Compared with good sleepers, people suffering with insomnia have been found to secrete more cortisol in the evening before bedtime and in the first half of their sleep time. So, it makes sense to try and lower your cortisol levels in order to get a good night’s rest.
However, many insomnia sufferers will tell you that the search for a sleep remedy is almost never-ending. Some natural alternatives work for a short while, but then become ineffective, while others fail to produce any results.
For those still struggling to find the perfect sleep aid, it may help to change your approach…
Regular readers of the Daily Health know that we’ve written a lot about natural sleeping aids like Seditol, which helps decrease levels of the hormone cortisol – secreted during times of fear or stress. However, instead of simply trying to decrease stimulating hormones like cortisol, why not try to increase hormones that promote relaxation?
Here are three herbs that can help you get a good night’s rest:
1. Valerian is one of the most common insomnia-fighting herbs… and with good reason.
A study using a repeated-measures design, gave 128 volunteers 400mg valerian extract, a commercial preparation containing 60mg valerian and 30mg hops, and a placebo. Participants took each one of the three preparations three times in random order on nine non- consecutive nights and filled out a questionnaire the morning after each treatment.
Compared with the placebo, the valerian extract showed a statistically significant improvement in time required to fall asleep, sleep quality, and number of night-time awakenings.
This result was more pronounced in a subgroup of 61 participants who identified themselves as poor sleepers on a questionnaire administered at the beginning of the study. The commercial preparation did not produce a statistically significant improvement in these three measures.
Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take valerian without first consulting their doctor.
2. St. John’s Wort is best-known use is as a natural alternative to prescription antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Like SSRIs, St. John’s wort helps boost serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is one of the primary mood- regulating hormones. But along with the mood-lifting effects brought on by increased serotonin levels also comes increased drowsiness. So this herb is reported to provide a better night’s sleep and an all-round sense of calm, relaxation and well-being.
If you’re currently taking an SSRI, warfarin, cyclosporin, anticonvulsants, or prescription migraine medication, check with your doctor before taking St. Johns wort, since it can reduce the effectiveness of these drugs.
3. Schizandra is popularly used as a general tonic for decreasing fatigue, enhancing physical performance, and promoting endurance due to its effects and reputation as an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are just what they sound like: substances that adapt to whatever the body needs help with. Schizandra also does this with sleep and is commonly used in Chinese medicine to “quiet the spirit and calm the heart.” It is given for insomnia and dream disturbed sleep. It has been shown to help enhance the sedative effects of drugs, prolong duration of sedative-induced sleep, and is believed to neutralize the stimulating effects of caffeine and other amphetamines.
Please note that schizandra should not be used during pregnancy, except under medical supervision to promote uterine contractions during labour. Schizandra should also be avoided by those with peptic ulcers, epilepsy and hypertension.
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1. Planta Med 2004;70(7): 594-7
2. Liu GT. Pharmacological actions and clinical uses of Fructus schizandrae. In: Zhou J, Liu GT, Chen J, editors. Recent advances in Chinese herbal drugs-actions and uses. Beijing: Sci Press; 1991. p 100-11
Like Seditol, Somamax also contains zizyphus, but this formula also includes valerian, St. Johns wort, and schizandra extracts.