If you toss and turn at night and then feel lethargic during the day, using natural remedies for insomnia can help. Sadly, many Americans walk around in a zombie-like state during the day, only getting a few hours of sleep each night – far less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours. In fact, the number one reason people experience daytime fatigue is due to an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. You would think with busy schedules and our “run everywhere”, hectic American lives, sleep would be the easiest thing to come by! But, as many as one in three people suffer from insomnia at some point during their lifetime. What’s more, approximately 10 million Americans currently take prescription sleep aids. What about you? Are you “tired” of feeling “tired” every day?
Why Your Body Needs Sleep
Sleep is critically important to health – so important that some scientists have hypothesized a person can die from a total lack of sleep sooner than they’ll die from starvation. Why? Aside from the feelings of excessive tiredness experienced during the day, lack of sleep affects both mental and physical health. Mentally, insomnia contributes to mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, and lack of concentration and focus. Extreme, chronic lack of sleep can even cause brain aberrations leading to hallucinations and paranoia. Physically, lack of sleep leads to elevated blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, body aches/pains, hormone alterations, food cravings, and weight gain. Furthermore, while we sleep our body repairs itself and our immune system is strengthened; therefore, lack of sleep can increase the likelihood of catching an illness.
Prescription Sleep Aids
While prescription sleep aids may keep you from counting sheep, like many prescription drugs, they are not always safe to use. First and foremost, most of these medications are addictive so many people who use them become dependent upon them. In reality, some of these prescriptions are actually habit-forming narcotic drugs and are not intended for long-term use. This means that even when a person’s sleep disorder is resolved, trying to get off of the medications poses a whole other set of challenges.
Prescription sleep aids also come with a host of side effects:
- Daytime drowsiness (hang-over effect) and excessive tiredness
- Hallucinations and nightmares
- Impaired judgment
- Binge eating
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle spasms and pain
- Dry mouth
- Digestive issues such as heartburn and diarrhea
Besides the potential dangers associated with sleep aids, these drugs aren’t always needed. In fact, many doctors espouse that most people don’t actually need a prescription sleep aid, and the vast majority of people with sleep disorders can find relief in other ways.
How to Overcome Your Insomnia without Drugs
Sometimes the root cause of insomnia can be complex and involve hormone imbalances or adrenal dysfunction, and those cases will need to be corrected. But many people just need a little assistance, and thus, trying one of these 3 time-tested natural remedies for insomnia makes a lot of sense. These natural remedies are non-habit forming so you’re very unlikely to become dependent or addicted to these therapies: There is little downside to trying one of these approaches and it might be just the thing you need to get a good night’s rest.
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain that helps regulate circadian rhythm. As we age, the amount of melatonin produced in our body decreases; so the older we get, we are naturally inclined to sleep less. The use of melatonin supplements enables a person to fall asleep without feeling “drugged” and to remain awake and alert during the daytime hours, decreasing those excessive fatigue feelings. Melatonin is also helpful for people with jet lag or for those who work night shifts as it helps readjust the body’s sleep cycle. The dosage for melatonin is one 3 mg tablet one hour before bedtime.
- 5-HTP – A serotonin deficiency (neurotransmitter deficiency in the brain) can be an underlying root cause of both insomnia and depression. If your lack of sleep is accompanied by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or negativity, taking 5-HTP may help you. 5-HTP is a serotonin precursor naturally produced by the body. It is also prepared in a supplement form from the seed pods of a West African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia. This 5-HTP has the ability to be converted into the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin as well as the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. It is a close relative of tryptophan – an essential amino acid found in certain foods that is also a precursor to serotonin. (Have you ever felt sleepy after eating that Thanksgiving turkey? Tryptophan is the reason why!) Learn how to take 5-HTP in our article, Serotonin Deficiency – A Root Cause of Your Depression Symptoms?
- Valerian Root Tea – If, in addition to insomnia, you experience feelings of anxiety, stress and worry, Valerian root tea can help ease your tensions and rest your mind. Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) contains a number of active chemical compounds including different alkaloids; however, the most important ingredient in Valerian root is gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA has often been referred to as “the brain’s own anti-anxiety medication”. It is the same active chemical that is triggered by taking the anti-anxiety prescription drugs, Valium and Xanax. You can learn more about Valerian root tea, including proper preparation and dosages, in our article Natural Remedy for Anxiety Found in a Cup of Tea.
After trying one of these natural therapies for insomnia, let us know how it worked for you – Leave us a note in the Comments section below. We’d love to hear if one or more of these remedies helped you finally catch some Z’s!
Originally posted on October 12, 2012.