbal medicine and is reputed to help you fall and stay asleep. It is also a euphoric and like the essential oil, is uplifting to the mood.
Cinnamon provides a gently warming, sweet yet sugar-free flavour while helping improve blood sugar levels. Sleep deprivation raises cortisol levels, which can lead to increased rates of insulin resistance, which is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon is said to prevent this insulin resistance, as well as helping improve glucose tolerance.
Cinnamon is also helpful in improving indigestion, which can often keep us awake at night. Try sprinkling some over your pre-bed bowl of porridge to drift off peacefully.
A small bowl of porridge an hour before bedtime might not be the worst idea. Oats have been traditionally used to recover from stress-induced nervous fatigue and to aid restful sleep.