This time of year finds many of us wide awake at three in the morning wrapped in our buzzing minds. Herbal medicine can be incredibly helpful to nudge us into sleep, and much more gentle than pharmaceuticals.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis):
Valerian is the most classic sleep herb out there. It’s a straightforward sedative. In my opinion, valerian is best as a tincture (we have a non-alcoholic one available as well). How much you take depends on you. For some people, as little as 10 drops does the trick, whereas other find they need a larger dose. Some people notice that they feel a little groggy in the morning, so if you’re someone that doesn’t want that, you might look to lemon balm or passionflower.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera):
Ashwagandha is used for people who have trouble staying asleep. It is used in ayurveda as a normalizer and tonic for anxiety and immunity. It relaxes the body, though does not sedate. It’s traditionally served as a powder boiled with milk (coconut milk works great), though it’s great as a tincture. We also have a great encapsulated ashwaganda from Tattva’s.
Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia)
Skullcap is a milder sleep herb, and is just gentle enough to lull most into sleep. In fact, skullcap is especially appropriate for those with anxiety and stress (think studying for boards or huge deadline at work) and can be used as a tonic on a consistent basis for reducing anxiety from the every grind. It can be taken as a tincture, a tea or in capsules. Feel free to blend it with other herbs (I like it with milky oats and lemon balm). We include it in our Relaxation tea blend and our Get to Sleep tea blend.
Other factors to consider:
It’s common to spend the time before bed on a screened device, which is now believed to trick the mind into thinking it’s daytime, and make sleep more difficult. You might consider picking a less electronic activity before bed, but there are also many applications available that change the spectrum of light emitted from the screen depending on the time of day. I just downloaded one for my computer called f.lux that ensures there’s less “blue light” emitted during the dark hours of the day.
Finally, if you’ve tried all the herbs and vitamins out there, you may have some sort of imbalance that you need to address before you reach a good night’s sleep. Seeing an acupuncturist, chinese herbalist or naturopath would be a good step to get yourself on the right track.