Many people who’ve never had any problems sleeping – who experience it as something as natural as breathing – tend to take it for granted. For others, sleeplessness takes a heavy toll, robbing them of mental alertness, emotional well-being, and physical energy. The numbers of people who struggle with one or more symptoms of insomnia seem to be rising, too, as a result of such factors as growing fears for the economy and for security. Loss of peace of mind, in many cases, has led to a loss of much-needed rest for our bodies and minds.
Some people dread crawling into bed at night to face hours of counting sheep or listening to recordings of ocean waves. Others fall asleep easily only to awaken, fitful and restless, several times during the night. A third type of insomniac will sleep soundly for a few hours but awaken too early, before the body’s sufficiently rested, and be unable to fall back asleep again. Some of the symptoms of insomnia include taking more than thirty minutes to fall asleep, sleeping less than six hours, and experiencing fatigue during the day – especially if these problems occur three or four times a week or more, for over a month.
Many of the factors that contribute to insomnia relate to a person’s mental and emotional state. These can include chronic anger, fear of failure or disaster, or an inability to let go of obsessive thoughts. The first step to treating the problem, then, often involves getting to the bottom of personal issues that prevent us from relaxing at the end of the day. Using our waking hours constructively, to clear up those disturbing influences in our lives, will leave our minds free to sleep at night.
Because many synthetic sleep aids can have unwelcome side effects, such as lingering drowsiness during the day, people often look for natural, homeopathic remedies to help their minds and bodies relax. Valerian root is a popular alternative; taken as a tea, with a teaspoonful of Valerian per cup of hot water, it relaxes muscles and works as a general sedative. Kava has a similar effect, and many people claim that it promotes a sense of well-being and contentment. Hops (long associated with beer and ale) can also be brewed into a tea that’s reputed to induce calm; pillows stuffed with hops may even assist people with sleeping, too. All of these herbs are available in crushed and/or powdered form in most herbal supply and natural food stores. Dosage levels suggested on packages or bulk containers should be followed. Herbal relaxants should never be taken alongside any substance that acts on the brain, such as alcohol or drugs.
Natural herbal remedies, especially if used as a complement to emotional cleansing and all-round healthy living, can help to counteract the stress that modern living often wreaks on our bodies and minds and enable us to sleep again. Anyone who finds that their symptoms persist in spite of such aids, however, should consult a doctor to insure that their insomnia isn’t related to deeper and perhaps more serious medical conditions.