Natural Remedies for Insomnia

By Staff
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Randy Buresh (Registered Nurse and Herbalist), is the co-owner and founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows, harvests and produces their own medicinal herbal products, many of which use the herbs grown on their certified Biodynamic® and Organic farm in Sandy,

If you’ve ever woken up at three in the morning, unable to get back to sleep, or laid awake at night, well after midnight, waiting for Mr. Sandman to arrive in the first place, you are all too familiar with the frustrating, and often debilitating, aspects of an increasingly common condition: insomnia. Insomnia affects about 15 to 20 percent of the population at any one time. The causes are many, and range from temporary stress and anxiety to ongoing chronic problems, or a bad mattress or uncomfortable bedroom.

Insomnia can manifest itself in three ways: difficulty falling asleep, inability to stay asleep, and waking too early.

Chamomile is a traditional herb used to treat insomnia.
Photo by Randy Buresh

Herbal remedies are ideal for many, because few of them interfere with medications. The following supplements have been known to assist in relaxation and the ability to sleep soundly. They should be taken about 45 minutes before bedtime:  

Valerian: Valerian is used as an effective and gentle sleep aid for the relief of occasional sleeplessness. Take 900 mg of the dried herb prior to bedtime. Start with a low dosage and build up over a couple of weeks.

Chamomile: Chamomile has traditionally been used in herbal medicine as a calmative and/or sleep aid. Take two teaspoons of the dried herb in tea, one to three times daily. Take the herbs together for an increased effect of relaxation. 

Skullcap: Skullcap is a traditional nervine, or an herb that has a relaxing effect on the central nervous system. Skullcap is also a complementary herb that works very well with other herbs.  Take 1200 mg 45 minutes before bedtime.

Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) herb used for calming the mind and promoting regular sleep patterns. Take 1200 mg daily before bedtime. Take with milk for improved absorption.

A lack of nutrients can sometimes cause insomnia. Nutrients often needed are calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6 and vitamin B1 (niacin).

Calcium: Take 500 mg with food before going to bed.

Magnesium: Take 250 mg with food before going to bed. Take the calcium and magnesium together; they are sometimes sold as a single supplement.

Vitamins B6 and B1: Take 50 mg B6 and 500 mg niacin taken together before going to bed.

Photo by Randy Buresh

What Else Can You Do?

• Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time, regardless of the day of the week or whether you’ve slept.

• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.

• Have a leisurely bath with several drops of lavender oil before going to bed. (Check out this recipe for a Relaxing Lavender Bath.)

• Put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow. (Make Jim Long’s sleep pillow.)

• Have a bedtime drink of hot milk and honey.

• Do not take commercial sleeping remedies at the same time as herbal remedies.

• Exercise regularly–try forty minutes walking four times a week.

Insomnia can be a temporary but troubling problem; but remember that it can also be a symptom of a medical condition requiring treatment. If insomnia persists for more than a few weeks, be sure to consult your health care provider.

With the help of valerian, chamomile, ashwagandha or skullcap and a relaxing bedtime ritual, sleep should come more easily. When it does, a rested, replenished, restored sense of being can return. Sweet dreams.

*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. It is also recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications.

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