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Natural Sleep Remedies

For occasional insomnia, the following herbs and supplements (found at natural-food stores) may be especially effective. Be sure to discuss supplements you're interested in with your health-care practicer.

Valerian
Probably the most well-known herb for sleep, valerian works by calming the nerves and relaxing the muscles. Since it's often described as smelling like dirty socks, take it "down the hatch" as a dropperful of tincture or a 500-mg capsule rather than sipping it as a tea. Keep in mind that for some people, valerian has a stimulating effect; try it on a weekend, just in case. You'll know quickly whether valerian works for you. If you're taking sedatives or medicine for depression or anxiety, use valerian only under the guidance of a health-care professional.

Melatonin
This supplement is synthesized to match a hormone produced within the pineal gland, a pea-sized organ in our brain that regulates the body's internal clock. Melatonin supplements "can be helpful for shifting bodies back into a rhythm," says Donald Yance, an Oregon-based clinical herbalist and certified nutritionist. Though 3 mg supplements are commonly sold in stores, he advises patients to start with 1 mg. Yance cautions against using too much, saying "it's not wise to use a hormone as a drug." As with valerian, you should notice the effects of melatonin quickly.

L-theanine
Found naturally in green tea, this amino acid raises levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a relaxation-inducing chemical in our brains, and can ease anxiety-induced insomnia without grogginess. Yance often recommends 200 to 600 mg before bed to his patients. You should feel the effects quickly.

Sleep-Inducing Tea
For a relaxing bedtime beverage, Yance suggests combining several herbs as follows: Passionflower and skullcap soothe agitated nervous systems and can help with mental chatter; oat seed strengthens the nervous system and helps people who are too tired to sleep; and chamomile provides a gently relaxing base.

1 chamomile tea bag
30 to 60 drops passionflower tincture
15 to 30 drops skullcap tincture
15 to 30 drops milky oat seed (Avena sativa) tincture

Pour boiling water over tea bag and let steep for five minutes. Remove tea bag, and add drops of tincture to tea. Stir in a touch of honey if desired. Sip and enjoy.

Check out our flow to sleep exercises.
What's the perfect sleep routine?

Text by Sarah Schmelling

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Comments

Comments (2)

  • 23 Nov, 2010

    Frequently, I have a hard time falling asleep. I downloaded a free software program called f.lux at http://stereopsis.com/flux. It me get to sleep a bit easier by lower the light intensity on my computer in the evening. All the technical details are at the aforementioned Web site. I also turn off as many lights as I can about an hour before I intend to go to sleep to trigger the release of melatonin in my brain. Happy sleeping!!!

  • 6 May, 2009

    Great ideas! Aromatherapy is another option to help with sleep. To read tips for other natural sleep remedies, visit http://www.healtheagle.com/

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