According to Wellington’s Massey University, approximately one-quarter of adults in New Zealand may suffer from a chronic sleep problem, highlighting insomnia as a major public health issue in New Zealand.
Safety concerns over taking sleeping tablets more than twice a month means that there are many people searching for alternatives to prescription medicines which promote sleep, without side-effects and, often, found around the home and garden.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. By looks, it can easily be confused with its close relative, but its crushed leaves produce a fragrant, fresh, lemony scent.
The plant’s volatile oil has a sedating effect on the nervous system which can help with insomnia, anxiety and depression. Fresh or dried leaves make a pleasant-tasting tea.
Valerian is another herb found in pharmacies and health food shops and tends to be the herb most people self-medicate with when it comes to insomnia.
Usually taken in tablet form (the extremely bitter liquid herb requires an enormous amount of willpower), valerian has been shown to decrease the REM phase of sleep and therefore increase sleep quality.
The therapeutic powerhouse in the herbal world for sleep is Californian poppy. A close cousin to the opium poppy, little was known about Californian poppy’s effect on the nervous system but it appears that it has a positive pharmacological effect on the brain’s opiate receptors which helps to alleviate insomnia and promote healthy sleep patterns.
Californian poppy may also be useful in anxiety, tension and muscle spasm and needs to be prescribed professionally by a medical herbalist as it may have interactions with prescription medicine.
Be proactive in your quest for sleep. There are many ways you can find your way back to a good night’s sleep, whether it is herbal medicine, nutrition, relaxation techniques or simply a long, leisurely stroll along your favourite beach when the time comes.