We’ve all tossed and turned, wishing we could count to a magic “sheep number” and guarantee a night of uninterrupted rest. We lie frustrated in bed, we pace around the house, we fix a snack, or we watch television – all the while knowing that we need sleep more than anything else. But stories of sleeping pill addictions and ominous labels on over-the-counter sleep aids understandably make sleep-seekers suspicious. Are there gentle, safe remedies for insomnia? You bet. In fact, there are numerous natural sleep aids of the herbal and aromatic variety. Since natural therapies have different effects on different people, you may need to shop around to find your cure for temporary insomnia, but once you find it, you’ll drift away.
If insomnia is a long-term problem for you, you should certainly consult a doctor. But if you only experience sleeplessness on occasion (when you’re stressed, anxious, jet-lagged, or otherwise off-kilter), consider a natural sleep aid as an alternative to over-the-counter medication. These herbal and aromatic remedies for insomnia can help readjust your body’s clock and draw the curtain for sweet dreams.
This classic herbal relaxer is derived from the Matricaria recutita plant. Related to the sunflower, the German chamomile flower looks like a daisy with its petals pushed back. Also used as a digestive aid, chamomile is typically prepared in tea format. Chamomile flowers, which emit a mild floral smell, can be added directly to hot water and strained out. Of course, because this is such a popular folk remedy for insomnia, chamomile is readily available in bag form at virtually all grocery stores. Big-name tea companies typically sell chamomile under its conventional name, but some quietly add it into a bedtime-branded mix. This gentle sedative is perhaps the most common natural sleed aid.
Despite its name, which would lead you to believe it’s an aphrodisiac, passion flower is actually another herbal treatment for insomnia. Considered to be a mild muscle relaxant and gentle sedative, passion flower, representing plants of the genus Passiflora, can be crushed and infused to create tea. It’s more difficult to find in retail stores, but many online vendors sell the natural sleep aid. Occasionally, passion flower caplets are also available.
Lavandula angustifolia is the most common plant we call lavender. Not as palatable in tea form, lavender has gained its reputation as a natural sleep aid thanks to its essential oil. Functioning as an aromatic remedy, lavender oil can be rubbed on the wrists and neck before going to bed. Lavender sachets can also be tucked into pillows. While some skeptics doubt the use of lavender and while others folks are allergic, it’s at least worth an attempt if you’re struggling to sleep. If nothing else, you can enjoy the pleasant smell – so let your lullabye become “Lavender Blue, Dilly Dilly.”
Called lemon balm because of its mild lemon scent, the leaves of Melissa officinalis are used to make tea. Like some other natural sleep aids, the leaves of the herb can be steeped in hot water and strained. However, lemon balm oil is also used as an aromatic remedy for insomnia.
A little more controversial than chamomile tea, lavender, and lemon balm is valerian: Valeriana officinalis. Used since Greek times as a sedative, valerian is thought to be somewhat addictive when consumed consistently, and it also tends to cause more frequent side effects in some users. However, many herbal specialists consider it more potent than the other remedies and thus worth a small risk.
So it’s neither an herbal nor an aromatic remedy. It’s just milk – served warm. Because it contains Tryptophan, an amino acid that induces sleep, warm milk is a legitimate and easily accessible sleep aid. Just microwave a mug of milk for a minute or two and add some nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice for taste. The composition of the liquid itself, combined with the positive associations many people have pre-accorded warm milk as a folk remedy, can make it extremely effective as a natural sleep aid.