We suffer high-stress lives, so it only makes sense that we sleep under stress. Everyone would love to get eight hours of good uninterrupted sleep the natural way, but sometimes, good sleep seems like an impossible dream. We worry about finances or health, fret about friends and family, and before we know it, the first sun rays are peeking through the blinds and we feel as though we haven’t slept a wink.
Pharmaceutical sleep aids don’t cause natural sleep
Late-night infomercials are quick to recommend all kinds of sleep aids – but what about those of us who aren’t into letting ‘Big Pharma’ burden us with chemical habits? It’s true: many pharmaceutical sleep aids don’t cause natural sleep but rather bring about a state of sedation. This means that the sleep you are getting is not the body’s natural rest period but a chemical cloud, out of which you may emerge weary and disoriented and feeling as if you never even slept at all.
Regain natural sleep cycles with herbal supplements
In contrast, herbal supplements intended to aid you to catch shut-eye can aid the body regain touch with its natural sleep cycles and sleep the healing, wonderful, true sleep that it was meant to. Here’s a few to consider for when thoughts won’t fade, dreams won’t come, and REM seems like just the name of Michael Stipe’s band.
Herbs that can help you sleep:
People aren’t exactly sure why chamomile puts us to sleep, but it does. Chamomile can be taken as a dried herb, put in a bath, or brewed into a tea – its uses are multifarious and it has a pleasant, mild flavor. (It’s also useful for other things, including hair brightening — as Skrewtips readers know.)
St. John’s Wort
This was the “it” herb of the 90s, and as a result, it’s widely available as a supplement. St. John’s Wort is also a natural antidepressant, which may help to eliminate the stress that is at the root of insomnia – happier people sleep more regularly and restfully.
This herb is particularly helpful when taken over long-term periods to fight insomnia, but some individuals report it working right away. It’s widely available dried and in capsules, and dosage can be adjusted to individual needs. It has a peculiar smell that doesn’t make for a pleasant tea, although an infusion can be brewed.
Another herb widely used for relaxing and nerve-calming purposes, skullcap’s many different varieties are widely available.
The co-enzyme Sam-E is another alternative that’s quickly gaining popularity.
Herbal sleep aids won’t “knock you out”
There are many herbs that can help you sleep, but for the “seasoned” insomniac, used to the single-pill solution, these herbal remedies won’t seem effective for insomnia. This is because herbal sleep aids don’t “knock you out” in the same way. The body has to be trained back into its normal sleeping patterns and the process may seem agonizingly long – in these cases, hormonal supplements like melatonin may provide a little ease.
As a long-term solution, herbal sleep aids have many clear benefits: they’re natural, non-addictive, and (most often) comparatively inexpensive. Next time you’re tossing and turning, why not get up and have a cup of chamomile?
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.