Sleep is essential to brain health and function. The amount and quality of sleep we get impacts memory retention, learning ability, reaction time, mood, energy levels, and more. Our bodies are also busy with important tasks such as detoxification, repair and renewal of tissues during the night, which is why we need regular and sufficient deep sleep. However, we all experience times when a good night’s sleep simply eludes us. This may be due to additional work or life stress, a distressing event, loss or grief, temporary pain and discomfort, illness and the use of certain medications, a disrupted sleep schedule due to travel or shifting routines, a spell of depression or anxiety, or a simple case of overstimulation and poor sleep habits1. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterised by difficulty in falling and/or staying asleep, and it may be acute – a brief bout of wakefulness at night, usually related to some identifiable event and lasting from a few nights up to a few weeks, or chronic – when it becomes a pattern which lasts for a month or longer (DSM-5)2.
Lack of quality sleep can leave us tired and irritable during the day and impact our ability to function at work or school. When the problem persists, the long term effects begin to affect mood, blood sugar control and immune function. Insufficient sleep can lead to ‘brain fog’, as a result of accumulated toxins which are not being efficiently metabolised and eliminated during the night.
Successfully solving insomnia is dependent on identifying the underlying cause and addressing it, as well as supporting relaxation and quieting of the mind before going to bed. Developing regular sleep routine and practising good nightly sleep hygiene is key to achieving restorative and energising sleep. When we require a little extra help sedative and hypnotic herbs might be used to reduce nervous activity and promote sleep3.
For mild temporary insomnia or simple overstimulation, try a relaxing herbal tea 20 to 40 minutes before bed.
HOW TO MAKE A RELAXING HERBAL INFUSION USING SOUTHERN LIGHTS HERBAL TEAS
Making a calming cup of tea is the simplest way to take your herbs and is tasty too!
The following herbs make effective sleep teas4
CHAMOMILE – relaxes ‘jumpy’ muscles and settles the stomach; great for children!
LAVENDER – calming, emotionally soothing and helps to ease pain
GREEN OATS – nurturing and nourishing; restores the nervous system
HOPS – deeply relaxing to promote restful sleep
PASSIONFLOWER – relieves nervous tension and restores zest for life
SKULLCAP – to quiet an overactive mind and frazzled nervous system
LEMON BALM – reduces restlessness and irritability
Use them singly or blend two or three together in a large mason jar! They also blend well with tasty herbs such as peppermint, ginger and liquorice.
Use 1 tsp of dry herb per 200-250ml of boiling water in a teapot or tea infuser
Steep for 10-15mins and drink warm
A little honey, lemon, ginger, or natural sweetener may be used to suit your taste.
If this simply sounds like too much effort, there are a number of herbal tea blends available in easy to use teabags!
For more severe or persistent sleep difficulties speak to our in-store naturopath about finding an herbal and/or nutritional supplement containing sedative and anxiolytic herbs to help you get some rest. These may need to be taken consistently for a few days or weeks to reduce anxiety and/or pain, and reset your sleep rhythm.
Adv Dip Naturopathy & Certified Food & Spirit Practitioner at Taste Organic Turramurra
- Hechtman, L 2012, ‘Sleep Disorders’, in Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Churchill Livingston Elsevier, Chatswood, NSW
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition)
- Mills, S and Bone, K 2007, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Churchill Livingston Elsevier, Missouri
- Thomsen, M and Gennat, H 2009, Phytotherapy Desk Reference, 4th edition, Global Natural Medicine Pty Ltd