7 All-Natural Aids for Better Sleep

7 All-Natural Aids for Better Sleep

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” ~ W.C. Fields

A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for daily functioning. Unfortunately, 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. struggle with at least one sleep disorder, according to the American Sleep Association. Insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder; short term insomnia issues are reported by about 30% of American adults and chronic insomnia is reported by 10% of adults.

Below are some all-natural sleep aids that can help you get some shut-eye. Many of these herbs have also been shown to lower stress and anxiety, which are major contributors to insomnia.

Kava: Helps with Stress-Induced Insomnia

Kava is a tall evergreen shrub in the pepper family native to the South Pacific Islands. Traditionally, kava has been used as a ceremonial drink, consumed to bring about a state of relaxation during rituals and social gatherings. These rituals were said to strengthen ties among groups, reaffirm status and enhance interaction with spirits.

Kava may help with insomnia, often with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs or over-the-counter sleep enhancers. It is believed that a specific type of kavalactone, called kevain, may be behind kava’s sedative effect.

In a pilot study of 24 patients struggling with stress-induced insomnia , researchers looked at the effectiveness of kava and valerian separately. Stress was measured in three areas: social, personal and life events. Insomnia was measured in three areas also: time to fall asleep, hours slept and waking mood. 

According to the findings, total stress severity was significantly relieved by both compounds individually, with no significant differences between them. There was also improvement with the combination, significantly in the case of insomnia.

“These results are considered to be extremely promising but further studies may be required to determine the relative roles of the two compounds for such indications,” write the authors.

Many people report that kava helps with anxiety. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the effectiveness of kava on patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A total of 75 participants were enrolled in a 6-week trial of a kava extract versus placebo. The findings revealed a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group. 

Ashwagandha: Reduces Stress and Improves Sleep

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is an ancient Ayurvedic herb. It belongs to a class of medicinal herbs known as adaptogens and has been used for more than 3,000 years to help reduce stress, improve stamina and increase concentration levels. 

Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high levels of withanolides, hormone precursors that can convert into human physiological hormones to help bring balance to the body. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help improve sleep and reduce stress. In one review, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, ashwagandha was shown to outperform psychotherapy by reducing anxiety in a group of subjects by 56.5% compared to only 30.5% in the psychotherapy group.

Holy Basil (Tulsi): Reduces Stress and Fatigue and Improves Mood and Sleep

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), or Tulsi, is an aromatic perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. Tulsi is cultivated for religious and traditional medicine purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely used as an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has a place within the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves. Many people consume holy basil as a stress reliever. Holy basil has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Research has shown that holy basil can improve mood, reduce fatigue and improve sleep. In addition, scientific studies in vitro, animal and human experiments have shown that tulsi exerts a unique combination of actions that include antimicrobial, anti-diarrheal, antioxidant, anticataract, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, cardio-protective, anti-diabetic, memory enhancement, anti-asthmatic, anti-arthritic, adaptogenic and anti-stress activities.

Rhodiola: Reduces Mental Fatigue and Improves Sleep Patterns

In a study which looked at the effects of a 20-day regimen of Rhodiola rosea supplements on stressed-out students, researchers found that participants experienced significantly reduced mental fatigue, better sleep patterns and an increased motivation to study. In fact, their exam scores were 8% higher than students in the placebo group.

Passionflower: Reduces Anxiety and Insomnia

Passionflower may help relieve insomnia and anxiety by potentially boosting levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA lowers brain activity, which may help you relax and get better sleep.

A study of 41 healthy adults found that drinking passionflower tea offered sleep benefits for participants “with mild fluctuations in sleep quality.”

Valerian Root Tea: Lowers Anxiety and Insomnia

Even though it smells a bit like sweaty socks, valerian root has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, dating all the way to ancient Greece and Rome. Today, the root is sold in tea form or as a supplement. Many people take valerian for anxiety and insomnia. It is believed that valerian root has an impact on the availability of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. 

One small study in 36 patients with generalized anxiety disorder showed that 50 mg of valerian root extract given three times a day for four weeks significantly reduced one measure of anxiety compared to placebo. 

Lavender Tea: Improves Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

Lavender tea is a soft lilac-colored tea with a flavor similar to rosemary and mint, but this may vary depending upon the region in which it is grown. Lavender is a well-researched herb and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, lower inflammation and improve insomnia. Similar to other teas in this list, lavender tea appears to affect the GABA receptors.

In a recent Iranian study of 60 elderly patients, lavender tea was shown to improve anxiety and depression. According to the authors, “The results of the present study showed that consumption of lavender herbal tea can reduce depression and anxiety scores and since it is inexpensive and accessible, it is suggested to be used as a complementary treatment in reducing anxiety and depression.”


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