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Problem of the week: Sleeplessness.


There are a lot of sleepytime things to do.

  • Don't drink coffee (or similar caffeine-laden beverages) after about 3 pm.
  • Don't do vigorous exercise for about two hours before bedtime.
  • Dim the lights about 30 minutes before bedtime (more than 500 lux (which isn't very bright at all actually) means that the pineal gland thinks it's still bright day. If you're at all sensitive, you won't fall asleep for 30 minutes ...)
  • Relax. Let go of your stresses and stressors.

And then there are the plants.

Try milky oats (Avena species, picked when the unripe seed, when popped, releases its white milk),
or California poppy (Eschscholzia californica),
or St. John's wort (Hypericum species with that telltale red color),
or passionflower (Passiflora incarnata),
or, if you're in a T-shirt when everybody around you is huddling under blankets, try hops (Humulus species) (which is a very "cold" herb),
or, if you're in blankets when everybody around you is in T-shirts, try valerian (Valeriana species) (which is a "hot" herb),
... or check the herb books for other soothing sedatives. There are lots.

I quite like to give tinctures for sleeplessness. That way, you can have the bottle (of either single herbs or a blend of one or more sleepytime herbs) right by your bed. And when you toss and turn (and turn and toss) (and toss and turn) (and turn and toss) (etcetera), you can just grab that bottle and take a squirt off that dropper. Or take that bottle and upend it over your mouth, counting the drops as they fall (if it's not a dropper bottle). 10 drops is nice, 20 is also nice, 30 works as well.

And if you still toss and turn (and turn and toss) after 10 minutes, you can grab that bottle again, and take another few drops of your sleepytime tincture.

Do note that you should only have one (1) tincture bottle beside the bed though. A friend told me that my sleepytime blend didn't work after all. I asked how many bottles he had by his bed? Two. What was the other one? Echinacea. Was he sure he didn't grab the ech in the darkness? Because that one won't work for sleeplessness ...

... he reported back a few days later: the blend worked after all, thank you so much ...

If you can't do tinctures, you can make a sleepytime tea instead. Do note that not all sedative herbs are tasty.

For tea, make one cup about two hours before bed, and drink that. Make another one hour before bed, and drink that. Make one cup half an hour before bed, and drink half. Take the other half as you snuggle in and turn off the light.

(Remember to go pee too, though, in between all those cups of tea!)

For those stresses and stressors, there are few herbs as good as the cinquefoils (Potentilla species) or agrimony (Agrimonia species).

They'll let you gently ditch things that you do because you think that others think that you need to do them. And when you ditch them, you suddenly have enough time to do the things that you do because you want to do them. And that is an enormous improvement: less anger and frustration, more satisfaction, and waaay less stress. As a side effect, you sleep better, too.

Drink a cup of cinquefoil tea daily, or chew a leaf (about 1 € / 1 silver$ / 1 £ in size) each and every day. And watch your stress disappear as if by magic. *poof!*

I'm sure there are a lot of other things to do and not to do when it's sleepy time. Your turn: tell me all about them!

And check out my book, too!

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Marie S.:
    before bedtime, I drink a cup of tea made from hawthorn and chamomile - works very well for me.
    22 May at 15:06
  • From Bobbye McC.:
    that also means computer lights & all those lights on all these gadgets we have in bedrooms! And if you must have a LED lit clock in your bedroom, please don't put on nightstand beside your head~~~~move to somewhere else in room!
    22 May at 17:19

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Sarah Firnberg:
    Date: 2012 05 22 - 11:25:01 +0300

    And, don't do your Sudoku (or computer games / smart phone games) last thing at night! (this made all the difference to a lovely elderly lady I have been helping)!

  • From Jane MacR.:
    Date: 2012 05 22 - 11:42:30 +0300

    Thanks so much for this - I regularly don't sleep until it's daylight - maybe because I worked forever as a night duty nurse - I don't know.

    An ayurvedic vaidya told me to have a blue light if there has to be a light, (my husband needs a light) otherwise as dark as possible, short walk in the fresh air with deep breathing prior and also wash the hands in cold water, & others say to drink a glass of quality (chemical free) cold water as you get into bed - will not do anything other than total body hydration - though this is not always true you may still need the toilet later - but it may also help some people with hiatal hernia problems!

  • From Denise:
    Date: 2012 05 22 - 16:31:21 +0300

    A great list: i do a lot of them. I also need to keep my dinner small, with mostly protein & veg, if i want to sleep. Might be specific for my sluggish digestion? (Added benefit of weight loss. If there's one thing that predicts my waistline, it's the size of my evening meal.)

    Playing guitar and singing before bed is a fail-safe way for me to get to sleep. I force myself to do it, no matter how tired i might be, if i've been doing a lot of intellectual work near bedtime. It's guaranteed: thinking hard before bed means insomnia. If i follow the brainiac stuff with music, all's well.

    I also find that if the tossing & turning starts, i tend to do better if i get up for a few minutes. I go to the toilet, maybe drink a little water, perhaps take some tincture. Then back to sleep. My best guess is that it helps if there's a gas bubble.

