8 Incredible Herbs To Help With Sleep

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Having sufficient sleep is essential to keeping well. But ironically many of us have trouble sleeping. Sleep is when your body has a chance to rest and repair. Whether you struggle with getting to sleep, struggle staying asleep or battle with insomnia, it can be a debilitating problem and you may be looking for some natural alternatives. Luckily there are many incredible herbs that help with sleep. And many of these are super accessible, affordable and may even be growing in your backyard! 

Some Downsides Of Taking Medication 

While we believe that conventional medicine holds many benefits we do know that sometimes there are side effects from certain medications - and the most commonly reported side effect from sleeping pills seems to be around next day drowsiness, poor sleep quality and not feeling rested.

This is not great when you are already tired! Also for some people reliance on sleeping pills does become a real concern. Orthodox sleep medicines are very commonly prescribed and some people do feel a bit ‘hungover’ after taking them and although they may help in the short term - there is not a lot of data that shows long term efficacy.

Benefits Of Natural Herbs To Help With Sleep

When using plants to support a healthy and natural sleep you may notice less drowsiness and there is not addictive reliance that comes with some other interventions. This is why we wanted to outline some of the best herbs to help with sleep so you you can experiment with some natural alternatives and see what works best for you. You can also tailor the plant to suit you best; it might be a tea, a tincture or a glycetract. Whatever you prefer and find sustainable.

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These are some of our favourite herbs to help with sleep:

  1. Valerian root
  2. Chamomile
  3. Californian poppy
  4. Hops
  5. Tart cherry
  6. Vervain
  7. Lavender
  8. Passionflower

 

Valerian Root

Valerian root is a well known herb to help with sleep support and is also known for its aroma. Valerian is very strong smelling and has been traditionally used for promoting sleep for years, in fact it was used as a sedative in Roman and Greek times! It is sometimes known as ‘nature’s tranquilizer’.

Valerian holds chemicals called valepotriates that seem to help sedate our nervous system. Valerian is also used to support nervous tension, anxiety as well as insomnia. It works by interacting with benzodiazepine (sleep) receptors and also has affinity for melatonin receptors - which helps with sleep promotion.
 
Valerian has been shown to reduce the time it takes to get to sleep, reduce wakefulness at night, improve quality and quantity of deep sleep. It tastes very bitter and for some people can promote vivid dreaming. An alternative is Mexican valerian which does not seem to have the same dream effect. If you are on sleep inducing medication it is not recommended that you take valerian as well. Valerian can be taken as a tea or a tincture before bed to help with sleep support.

valerian-root-herbs-for-sleep

 

Chamomile

This plant is one of the most well known herbs to help with sleep and stress! It too has been used for years to support rest. Chamomile has a high safety profile and can be given to all ages (babies included). Chamomile is also a bitter herb and helps to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms and also helps to work as a nervine and a sedative depending on the dose. The calming action of chamomile often helps to put people in a better mindset for sleep, and also works on relaxing the body in preparation for sleep. 

Chamomile has also been shown to improve daytime functioning for insomniacs! We love chamomile as it is a beautiful plant with a pleasing taste and scent which helps with compliance (especially with your small people). You can have chamomile as a tea before bed, or as a tincture or glyectract. We prefer the later as too much water before bed may make people get up in the night for the bathroom! We use Chamomile in our Rest and Calm, made with locally harvested chamomile. This is one of the ways you can easily incorporate this beautiful plant into your everyday and utilise this herb to help with sleep.

harvesting-local-chamomile

 

Californian Poppy

The beautiful sunny Californian poppy is another great herb to help with sleep due to its alkaloid constituents. These alkaloids appear to act on the benzodiazepine receptors and help to support sleep. Californian poppy also helps to relax muscles, which promotes feelings of relaxation - and can calm restless legs which can be an issue for people trying to get to sleep. Californian poppy has also been shown to boost GABA and serotonin signalling and prevents dopamine breakdown which supports healthier moods. 

This plant is also a great one for the whole family with a high safety profile (obviously depending on dose). It can help children relax and support restful sleep - especially important when they are unwell and need to recover.  It is most commonly used in a glycetract or tincture to support sleep. We use Californian poppy in our Rest and Calm, which we also have a kids version (without the alcohol) which is great for your little ones.

californian-poppy

Hops

This might not be your first thought when you think of ‘herbs for sleep’. Hops are obviously well known for being the main part of beer but did you know they also have a strong sedative property? I guess if you have had too many beers you would already know this! They are also bitter and have a sedative and relaxing effect on our central nervous system. Paired with valerian in a controlled study, hops and valerian were effective at helping mild insomnia and were equal in effect to a sleeping pill! 

