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Sleep is one of the greatest healers we have in medicine – it is fundamental for keeping energetic, alert and in a good mood. If you suffer from poor sleep for weeks to months to years, it can have a negative impact on your risk for many illnesses (see below). It’s estimated that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep-related disorder which means that a large portion of the continent is poorly functioning in their day-to-day activities and relationships. In this article I’ll briefly describe the problem and then focus on herbs that can help improve your sleep.

What is poor sleep?

Poor sleep is when you are dissatisfied about the quality or duration of your sleep. Perhaps you feel unrefreshed when you wake, or it takes a long time to fall asleep or you wake frequently. People vary in the number of hours of sleep they need to reasonably function, though in general, if you are consistently sleeping less than 6 hours daily (about 30% of adults) then you likely have a sleep problem that needs fixing.

Long term risks of chronic sleep restriction

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Obesity
  • Cancers

Herbs that can improve your sleep

Chamomile

This herb in the daisy family is commonly found in herbal tea selections around the world. Although it is often recommended for digestive complaints, it is also helpful to calm the nerves and to relax tense muscles, which can help you improve your sleep quality.

Passionflower

This perennial vine makes unique flowers and was historically used as a sedative. A study published in 2011 in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that taking 1 cup of passionflower tea one hour before bed led to improved sleep quality in the participants.

Lavender

Often used as an essential oil, lavender oil can be applied to a pillow or dabbed on the skin. Known for its calming effects, several studies have been conducted to elucidate its sleep-related impacts. A 2005 study appearing the journal Chronobiology found that the group exposed to lavender oil had an increased amount of deep sleep in both men and women as well as more vigor on waking. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that inhaled lavender oil improved overall sleep quality.

Valerian

This herb has been used for over 2,000 years as recognized by ancient Greek cultures where it was used for sleep problems and nervousness. According to a review study published in the 2010 Australian

Family Physician medical journal, valerian root was found to help study participants fall asleep quicker and have better sleep quality overall.

Lemon balm

This European herb has been used for centuries to promote calmness. Studies in children have found that it can help reduce anxious behaviours during dental examinations. Adult studies have found that lemon balm can help reduce the effects of stress.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.