With the stress of enduring months of the coronavirus pandemic, there's a good chance that many of you are having more nights with less than ideal sleep. So let's discuss some useful tips to help you snooze.
Start with Good Sleep Hygiene
Poor sleep hygiene is the major cause of poor sleep for most Americans, so it's important to address this first. The following are some important things to consider:
- Don't consume caffeine after 4:00 p.m., and better yet, not after lunch.
- Take a hot bath before bed, but keep your room cool. The hot bath relaxes your muscles and mind, allowing you to drift into sleep. To stay asleep though, your body likes it cool.
- Have a light, high protein, snack before bedtime. Hunger causes insomnia in all animals, and humans are no exception. Adding foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as milk and turkey, also contributes to sleep.
- Exercise during the day, but not within an hour of going to bed. Yoga during the day and meditation or prayer before bedtime makes a wonderful combination.
Natural Sleep Remedies
Most of the natural sleep remedies discussed here are not sedating, yet they help you fall asleep and stay in deep sleep. The good news is that many natural remedies that are very effective for sleep also directly help pain because they are also muscle relaxants.
Below are my six favorite herbal sleep aids (and they're available in combination in some herbal supplements that support healthy sleep):
Theanine, an amino acid (protein) that comes from green tea, has been shown to not just improve deep sleep but also helps people maintain a calm alertness during the day. L-theanine likely plays a role in the formation of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). This inhibitory neurotransmitter is critical for sleep, and is what is stimulated by many medications that help improve sleep. L-theanine also directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves during the day. These brain waves are associated with an awake, yet relaxed (almost meditative) state. Studies also show that green tea helps with weight loss and the animal model studies suggest that the theanine in green tea contributes significantly to this. Green tea also is helpful as an immune stimulant and has many other benefits; however, the amount of L-theanine present is not enough to advocate drinking it as a sleep aid.
The only form of theanine that I use and recommend is called "SunTheanine" (pure L-theanine) as most other brands include inactive forms of the theanine that block its effectiveness. In fact, SunTheanine is the only form that most companies that maintain high quality standards will use in their products. As the FDA just approved its use as a food additive in the United States (it's been used in drinks in Japan for decades for its calming effects), it may just be a matter of time until the barista at the local Starbucks asks "One pump of SunTheanine or two?"
Take 50-200 mg at bedtime, although it can also be used several times a day for anxiety.
This is the molecule that your body uses to make serotonin. It has the benefit not only of helping sleep, but of improving mood, decreasing pain, and even sometimes helping weight loss.
Take 50-300 mg at bedtime.
3. Lemon Balm
Studies show that when combined with Valerian, this is very effective for sleep. It also has the benefits of suppressing viral growth.
Take 20-80 mg of the extract at bedtime.
The hops plant is a member of the hemp family, and the female flowers are used in making beer. It has a long history of being used as a mild sedative for anxiety and insomnia. It is considered to be very safe. As any beer drinking college student can tell you, it helps your muscles relax and helps promote sleep as well!
Take 30-120 mg of a hops extract at bedtime.
5. Passionflower (Passiflora)
This herb is commonly used throughout South America as a calming agent, even present as an ingredient in sodas. A number of studies support its have a calming effect. Herbalists have also used it to address muscle spasms, colic, dysentery, diarrhea, anxiety, and menstrual pain. And it may also increase men's libidos — all problems often associated with CFS and fibromyalgia. Passionflower has other pain management benefits as well. In one animal study, it was shown that it decreases morphine tolerance, so that less medication is needed, as well as decreasing withdrawal symptoms from morphine. Passionflower may, therefore, decrease the pain of fibromyalgia.
Take 90-360 mg of the extract at bedtime.
Valerian is commonly used as a sleep remedy. A number of studies show numerous benefits, including an improvement in deep sleep, speed of falling asleep, and quality of sleep without next-day sedation. In these studies, the benefits were most pronounced when people used valerian for extended periods of time, as opposed to simply taking it for one night.
Clinical experience shows that for around 10% of people, valerian is energizing and may keep them awake. If this happens to you, you can use valerian during the day instead of at night, as Valerian does have a calming effect and can be used during the day for anxiety as well. It is nontoxic, even at high doses.
Take 200-800 mg of the extract at bedtime.
Other Sleep Aids
Taking 200 milligrams of magnesium at night is a good idea because it can help your sleep. Lower the dose if it causes diarrhea.
I recently completed a study on this unique serum extract. After one month, 60% of people with the most severe problems had an average 69% increase in both overall well-being and energy, 54.1% average improvement in sleep, 60.5% average improvement in mental clarity, 37.9% average decrease in discomfort, 34.8% average improvement in calmness, and 54.6% average improvement in digestive symptoms. Rather remarkable for a single supplement. It is now available from Europe (shipping is taking 6-8 weeks because of COVID-19) at the Recovery Factors website. This is a "Must Try." One bottle is enough to tell if you are in the 60% who will be helped. It has been a life changer for many people.
This is a hormone made by the pineal gland, which regulates sleep. The brand that I find works best is Nature's Bounty Dual Spectrum 5 mg. This can be found on Amazon or at Walgreens. It has a mixed immediate-release and time-released combination. Studies are also suggesting that it may be beneficial in helping your immunity.
Most "energy drinks" are largely sugar and caffeine and act like energy loan sharks while causing insomnia. Ribose is an energy superstar, and this special sugar was shown to increase energy an average of 61% in a recent study, while also improving sleep and brain function. Ditch your "energy drink" and substitute ribose 5 grams twice daily added to a cup of tea or water (see S.H.I.N.E.® D-Ribose).
Turn Off Your Stress Hormones!
Cortisol helps you deal with stress during the day, but can actually keep you up at night. Ashwaganda and magnolia (250 mg each) are stress busting herbs that can help lower levels of the stress hormone called cortisol, so your mind can turn off and you can sleep at night. If your mind is wide awake and racing at bedtime, use the Sleep Tonight. You will know in just a few nights if it is helping.
The smell of lavender has been shown to help sleep, and sleeping with a small lavender filled pillow can be helpful.
For Children and Pregnant Women
Although Chamomile tea is mild and not as effective of the other herbals I've discussed, it has the benefit of being OK for children and pregnant women to take. Benadryl and Ambien may be used in pregnancy if required, and calcium and magnesium at bedtime would certainly be OK in pregnancy.
For Those with CFS and Fibromyalgia
For the extra sleep support needed by most with CFS and fibromyalgia, I recommend starting with the natural aids, but I also add Ambien, Desyrel, neurontin, Flexeril, or even Klonopin (if you have restless legs — but may be addictive) in as needed to get people their 8 hours sleep a night.
Sweet Dreams ;-)
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.