Hops helps to decrease the overactivity in our nervous system, it helps to increase our calming neurotransmitter (GABA) and also affects our sleep signalling transmitters (melatonin etc). It also has a pain relieving effect so can be helpful for those that find sleep uncomfortable. Being that it is bitter a tea can be a bit difficult to stomach, but you can sweeten the tea with honey or maple syrup if that helps, or take it as a tincture or capsules if required.

hops-herbs-to-help-sleep

 

Tart Cherry

Tart or wild morello cherries have been used to help promote sleep as they are able to improve your melatonin levels. It has been reported to help support better quality and duration of sleep in some clinical studies. It also helps to support a calmer nervous system and is a powerful antioxidant. Tart cherry can be taken as a juice before bed or as a tincture. It may take longer to notice an effect as it takes a while to work on melatonin production.

Vervain

Vervain is another bitter plant and a wonderful herb to help with sleep! It has sedative, anti anxiety and neuroprotective properties and also holds some analgesic constituents that can help with pain relief. Vervain’s alkaloids help to support sleep and also promote relaxation and can be helpful for those that suffer tension headaches or migraines! It’s best to take as a tincture due to taste.

vervain

 

Lavender

We all know lavender is a herb that helps to support calming and sleep! It is a beautifully scented plant. You can add the oil to a bath, or your pillow or have a room spray. You can also have it as a tea or tincture. Lavender helps to promote sleep and ease anxious feelings. It has been shown to be as effective as conventional drugs in helping promote sleep and reduce anxious feelings without side effects and has been traditionally used for this purpose for hundreds of years. 

lavender-for-sleep


Passionflower

Effective calming and quick acting, passionflower is well known herb that helps with sleep and is also known to reduce anxious feelings and support calm. Passionflower works on a whole heap of brain signals, it helps with GABA enhancement, it is neuroprotective, it also works on our pain and memory signalling. A busy plant for all its calming actions!

Passionflower was shown to be as effective as a benzodiazepine (sleeping pill) in a controlled clinical trail in Tehran without the side effects! Passionflower can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsules to help support sleep and a calmer nervous system.

passionflower

As well as amazing herbs to help you sleep there are some other great ways you ensure you're getting enough shut eye.

Magnesium

While not a herb to help you sleep per se, magnesium is always promoted when people talk about sleep! But why? It is not sedating so why would you take it? Magnesium is essential to our nervous system. We need it to help with our stress responses, we need it for our muscles and organs. Magnesium helps so many things work in our body and is part of hundreds of chemical reactions in our systems daily.

We do not eat enough magnesium rich foods (dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds) so often a supplement is suggested. There is a range of magnesium available on the market, the ones we recommend are usually an amino acid chelate or magnesium citrate for best absorption.

Foot Massage

Studies have shown that walking around in bare foot to massage acupuncture points can in fact help promote sleep! Reflexology has been shown to support relaxation and in a clinical trial showed it was as effective as a sleeping pill. You can walk around outside on your lawn barefoot, or have a foot bath with essential oils of herbs that help with sleep such as chamomile, lavender or even stand on a Shakti mat to help massage those points before bed!

Sleep Hygiene

Aside from herbs to help you sleep another thing to look at is your night time routine. You may already know some of these tips, but giving them a go may help! 
  • Reduce screen time an hour before bed
  • Turn on your blue light filter on your phone, computer or tablet
  • Try and not have a big heavy meal close to bed time
  • Stop caffeine after 3pm ( it takes a while for the liver to process it out of your body)
  • Try and reduce the amount of alcohol you are having in the evening. It does initially make you feel sleepy but it also does lead to broken sleep (either getting up to go to the toilet, changes in temperature when you sleep e.g. you get too hot, and also your liver may not like you so much and wake you at 3am when it starts processing all the alcohol)
  • Have a hot bath to relax before bed

Good sleep can be hard, especially these days! We hope that you've found something that may help in this blog.

Skye MacFarlane- Naturopath/Medical Herbalist for Wild Dispensary

 

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