Natural -Sleep- Sleeping Aids

Guarantee a good night’s sleep with an impressive range of relaxing and mildly sedative herbs.

Adequate sleep is a much-underrated essential for good health. During sleep we not only get to rest, but it is also when the body does most of its repair and healing. Insomnia or broken sleep patterns can wreak havoc on us, but fortunately there is lots we can do to alleviate the situation.

Sleeping pills – some of which are potentially addictive – may do the trick but there are many natural alternatives which do not stress the body with artificial chemicals. Herbs, in either tincture form or made into teas, can nourish, soothe and sedate the nervous system.

A diet rich in wholefoods and low in nerve-jangling caffeine also helps. The nicotine in tobacco is highly stimulating, and alcohol can also disrupt sleep. Regular exercise expends surplus energy which can keep us awake at night. A long bath with calming essential oils (perhaps lit only by candles) can help us wind down.

Incidentally, an old cure for insomnia recommended by naturopaths is barefoot walking on the earth (or lawn) for 10-15 minutes just before bedtime. This grounds the buzzy static electricity in the body – try it!

The premium-quality botanicals listed below are not just for insomniacs, however. Many are useful aids to just relaxing. And with the stressful lives we lead, we could all do with more of that. We are sure you will find something your overwrought nerves will thank you for.

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Ashwagandha

(Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb with many uses, primarily that of balancing and strengthening the central nervous system. Stress is a well know cause of sleep disruption, with the over-production of the stress hormone cortisol being a major culprit for a restless night. Cortisol should naturally decrease in the early evening in preparation for a good night's sleep, however stress can overrule this rhythm and cortisol can remain elevated. Ashwagandha has been proven to limit the production of cortisol in numerous studies, calming and relaxing the nervous system.

Ashwagandha has also been shown to activate GABA receptors, neurotransmitters in the brain that produce calm and relaxation. The central nervous system is mildly sedated and the mind is calmed. 

 

Avena sativa

(Avena sativa)
Avena sativa benefits

If your sleepless nights are due to jangled nerves and mental exertion or worry, then Avena Sativa is a wonderful herb to soothe and lull you to sleep. Its soothing effect on the nervous system is thought to be due to the powerful vitamin B complex vitamins it contains.

 

Catnip

(Nepeta cataria)
Catnip Benefits

 The sedative nature of Catnip helps to induce a fitful and restful sleep, making this herb the go to remedy for insomnia or other sleep related problems. 

The active components of Catnip are "iridoid glycosides", which are thought to contribute to this herb's anxiolytic and sedative effects. The phytochemical "nepetalactone", responsible for its effect on cats, also contributes to its sedative effect on humans. 

 

Chamomile

(Matricaria Chamomilla )
Chamomile Benefits

As a relaxant, Chamomile depresses the central nervous system, reducing anxiety and promoting restful sleep while not disrupting normal performance or function. This is due to the active principles of Chamomile including flavonoids, glycosides, and essential oils.

In a 2011 study published in the journal, “European Neuropsychopharmacology”, showed that the phytochemicals in Chamomile have 3 effects on the central nervous system that contribute to the herb’s anxiolytic and sedative properties. It binds to the GABA receptors which in turn reduces the activity of the cells in the sleep centre of the brain.

 

Lavender

(Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender Benefits

Lavender has been used for millenia to relax and calm the mind - pillows were stuffed with dried lavender flowers, so important was this herb deemed to be for a good night's sleep. It turns out that our ancestors were right on the mark - Lavender oil is comprised mainly of linalyl acetate and linalool - phytochemicals that are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream. Research shows that these compounds inhibit several neurotransmitters causing a sedative and anxiolytic effect. 

If you suffer from restless nights then Lavender has been proven to increase the time to awaken after first falling asleep. The study showed that Lavender increased the percentage of deep or slow-wave sleep in all of the group tested, and all of the individuals reported feeling more refreshed and energetic the next morning. 

 

Mistletoe

(Viscum alba loranthaceae)

Mistletoe has been used traditionally as a relaxant and herbal remedy for sleep for centuries. A powerful nervine, the chemical components of this herb impact the release of neurotransmitters that calm down and soothe the nervous system - this in turn will allow for a healthy and restful sleep 

 

Passion Flower

(Passiflora incarnate)
Passion Flower Benefits

Passion Flower is a gentle anti-anxiety and mildly sedative herb that can even be used to induce a good night's sleep in children. One particular study asked volunteers with trouble sleeping to drink a cup of Passion Flower tea at bedtime for a period of time, all reported significant sleep improvement. 

Passion Flower also increases the amount of GABA in the brain - an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is associated with reduced levels of anxiety - one of the main reason for sleepless nights. This herb has been shown to be as effective as its pharmaceutical counterparts in the strength of its anxiolytic properties. In addition, Passion Flower is known to be a muscle relaxant, easing away tension that can make it more difficult to drift off to sleep.

 

Skullcap

(Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap Benefits

If an overactive, restless mind is preventing you from getting a good night's sleep then Skullcap is the herb for you. While many remedies, both traditional and herbal, can lull you to sleep like skullcap, most leave you groggy in the morning. Skullcap promotes sound sleep without the unwanted side effects, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalised in the morning.

 

St John's Wort

(Hypericum perforatum)
St John's Wort Benefits

Research shows that St. John's Wort lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and enhances the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring tranquilizer in the brain. 

St John's Wort aids in enhancing metabolism and the internal body clock to combat irritability, anxiety and insomnia. 

 

Valerian

(Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian Benefits

The most popular use of Valerian is as a sleep aid and remedy for insomnia. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that sends chemical messages through the brain and nervous system. Its role is to inhibit or reduce the activity of neurons or nerve cells. In large enough quantities GABA can cause a sedative effect – Valerian root  has been shown to increase GABA levels in the brain which can in turn not only reduce the amount of time taken to fall asleep, it can also improve the quality of sleep too.

A double blind study conducted by the Foellinge Health Centre in Sweden found that the effects of Valerian on poor sleep were significant. 44 percent of the participants reported perfect sleep, whilst 89 percent reported improved sleep – none of this group reported any side effects either, including morning drowsiness.

 

Wild Lettuce

(Lactuca virosa)
Wild Lettuce Benefits

Wild lettuce is a natural sedative, useful in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety, it is also called a feeble opium because it does not upset the digestive system. It is said to produce a euphoric, dreamy effect making it much easier to drop off to sleep.

This sedative effect makes Wild Lettuce especially beneficial to an overactive nervous system and it’s particularly good for hyperactive children.