Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired or needed. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake; it can lead to memory problems, depression, irritability and many other temporary or definitive dysfunctions, being associated with an increased risk of heart disease and brain lesions. Insomnia is when you are tired, you feel the need to sleep, you know you have to sleep and you want to sleep, but you just can’t. Or, to be more precise, your body can’t. In most cases, this incapacity to sleep is a kind of workaholic tendency of the body, which needs to be told it has done enough for the day (or days, or weeks). That is what these herbs try to do.
Symptoms and causes of insomnia
Insomnia varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. What is called acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks (at least two nights a week). And what is called chronic insomnia will affect a person at least three nights a week for a month or longer. People with insomnia complain of one or more of the following symptoms: difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night (and having trouble going back to sleep), waking up too early in the morning or feeling unusually tired upon waking (sometimes even more tired than before going to sleep).
Causes of acute insomnia include:
- – Over-consumption of caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants;
- – Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving, birth of a child, financial stress);
- – Illness (heartburn, constipation, previous thoracic surgery);
- – Emotional or physical discomfort;
- – Environmental factors (noise, light, extreme temperatures, hot or cold);
- – Medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma);
- – Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag, switching from a day to night shift).
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- – Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, dementia, ADHD;
- – Chronic stress;
- – Chronic pain or discomfort at night (deviated nasal septum and nocturnal breathing disorders);
- – Illness (restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease).
- Californian poppy (liquid extract)
Take the equivalent of 1-2 g of dried plant, 2 times a day and before bedtime.
Add 10 g of dried flowers in 1 l of hot boiled water and let steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup before bedtime.
Add 2-3 g of dried herbs in a cup of hot boiled water and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Drink 3-4 cups a day, between meals.
- Lemon balm (liquid extract)
Take the equivalent of 0.5-1 g of dried plant, before a meal, 3 times a day.
Add 2-4 g of dried flowers in a cup of hot boiled water and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day, one of them before bedtime.
- Passion flower (liquid extract)
Take the equivalent of 0.5-1 g of dried plant, 2 times a day and before bedtime.
- Valerian (pellets)
Take up to the equivalent of 2 g of dried plant, an hour before bedtime.
- Bitter orange
Add 5 g of dried flowers in 150 ml of hot boiled water and let steep for 20 minutes. Drink before bedtime.
Add 1 tablespoon of dried leaves in 150 ml of hot boiled water and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink in the evening.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of dried plant in a cup of hot boiled water and let steep for 15 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day.
Address the cause
There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is when the sleep problems are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia is when sleep problems occur because of something else, such as a health condition, pain, medication etc. (see the lists above).
So, if there is a cause you can relate your insomnia to, besides taking one of the herbs above, you should also take care of that particular cause.