  • From daniel w:
    Date: 2012 05 22 - 20:43:36 +0300

    I am enjoying valerian - just a dropper or two and within 10 - 15 mins most nights I am out. Usually reading something about herbs for a while before drifting off too ...

  • From Sarah Head:
    Date: 2012 05 22 - 21:57:53 +0300

    Alia asked: What herbs are good for someone that has no problem falling asleep, but after 4 or 5 hours wakes up and lies in bed thinking about the emails she has to write and the seeds that are already a little late to plant and the book she was reading yesterday and..... and then falls back asleep about 10 minutes before the alarm goes off?

    I find this happens to me when I'm stressed about something so.......

    work on removing the stresses e.g do you really need to write those emails? (i.e. is anyone going to die because you don't?), so seeds are late - every year is different, maybe autumn/winter will be late to compensate? or next year? plus Henriette has already mentioned agrimony for letting go, vervain flower essence or tincture makes you let go of those things you think you have to hang on to....then passionflower tincture to stop your brain talking to itself.

    Good luck!

  • From Deb Phillips:
    Date: 2012 05 23 - 08:36:45 +0300

    I find that a cup of chamomile before bedtime makes me sleep very very sound.

  • From Julie Brutonseal:
    Date: 2012 05 23 - 11:04:43 +0300

    "no problem falling asleep, but after 4 or 5 hours wakes up" – I find nutmeg really helpful for this kind of sleep problem. I get it made up into capsules. It's slow acting but long lasting, so take it about 6pm. Dose is very person specific, so start with one capsule and increase by one a night until you find the dose that works for you - I need 2, sometimes 3, some people need up to 8. Once the pattern is broken, you can stop taking it.

  • From Sarah Firnberg:
    Date: 2012 05 23 - 17:10:55 +0300

    "no problem falling asleep, but after 4 or 5 hours wakes up"

    One, or more of these things works for most people I see with this problem:

    1. Balance blood sugar levels : avoid eating late, avoid drinking wine / beer / fruit juice in the evening, avoid carb. rich meals at night. Blood sugar highs at supper may be followed by blood sugar lows + adrenalin rush several hours later, and there is nothing like that to wake you up, buzzing, at 2 - 3 am.

    2. Look after the liver. I have several patients who sleep happily through the night as long as they have their liver mix: Dandelion, artichoke, milk thistle, , + hops and lavender . . . or something along those lines.

    3. Artemisia annua (Sweet Annie) . Really helps some people. I think of this herb if they have gut problems and sinusitis as well as insomnia. Can work like a charm for some people (suggesting there is a parasitic element to their insomnia / gut problems / sinusitis).
    I use a tincture: 5 - 10 ml of a 1:2 tincture at 45%.

    4. Exercise (like walking) between 11 am an 3 pm in the open air. The light helps regulate the circadian rhythm, and of course, exercise is helpful

    5. Magnesium - Deficiency is extremely common. If appropriate (and watch for drug c/i's ), it can really help with relaxation at night.

    100% cotton sheets, completely dark bedroom etc.

    Hope this helps

  • From Maria Noel Groves:
    Date: 2012 05 23 - 17:30:41 +0300

    Love all of Henriette's suggestions! As a chronic/ episodic insomniac with a cold type A personality, I find that reading a boring or soothing book (in dim light) in bed helps take my mind of things so I can sleep. Also, in dire circumstances, I pull out an eyemask (and earplugs, if noises are waking me)... and take very heavy doses of valerian and kava tinctures. I also second Henriette's comment about keeping too many tincture bottles by the bedside. I had wicked cramps one night and realized in the morning that I had been taking valerian instead of crampbark in significant, frequent doses in the wee hours of morn (which didn't really do much for the cramps but made me awful groggy in the morn).

  • From ShammyNix:
    Date: 2012 05 24 - 02:15:51 +0300

    From my experience (and feedback from others who have taken Valerian root, in whatever form), one possible side effect of the Valerian is some pretty strange dreaming. I went from not remembering my dreams at all, to, well... most mornings now I wake up going, "Woah. WHAT?"

    Still can't remember them long enough to get pen to paper and record them, but I will never look at a sleep supplement the same way again...

  • From Janice D.:
    Date: 2012 05 24 - 06:22:48 +0300

    One thing I found, quite by accident, that knocks me right down is adding just a sprinkle of three spices to my evening sleepy blend tea, usually something with chamomile or passion flower and nearly always mint.

    One night the regular blend looked boring and it was a very cold night, so I added just a sprinkle each of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.

    I now finish a mug like that in bed as I couldn't get up from my desk for a half hour after finishing the first one.

    So now my theory is it isn't the turkey that makes us sleepy on Thanksgiving, it's the warm pumpkin pie.

  • From Jos. Bee:
    Date: 2012 05 24 - 10:44:29 +0300

    Albizzia by itself or combined with Passionflower for squirrel-cage thoughts or with Kava for tension work well for me. On Michael Tierra 's site he referred to a test done with folks already taking sleep meds where they had them add the Albizzia in along with their meds and the result was they slept longer . Albizzia seems to boost the performance of what its combined with so you must be aware of this when using it.

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Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments.