Obtaining adequate sleep is essential for good physical and mental health. The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person - most people need between 7-8 hours a night. Some people may experience trouble falling asleep or wake too early, however, others may wake up a lot and have trouble falling back to sleep, or awake feeling un-refreshed. Problems sleeping not only cause excessive tiredness during the day, but trouble thinking clearly or staying focused, and can make you feel depressed or irritable.
There are many causes of insomnia which include:
If you have difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep it is important to get a diagnosis from a qualified health care practitioner as you may have an underlying health condition which needs treating. The following information discusses self help measures you can take (good sleep hygiene) which may help to you sleep better, however, as mentioned any underlying health conditions or psychological conditions need treatment from qualified healthcare practitioners.
Herbalists may also consider:
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) - Hypnotic (sleep inducing) which helps to promote a natural restful sleep. Especially indicated for a restless sleep resulting from exhaustion
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) - (however, some people find it quite stimulating)
Lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora) - a gentle sedative (especially good if you also have indigestion) - Use 2 teaspoons to a cup of boiling water. Infuse for 5-10 mins drink before bed
Scutellaria laterifolia: this herb is particularly good for those who struggle to switch their minds off - 'a stuck record'
Nervines can also be used to gently aid sleep - Vervain (Verbena officinalis) - calming and relaxing to the mind and body.
My approach to supporting people with sleep problems is not only to prescribe herbs which directly help with sleep but to (more importantly) address the underlying cause. For example, I see a lot of women who are going through the menopause. Night sweats can have a huge impact on sleep, thus prescribing herbs such as Rehmannia will help to reduce the night sweats and thus improve the length and quality of sleep.
If insomnia makes it hard for you to function or cannot be resolved through self-help then talk to your local medical herbalist for further help.
As with all health problems it is strongly recommended that you consult a medical herbalist to create a specific prescription to meet your individual needs.
If the advice given does not meet your needs consult a medical herbalist or a doctor, or other health care professionals. The information is for educational purposes and is not in place of a consultation with a medical herbalist who are trained in diagnosis and treatment, but also know when it is appropriate to refer.
The doses are for adults; children need smaller doses and not all herbs are suitable to use. Consult a medical herbalist.
Make a hop pillow
''For a pillow about 32 x 23 cm:
4 handfuls dried hops flowers
4 handfuls dried lavender flowers
Put equal handfuls of dried hops and lavender flowers into a cotton pillowcase, and seal the end.
USE: Place the pillow under or beside your head to induce sleep.' (Grow your own drugs)
Sprinkle up to 5 drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow (more than 5 drops can make you feel stimulated)
Herbs which are classed as nervines may be helpful:
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) or Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) - 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water. Infuse for 5-10 mins. Drink in the evening before bed. Try to use fresh or from a good supplier as bought tea bags are generally not so effective.
A few drops of lavender essential oil can be added to an evening bath to aid relaxation.