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How to Cure Insomnia with Herbs

Updated on August 2, 2012

Endless Nights?

Beat insomnia and get the rest you need.
Beat insomnia and get the rest you need. | Source

The Mayo Clinic defines insomnia as a disorder that makes it difficult to go to sleep as well as to sleep through the night without waking. It’s common to experience mild bouts of insomnia occasionally, and the condition is often related to stress or unsettled events in your life. But when insomnia keeps saps your daily energy and keeps you from leading a full and productive life, it’s time to take second look at what’s causing the problem and what you can do to alleviate it.

While there are many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications and sleep aids available, not everyone is comfortable taking drugs. Fortunately, there’s another way to get a good night’s sleep - through Mother Nature’s gifts – herbs.

What’s Behind Your Insomnia?

Just because you lay down to sleep doesn’t mean your brain wants to cooperate. If you are in the middle of a job promotion, the death of a loved one, a stressful marriage or any one of a hundred other stress triggers, your brain might kick into overdrive when your body relaxes. This is your brain’s natural response to stressful events – but as your brain works diligently to analyze every possible scenario and solution, you will toss and turn and sleep can seem very far away.

In addition to life changing events, other things can trigger an insomnia episode. If you’re depressed, which is sometimes a result of chemical imbalances in the brain, you might find it difficult to fall asleep. Depression can be a side effect of a mental or physical health disorder and if it persists, a visit to the doc is in order.

Some types of medications can ruin a good night’s sleep. If you’re taking diet pills or drugs to control high blood pressure, they might be triggering insomnia as well. Other medications that interfere with sleep include pain relief drugs, stimulants, corticosteroids, allergy and decongestant meds and heart medications. If you’re taking any of these medications, ask your doctor for a different drug that won’t affect sleep.

Sip Herbal Tea to Fight Insomnia

You’ve probably heard that a hot cup of chamomile tea before bedtime can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep and it’s true. Chamomile, once a sacred herb of the ancient Saxons, is indigenous to western Europe, although it now grows freely throughout the United States, along roads in and well-drained pastures. A member of the Aster family, chamomile contains lactones and volatile oils that act as a relaxant in the gastrointestinal tract and produce mild sedative effects, which can help you go to sleep. Prepare one or two cups of herbal tea after dinner and drink the last one at least one hour prior to retiring. If you drink herbal tea too close to bedtime, you might wake just to use the bathroom.

Tea made from the hops vine is also relaxing and soothing, especially when you’re troubled by stressful events in your life. Hops flowers are large and fragrant, and for centuries, they’ve been used in the process of brewing ale and some types of beer. Herbal tea prepared from hops flowers is stringent and lightly bitter, so you might want to add a spoonful of honey or stevia extract to sweeten it up. Avoid adding sugar to your herbal teas, which can spike your blood glucose level and leave you jittery and wide awake. Store the hops herb in a dark container in a cool place. Sunlight and heat both reduce the herb’s effectiveness. For added effect, stuff a small fabric bag with dried hops flower and inhale the aroma at night as you lie in bed.

Passionflower has a long history of use in the treatment of insomnia. This beautiful perennial flowering vine is native to the Americas and the Aztecs of Mexico used it as a sedative. The name passionflower comes from the shape and color of the blooms that early Spaniards found symbolic of the Passion of Christ. Herbal tea made with passionflower calms the nerves, eases muscular and emotional tension and reduces irritability, according to the Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Combined with chamomile or valerian, this herb is very effective for treating occasional insomnia.

St. John’s wort experienced a surge of popularity a decade ago when everyone was taking it to treat depression, anxiety and every stressful symptom in-between. Its use dates back to Roman times when it was valued as a treatment of tension, depression and anxiety. St. John’s wort herbal tea has a cumulative effect, so if you want to experience the full benefits of this herb, drink one or two cups daily for at least six weeks before expecting to see beneficial results.

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Beyond Herbs: Additional Ways to Battle Insomnia

Combining one of more of the herbs listed above can increase the effectiveness of the treatment, but don’t stop there. Consider eliminating stimulant foods and drinks, especially after lunch and take advantage of other insomnia-fighting tips and tricks.

Set a consistent bedtime schedule for both going to bed and getting up and don’t vary on the weekends.

Don’t try to force sleep. If you find yourself anxious because you’re not sleeping, get up immediately, fix a warm glass of milk, and sip it while reading the most boring book you own.

Limit bedroom activities to sleep and sex. Don’t work, watch television or exercise in the bedroom.

Keep your bedroom spotlessly clean. Debris not only clutters a room, it can clutter your mind and make you uncomfortable when you’re trying to fall asleep. Make your bedroom a clean and soothing sanctuary for sleeping.

Start winding down two hours before bedtime by following a pre-sleep schedule. Take a warm bath, change into snuggly soft PJs, dim the lights and avoid arguments. Don’t watch action shows on TV.

Eat your evening meal at least three hours before bedtime and don’t depend on a nightcap to get to you sleep. Alcohol can temporarily relax you but you’re likely to wake in the night, unable to go back to sleep.

As you lie down each night, spend five minutes writing down your blessings. Think of the things you appreciate most in your life and list them. Feel the happiness each one imparts. Don’t allow your thoughts to drift to things that make you anxious.

When You Should See the Doc

Because chronic insomnia can be the result of a medical disorder, see your doc if sleeplessness persists despite using herbs and natural remedies to cure the problem. If you don’t get adequate sleep, your job performance can suffer and you’re at a higher risk of being involved in a traffic accident (because your reaction times are slow). Chronic insomnia can reduce metabolism and lead to obesity, high blood pressure and can contribute to diabetes.

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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Good hub on insomnia and finding ways to help sleep. I go for long periods doing fine and then I have trouble. However, I am never tired during the day. Great hub.

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