Alternative Remedies For Sleep Disorders
sleep helps our concentration, ability to heal, memory, and many other things, but today Americans sleep on average one hour less per night than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Lack of sleep can lead to many health problems. Learn more about common alternative and complementary methods, vitamins, minerals, herbs and foods used to treat sleep disorders, including insomnia. Most of the treatments help your body make serotonin (an important substance for normal nerve and brain function), relax, reduce anxiety and become calm or sedated.
1. 5-HTP. 5-HTP is used by the human body to make serotonin, which appears to play significant roles in sleep, emotional moods, pain control, inflammation, intestinal peristalsis, and other body functions.
2. Avena sativa (oats). Oat alkaloids are believed to account for the relaxing action of oats, but it should be noted this continues to be debated in Europe.
3. Catnip. The volatile oil in catnip contains the monoterpene, nepetalactone, which is similar to the valepotriates found in valerian, a more commonly used herbal sedative. Human trials are lacking to prove the effectiveness of catnip for treating insomnia.
4. Chamomile. Chamomile is an herb commonly drunk as tea, and it is often used to treat sleeping problems because of its relaxing effects.
5. Hops (Humulus Lupulus). Hops have been shown to have mild sedative properties, although the mechanism is unclear. Some herbal preparations for insomnia combine hops with more potent sedative herbs, such as valerian.
6. Kava. The kava-lactones, sometimes referred to as kava-pyrones, are the most important active constituents in kava extracts. High-quality kava rhizome contains 5.5 to 8.3 percent kava-lactones. Medicinal extracts used in Europe contain 30 to 70 percent kava-lactones. Kava-lactones are thought to have anti-anxiety, mild analgesic (pain-relieving), muscle-relaxing, and anti-convulsant effects. But beware of potential liver toxicity.
7. Lavender. The essential oil of lavender contains many constituents, including perillyl alcohol and linalool. The oil is thought to be calming and thus can be helpful in some cases of insomnia. One study of elderly people with sleeping troubles found that inhaling lavender oil was as effective as some commonly prescribed sleep aid medications. Similar results were seen in another trial that included young and middle-aged people with insomnia problem.
8. Lemon balm. The terpenes, part of the pleasant smelling volatile oil from lemon balm, are thought to produce this herb's relaxing and gas-relieving effects. One small preliminary trial studying sleep quality compared the effect of a combination product containing an extract of lemon balm and an extract of valerian root with that of the sleeping drug triazolam (Halcion). The effectiveness of the herbal combination was similar to that of Halcion, as determined by the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep. Another trial also found that the same combination of valerian and lemon balm, taken over a two-week period, is effective in improving quality of sleep.
9. Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the human biological clock. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, located within the brain. Levels of melatonin in the body fluctuate with the cycles of night and day. The highest melatonin levels are found at night. Melatonin is present in foods only in trace amounts.
10. Scullcap (American). Few studies have been completed on the constituents of American scullcap. One of its constituents, scutellarian, has been reportedly shown to have mild sedative and antispasmodic actions in animal studies. Human trials have not yet been conducted to confirm the use of scullcap for anxiety or insomnia.
11. Valerian. Valerian root contains many different constituents, including essential oils that appear to contribute to the sedating properties of the herb. Central nervous system sedation is regulated by receptors in the brain known as GABA-A receptors. According to test tube studies, valerian may weakly bind to these receptors to exert a sedating action. This might explain why valerian may help some people deal with stress more effectively. Double-blind trials have found that valerian is an effective treatment for people with mild to moderately severe insomnia. Generally, valerian makes sleep more restful as well as making the transition to sleep easier, but does not tend to increase total time slept, according to these studies. Two trials have also found that a combination with lemon balm is effective in improving quality of sleep and in treating insomnia.