“Insomnia is a kind of torture, because while the world is fast asleep, you’re up all alone, your mind buzzing with every random thought in the universe, and sometimes the thoughts will reach a standstill, and your mind goes blank, you become more aware of the silence, and it is during this moment that you realise how alone you are.” Anonymous
I like being alone, there is nothing wrong with this when it is your own choice. However, enforced wakefulness and the loneliness of not being able to sleep is a different thing entirely.
I love my bed. Every night without fail I sink down into it and am blissed out. There have been times nonetheless, when going to bed was a worrisome thing, times when I became partially insomniacal. I don’t qualify as a fully fledged one, knowing how some people struggle their way through the day on a few caught zzz’s here and there, on a regular basis. At the same time, my whole day is geared up to getting a good night’s sleep, as I function very poorly without it.
Bouts of insomnia have struck me occasionally over the years, but for weeks rather than months. This was more than enough to give me insight into how the thought of going to bed can be both a temptation and a dread.
You are surely so tired you will fall asleep as soon as the proverbial head hits the pillow… But nope. An hour later you are still awake. You read. You get sleepy and can’t keep your eyes open. Until you switch the light off and attempt to sleep again. As this dance carries on through the long night hours, you then worry about how you MUST fall asleep soon, or you will be far too tired to go to work, look after the children, and otherwise run your world. Chances are you fall asleep just as dawn is breaking.
There are a number of herbs for insomnia that may well have an effect on your being able to relax and sleep, but it is important also to consider the ones that are adaptogenic.
The ‘sleepy’ herbs that are specifically taken for this purpose include lavender, rose, passiflora, camomile and melissa. These can be taken as teas, or in liquid format from a herbalist. A lavender bag by your pillow will allow the calming scent to work its magic. Do however make sure it is natural and not one of the synthetic products on the market. These are about as close to real lavender as a fish is! Technically not a herb, but one of the Bach flower remedies, White Chestnut is extremely helpful in quieting the incessant chatter inside your head.
What is an Adaptogenic Herb?
Simply put, this is a herb that adapts to you personally. Such herbs taken over a period of time will also affect the biochemical issues causing the un-sleep.
Roxy Dillon, who first drew these to my attention, writes in her book “Radical Rejuvenation”:
“An adaptogen has a normalising effect, irrespective of the direction of the pathology.”
Not all herbs are adaptogenic, but several are. Ginseng is one that is likely familiar to you. Studies found that this lowered blood pressure in people who had high readings, and the ones with low blood pressure had theirs raised by it. So an adaptogen will bring imbalanced conditions back to normal. And not being able to sleep night after night is certainly imbalanced, leading to one becoming unbalanced in thought, speech and deed!
Super Herbs 1: Ashwanganda
I have taken this herb as a tincture on and off (depending on finances) for over 10 years, and it rates as one of my top 5 favourites. Do note, that whilst there may be an instant effect, it could take several days for your body to balance out.
“Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen, making it ideal for people with anxiety, insomnia, or nervous tension. Dosage: Tincture — 30 to 40 drops, three times a day. Capsules — one 400 to 500 mg capsule, twice a day.” Catherine Guthrie
“Faithful to Nature” report that it can “relieve insomnia, ease fatigue, and help the body heal from the effects of stress. If cortisol is too high, it acts to lower it, and if too low, it acts to raise it. It specifically works on the adrenals to rebuild tissue and help them function. It’s a tonic for vitality… and can alleviate inflammation.”
Super Herbs 2: Maca
This comes from South America and has the advantage of tasting quite nice. As it is a toffee-ish flavour, it mixes well in smoothies and home made raw chocolate goodies. It is a root that comes to us ground into a powder. Being a super nutrient – a food – it can be taken liberally, but start on 2 teaspoons a day and work up to whatever amount you feel best on. I suspect once you have used this herb you will never want to be without it again.
Additional Sleep Aids to Use in Conjunction with Herbs for Insomnia
Whilst we are socially trained to take the quick fix, and whilst the calming herbs – as first mentioned – will help, there is more you can do to speed the effects. Altering habits to promote a better sleep environment is one action, but note the advice by Dr. Frank Lipman:
“Caffeine, even in small doses, blocks sleep neurotransmitters, the calming chemicals your body produces to make you sleepy. If you have a problem with sleep, you must cut out all caffeinated beverages, even your morning cup of coffee.
For two weeks, eliminate sugar, corn syrup, sodas, refined grains and processed foods. These are metabolic disruptors, which overstress the organs involved in hormone regulation and can seriously affect your sleep cycles. In addition, avoid dairy and gluten products, especially wheat, since these can cause food sensitivities that can affect your sleep cycle too.”
I know that when sleep deprived and doggedly plodding through the day, it is far easier to grab the quick fix coffee and sweet sugary foods. So start with one of the super herbs, get your system on the road to recovery, and ease the other changes in. In with the good, out with the bad – gently does it.
Have you ever had trouble falling asleep? Have you been able to do anything about this? Please share your thoughts and experience below.