Valerian for Sleep
Valerian root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment for more than 2,000 years.
A review of 16 small studies suggests that valerian may help people fall to sleep faster. It can also improve the quality of sleep. Valerian becomes more effective over time, so it’s best to take it every night for a short period.
Start with the lowest dose, then increase over several days’ time. Valerian is considered safe to take for four to six weeks.
Some people complain of stomach upset, headache, or morning grogginess when using valerian. Taking valerian with sleeping medications or with alcohol can compound its effect, so don’t use it with other sleep aids.
Chamomile Tea for Sleep
Chamomile tea has been used as a sleep remedy for thousands of years. Studies show that it has a calming effect on the nervous system. One Japanese study on rats found that chamomile extract helped the rats fall asleep just as quickly as rats that got a dose of benzodiazepine (a tranquilizing medication). Experts agree that more research of the benefits of chamomile is needed. The FDA considers chamomile tea to be safe with usually no side effects.
Tip: Make sure you are brewing it properly. Use two or three tea bags. Then put a lid on the pot to keep oils in the water when brewing — so you get the medicinal effects of the tea.
If you’re allergic to ragweed (the plants are related) you may have an adverse effect and, don’t take chamomile tea if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Kava for Sleep
The Kava plant is a member of the pepper family and has also been shown to help relieve anxiety. One review of six studies showed reduced anxiety among patients who took kava, compared with those who got a placebo. Another small study showed that both kava and valerian improved sleep in people with stress-related insomnia.
The American Academy of Family Physicians says that short-term use of kava is okay for patients with mild to moderate anxiety – but not if you use alcohol or take medicines metabolized in the liver, including many cholesterol medicines.
In fact, the FDA has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk for severe liver damage. Before taking kava, consult with your doctor and ask if kava is safe for you.
Melatonin for Sleep
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle (circadian cycles). Studies show that melatonin not only helps some people fall asleep, but also improves the quality of sleep.
Melatonin comes in two forms – extended release and immediate release. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, you may want to take extended release before you go to bed. If you have trouble falling asleep, try immediate release.”
Melatonin supplements can be effective in treating certain sleep disorders, including jet lag, but studies suggest you must time the melatonin you take carefully to help with jet lag.
Tip: On the day you depart, take melatonin when it is bedtime at your destination. Continue taking it for several days. It works best when traveling eastward and when crossing four or more time zones. (Paul McQueen)
Melatonin is considered generally safe for short-term use. However, there have been concerns about risks of bleeding (especially in people taking blood-thinners like warfarin). There can be an increased risk of seizure, particularly in children with brain disorders.