Insomnia affects millions of Americans each year. It is an inability to get to sleep and/or stay asleep. Not only can lack of sleep make it hard to function during the day, it can have a negative effect on health. Common causes include stress, anxiety, depression, caffeine, medical conditions and certain medications. Using natural supplements can help promote sleep but it is important to treat the cause if possible.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the center of the brain. It regulates the natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness. When it is dark, the body produces more melatonin. When it is light, the production of melatonin decreases. In several studies, melatonin has been found to help induce and maintain sleep. However, the effects are most apparent only if a person’s melatonin levels are low. Therefore, this supplement is most effective in the elderly because it is common for them to have low levels of melatonin. It may also help people with disrupted circadian rhythms (day/night pattern), such as those who work the night shift and those with jet lag.
People have used valerian to treat insomnia, as well as nervous restlessness and anxiety, since the second century A.D. It is believed to increase the amount of a chemical in the brain called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical helps regulate nerve cells that provide a calming effect. Valerian appears to have the same effect, but weaker, as benzodiazepine drugs, like Valium, which also increase the amount of GABA in the brain. Some studies have shown valerian to be effective while others have shown it to be ineffective. According to one well designed study, valerian had greatly improved sleep for those who were taking it, but it took 28 days to see this effect.
Chamomile has been used for thousands of years to treat a number of problems, including insomnia and anxiety. According to animal studies, high doses of chamomile promote sleep and low doses relieve anxiety.
Calcium and Magnesium
According to Dr. William Sears, “Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin.” In one study, calcium levels were shown to be higher in the body during some of the deepest levels of sleep. The study concluded that a deficiency in calcium can cause disturbances in sleep. A deficiency in magnesium can also cause insomnia. In fact, a balanced ratio of both of these supplements is important in promoting a good night’s sleep.
If you have a medical condition or you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications, consult your doctor before taking natural supplements for insomnia.
Mayo Clinic: Insomnia - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia/DS00187
University of Maryland Medical Center:
German chamomile - https://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/german-chamomile-000232.htm
Medical News Today: Insomnia: Studies Confirm Calcium And Magnesium Effective - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163169.php
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