Sleep is essential for health as it helps your brain and body to function normally. Adequate sleep improves learning, decision-making, memory, and creativity. Enough sleep lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke.
Insomnia is a condition when one experiences difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. At least 1 in 3 individuals suffer from insomnia. Good sleeping habits and practices are essential for sleep quality and quantity. If you are suffering from insomnia, consider the below-mentioned herbs.
Stress is a major cause of insomnia. Chronic stress results in high levels of cortisol, which forces your body to stay active and prevents natural sleep rhythm. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body manage stress. Ashwagandha benefits by blocking the stress pathway that modifies chemical signaling in the nervous system. It also lowers the cortisol levels in the body. Taking 300 g of ashwagandha root extract for 60 days is seen to lower insomnia by 69%.
This herb is native to Europe and Asia. The root of this herb is used in traditional medicine for almost 2,000 years. Its root has a strong earthy odor due to volatile oils and other compounds. Valerian root contains compounds like valerenic acid and isovaleric acid that promote sleep. Low levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger in the nervous system and brain, is associated with low-quality sleep. Valerenic acid is seen to hinder the breakdown of GABA in the brain, resulting in tranquility. Antioxidants in valerian root like linarin and hesperidin have sleep-enhancing properties. Moreover, these compounds inhibit excessive activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain that is responsible to process strong emotional response to stress) that is responsible for insomnia. Valerian root tea should be brewed in hot water instead of boiling water to preserve its sedative properties.
Chamomile is commonly known for its mild tranquilizing and sleep-inducing properties. The calming effect of chamomile is attributed to an antioxidant known as apigenin, which binds with receptors in the brain that initiate sleep and lower anxiety. The flowers of this herb are processed in various forms like capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. However, the most commonly used form of this herb for insomnia is as a tea. Taking 270 mg of chamomile twice daily for 28 days lowers the frequency of waking up in the middle of the night.
Passionflower is found in South America and some parts of the southern United States. Passiflora incarnata, a variety of passionflower, is used since the 16th century for its medicinal properties. It is used to treat anxiety, certain forms of pain, and insomnia. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter present in passionflower (inhibits neurotransmitters that cause excitement) has a calming effect and regulates mood, improving sleep quality and insomnia.
This herb belongs to the mint family and is an aromatic herb used for stress and insomnia since the middle ages. Lemon balm can be used as an extract or tea. It is seen to increase GABA levels, indicating that it can be used as a sedative. Moreover, taking 600 mg of lemon balm extract for 15 days is seen to lower insomnia symptoms by 42%. Sipping lemon balm tea before bed is also helpful.
Hibiscus benefits for insomnia are due to high levels of flavonoids that have sleep-inducing effects. It can be used as an extract or in the form of tea.
High-quality and adequate sleep is vital for overall health. However, many people have trouble falling asleep. The above-mentioned herbs can help in achieving restful sleep. Having said that, they are most effective when used with good sleeping practices.