Why can’t I sleep? Unfortunately there is no straight answer here. Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. Most of the time, insomnia is related to bad sleep habits, stress, depression, anxiety, lack of exercise, an illness or a specific medication. Chronic insomnia can lead to illness and long-term mental issues. Fortunately, there are many remedies that can help you get to sleep and more importantly, stay asleep.
Valerian is an herb, native to Europe and Asia, which is also found in North America. Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb at least since ancient Greek and Roman times. Galen, an ancient Greek doctor whose work is still studied today, regularly prescribed valerian for insomnia. Valerian extracts were commonly used in the United States and Europe between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s, when many people began to take prescription sedatives instead.
Recently, scientists have become interested in valerian, and it has been researched in several clinical studies. Scientific studies on valerian have been somewhat inconclusive, however. The studies were very small, and valerian was given with other herbs that might have changed the effect. These studies show that valerian seems to reduce anxiety, and seems to reduce falling asleep time in people who have trouble falling asleep. It also seems to result in a more restful sleep, with fewer night waking. It seems to be of most help to people who are struggling with an occasional case of insomnia, or nightly insomnia that began only recently. Valerian is less likely to help those insomniacs who stay up for days, and have done so for most of their lives. Researchers think that valerian is likely to be proved to be helpful, though, for cases of mild to moderate insomnia.
Using Valerian to Prevent Insomnia:
Take valerian capsules or tablets in water, just before bed.
Alternatively, take a liquid valerian extract just before bed.
Alternatively, you can make tea out of valerian, but it is likely to be quite bitter-tasting. Valerian is known for smelling like sweaty socks. Valerian tea should also be taken at bedtime.
It is unclear why valerian works, or why it seems to be so helpful for mild to moderate insomnia but ineffective for chronic, severe insomnia. Valerian does contain chemicals, called valepotriates, that are thought to be muscle relaxants and sedatives. But valerian still puts some people to sleep even the valepotriates are removed from it. Another possibility is that valerian increases the levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with slow-wave sleep.
Another possibility is that valerian reduces the anxiety and stress that keep some insomniacs awake. Research shows that chronic insomniacs tend to have high levels of stress hormones in their blood. Valerian, meanwhile, is a traditional remedy not only for insomnia but also for anxiety. Perhaps valerian’s anti-anxiety effects make it easier for some insomniacs to fall asleep.
Valerian is on the federal Food and Drug Administration’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. However, it has not been proven safe for long-term use, although researchers believe that it is safe to take every day at bedtime for periods of four to six weeks. It can cause a mild hangover the next day, consisting of headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, or tiredness. You should avoid driving and operating heavy machinery while taking valerian. Valerian withdrawal can also occur if you take it daily for several weeks and then stop suddenly. Valerian withdrawal symptoms include confusion, delirium, and rapid heartbeat. It is also thought that valerian can interact with prescription medications to increase drowsiness.
In addition to valerian root, there are other alternative treatments that can help alleviate insomnia, like upper cervical chiropractic. This type of treatment is gentle and can help people who suffer from insomnia.