Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mindful Monday: Herbal Aid for Insomnia or Trouble Sleeping


We've all heard about it.  We've all experienced it.  Each one of us probably knows at least one person affected by insomnia.  You may ever suffer from it, yourself.

My personal experience is on an almost daily basis.  But it's not me.  It's my husband.  There are very few nights when he gets a good night's sleep.  I feel sorry for him because I sleep well, and I can't imagine what it must be like to live with the exhaustion I feel on those rare mornings when I haven't had a good night's sleep.  

Lavender Buds

He's tried medications.  He's tried forcing a change in schedule.  He's tried my eye pillow and mask.  He even tried supplemental melatonin.  All to no avail.  (I should point out that he refuses to turn off the TV, which is a huge problem and the first thing a sleep specialist would tell him.)

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia is the most common sleep complaint.  It is defined by trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or not feeling refreshed in the morning despite the opportunity for a full night's sleep.


How about some numbers*:

  • 30-35% of adults have brief symptoms of insomnia
  • 15-20% of adults have a short-term insomnia disorder
  • 10% of adults have a chronic insomnia disorder

This leads to two types of insomnia*^:

  • Acute insomnia is short-term, lasting from one night up to three weeks.  It goes away without treatment.
  • Chronic insomnia is long-term, affecting a person three or more nights a week and lasting longer than three weeks.  It can have a negative impact on a person's health, increasing the risk of depression and high blood pressure.  Generally chronic insomnia requires treatment.  
Lemon Balm

The causes of these two types can be similar, but with differing degrees of intensity or duration.

Causes of acute insomnia^:

  • Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving, etc.)
  • Illness
  • Emotional or physical discomfort
  • Environmental factors (light, noise, extreme temperatures) (Turn off the TV, folks!)
  • Some medications
  • Interference in normal sleep schedule (shift work, jet lag, etc.)
Causes of chronic insomnia^:

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Pain or discomfort at night

There are two more ways of classifying insomnia^:

  • Primary insomnia is not directly associated with other health conditions.
  • Secondary insomnia is caused by something else, such as a health condition, medication, or pain.

There is another, less documented cause of insomnia:  intelligence`.  Sounds, silly, I know.  The idea behind this is that some people can't "turn off" their brain, and so their brain doesn't rest while their body tries to.  (See reference.)

Here is where I wanted to focus on my herbal sleep aid because this is a big reason why my husband suffers.  I also watched an episode of Dr. Oz where he talked about insomnia and offered solutions.  

One of the things he mentioned was Passion flower.  It helps the brain "shut down" so it can rest.  

I don't have passion flower--yet.  But I do have other herbs that have the same sort of effect.  So, I did a bit of reading, and I came up with a sleep aid utilizing these herbs and honey.  I started with a recipe I found on The Nerdy Farm Wife where she uses lemon balm.  I made her recipe first, then I changed it according to what I'd read and my personal tastes.  (I'm not much on the flavor of honey.)

Bee Balm

After 4 slight changes, I found one that worked very well for both myself and my husband.  

Herbal Sleep Aid
1 part Lavender buds
3 parts Catnip leaves
3 parts Bee Balm leaves
6 parts Lemon Balm leaves

Place herbs in a small pot and fill with water until just covered.  Simmer on low until the liquid is reduced to about half.  Strain the herbs from the tea (compost them!).  

While the tea is still warm, add 1 part honey to 4 parts of the herbal tea.  Mix well.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Take 1-2 tablespoons of the Herbal Sleep Aid before bed.

You can add more honey if you like, but I prefer the herbal taste to the over-sweet honey taste.  (It gives me an headache.)  Also, I used fresh herbs.  If you use dried herbs, the general rule is to use half the amount of dried herbs as you would fresh.  (i.e. 1 tsp fresh herbs = 1/2 tsp dried herbs.)  And, of course, the longer you simmer the herbs in the water, the stronger your tea will be.

I found that even when I was keyed up at night, this blend helped me relax enough to find dreamland.  

Sweet dreams!

Sources: *American Academy of Sleep Medicine
                       `Sleep Dynamic Therapy

This post is part of the Clever Chicks Blog Hop.

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