Are you tossing and turning all night, struggling to fall asleep? Or perhaps you’re able to fall asleep, but you wake up feeling groggy and unrested? Poor sleep can have a detrimental impact on our overall health and well-being, affecting our mood, cognitive function, and immune system.
Sleep becomes harder as you age, so you may need an extra helping hand like meditation, relaxing music, sleep masks, ear plugs, or, my personal favourite, sleep herbs.
If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your sleep, herbs may be just what you need! In this article, we’ll explore the top herbs for better sleep, backed by scientific research.
1. Lavender. Lavender is one of the oldest and most potent sleep remedies around. There are more than 40 types of lavender. One that is common and used for medicinal purposes is Lavendula angustifolia. The amazing floral scent is used in aromatherapy to help you relax, and studies show that it cannot only bring sleep on more quickly but also lengthen the duration of sleep. Plus, lavender can relax your mind and decrease the feelings of anxiety that tend to impair your ability to sleep. It can even increase the presence of neurochemicals like GABA and dopamine, which provide positive cognitive and sleep benefits. Studies have shown that using lavender essential oil in a diffuser or applying it topically may help improve sleep quality, especially in those with mild insomnia.
2. Valerian root. Valerian root is probably the most popular of the sleep remedies. It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Valerian root contains compounds that interact with the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, helping to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety, which can contribute to sleep difficulties. It can relieve mild tension, improve sleep latency, and combat sleep disorders. That’s why it’s commonly recommended for people suffering from insomnia, as well as shift workers who struggle to sleep during the day. Studies have shown that valerian root may improve both the quality and quantity of sleep, making it an excellent choice for those struggling with sleep issues.
3. Chamomile. Chamomile is a well-known herb that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for sleep disorders. Chamomile is often consumed as a tea and is known for its calming properties, which can help reduce anxiety and promote better sleep. Chamomile contains apigenin, a compound that binds to receptors in the brain that help reduce anxiety and promote sleepiness. According to one study, women who suffered from post-partum sleep problems experienced much better sleep after taking chamomile tea. Its ability to calm your stomach and aid in digestion can also help to prevent late-night meals and snacks from interrupting your sleep. Thanks to the many flavonoids in chamomile, it’s an amazing nerve-relaxing tea that will help to calm you down and get your mind and body both in the mood for sleep.
4. Passionflower. Passionflower is often combined with lavender, valerian root, and/or chamomile in order to create a sleep-inducing tonic or herbal remedy. Studies have proven that it increases total sleep time, improves sleep latency, and decreases the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night—all of which lead to better sleep quality. Passionflower contains compounds that interact with GABA receptors in the brain, helping to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep. Some studies have shown that passionflower may be as effective as prescription medications for improving sleep quality and reducing sleep disturbances.
5. Holy basil. Holy basil is a less-known but no less effective remedy to help you sleep. According to one study, the herb was able to reduce brain activity that interfered with sleep, helping to calm your mind and bring on feelings of sleepiness and relaxation. Holy basil also helped to decrease cortisol, effectively serving as a “buffer” against the stress hormone that could interfere with your sleep. It even helped to increase dopamine and serotonin while reducing oxidative stress on the body.
6. Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is a herb known for its calming effects and is often used as a natural remedy for sleep disorders. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic). Lemon balm contains compounds that interact with GABA receptors in the brain, helping to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep. Some studies have shown that lemon balm may help improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances, making it a promising herb for those struggling with sleep issues.
7. Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb known for its stress-reducing properties, which can indirectly promote better sleep. Ashwagandha helps the body adapt to stress by regulating cortisol levels, which can help calm the nervous system and improve sleep quality. Studies have shown that ashwagandha may help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve sleep quality, making it a popular choice for those looking for a natural way to promote better sleep.
8. Peppermint: Peppermint is a refreshing herb known for its soothing properties and is often used in teas or essential oils to promote relaxation and better sleep. Peppermint contains menthol, a compound that can help relax muscles and promote better sleep. Studies have shown that peppermint may help improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances, making it a refreshing option for those seeking a natural sleep aid.
If you’re struggling to sleep at night, it’s worth trying one of these herbs—in a tincture, tea, or supplements to see how they can help you to fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and sleep better overall.
It’s important to note that while these herbs may offer potential benefits for sleep, and are generally considered safe, the research on their effectiveness is still limited and more studies are needed to fully understand their mechanisms and optimal dosages for sleep improvement. It’s always best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any new herbal supplement, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have underlying health conditions.
Please note that this information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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Research and Sources:
Does Lavender help you sleep?
Valerian Root for Sleep
Effects of an intervention with drinking chamomile tea on sleep quality and depression in sleep disturbed postnatal women
Benefits of passionflower for anxiety and insomnia