And what makes matters worse is that, while there are numerous over-the counter sleep aids available that work, they can also cause side effects ranging from that groggy ‘hangover’ feeling to actual drug dependency.
Why put up with these treatments when there are two effective and safe herbs you can try?
Get to sleep faster with valerian and chaste tree
According to Kerry Bone of Nutrition & Healing, one of the key herbs for sleep onset insomnia is valerian.
“It’s been well-known as a natural sleep aid for quite a while, but what’s new about it are the recent clinical trials that found it can work just as well as benzodiazepine drugs, such as Valium (diazepam),” says Bone.
For example, in one multicentre, double-blind, randomised clinical trial, 202 insomnia patients ranging in age from 18 to 73 years were treated with either600mg a day of valerian extract or10mg a day of the benzodiazepine drug oxazepam for six weeks.
At the end of the trial, researchers concluded that valerian extract was at least as effective as oxazepam for improving sleep quality.
And unlike the benzodiazepine drugs, valerian doesn’t cause sedation or impairment of functioning.
Since valerian helps you sleep, how do you stay asleep once you get there?
“Perhaps the most interesting recent development in insomnia treatment is the herb chaste tree. Research shows that it can actually increase the body’s own natural production of melatonin, which helps you have more restful uninterrupted sleep,” says Bone.
Researchers examined melatonin secretion in 20 healthy males ages 20 to 32 after the intake of placebo or various doses (120mg to 480mg) of chaste tree extract for 14 days.
The chaste tree caused a dose dependent increase of melatonin secretion, especially during the night. Total melatonin output was approximately 60% higher in the chaste tree group.
How to get the best from valerian and chaste tree
For best results, use the doses shown to be effective in the clinical trials. For valerian, this is around 600mg of extract and for hops (taken in conjunction with valerian) it’s around 120mg of extract. Take it about an hour before bed.
Valerian or valerian and hops are mainly used for sleep onset insomnia, but you can try them for the sleep maintenance variety too, especially if you combine it with chaste tree (around 1,500mg of berries per day). And even though it’s been known as a remedy for various female problems for generations, it’s perfectly OK for men to take chaste tree.
Just remember to should give all of these herbs at least two full weeks of daily use to get the most benefit from them. Before rushing to your local health shop to get these herbal treatments, speak to your doctor first.