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Natural Sleep Remedies

When you’re one of those people who always have a hard time getting to sleep, the holidays can make things even more challenging. Whether it’s a matter of staying up late wrapping gifts (or stressing about the gifts you have left to purchase), getting the house together for holiday guests, or getting used to a new bed when you’re the one travelling to visit, this time of year can be particularly difficult.

If you’re struggling with sleep at this time of year or at any other time, you’re doing more than making yourself feel fatigue. Lack of sleep impacts the way that you look and how you feel, and can have a significant impact on your body’s ability to fight back against flus and colds. It will impact your mood and therefore put stress on your relationships, and all of that can add on to your stress and make you sleep even less. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a psychologist who specializes in sleep, “If you look at the times, since 2008 we’re seeing a higher amount of stress and that of course leads to insomnia and sleeplessness. “

Dr. Breus points to a huge rise in sales of sleep aids such as Ambien as just one indicator of how our society is constantly searching for solutions to our sleep problem, and he says that different types of insomnia require different protocols. “There are many different flavors of insomnia,” he says. “There’s the I-can’t-fall-asleep kind; there’s the I-can’t-stay-asleep; there’s the I-wake-up-too-early; there’s insomnia associated with anxiety. We don’t have enough specific meds out there to target insomnia appropriately. That’s really what medicine is looking for.”

One of the areas that have generated a tremendous amount of interest is the field of natural sleep aids. Dr. Breus stresses that the need to remember that these options are still drugs, and that they are unregulated and untested by the FDA. Still, there are several nonprescription sleep aids that have earned a loyal following, and they may or may not be of help to you. Here is a rundown of a variety of sleep aids that are easily available, information on how they work, and the comments that Dr. Breus has provided about any potential side effects that they may have. All of these options are available in oral form, and this list is in no way comprehensive. It is strongly suggested that prior to trying any of these, you consult with your own physician to ensure that they do not conflict with any medications that you may currently be taking, or to see if there are any contraindications based on your own allergies or medical conditions.

a huge rise in sales of sleep aids such as Ambien as just one indicator of how our society is constantly searching for solutions to our sleep problem. but there are many natural remedies a huge rise in sales of sleep aids such as Ambien as just one indicator of how our society is constantly searching for solutions to our sleep problem. but there are many natural remedies

1. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in your body. It is the driver that determines when you get drowsy and when you feel alert, based largely upon your exposure to the sunshine. Dr. Breus comments that melatonin will not knock you out the way that a sleeping pill will. It simply tricks your body into recognizing that it is time to go to bed. The hormone is strong enough that in Europe it is available only as a prescription. The recommended dosage is between 0.5 and 1.0 mg taken ninety minutes before you go to bed. The pill can cause nightmares, fatigue and hypertension. Many people use melatonin to help them adjust to jet lag when they are traveling long distances.

2. Valerian

Valerian is an herb that has been identified as being a mild sedative. It has been very well studied, with research showing that it can provide assistance in cutting the amount of time it takes a person to drop off to sleep. It does have a few known side effects, including itchiness, headaches and dizziness, and can sometimes cause stomach distress. It is generally available in doses of 250 mg, which may be too high for some people.

3. L-Tryptophan

L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is said to regulate appetite, sleep, stress and mood. You may have heard of it before in the context of its high content in turkey, and being named as the reason why people fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner. Though this theory has been disproven, the taking of the supplement may in fact be helpful if you are having trouble getting a good night sleep. It does have a few potential side effects, including heartburn, gas and nausea, as well as visual blurring.

4. 5-HTP

The full name of this one is 5-Hydroxytryptophan, and it is a component of serotonin, which controls our mood and appetite. As a result, most of the studies that have been done on this supplement have focused on its impact on depression, but it has been shown that at doses of 200 to 400 mg, it helps people fall asleep more easily. What’s important to remember is that the impact of this particular option takes several weeks to take hold, and in the meantime it may cause some side effects if the dosages that are taken are too high.

5. L-Theanine

This is an amino acid that comes from green tea and black tea. It is not a sedative; instead it is said to promote a feeling of relaxation and provides anxiety reduction. There are no known side effects unless you are also on chemotherapy medications, which it may interfere with. Those who have taken this supplement have described its impact as providing a sudden sense of calm in the midst of stress.

6. Passionflower

Passionflower is another herb that is said to have a relaxing impact that allows you to fall asleep by minimizing anxiety. It is one of the lesser-studied options available, and has been shown to be linked to some minor side effects, including nausea and rapid heart rate.

7. Chamomile Tea

One of the most widely available and widely used herbal remedies, chamomile tea is said to promote relaxation. Though there are few scientific studies that prove anything about its effectiveness, many people have used it as a nightly ritual before going to bed.

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