Valerian, botanically known as Valeriana officinalis, is a perennial flower that has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. Native to Europe, valerian has been used to treat a variety of health issues like menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, anxiety, stomach problems and restless leg syndrome. It is also thought to reduce stress and even manage obsessive compulsive disorder.
The oil and root of valerian is most commonly used in treatment, and both are believed to hold sedative qualities. Acids found in valerian root are thought to be able to translate into gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that regulates and inhibits the activity of neurons in the central nervous system. Added GABA in your system is believed to lower stress levels and encourage relaxation, which can induce sleep.
Studies have found that valerian was able to reduce the time it took to fall asleep. It was also found that valerian has similar effects to prescription benzodiazepine medication, which is commonly used as a mild sedative, though more research is necessary before the full effects can be discovered. Valerian is generally thought to be a safe herbal remedy, but side effects can include apathy, drowsiness, dizziness, depression and stomach pain. It should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing, as the risks of valerian during pregnancy and infancy has not been investigated.
To enjoy the sleep-inducing effects of valerian, you can grate a valerian root and mix a half teaspoon with another half teaspoon of nutmeg before adding to boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes or more before straining it out and drinking the water. Valerian supplements are also available.
9. Hot Baths
For thousands of years, baths have been a very popular way to relax. They’ve been a common activity throughout many cultures, however they’re done in different ways. In Scandinavia, they take a quick dip in an ice-cold plunge pool after saunas, and in Japan, they frequent bath houses to wash away stress and fatigue, and calm the nervous system.
Taking a bath for therapeutic benefits is known as hydrotherapy, and it has many different health benefits like improving blood circulation, relieves sore muscles and stiff joints, lowers blood pressure, cleanses the skin, relieves headaches, and alleviates symptoms of flue and the common cold. It can also improve metabolism, elevate the mood, relieve skin conditions and calm arthritic pain.
Having a warm bath 60-90 minutes before bed can help induce sleep by raising your inner temperature and kick-starting the production of melatonin, which acts as a signal to the body to begin winding down, getting ready for sleep. To make it even more relaxing, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to further promote sleepiness.
Avoid taking baths that are too hot as it can bring on hyperthermia, a heat-related illness that happens when the body heats up to a dangerous degree. Always take a drink in with you so you remain hydrated, don’t soak for more than 20 minutes, and if you’ve got cardiovascular issues, it’s best to consult with your doctor beforehand.
10. Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey
Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples and has been thought of as a ‘cure-all’ for centuries, dating all the way back to Hippocrates, who was known to use it as a health tonic. It’s a popular treatment for a wide variety of things, like diabetes, heartburn, sore throat, weight loss and digestive health. It’s also a common ingredient in household cooking and cleaning.
Apple cider vinegar is believed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce dandruff, treat acne and balance the pH levels in the body. Organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains a ‘mother’, which is strands of protein, good bacteria and enzymes that look like cloudy pieces of jelly, but are hugely beneficial.
Drinking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before bed can trigger the release of L-tryptophan, and mixing it with honey can both enhance the taste and promote relaxation, as honey contains sugars that naturally produce serotonin, the hormone that can help relax us and improve mood.
Insomnia can be hugely detrimental to your health and wellbeing, and reduce the quality of life. However, it can be treated effectively in many different ways. It’s important to follow a sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day. This can help regulate your sleep cycle. Create a comfortable bedtime routine, avoid napping, especially in the afternoon, and try to stay away from caffeinated beverages from 2pm onwards.