If you ask a busy person about their priorities, you’re likely to hear things like—an education, eating healthy, and family time. At the core of those desires for the good things in life is something that can be taken for granted until its consistency starts to unravel—sleep! Consistent, nourishing sleep sets everyone up for good days, wiser decisions, clear thinking, and better coping skills for whatever life may hold.
Sleep Is a Necessity
We all need sleep to keep our brains firing on all cylinders. In one clinical study, poor sleep quality led to deterioration and even shrinkage in parts of the brain essential for reasoning, memory, planning, behavior, and problem solving. Going without sleep can be a conduit to continual low-grade inflammation that leads to all kinds of problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Sleep matters!
Melatonin and Valerian
Many people think of melatonin first when looking for a non-pharmaceutical sleep aid. Melatonin is a sleep and body clock regulator, which makes it most suitable for shift workers, those who awaken too early in the morning, and as an anti-dote to jet lag. If you are dealing with any type of circadian rhythm disturbance—turn to melatonin.
Valerian, another well-known sleep aid, acts as a sedative on the brain and nervous system. It has mixed clinical results with some studies showing good results, and other studies showing no effect or causing the opposite effect—stimulation. This may point to the fact that valerian works well for some people, but not as well for others. Because the studies and reviews are so mixed, you will only know how it works for you by actually trying it and making your own assessment.
Lesser-Known, Effective Sleep Solutions
Researchers have moved ahead to look at the synergistic abilities of some lesser-known, but highly effective botanical sleep solutions like lemon balm, lavender, mandarin, and ravintsara.
Lemon Balm. Scientific studies suggest that lemon balm may help to inhibit an enzyme in the brain that causes excitability. An Italian clinical trial tested stressed participants who were dealing with mild to moderate anxiety and sleep disturbances. After 15 days of treatment, all 20 of the volunteers experienced reduced insomnia with 17 not experiencing insomnia at all.
Lavender. This fragrant herb is a popular sleep remedy because of its calming effects. A myriad of studies show that lavender works as a mild sedative to help induce deeper sleep. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in International Clinical Psychopharmacology reported that a proprietary oral lavender oil supplement, listed on labels under the name Silexan, had an anxiolytic effect, meaning it lessened anxiety. This can be very helpful to someone who has anxiety-related sleep disturbances.
Mandarin. Cousin to the tangerine, mandarin fights stress by calming and soothing. Compounds in the peel which include limonene, work together to help coax relaxation and sleep.
Ravintsara. The people of Madagascar have long used the leaves, bark, and nuts of this rainforest tree as an overall health tonic. Studies continually find new uses for this ravintsara, which now include the ability to reduce depression, lessen nervous tension, and relieve insomnia.
If the Sandman has been eluding you, consider a natural sleep formula—including one that combines extracts of lemon balm, mandarin, ravintsara, and lavender could be the sound answer for the sleep you seek. Pleasant dreams!
Tips for the Family
It’s never too early to learn good sleep habits—and that goes for the kids too. The bonus? When kids sleep, parents get to sleep!
- Consistency in sleep cues is the best way to prep for a peaceful bedtime. Stick with a calm, quiet bedtime routine without electronics that starts an hour or so before the desired bedtime and ends in the actual bed.
- Daily activity and exposure to sunshine helps kids fall asleep faster according to researchers.
- Watch out for caffeine in sodas and candy consumed later in the day. This can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Teens are a bit of a sleep conundrum. Their brain naturally works on a later schedule because of a resetting of the circadian rhythm, telling the teen to stay up later and sleep in. A teen glued to a phone or movie late at night plays even more with the rhythms and delays sleep. Encouraging limited caffeine consumption and computer time before bed and implementing relaxing sleep habits like a hot shower at night can go a long way in helping your teen if they have to be an early riser because of school. Both teens and adults can benefit from limiting cell phone use in the evening.