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Herbs for Sleep

Problems with sleep can have a profoundly detrimental impact on your life. In the United States, problems related to a lack of sleep result in significant medical spending each year. On a personal level, it can leave you feeling rundown and unable to focus. If you are suffering from a short-term lack of sleep due to temporary insomnia (inability to sleep), body pain or discomfort from an illness or injury or anxiety that makes you toss and turn, you can find many solutions in western medicine. These include prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids. For those who prefer natural remedies, there are also some food and herbs that have traditionally been used to promote healthy relaxation and rest. The most commonly recommended herbs for sleep among natural practitioners are valerian, kava and chamomile tea. Of the three, valerian may show the most promise as a sleep aid. However, more studies are still needed to confirm its effectiveness. The herb has been used as a folk remedy for insomnia throughout parts of Europe for years. Reviews of certain clinical studies seem to indicate that valerian may help to relieve symptoms of temporary insomnia and allow people to sleep better at night. Some researchers believe that this is because the herb acts as a sedative, a chemical that slows down the functioning of the brain and the nerves.

Choosing an Herb for Sleep

Currently, the only one of the three herbs commonly used for trouble with sleep (valerian, kava and chamomile) listed by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database as being "possibly effective" for assisting with an inability to sleep is valerian. However, more information is required before any of these herbs can be recommended for treating insomnia. Although valerian, kava, and chamomile have been used for centuries as herbal remedies for sleep, more research on human subjects is needed to determine whether or not the herbs are beneficial for relieving symptoms of insomnia. If you choose to take a valerian supplement for difficulty sleeping, keep in mind that the effects of the herb become noticeable over time. Some people find that it takes one to four weeks to notice positive changes in their sleep when using valerian. Clinical studies have reported safe use of valerian root in trials lasting up to 28 days however the safety of long term use is unknown, so you should not use it for chronic insomnia. Never drive or operate machinery after taking any herb for sleep, and do not combine herbs for sleep with medications for sleep or alcohol. Valerian, kava and chamomile each pose risks for side effects and other health complications. Talk to your doctor before using any daily herb for sleep.

This summary is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of purity, strength, or safety of the products. As a result, effects may vary. You should read product labels. In addition, if you are taking medications, herbs, or other supplements you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking a supplement as supplements may interact with other medications, herbs, and nutritional products. If you have a medical condition, including if you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak to your physician before taking a supplement. Consult a healthcare provider if you experience side effects.

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