By Skye Macfarlane
Having sufficient sleep is essential to keeping well. But ironically many of us have trouble sleeping. Sleep is when your body has a chance to rest and repair. Whether you struggle with getting to sleep, struggle staying asleep or battle with insomnia, it can be a debilitating problem and you may be looking for some natural alternatives. Luckily there are many incredible herbs that help with sleep. And many of these are super accessible, affordable and may even be growing in your backyard!
Some Downsides Of Taking Medication
While we believe that conventional medicine holds many benefits, we do know that sometimes there are side effects from certain medications – and the most commonly reported side effect from sleeping pills seems to be around next day drowsiness, poor sleep quality and not feeling rested.
This is not great when you are already tired! Also, for some people reliance on sleeping pills does become a real concern. Orthodox sleep medicines are very commonly prescribed, and some people do feel a bit ‘hungover’ after taking them and although they may help in the short term – there is not a lot of data that shows long term efficacy.
Benefits Of Natural Herbs To Help With Sleep
When using plants to support a healthy and natural sleep you may notice less drowsiness and there is not addictive reliance that comes with some other interventions. This is why we wanted to outline some of the best herbs to help with sleep so you can experiment with some natural alternatives and see what works best for you. You can also tailor the plant to suit you best; it might be a tea, a tincture or a glycetract. Whatever you prefer and find sustainable.
These are some of our favourite herbs to help with sleep:
1. Valerian root
3. Californian poppy
5. Tart cherry
Valerian root is a well-known herb to help with sleep support and is also known for its aroma. Valerian is very strong smelling and has been traditionally used for promoting sleep for years, in fact it was used as a sedative in Roman and Greek times! It is sometimes known as ‘nature’s tranquilizer’.
Valerian holds chemicals called valepotriates that seem to help sedate our nervous system. Valerian is also used to support nervous tension, anxiety as well as insomnia. It works by interacting with benzodiazepine (sleep) receptors and also has affinity for melatonin receptors – which helps with sleep promotion.
Valerian has been shown to reduce the time it takes to get to sleep, reduce wakefulness at night, improve quality and quantity of deep sleep. It tastes very bitter and for some people can promote vivid dreaming. An alternative is Mexican valerian which does not seem to have the same dream effect. If you are on sleep inducing medication it is not recommended that you take valerian as well. Valerian can be taken as a tea or a tincture before bed to help with sleep support.
This plant is one of the most well-known herbs to help with sleep and stress! It too has been used for years to support rest. Chamomile has a high safety profile and can be given to all ages (babies included). Chamomile is also a bitter herb and helps to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms and helps to work as a nervine and a sedative depending on the dose. The calming action of chamomile often helps to put people in a better mindset for sleep, and works on relaxing the body in preparation for sleep.
Chamomile has also been shown to improve daytime functioning for insomniacs! We love chamomile as it is a beautiful plant with a pleasing taste and scent which helps with compliance (especially with your small people). You can have chamomile as a tea before bed, or as a tincture or glyectract. We prefer the later as too much water before bed may make people get up in the night for the bathroom! Wild Dispensary uses Chamomile in its Rest and Calm, made with locally harvested chamomile. This is one of the ways you can easily incorporate this beautiful plant into your everyday and utilise this herb to help with sleep.
The beautiful sunny Californian poppy is another great herb to help with sleep due to its alkaloid constituents. These alkaloids appear to act on the benzodiazepine receptors and help to support sleep. Californian poppy also helps to relax muscles, which promotes feelings of relaxation – and can calm restless legs which can be an issue for people trying to get to sleep. Californian poppy has also been shown to boost GABA and serotonin signalling and prevents dopamine breakdown which supports healthier moods.
This plant is also a great one for the whole family with a high safety profile (obviously depending on dose). It can help children relax and support restful sleep – especially important when they are unwell and need to recover. It is most used in a glycetract or tincture to support sleep. Wild Dispensary uses Californian poppy in our Rest and Calm, which we also have a kids version (without the alcohol) which is great for your little ones.